I have to say that the Raiders offense feels about as different as the promise of hiring Jon Gruden and the moves of Mike Mayock implied and implicitly stated they’d become. It is too soon to say that the work is done and obvious faults remain present on the surface but Las Vegas is fourth in the NFL in scoring after two weeks.
I’ve heard of fortnights before, but the Raiders scoring 68 points in two weeks feels like at least a fivenight if not a castlenight.
Last week I was looking for a clip of Jon Gruden from a few years ago when he was still doing Gruden’s QB Camp and TV cameras were following him around as he showed them how he got up before the sun did to study film for his job on Monday Night Football and the amount of work he continued to put into football. I actually didn’t find that clip and 12-percent of me thinks it’s an amalgamation of memories that don’t involve Gruden but I did find other clips about his past.
And I was reminded that before spiders and bananas, Monday night goofs and wild card losses, Gruden had been an exceptionally accomplished and highly regarded coach.
That isn’t surprising to Raiders fans or myself but I am often reminded through distant memories of college that 2002 was a long time ago. There’s been a long gap between his success and Monday night’s win over the Saints, but a 34-24 win over New Orleans with Drew Brees feels like the start of a bridge between those two worlds.
It was 20 years ago that Gruden posted his first winning season, going 12-4 with the Raiders, who finished third in scoring. He’s aware of how to build an offense before, he’s lived a life of obsession around it, and this has been of a good of a start for him in that regard as he could have hoped for through two games.
I guess that’s one thought. So technically this 10 thoughts, but here are the other nine.
Der’ 2 Dream
Derek Carr to Darren Waller has grown from whisper to wistful for defenses who long for the days when they could consistently stop the Raiders on third down. In the last 18 games together as a perfect pair, over 75-percent completions. On Monday, 12 of 16 attempts to Waller completed for 103 yards. Twice on a third down did Waller convert a first down and once on a fourth and a goal did he score.
The confidence gained by Carr to Waller carried over to other offensive associates and Vegas converted 10 of 17 third down attempts.
The question of this group’s success has long centered around the type of player Carr would become and 2020 is meant to be the season where we all find out if he’s capable of what’s needed or he isn’t.
Through two: 50-of-68, 521 yards, four touchdowns, no interceptions
In Jon Gruden’s first season back with the Raiders, twice did they reach the level of offensive gamesmanship known as 30+ points.
In 2019, also known as “Gruden 2den,” twice did the Raiders reach this level of 30 points or more.
In the first two games of the 2020 season, twice have the Raiders achieved a points mark of 30 or better.
Pace-wise, I gotta say ... Yes.
Alec in? Gold.
All of training camp, he had his place on the roster. If there would be a total of 53 players to be Raiders in Week 1, Alec Ingold would account for one of those 4.07 baker’s dozens.
And yet, in an era considered to be “modern” a fullback might as well be a quarterback/punter and the Raiders actually had a lot of athletically attractive options who may become free agents instead of Ingold.
But while Gruden may not have needed to spend a draft pick on him in 2019, it may be a while before we see Las Vegas play a football game without him. His touchdown to open the Hoover Dam-gates at home was the second of his career and they’ve both come via the air.
Perhaps what they really did was quite modern after all: they didn’t keep a fullback, they retained a receiver.
Bryan Edwards for 22 and 20 yards is good
It’s a slow build but when you see him get opportunities, you understand the eagerness to see more.
Bryan Edwards is making NOISE— PFF College (@PFF_College) September 22, 2020
Zay Jones touchdown (and the feeling of getting an important touchdown on 3rd and 9 rather than settling for a field goal near the end zone) is good
When nearly every team had a veteran reclamation project who’d finally unlocked his potential or a rookie ready to have an impact, I become skeptical. That’s too many breakout seasons. When Zay Jones was thought to have played well enough to have a role on the Raiders, skepticism.
Will Jones have an impact on Vegas after tonight? This answer, I cannot give you. He has one catch on one targets over the course of eight quarters. But as Chris Berman would probably say, “Ooooh, what you Zay-Jones” with the highlight grab:
Zay Jones maintains control and scores his first TD as a Raider. pic.twitter.com/y2go8oRMj2— Rotoworld Football (@Rotoworld_FB) September 22, 2020
I also find it to be important that the Raiders finished with a score of seven points here instead of a score of three and that they did so against the Saints on the platform of Monday Night Football.
Nicholas Morrow intercepting Drew Brees is good
In the land of linebacker overhaul, Morrow Batman’d in the shadows of the Grand Canyon awaiting his opportunity to intercept a quarterback who has sacrificed nine passes to the defense over his last 27 games and 897 attempts.
Morrow must have felt the feelings of “joy” and “gratitude” when he created a turnover off of Chase Daniel in 2019 and I’d imagine that he is feeling those emotions multiple times over by upgrading to Daniel’s longtime colleague, friend and former teammate.
A greater achievement in rushing success would bring harmony to the franchise and additional bonus happiness to its fans
Josh Jacobs was 22 years and 222 days old yesterday. And earlier I mentioned that Bryan Edwards enjoys receptions of 22 yards and in that range, plus I used a “2” in the Derek Carr and Darren Waller section. Isn’t synchronicity an excellent realization when it hits?
Jacobs and the offensive line that is meant to create opportunities for him will have better days than what they had on Monday. Over two games, he does have the totals of 47 carries and 181 yards, which is not as many yards as the ideal plan and that has to do with more than just Jacobs.
I remain optimistic on the season he is only now beginning.
Raiders hoping a lot of something is as much of something that’s a lot
There are many types of good offenses but the “good types of offenses” in many people’s heads might be one that resembles the Cardinals with DeAndre Hopkins or the Chiefs with Tyreek Hill and Sammy Watkins or the Rams with Robert Woods and Cooper Kupp. The belief would center around the importance of a receiver who is big and fast and dominant like Michael Thomas, Davante Adams, Mike Evans or as of recently A.J. Brown and DK Metcalf.
This is not the offense that the Raiders appear to have yet.
Waller is valuable component in the arsenal but averaging 6.1 yards per target. At any moment Henry Ruggs could flip on a switch and provide the team with the same value as what Hill gives to Kansas City (and he didn’t really have a breakout game until his second campaign) but at this moment he had one catch for four yards on Monday.
Carr averaged 7.4 yards per pass attempt and completed passes to 11 different players with only Waller gaining more than 42. Last week, no player had more than 55. Hunter Renfrow has caught all five targets thrown his way but only gained 58 yards and that’s only five targets.
There is nothing necessarily wrong with this because as I said in the beginning:
“There are many types of good offenses” - Me, when this all began, this dream, this escape from reality.
I think it is only the perception that saying an offense may not feature a 1,000-yard receiver must be a criticism. It’s only an observation. The Raiders have a long list of offensive players who they like and it’s been a long time since they could say that. They might not have one this season, other than maybe Waller, who stands out as an individual.
Which is definitely not a criticism.
No sacks, but in a strange way
The quality of pass rush is firstly assessed by total sacks. This is not always fair but it is often fair, so long as you are only speaking of pass rush and not pass defense. There can also be players who create sacks for others and not get the sack on their Pro-Football-Reference page and that’s a different issue, but ideally a pass rush unit always wants the sack or a disruption that leads to a turnover.
But this is not always fair.
The Raiders did not have a sack on Monday and they had only one in Week 1. The Carolina Panthers have zero sacks, providing a barrier between Paul Geunther and the rock bed that lines the bottom. There’s been a lot of optimism surrounding the players meant to acquire sacks for the Raiders this season but slow starts can plague teams and sitcoms.
Las Vegas did get seven quarterback hits, two from Maurice Hurst, but I can’t say that I or anyone else were witnesses to the Raiders achieving a sack this week.
Speaking of two, remember that mention of twos earlier? The Raiders are 2-0.