I'll come on here and say it. I was wrong. I was wrong about Josh McNuggets- I mean McDaniels. I was wrong about Paul Gu- (damn) Patrick Graham. I was wrong about this defense. While this defense isn't great, but this defense is looking better and better every week. Jerry Tillery, whether he's been effective or not, has made a difference with the defensive line. We could get some pressure but not consistent. Tillery changed that.
I was wrong about McDaniels play calling. He has figured out a good balance between using Josh Jacobs and Devante Adams. McDaniels has figured out a way to make Adams who is (currently) 4th in yards receiving and tied for 1st and receiving touchdowns. McDaniels has figured out a way to make Josh Jacobs 1st in the league in rushing (and leads by 184 yards over Nick Chubb who is 2nd) and tied for 3rd in touchdowns. His offensive line is playing much better compared to the beginning of the year. The line knows their role and have figured out what his system is like.
I was wrong about Patrick Graham. It took a little bit for the players to settle in his system, but now that they have, we can force 3 and outs more consistently than earlier in the year. As stated previously, Jerry Tillery has helped the defensive line a lot. He gets his pressures, even if he isn't getting sacks. What Tillery has done is keep guys fresh while not giving much of a drop off when rotating the big guys out. Plus he's been playing really good which makes it easier for Andrew Billings to operate which then makes it easier for Maxx Crosby and Chandler Jones to do their thing. It is not a coincidence that since Tillery arrived "suddenly" Jones has found his speed again. He has gotten the most pressures and sacks in the past 3 games Tillery has been here than the previous 9. A good pass rush can mask a so-so defensive backfield better than a really good defense backfield can mask a so-so pass rush. The front 4 is more important than the back 4. What Graham is doing differently is he stopped calling bizarre blitz plays that involve Maxx Crosby dropping into coverage and instead Johnathan Abrams (I know he's not here anymore) rush the quarterback. On 3rd and 8, we play more like Gus Bradley's defense instead of how Graham called plays in the beginning of the year. With our current defensive line, this is working.
Now, in order for Adams to do his thing, and for Mack Hollins to have a sudden career resurgence despite being a special teams player all his career, it takes a quarterback to do that. I want to hear it from the people at the beginning of the year bashing Carr.... you are wrong. I was not defending his really bad play at the beginning of the year but I knew Carr is too smart to continue to play this bad. Any quarterback that can go every year without throwing more interceptions than touchdown passes, is a smart quarterback. Say what you want about other things, but Derek Carr is not a dumb quarterback. This quality is not easily replaceable. Here's his current stat line for the season: 2,980 yards passing (8th), 248.3 yards a game (10th), 20 touchdown passes (t-7th), QBR is 60 (8th), Rating 92 (15th) and only 8 interceptions on the year (same amount as Patrick Mahomes and Joe Burrow and less than Josh Allen, Aaron Rodgers and Kirk Cousins). Derek Carr's production is not easily replaceable as stated before. This is one of his "worst" years I can remember. But this is normal for any quarterback going into their 4th system in 9 years. The fact he hasn't been benched when he's struggled in 4 new systems shows something (Carson Wentz was benched for guy named Heinicke, Matt Ryan was bench for a janitor and Zach Wilson was benched by a dude no one knew). He's only going to get better as he understands the system better.
I still don't think the Raiders make the playoffs this year. They'd have to win out (which would includes another Chief's game) for that to happen. But that doesn't mean that we can't carry the moment into next season with guys understanding McDaniels' system more. The defense can shine a little more with Graham after another off season together. So, when we end up with our 18th overall pick, it would not be in the best interest of our trajectory to throw away that 1st round pick on a quarterback that will sit behind Carr for a year when immediate contributors available. That pick should be going towards the defensive tackle position to solidify the line that we are starting to see work together. If we re-sign Tillery to a one year deal, add a stud DT to go with him, and throw in Crosby and Jones? With Billings rotating in? That's the start of a very good defense. Add in a 2nd round CB or LB and we really might be on to something. DT's don't have the bust track record that QB's do because it is a much simpler position to play. A fairly athletic big guy can plug a hole fairly easy. *UNPOPULAR OPINION ALERT* I think what the Raiders should look to do is trade Hunter Renfrow and Darren Waller this off season. By doing so, this would free up a decent amount of change to use elsewhere (probably to re-sign Jacobs). Also look at how well Mack Hollins is doing this year (45 receptions, which 3x higher than his previous career best and 566 yards receiving which is double his previous high). No one thought he was capable of this yet here we are. Carr usually makes receivers look better than they are. By plucking Hollins off the scrap heap, this shows that we can make do without Renfrow and Waller (who are both going to end up having bad down years). If we get any sort of picks out of them, they can be used to be their replacements. Even if those rookies do only "OK", we still have Devante, Hollins, Foster Moreau and Jacobs (assuming he re-signs, plans change if he leaves).
This team is really starting to unlock its potential and it's really a shame that it took this long to get it figured out. It's up to Zeigler at this point.