The Las Vegas Raiders are reeling right now after winning back-to-back games, and they have a good chance to make it three in a row in Week 7 against the Chicago Bears. So, the direction of the Raiders moving forward or their outlook for the rest of the season is the focus of this week’s mailbag.
Q: What do you think the ceiling is for this team? The offense is kind of holding it back but I can’t help but feel they have to eventually break through with the skill players being as good as they are.
A: Over the last couple of weeks, I think the Raiders have proved that they’re an average team that could creep up into the seven- to nine-win range that a lot of people predicted they would be in heading into the season. Las Vegas gets credit for taking care of business and winning, but I wouldn’t let a couple of one-possession wins over two bad teams get my hopes up too much.
While yes, the offense does have talent at the skill positions, the Raiders still have major questions at quarterback that I don’t think will get solved anytime soon to turn the season completely around. And if we assume the offense will eventually figure it out, then, realistically, I think we also have to assume the defense will have some form of regression as they’re dramatically exceeding expectations right now.
Q: Who should start/get more reps at RT, RG? How did you think Munford and Eluemunor played, how do they compare, and do you think Munford RT, Eluemunor RG is a good idea?
A: I’d like to see Thayer Munford get more reps at right tackle since he has a longer and brighter future with the Raiders than Jermaine Eluemunor does. Eluemunor has better feet than Munford in pass protection, but the later has only given up three pressures on 59 opportunities and has a higher PFF pass-blocking grade (66.2 to 52.6), and the latter has surrendered 11 pressures on 172 opportunities. Also, Munford is the superior run-blocker.
I wouldn’t mind seeing Eluemunor at right guard, but Greg Van Roten has been good in pass pro and neither player is under contract past this season, so I don’t see much of a reason to make that change.
Q: This is like a double question, but how do the raiders prepare for a wideout like D.J. Moore and taking running game away knowing Chicago runs the ball well? The other question is how AOC or Hoyer get this offense going so Jimmy G has not done that?
A: Definsivley, I think the Raiders have a big advantage in the trenches that can help solve both of the issues you raise. The Bears’ offensive line is a really beat up and while they have Teven Jenkins back in the fold and rookie Darnell Wright is playing well, the other three guys are pretty bad. The easiest way to neutralize Moore is to get pressure on the quarterback, and if they can win in the trenches, obviously, that will slow down the rushing attack too.
Coverage wise, Moore is going to be a big challenge, though. Las Vegas’ secondary is fairly good at limiting explosive plays—minus Calvin Austin’s long touchdown against the Steelers—with their bend but don’t break coverages. That philosophy should help keep Moore in check since he can win deep. But the problem is, he’s also very good after the catch.
According to Pro Football Focus, Moore ranks fourth among wide receivers with 7.8 YAC per reception. That could be problematic as the Raiders have struggled to tackle this season, especially in the secondary. So, they need to continue to limit plays and it’s going to be more important than ever to rally and tackle after the catch.
For the quarterbacks/offense, Brian Hoyer is going to start. The best thing he can do to get the offense going is be decisive and on-time with the football. That’s part of where Jimmy Garoppolo has struggled this season as he seems hesitant and is often late, hence all of the hospital passes, and he gets happy feet in the pocket as well. Hoyer looked much more comfortable in the offense than Garoppolo last week, which is why we saw a few more explosive plays with the old man in the game.
A: I think like most of us, Davante Adams is frustrated with the offense’s lack of production and knows that the team’s winning streak isn’t sustainable unless they can turn it around. He knows what a good team and good offense looks like, and barely squeaking by against a couple of inferior opponents isn’t going to cut it as far as a playoff run goes. And I can’t say I blame him for being frustrated with not getting the ball. If the Raiders were lighting up the scoreboard and he wasn’t getting targets, then it’d be a different story. But they can’t even score 20 points, so Adams needs to be force fed the ball instead of being used as decoy, in my opinion.
Q: I think they’ll be sellers at the deadline, Hunter Renfrow being one of the first guys to go as you pointed out. Las Vegas’ biggest issue right now is quarterback play and they’re not going to find someone on the trade block who can come in midseason and turn the campaign around.
I know there have been rumors about them trading for a veteran pass-rusher but, personally, I scoff at that idea. Another defensive lineman isn’t going to make their offense score more than 20 points, and I’m not in favor of bringing in an older player who is on an expiring contract. I’d rather see them get younger/add draft picks.
A: Per PFF, Aidan O’Connell had the second-fastest time to throw per passing attempt (2.39 seconds) in the Big 10 last season. The year before, he was even better at 2.29 seconds which was the quickest in the conference. So, no, that wasn’t an issue for him in college and was actually a strength.
A: How’s your health because it might be a while!
That’s sacrasm...kind of...
That’ll do it for this week’s mailbag. Thank you all for submitting questions and, as your weekly reminder, if you’d like to have your questions answered in a future column, tweet them at me, @MHolder95, email them to SBPQuestions1@gmail.com or look for our weekly call for questions on the site. The latter will publish on Thursdays throughout the season.