I want to write that our goal is the SB, but that's being unreasonable
I'd like to write making it to the playoffs is our goal, but that seems unreasonable too.
I think I can write that our goal is to show we're a team moving in the correct direction.
Right now, we can't there from here.
Yes, we're 1-1 and sitting atop the AFC West but that's unlikely to hold very long based on what we've watched two games into the season. I'll concede that playing Buffalo at home wasn't going to be a win anyway, but what playoff teams (and potential SB teams) do is expose your weaknesses...and readily at that.
Quick examples: Jakorian Bennett. He's got the NFL body and physical component sought after but not near enough NFL experience to live up to those abilities...yet. The Bills knew it and went after him often, passing and running his way. The Bills also ran right up the middle with ease because we don't have enough middle presence to end this. Moehrig also remains a massive issue for this team. I finally watched the Denver game in full and his WR tracking is poor. It's as if he doesn't understand the need to stick to his WR's hip. I noted three plays where he lagged his WR badly. He also too often backpedals as his first move when he believes a pass play is coming. He should hold, diagnose, and move or just start a step back so he can lean forward. Regrettably we have no real options to supplant him and most NFL QBs will continue to feast on his weak play.
Our defensive talent is the whole issue from where I sit.
If you follow football at the most basic level, you understand that when you cannot pressure the pocket and cannot stuff the run, you're going to have plays that run too long and leave that defense on the field until fatigue sets in. You're also going to severely limited your turnover chances. Our plus/minus has been crummy for decades. I believe we're already -4 this season. Abysmal.
Everyone wants to blame Patrick Graham as he's the lead coach on defense. I'm willing to downplay the blame on Graham for a few reasons.
First and foremost, the talent he has to work with is simply not good enough. We don't have better than marginal DTs and a smattering of quality players at the other positions. We can all point to Hobbs, Crosby, and maybe Spillane this year (though he's just a plugger) as quality guys. There's another layer of players that show promise in Bennet, Diablo, and T Wilson but promise doesn't mean production.
Second, Graham is in his second season with LV and has made adjustments to his system. It's been reported often that he's simplified his system for the "talent"/youth we have this year. This means he's not running the system he had so darned well in NY with this team. It's not his actual system and this matters. Grahams system was so successful in NY because he had a bevy of veterans who could understand his concepts and deliver on them. He also had enough of a front four to let his DBs cover guys for a shorter duration. Graham's system was meant to produce more blitzes, which is of course meant to produce more turnovers or rushed actions. Here's a Graham quote: "So you say 4-3, 3-4, 2-4, 3-3-5, whatever you want to say, I’ll say yes," Graham said during his introductory press conference with the Giants in 2020. "I’m not trying to make a joke of it. We are going to do what’s best with what we have in terms of the people, the personnel we have and what we think is best for the game." I applaud this thinking. With the Giants, Graham had a lot better front line that we have -Crosby aside. To me, it make all the difference because he didn't have much of a LBing or DB group. It was truly a motley crew. But, because they could and did pressure opposing QBs continually, those flea covered, scurvy-suffering middle and back line players looked far better than they were. Right now, and it's early, it looks like Graham is running a face-forward, DB-heavy shell because we're so weak at the LBer spot. I think he wants to run a 3-4 base but we don't have the crew for it. He looks to be trying out Epps as his 3rd LBer and S-box type to make it a 3-4. Some plays have gone very well with Epps in this mold. Some. The result is that Graham and his coaching staff (addressed) below are working with a thinly stocked team of NFL talent. Graham also masked his coverage often in NY. He'd have guys line up in one base only to shift the look once the clock went under five seconds or the ball snapped. When you're forced (because of weaker talent) to simplify your clever schemes, well... you get the Raiders defense and all it's warts.
Third, if you look at our coaching staff on the defensive side, it is a good one. We have Rob Leonard for the defensive line, who was instrumental in making BAL's defensive front a Top 5 unit in 2022. He had some feared names on the roster in R Smith, Pierce, J. Houston, M Williams, and (aging) C Campbell but also many less recognized players that he helped turn into a top unit. We have Rob Ryan in the fold and I was elated to see him return. You can look up his history for yourself but maybe knowing his four previous stops before returning to the Raiders were the Patriots, Bills, Washington, and Baltimore. Every one of these teams has had a fierce defense. Antonio Pierce and Jason Simmons brings plenty of NFL experience to LV too at key defensive positions, LBer and DB, respectively. We do have massive youth at the Quality Control coaching spots, which I'm not entirely sure what that means. My guess is that it's a fancy title for assistant-to- some other defensive coach.
My point with all of these points is that I don't see our failures on defense coming from the coaching staff because it is so incredibly deep with seasoned coaches and is running a generic form of the system it'd hoped to employ. If you really take this information in, you are led to the rightful understanding that we just don't have the talent, depth, and/or experience body of players to work with. Blaming Patrick Graham is missing the mark. Many fans lamented the poor off-season and draft when it came to beefing up the middle of our defense and those that did so look to be spot on correct. Unless Moehrig figures out how to play his position on passing plays, Bennett doesn't become the guy other teams target, a couple of DTs emerge as pocket pushers, and someone like Tyree Wilson takes up slack for Crosby, no defensive coordinator in the league is going to improve this team.
Let's talk offense -even if it's going to be a one-sided affair at the moment.
I like McDaniels as our offensive mind. Oh, I can feel the anger from some of you. It's palpable. But I am not one to so easily shove aside his monumental success in NE. It speaks volumes. McDaniels deserves time to make his system successful, or at least show us by the end of the season what it can be. He has all the pieces he needs to do it too. Well, expect for one. One, magnificently, important one. The offensive line. Same as with the lack of movement to beef of the defensive front in the off-season, management decided to stand pat on the offensive side, believing the mishmash we got away with last season was enough. It's not. The right side of the line is a real issue that's taking away from our excellent weapons and McDaniel's plans. Even the left side of the line has been less effective in the two games played so far. (Though, I do think it's fair to recognize that DEN's defense is a very good one, particularly against the run.)
I'm sure I'm revealing nothing new to most of you, i.e. that both sides of our lines are problematic and are the visible reason for our struggles this season. But, for me, it bears saying it nonetheless because I see so many postings that bird-walk away from it ala we need to fire everyone who's leading this team. (I can get there on Mark Davis. I like the man and respect his willingness to spend for wins but he's probably not going to go down as one of the best owners of all time. Here's to hoping Brady brings some better decision-making into the fold.) Here's another way to say the same idea in the form of a question. How many of us would call for McDaniels and Graham to be canned if we had Philly's offensive line and Dallas's defensive line? Garappalo would pick apart teams, Jacobs would grind all day, and our defensive unit would be well rested, bored even.
H'okay this is getting long and I may look very foolish by season's end for defending Graham and McDaniel's but I try to call it as I see it and be fair about it. Still, I'm going to shoot out some final thoughts/questions?
One, what's happened to Renfrow? I don't get it. He went from the ultimate secret weapon to a veritable no one. Yes, Meyers and he share similar roles but McDaniels is capable of supporting both players. I. Am. Mystified. I love the player but I think we should trade him for a DT that can eat up two players.
Two, Tre Tucker should be on the field more often. If nothing else, he can draw defenders to places that will open holes. He played no snaps week one and nine week two. I guess it suggests he'll be worked in slowly. I'm not loving this. His main value is speed and we all know it cannot and does not need to be taught. Let the kid fly and put players on the backs of their feet.
Three, Mayer is about where I thought he'd be, which upsets me. The TE spot is complex in terms of learning to block. Mayer is learning. I'd hoped he'd be surprisingly more advanced than expected. Mayer looks slow and his route running is bland. If we can unlock him a little more, it adds a lot to the offense. He's got good hands. Simple flat catches and short button hooks will build him up quickly versus the pulling blocks and crosses I've seen him working on.
Four, I hate myself for writing this but trade Adam's. He's 30 and still near the top of the WR tier. His value can only head down. His value peak will probably come closer to the trading deadline when teams who sense a SB in reach may be willing to pay for him. I think he's locked up until 2026. We could use the pick/players and capital that would come from moving him.
Five, where is the offensive creativity? I thought we'd see far more creative play-calling in year two under McDaniels and his guys. Certainly more motion sets and/or misdirects. Maybe it's because our line limits this. The line is meant to be a group of maulers and that doesn't require trickery. It's mass in motion pushing away the mass it meets. Sigh.
Six, Spillane is a surprise. He's playing well early one as is Diablo (mostly). Neither are world beaters but I think there's enough play-making and just plain proper positional playing that we can live with it. They'd be even more excellent with some proper DT help up front. We are, however, literally one LBer injury away from a steep drop off in that spot. Masterson is a nice story and that's about it.
Seven, I'm glad JJ is back because our RB group after him is poor. Z White is not particularly shifty or dynamic. I'm not sure how well he can even catch as he's not been asked to do that much. If JJ goes down we're in a bad way at RB.I wish we'd taken a flyer on T Sermon when he was cut. Instead, Indy picked him up. He's a better fit for us.
Eight, M Peters is a good team addition. He's a true vet with talent left in the tank. His reps on the field have been what we hope for, mostly mistake free. He's also put in a lot already with 65 plus each game. Impressive...and worrying for his legs over the course of the season.
Nine, (Sorry, but I have a non-offensive comment) Graham needs to manufacturer pressure. We've got some DBs with youth and speed on their side. We should be sending them more to the QB because both Spillane and Diablo and Epps have just enough speed of their own to provide the absent coverages. (Graham did this in disguised looks often in NY. Not sure why not in LV.) A huge part of the reason why we need to manufacture blitzes from our DBs and LBers is because T Wilson is slow slow off the snap. Watch his game in Buffalo. I'm 55 and am twitchier than he is. Jones needs to come back because even at his advanced age he's better than Wilson right now by miles.
Ten, AOC needs to stay on the bench. I saw some calls for putting him into the lineup in week three on the message boards and couldn't disagree more. We've paid Garappalo to play and lead and should stick to that. He remains the best QB option. AOC will only benefit by holding that clipboard for a year or so. I saw the positive pre-season he had like everyone and he was decisive and accurate (both hugely positive attributes) but he's not ready to run McDaniel's system or read NFL defenses. He ran a vanilla offense in preseason and saw vanilla on defense. Unless the plan is to tank (and no NFL team really does this because they have actual pride) let him sit and learn.