clock menu more-arrow no yes mobile

Filed under:

Raiders Offseason: Going back to an old-school mentality

Antonio Pierce, Tom Telesco talk about need for speed and vertical passing attack, but is that wishful thinking?

New England Patriots v Las Vegas Raiders
Tre Tucker has the scintillating speed at wide receiver that can make a vertical passing attack work in the NFL. But if the Las Vegas Raiders are intent on bringing back a deep ball game on offense, they’ll need more than just Tucker.
Photo by Sam Morris/Getty Images

An emphasis on speed and the vertical passing attack, sounds like a Silver & Black throwback in the new age, doesn’t it? That’s the direction Las Vegas Raiders head coach Antonio Pierce and general manager Tom Telesco are steering the team.

In an initial sign of the synergy between the two, Pierce and Telesco talked about the offense they have in mind for the Raiders during the joint introductory press conference last week.

“But you know what you see in the National Football League. You’ve got to be able to run the football, play action pass. What are the Raiders known for? The vertical passing game, right? We want to see the shots down the field. We want the explosive plays,” Pierce said. “That has to be a part of the creativity. You look at the shifts, the motions, all that stuff goes into it. I’m not going to give my whole hat away and tip, but just think of when Raiders were playing really good football, and that’s going to be your offensive coordinator hopefully as we go forward.”

“One thing I talked about in the interview is you want to have an identity. The Raiders have an identity on offense. It’s speed and get the ball downfield,” Telesco added. “I think that’s going to definitely want to be at least part of that. But there’s more that goes along with that as far as being able to run the ball when you have to run it and play action pass. But we’ll find the right offensive coordinator that’s going to fit this team at this time.”

Those answers came before Las Vegas’ decision on an offensive coordinator, reportedly Kliff Kingsbury.

Now that the major pieces are in place in the coaching staff — Pierce as head coach and Kingsbury as the play caller on offense — a clearer picture on the Raiders’ philosophy will inevitably reveal itself. It will be intriguing to see and find out if Pierce’s and Telesco’s shared vision of old-school mentality of speed and deep passes becomes reality or if it was merely wishful thinking.

Getting speed on the roster will be a Telesco thing. He has final say over the Raiders roster and he’ll be the point person on adding or subtracting talent. Las Vegas has two promising younger talent in speedy weapon at wide receiver in Tre Tucker, who heads into Year 2 in 2024 and running back Zamir White is a straight-line power runner with speed. It’s very likely the Raiders add more speed to the roster — on both sides of the ball — as the offseason progresses.

Using that speed and going vertical will be a Kingsbury thing. After most recently as a senior offensive analyst and quarterbacks coach at USC this past season, he returns to the NFL scene and is slated to bring his Air Raid offense to the desert. He brought his offensive philosophy to a different desert when he was the head coach of the Arizona Cardinals from the 2019-22 seasons.

The key operative word in the style of offense Kingsbury runs is “air” and thus, it tends to be heavily pass happy. It’s a varied attack that has potential to remind long-haul Raiders fans of the deep strike old-school offense and the dink-and-dunk offense in the early 2000s, as it’s designed to attack all three areas of the field: short, intermediate, deep. Las Vegas does have a question mark at the key position in the offense — quarterback. Kingsbury, Pierce, and Telesco will combine to determine if Aidan O’Connell allows the team to wait on signing a quarterback in free agency and taking one in the NFL draft, or if they need to make a move in the market or take one early in April.

Stanford v USC
Kliff Kingsbury, center, spent last season as the senior offensive analyst and quarterbacks coach at USC. He didn’t call plays for the Trojans but he will in Las Vegas for the Raiders when officially hired.
Photo by Jayne Kamin-Oncea/Getty Images

The concern if a pass-heavy offense would be sustainable in Las Vegas is a valid one. Kingsbury needs to show his philosophy — which did evolve during his time in Arizona — has become as balanced as it can. Pierce prefers a physical style of play that strains the oppositions mental and physical endurance. That ill-intent philosophy dropped the Kansas City Chiefs during that Christmas Day victory.

Kingsbury’s Cardinals offense did rank in the Top 10 in rushing yards his first three seasons (Top 10 in attempts in Year 2 and 3) and while it can be pointed to quarterback Kyler Murray being an adept scrambler for that production, running backs got their fair share of totes and production. In all four years of Kingsbury’s Arizona stint, tailbacks led the team in rushing attempts and yards (2019, Kenyan Drake, 123 carries, 643 yards (eight touchdowns); 2020, Drake, 239 carries, 955 yards (10 TDs); 2021, James Conner, 202 carries, 752 yards (15 scores); 2002, Conner, 183 carries, 782 yards (7 TDs)).

Las Vegas reportedly interviewed Hue Jackson for an offensive staff position and adding a veteran sounding board for Kingsbury can help ensure his Air Raid offense has elements of old-school flavor for the more power-based run game. That helps make play action much more effective and the deep, explosive shots downfield to happen, too.