After further review, the Raiders are heading in the right direction under Jon Gruden, Mike Mayock

New York Daily News Sports 2 weeks ago

It might be time to issue an apology to Jon Gruden, Mike Mayock and the Raiders.

The Raiders were largely seen as an afterthought coming into the season. They were coming off a 4-12 season and still had nine years to go on Jon Gruden’s 10 year, $100 million contract.

The Raiders’ offense last year could move the ball, but struggled to score points. They ranked 19th in yards per drive (30.5) and 28th in points per drive (1.57). The defense was a complete disaster, ranking 29th in yards per drive (35.1) and dead last in points per drive (2.52).

Less than a year later, the Raiders are in the playoff hunt with a 6-4 record and appear to be heading in the right direction. The offseason additions of right tackle Trent Brown, left guard Richie Incognito and running back Josh Jacobs have given quarterback Derek Carr a physical, efficient running game to supplement his own impressive performance as a passer. Carr is ranked seventh in adjusted net yards per attempt (7.61), ahead of Aaron Rodgers (7.56), Drew Brees (7.12) and Deshaun Watson (7.12).

Raiders head coach Jon Gruden has the Black and Silver on the rise.
Raiders head coach Jon Gruden has the Black and Silver on the rise. (D. Ross Cameron/AP)

As the offensive playcaller, Gruden deserves a ton of credit for their growth on that side of the ball. He’s an old-school coach, last coaching the Buccaneers in 2008, but the Raiders offense is littered with run pass options and easy throws for Carr and the rest of the offense. The Raiders have been able to overcome the release of Antonio Brown this season with the help of rookie wide receiver Hunter Renfrow (365 yards, two touchdowns) and tight end Darren Waller, who spent the first four seasons of his career battling addiction.

The defense is still among the worst in the league, but they’ve made some small improvements. They rank 29th in the league in points per drive (2.38) this year. Baby steps. They’ve gotten positive contributions from young players like rookie defensive end Maxx Crosby, who had four sacks against the Bengals on Sunday and leads the team with eight tackles for loss and 11 quarterback hits.

Oakland has yet to beat a team with a winning record this season, going 0-4 against the Chiefs, Packers, Texans and Vikings, but that shouldn’t be the only barometer for their success. The truth is, Gruden and Mayock have built a foundation for the future and they still have the Bears’ first round pick in the 2020 NFL Draft after the Khalil Mack trade last season. According to Spotrac, the Raiders are projected to have roughly $71.6 million in cap space to play with in free agency — they still have ample resources to improve as they head to Las Vegas next season.

Gruden and Mayock weren’t exactly perfect in the offseason. Clelin Ferrell, the fourth overall pick in the 2019 draft, only has 3.5 sacks on the season and 2.5 of them came against the Chargers’ third string left tackle in Week 10. He has just five quarterback hits on the season. Defensive back Lamarcus Joyner, who signed a four year, $42 million deal in free agency, has only defended two passes this season despite played 77% of the snaps.

Ferrell and Joyner look like whiffs so far, but overall there’s much more positive than negative surrounding the present and future of the Raiders. For the first time in what feels like a century, Raiders fans should be optimistic about the direction of their team.


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