It’s week 13 of the NFL season and the 5-6 Washington Football Team will be facing a 6-5 Raiders team on the road in Las Vegas Sunday at 4:05pm. The Raiders were leading their division earlier in the year, but are now trailing a resurgent 7-4 Chiefs team. Much like Washington, the Raiders are playing for a wildcard spot, but the Raiders also have a better chance to retake their division lead with a win this week.
The Raiders offense has been very dependent on their passing game to move the ball. The Raiders offense has the 3rd most passing yards in the NFL, but only the 27th most rushing yards, according to ESPN. In particular, the Raiders have relied heavily upon deep passes to open up the offense. Early in the season that meant passes to Darren Waller and speedy WR Henry Ruggs III, but since Waller has been dealing with injury and Ruggs has been arrested, they have largely been replaced in the offense by slot WR Hunter Renfrow and perpetual deep threat Desean Jackson respectively. The offense has been held back by poor offensive line play this season, with an offensive line ranked 22nd in pass block win rate and 30th in run block win rate.
The Raiders defense has appeared more flawed than their offense this season. The Raiders have the 24th ranked run defense and the 11th ranked pass defense in terms of yards allowed. New Raiders defensive coordinator Gus Bradley runs a defense geared towards getting after the QB. The Raiders defense also features capable pass rushers in Maxx Crosby, Yannick Ngakoue, and Soloman Thomas, as well as a capable CB in Casey Heyward. As a result, the Raiders pass rush and pass defense has been pretty capable this season, though their run defense hasn’t been nearly as effective.
To learn more about these and other issues, I asked Matt Holder of Silver and Black Pride five questions about the state of the Raiders and what to look for in this game.
1) How is the first real season in Las Vegas working out? Do you think the move was overall good or bad for the team and how did it impact you as a fan?
I’d say the first real season in Las Vegas is going okay, not bad but not good either. Obviously, there has been a lot of hoopla about the move and there’s been more attention on the Raiders now that they’re in a new city, but they’re only 3-3 at home with a bad loss to the Bears and the team has started slow for just about every game at Allegiant Stadium this season. All of the hype is great but it doesn’t mean much if the team doesn’t win in their own building consistently.
For the long haul, I think the move will be good for the organization. The Raiders finally don’t have to share a spotlight with another team in the area as they did in Oakland and Los Angeles, and they’ve had quite a few primetime games since the move so there’s definitely been a marketing boost. Plus, Vegas should be a more desirable destination for free agents given the income tax and cost of living advantages compared to the Bay Area, and the overall draw of Sin City.
Personally, I do have to admit that the move hurt me a bit. I grew up about 30 minutes outside of Oakland so the Raiders were in my backyard since I was two years old and it’s different with them no longer being my hometown team. I’ll still support and will always love the Raiders but being a fan definitely doesn’t feel the same as it did while I was growing up.
2) What do you think the Raiders will do long-term at the Head Coach position and what do you want them to do?
Honestly, I have no idea and that’s because it sounds like the organization has no idea either. A report was released recently that Mark Davis hasn’t even begun the search for a new head coach and wants to see how the rest of the season plays out, which is code speak for he wants to see if they’ll make the playoffs.
If the Raiders make the postseason, I wouldn’t expect many changes within the coaching staff and Rich Bisaccia will have a good case to have the interim label from his title. However, if they don’t, I think we’ll see a lot of sweeping changes in not only the coaching staff but also the front office since that will make it three years in a row the team started off hot and stumbled down the stretch of the season. This year has always been playoffs or bust, even before all the drama, and I don’t think that mentality has wavered over the last couple of months.
As for what I’d like to see them do, I like coach Bisaccia but I’d like to see them bring in a head coach like Doug Pederson who has a history of success as a head coach and is known as an offensive mastermind.
3) The Raiders have struggled to run the ball this season, averaging only 89.1 rushing yards per game (27th in the NFL). Why has their run game struggled so much and are they doing anything to fix it, or are they content to lean on the passing game?
Primarily, the offensive line. Secondarily, the running backs’ health.
The Raiders struggled to run the ball a bit last season too, so they made a bunch of changes up front since they weren’t getting much of a return on investment. Now that the investment in the trenches is lower, the ROI is probably slightly higher but, as you pointed out, the issue persists. I wouldn’t say that they aren’t doing anything to fix it as they have gotten more creative in the run game since Gruden resigned, but I think the sustainable solution to the problem can only be found in the offseason so there’s not much the coaching staff for the time being.
Injuries have played a factor as well. Josh Jacobs started the year banged up so the team brought in former WFT running back Peyton Barber, who has had some injuries of his own, and even the Raiders’ third running back, Jalen Richard, started the season on injured reserve. Not having Richie Incognito - sidelined with a calf injury since training camp - all season hasn’t helped matters, either.
4) Raiders fans undoubtedly have strong opinions about former Head Coach Jack Del Rio, who is now DC in Washington. What were your impressions of Del Rio as a Head Coach, his strengths and weaknesses, and do you think he’ll be successful again as a DC?
When Del Rio first came to Oakland, he did a good job of guiding a young team that needed structure and the results were great. The Raiders went 7-9 in his first season and made the playoffs for the first time in forever in his second. However, the following season, there were rumors that he had a different set of rules for different players and that, among other things, reportedly caused him to “lose the locker room” and the first sign of that was actually the last time the Raiders played the Football Team, where Washington won in a dominating effort.
The other issue with JDR that seemed to rub people in the organization the wrong way was his work ethic. It’s never been outwardly proven true but apparently, he treated the job like it was a 9-5 and wasn’t a grinder like many other coaches in the league. Apparently, that frustrated a lot of people in power, especially when the team wasn’t winning.
Also, he’s a defensive-minded head coach but the Raiders’ defenses were terrible during his tenure, and Del Rio wasn’t the best at communicating with Reggie McKenzie, the general manager at the time, on what type of players he needed to improve defensively. That was also partially why his work ethic was called into question.
Personally, I do respect and appreciate what Del Rio did for the Raiders. He still owns the franchise’s best single-season record in the last 20 years, but I have a hard time seeing him be successful as a head coach again. You don’t see many coaches get three chances to be an NFL head coach, let alone one who has a losing record overall and only one postseason win as the man in charge.
5) How would you game plan to beat the Raiders on both sides of the ball?
Offensively, I would plan on running the ball as much as possible, especially with Washington’s offensive line. Las Vegas’ defensive line is filled with really good pass rushers, but outside of Maxx Crosby and Johnathan Hankins, the position group leaves something to be desired against the run. Teams that can play ball control and stay patient with the run game have given the Raiders’ defense fits this year, the most recent example would be against the Bengals. Cincinnati was only up by three with about 11 minutes to go in the fourth quarter, but they stayed committed to their rushing attack and wore the Raiders’ front seven down to pull away and win by three possessions.
Defensively, sit back and play coverage, don’t blitz, and use the two-high safety looks that have given so many other high-flying offenses trouble this season. Derek Carr kills single-high and man coverage, and his numbers are pretty good against the blitz but teams that sit back and play coverage have given him trouble, especially since Henry Ruggs hasn’t been in the lineup. Without Ruggs, the Raiders’ receivers have struggled to get open since opposing defensive backs haven’t had to honor a deep threat. Granted, DeSean Jackson might be able to fill that void now that he’s more familiar with the playbook and had a breakout game against the Cowboys.
Also, Las Vegas’ offensive line has struggled in pass protection so there’s really no need to manufacture pressure by blitzing a defender that would normally be in coverage. Jonathan Allen and Daron Payne should be able to get pressure on their own.
As of right now, Vegas has the Raiders as 1 point favorites over Washington. How would you bet?
This poll is closed
Vegas wins by more than 1 point
Vegas wins by 1 point or it’s a tie
Washington wins outright
As of now, Vegas has the over/under for this game at 49 points. Which would you bet?
This poll is closed
49 or more total points are scored (both sides combined)
Fewer than 49 total points are scored (both sides combined)