A Closer Look at The Las Vegas Raiders

A+Closer+Look+at+The+Las+Vegas+Raiders

The Las Vegas Raiders have started the season with a 2-1 win record, taking down the Carolina Panthers and the New Orleans Saints by four and 10 points respectively, then losing to the New England Patriots by 16 this past weekend. This is the second time in the past ten years that the team went 2-1, and it’s been over a decade since they started like this with a win against one or more teams of high caliber such as the Saints. This begs the question: How did the Raiders come out of the gate so strong and stumble so easily?

The answer could be summed up with two key factors in the team: the presence of wide receiver Henry Ruggs III and the inconsistent defense that has haunted the Raiders for what seems like the past two decades.

Ruggs was drafted by the Raiders with the 12th pick during this year’s draft, over the assumed pick Ceedee Lamb, who eventually went to the Dallas Cowboys. Ruggs tore up the college scene during his three years at the University of Alabama, totaling over 1,750 scrimmage yards and helping his program win the 2018 College Football Championship versus the Georgia Bulldogs.

In his first game as a Raider against the Panthers, Ruggs had three catches for 55 yards, despite getting a leg injury during the game. In the next home game against the Saints, he had one catch for only four yards. In the Patriots game, Ruggs did not play due to knee and hamstring complications.

To the average viewer, this seems like underwhelming performances for a mid first round draft pick. But if you look a little closer, Ruggs is doing more than what his stats show.

In more than half of his reps, Ruggs was guarded by at least two defensive players during his plays. Whether intentional or not, Ruggs creating the distraction in his two games helped his teammates produce at a higher level.

During the Panthers game, running back Josh Jacobs ran for 93 yards and three touchdowns. On top of that, he caught the ball four times for 46 yards. The majority of Jacobs’ production occured after a 45-yard catch from Ruggs. In the following week versus the Saints, tight end Darren Waller had a team-high 12 catches for 105 yards and a touchdown. 

Even players who have been pushed to the back have benefited from Ruggs’ presence, such as wide receiver Hunter Renfrow, who has made big plays for the Raiders with his five catches in the first two games.

This is not to say that Ruggs is only helping position players. Despite getting sacked almost twice per game on average, quarterback Derek Carr has averaged just over 261 yards and has produced six touchdowns through the first three games.

Despite the success of the offense, the Raiders still lost to the Patriots by 16 points and had a close game against the Panthers. Like years prior, the defense are the culprits behind this.

The Raiders’ defense has been sub par compared to other teams. Through three games, the Raiders have only produced three sacks, while teams such as their week-three opponent, the Patriots, had three sacks in one game. Even though the Raiders have about one more minute of time of possession, they have allowed the same amount of touchdowns (10) and almost 100 more total yards since week one.

Ruggs will most likely be able to come back sometime in the season, as it was not reported that he had an injury that would leave him out for a long period of time, such as when the New York Giants’ running back Saquon Barkley tore his ACL.

In order for the Raiders to have a shot in the American Football Conference, they will need to play way better defensively. Whether that means pushing them harder or signing/trading for new players, there needs to be more production coming from the defense. On top of that, the offense needs to keep playing the way they have been. If not, things may be looking blue for the silver and black.