2021 Raiders Offseason Summary

Well, it’s been quite the offseason.
We saw players leave that never lived up to the hype.
We saw players leave that simply couldn’t stay healthy.
We’ve had surprise cuts – and in addition to all that, we saw the offensive line get all but dismantled.
But put simply, we had a lot of money allocated that wasn’t working. And we looked to fix that.

Despite coming into the offseason with only $5.2 Million in Cap Space, we were able to tippy-toe our way into bringing an established pass rusher like Yannick Ngakoue in, a player like RB Kenyan Drake who may look to fill the role Gruden originally envisioned for Lynn Bowden, and yet-more players like WR John Brown, Solomon Thomas, and others. 

But I know as fans, sometimes we wish there were limitless dollars so that we could do more. So that we could do what we see other teams doing. Around this time of year, the fear of missing out can hit hard.

But spending in free agency can be a ruse. From 2011 to March 16th 2021, the Jaguars spent by far the most in Free Agency ($1.4 Billion) and yet over that same span lost ≈75% of their games (also the worst win percentage over that span). That’s an even worse win percentage than the notoriously awful Browns had managed over that span (Jags: 44-116 vs Browns: 48-111-1). Worse yet, the Jaguars, despite spending the most in Free Agency, have wound up selecting in the Top 10 of the NFL Draft 9 out of the last 10 times.
— From 2016–2020 (5 Seasons), the Raiders are actually 2nd only to the Jags in total guaranteed money handed out in Free Agency. And yet, what have we had to show for it? This emphasizes how important it is to get & do it right, rather than simply spend a lot and throw money around. And why’s that?
— Well, if we look more recently, from 2017–2020 (4 Seasons) the 5 biggest spenders in Free Agency over that time spent these amounts and had these records: Jaguars ($494.1 Million; 22-42), Jets ($463.0 Million; 18-46), Bills ($457.1 Million; 38-26), Lions ($444.7 Million; 23-41), and Browns ($436.2 Million; 24-39-1).

So.. fear not. At the end of the day, it is through spending wisely (and not freely) that you become successful.
That means player development, and exceptional talent evaluation that allows you to identify niche players that would satisfy specific team roles, very well. The Patriots enjoyed 2 decades of success by Bill Belichick’s mantra and quote, “Don’t focus on what a player can’t do. Focus on what he can do, and how we can use it.” Through this, they routinely spent money efficiently, not freely, and built multiple dynasties along the way.

And so, with that, let us look at the moves we’ve made this offseason (click to skip to that section):
• Offensive Line
• Defensive Line
• Wide Receivers
• Cornerbacks
• Running Backs
• Linebackers
• Tight Ends
• Safeties

 
Raiders All-Time Great Offensive Linemen

Offensive Line

(click to return to position groups)
 
This was the biggest pool of money that had gone misused. In 2020, the Rams spent the least of any team on their Offensive Line. In total, they paid $30,334,776 less than we did on their Offensive Line, and yet finished Top 10 in Pass Blocking and Top 10 in Run Blocking. Meanwhile, we spent the 2nd most on Offensive Linemen in the league only to finish 26th in Run Blocking and 17th in Pass Blocking. And in 2019, with all of the same starters? 18th in Run Blocking, and 15th in Pass Blocking. You’d think with all that money being spent, you’d be at least Top 10 in one of those categories. But we weren’t. Big things had to change. We are currently slated to only be paying $27.4 Million to our Offensive Line this year – just 52.7% of what we paid OL participants last year (a 47.3% savings).

 

 

 

Rodney Hudson (C):

Traded

Received: mid-3rd Rd Pick, #79 (2021) // Gave: Hudson + 7th Rd Pick, #247 (2021) 

The biggest surprise of the offseason. But things weren’t actually all roses for Hudson in 2020. He posted the lowest grade since his Rookie year (only grading Above Average), and also had his first season ever where he didn’t post an Elite Pass Blocking Grade. It was a big drop. In 2020 Hudson gave up more Pressures than he had in the previous 3 Seasons combined. Hudson will be 32 years old when the season starts, and though I think all of Raider Nation would like to see him bounce back, eyes will definitely be on whether father time had truly started to come for the adored lineman. Jon Gruden saw Hudson day-in/day-out for 3 seasons, and it’s at least worth considering that he may have started to see something in his infinite hours of film study that was off about Rodney. If so, this could have played a part in the shocking move (or, before that, rumored requests for a pay cut).

Frustratingly however, Hudson’s request to leave the team will leave us with a heavy $12.1 Million in Dead Cap in 2021. That’s money we won’t be seeing, but that Hudson gladly took an upfront check for just last year (when we paid him an $11.6 Million Bonus in order to allow us to spread his cap hit over multiple years with us). For context, the $12.1 Million in Dead Cap will have been enough to pay for Darren Waller and Nick Kwiatkoski this year, while still having ≈$1 Million left over.
His original team, the Chiefs, have been completely fine since he left (even before Mahomes), having gone 71-25 over that span (a 74.0% Win Percentage since 2015) and having made the playoffs every single year (and 2 Super Bowls) despite not having him on the team anymore. So all hope is not lost.
 

Gabe Jackson (RG): 

Traded

Received: mid-5th Rd Pick, #167 (2021) // Gave: Jackson

Along with Derek Carr, Jackson had been the longest standing Raider on the team (having both come in the 2014 Draft). His play however, while at times close, had never quite lived up to his pay. Despite having the 3rd (’18), 13th (’19), and 8th (’20) highest cap hits among all Guards the past three seasons, he barely ranked 14th (’18), 32nd (’19), and 34th (’20)  among starting Guards by grade.
— As a Pass Blocker specifically, he ranked 16th (’18), 13th (’19), and 17th (’20) among starting Guards.
— As a Run Blocker specifically, he ranked 11th (’18), 40th (’19), and 40th (’20) among starting Guards. Note the decline.

— Despite ~Top 10 pay (being just outside it in ’19 by $1.3 Million), he didn’t even break the Top 30 at his position the last two years. 

Taking ~Top 10 money but failing to crack the Top 30 at your position by overall Grade doesn’t make sense. The team moved on.
  

Trent Brown (RT): 

Cut

Received: sigh of relief // Gave: $0.00 Dead Cap

The #1 highest paid Tackle in 2020 and #5 highest in ’19. In total, he had the #1 highest combined cost total the past two seasons of any tackle in the NFL (receiving $36.75 Million total – a full $5.4 Million more than the next closest tackle over that span, in Taylor Lewan). Despite all this money however, he only played in 14 full games with us (+2 more games with a combined 9 snaps). And despite #1 ranking money, he barely ranked 32nd (’19) and 47th (’20) among his fellow starting Tackles. Touted as “The LeBron James of Tackles” he’s yet to even remotely resemble James’ dominance, despite being a mammoth among men. He couldn’t stay healthy, and even when he was healthy, he simply didn’t play up to his record-setting contract. With that much money, you’re expected to utterly dominate your competition – not fail to even crack the Top 30 among your peers.
— For perspective, the $21.5 Million we paid him last year alone would’ve been enough to completely pay this year for Darren Waller, John Brown, Johnathan Hankins, and our entire 2021 Draft Class… combined.
 

Andre James (C):

Re-Signed (Extended)

Contract (Now): 3-Years, avg of $3.2 Million/year (Dead Cap = $1.5 Million if 2022 Cut, $0 if 2023 Cut).

The belief seems to be that the starting Center role is his to lose. Richie Incognito recently[i] seemed to believe the same, saying “Andre has a small sample size, but he has proven that he is a starter in the NFL.” The sample size is in-fact very small, with effectively only 2 games under his belt, both in 2019 (there were two other games that he only played 1 Offensive Snap in).

And both of his games couldn’t have been any more different. In his first game, he came off the bench admirably after Rodney Hudson went down 10 Snaps in, and impressed very well by posting an Elite 83.0 Pass Blocking Grade in the game. He followed that up by starting the next game against the Chargers, and literally posted a 0.0 Pass Blocking Grade. That’s not a typo. His Run Blocking Grade in both games were not very good (46.6 and then 32.0 – both F Grades).

But we haven’t seen him every day up close and personal like Incognito has. And to move on from Hudson like we did, one must assume the team (including Offensive Line coach Tom Cable) really likes what they see in his development.
 

Nick Martin (C):

New Player 

Contract: 1 Year, $1.75 Million (Dead Cap = $250k if 2021 Cut)

If Andre James believes the starting role will be handed to him, Martin is there to check him. In the 4 seasons since he entered the league (2017–2020), Nick Martin has the 6thHighest Pass Blocking Grade among Centers. However, he’s yet to grade above 61.0 (a C grade) as a Run Blocker. What’s interesting is this was always Rodney Hudson’s issue as well – he was a good pass blocker, but weaker in the run game. But he’s proven himself as a Pass Blocker, and Nick Martin’s currently been a bit of a sleeper pick not many fans have talked about. May the best man win.
 

Kolton Miller (LT): 

Re-Signed (Extended)

Contract (Now): 5-Years, avg of $13.8 Million/year (Dead Cap = $0 if 2022 Cut)

Perhaps the most forward-looking move of the offseason, we extended Kolton Miller +3 years. Since he still had 2 years remaining on his rookie contract (4th Year + 5th-Year Option), we can see that now, over the next 5 years we’ll barely be paying him $13.8 Million/year on average. This currently would rank him as the 16th highest paid Tackle by Avg Cost per Year, and that should only continue to get better and better as the new TV deal money comes in, but also as others are inevitably signed to higher and higher contracts. The first player from his draft class to be given a new contract, Miller has gotten better every year thus far, and so this at least has the potential to be a big steal and reward for acting early if Kolton Miller can continue to improve. This past season, he put up the #1 Pass Blocking Grade among all Tackles in his draft class. While he’s continued to have his struggles in the Run game, hopefully he’s able to finally shore up this area of his game while continually improving in pass protection.

One thing that’s really interesting about Miller’s contract is how flexible it is. If he fails to match his play to his pay, we can cut him with zero cap penalty (Dead Cap) by doing so before the 3rd day of the 2022 League Year. If he makes it to that day, he will have his 2022 & 2023 Salaries become fully guaranteed ($3.3 Million & $12.2 Million, respectively).
— Thus, moving on after Day 3 of the 2022 League Year would accelerate upwards of the full $15.5 Million forward. What this means is if he makes it to Day 3 of the 2022 League Year, he’s likely going to be with us until at least after the 2023 Season. At that point, the last 2 years of his contract (2024 and 2025) we would face zero cap penalty if he stopped matching his play to his pay. So we have multiple checkpoints throughout his contract where, if he stops performing at a level commensurate with his pay, we can move on from him with zero cap penalty. And yet, from his perspective, if he continues to play well then he has well-timed guarantees that will bag him plenty of money as a reward for playing very well.
 

Denzelle Good (RG/RT):

Re-Signed
Contract: 2-Years, avg of $4.2 Million/year (Dead Cap = $0 if 2022 Cut)

Positionally versatile, there’s a certain value to having a lineman who can start at either Guard position one game, and then bump out to Tackle the next. With injuries happening, there’s a use for this on any team. While he’s not been dominant by any means, he has shown flashes of very good play in the past. In 2019, he logged 3 games (out of 7) where he yielded an Elite Pass Blocking Grade, and 2 of the remaining games he logged an Elite Run Blocking Grade. Consistency will be key, and so hopefully he’s able to settle into one position so that he can focus all of his energy at maximizing his performance there, without needing to switch everything up the next week. One thing to keep in mind however is that Denzelle Good will be 30 years old this season, and so we can’t expect him to be a long-term solution. For that, we will need to look at the Draft at this point, as aside from the still-developing John Simpson, there’s effectively only one other Guard on the team…
 

Richie Incognito (LG):

Re-Signed
Contract: 1 Year, $1.2 Million + $60k Bonus every game he’s on the active roster (Dead Cap = $1.1 Million if 2021 Cut)

An ageless wonder until an odd ankle injury derailed his 2020 Season, Incognito will be 38 years old this season. However, he’s had 2.5 years in his career where he put zero wear on his body – half of 2013 (Suspension), and all of 2014 (Unsigned) and 2017 (Retired). So instead, he’s really actually kind of.. well, still old, but not as old! His performance in his mid-30s and on has somehow in ways been better than anything he managed before that, as he’s now posted 3-4 back-to-back seasons with Elite Pass Blocking Grades (which he’d never done before), and though he’s not as fleet-footed as he once was in the run game, he’s still performed well. Few players would want to engage in a brawl with Richie. And yet, his leadership on the team has also not gone unnoticed. Kolton Miller has stated numerous times how much Richie really took him under his wings and helped him develop as a player – a selfless act that he certainly was under no obligation to do.

At this point though, at his age, injuries are the main concern. What was the deal with the ankle injury in 2020, and what was odd about it? Well, it turns out that our team doctors misdiagnosed him not once, but multiple times as what they kept claiming were cysts in his ankle, turned out to be something else entirely. Richie has an extra bone on the back of his ankle that most people don’t have. It’s known as an Os Trigonum, and it’s essentially a knobby protrusion that faces backwards from a part of your foot. In 2020, in response to large forces loaded onto it, this bone broke off from the back of the Talus where it’s found, and had managed to find & wedge its way in between the back of his foot (possibly the Calcaneus, aka the Heel) and his Achilles Tendon. Nestled in there, it was causing havoc on the back of his ankle by shearing into his Achilles Tendon with every step. There was no way he would be able to cut, run, or do much of anything in 2020 with it. Once he got it correctly diagnosed by a top independent foot specialist, the broken bone was removed (since most people don’t have it, it’s not needed for normal function). Immediately he felt better, and for about a couple-few months now he’s been able to sprint, cut, and perform at 100%.

With this injury, once the bone is removed, since no actual soft tissues are affected (and no normally-needed bone is either), individuals tend to recover completely fine from it. So unless significant shearing was done to his Achilles before having it corrected, the foot is hopefully fine. And hopefully, he’ll be able to beat Father Time for at least one more year.  
 
  

DRAFT IMPACT:
The Raiders immediately addressed the Offensive Line, taking Alex Leatherwood in the 1st Round at 17th Overall.
Leatherwood is expected to take over the Right Tackle (RT) spot, replacing Trent Brown who underperformed for his pay while here. Leatherwood comes in as a strong run blocker – something important in a Gruden offense. He also comes in highly decorated, with many awards to his name. He does certainly have work to do in pass protection, but Offensive Line coach Tom Table must have felt that the issues he sees, are correctable based on his experience coaching linemen in the past. We’ve seen him continue to develop Kolton Miller into a bona fide starter in the league, and we just spent an entire 2020 Season where he somehow, week-after-week seemed to churn out miracles with a rag-tag group of linemen that were either injured, switching positions, or having to learn the game on the fly much sooner than had originally been expected. 

After Leatherwood, the Raiders next addressed the Center (C) position – though not until much later, in the 7th Round. There, we took Jimmy Morrissey out of Pitt and though the odds may be long, he’s beaten those odds every step of the way thus far and he’s coming to a team where, of any position on the Offensive Line, Center is arguably the thinnest. It will be a battle in camp, but if he wants any proof that the team is willing to give everyone a shot no matter your beginnings, he need look no further than the player currently most slated to be our starting Center: Andre James. James wasn’t even drafted, and yet in just 2 seasons he’s now looking to be the starter for the very NFL team that first took a chance on him.

  
 
 

Raiders All-Time Great Defensive Linemen

Defensive Line

 
The Defensive Line continued to be another troubled area for the Silver & Black in 2020. We finished the season with the 27th ranked Pass Rush Grade, and the 24th ranked Run Defense Grade. Our Defensive Line specifically was able to generate 206 Pressures, which  wasn’t as bad as that at least ranked 19th in the NFL (the #1 team, the Steelers, generated 308 Pressures with their DL). Our pressure leader was Maxx Crosby, who somehow managed that despite playing with a broken metal plate in his right hand since what he stated was “around the BYE Week” (which was Week 6). As a Left Defensive End, his right hand is very commonly used, so this is likely not something he’d want to subscribe to again. Oh and he also played with a jacked up shoulder and significantly torn Labrum. 
 
 

Yannick Ngakoue (DE):
New Player

Contract: 2-Years, avg of $13.0 Million/year (Dead Cap = $8 Million if 2022 Cut)
Arguably the biggest signing of the offseason. He is an uber consistent pass rushing specialist, and here’s some stats to back that up:
— Over 5 Seasons, since entering the league in 2016(–2020), he’s generated the 2nd most Pressures of ANY Defender, trailing only Aaron Donald himself. 
— Has single-handedly gotten more pressures than our highest pressure # each of the past 4 years (2017–2020), combined!
— Is 1 of only 4 players since 1982 (when Sacks were first recorded) to record 8+ Sacks in each of his first 5 Seasons.
— He’s also 1 of only 2 players in that same span to record 18+ Forced Fumbles period, of any defender. The only other? Khalil Mack.
— Before bouncing around last season (so, from 2016–2019, 4 Seasons), he had the #1 highest pressure rate in the entire NFL when his team was up 7+ Points. This shows even further how in pure pass rushing situations, he is near unparalleled in the league.
— From 2017–2020 (4 Seasons), he had the 8th best Pass Rushing Grade when aligned in a Wide alignment (ex: 9-Tech/Wide 9). In such wide alignments he’s earned a mouth-watering 89.1 Grade (A+ Grade), which is absolutely Elite. These alignments allow him to use his speed, moves & counter-moves, motor, and knack for knowing where the QB is very well as he’s able to employ essentially everything that makes him so lethal in the pass game at once. Interestingly, from all other alignments (ex: 5-Tech, inside at 3-Tech, etc) over that span, he’s graded out much more conservatively with a 68.3 Pass Rushing Grade (a B– Grade) when not aligned out wide. 
— From 2017–2020 (4 Seasons), he’s recorded an Elite 88.7 Pass Rushing Grade (A+ Grade) overall, which ranks him 12th among all players in the NFL at his position with 1,000+ Snaps. However, here’s where we see his achilles heel.. his one big weakness. In that same time span, his Run Defense Grade is on the complete opposite end of the spectrum, as in that time he’s barely managed to record a very poor 50.5 Run Defense Grade (a D– Grade), which is the 4th-worst of any edge defender in that span with 1,000+ Snaps (108 players).
 
From this, we can see that his best role is as a designated pass-rusher, where we line him up in pass rushing situations and let him loose to wreak havoc on their Quarterback. He’s best suited on a team with strong interior defenders that can keep hats off of him, that allows others to primarily account for the run game so that his liability is limited and he can stay lined up outside, wreaking havoc. And in Gus Bradley’s scheme, that’s precisely what his LEO position is for – essentially, get a player in 1-on-1 pass rushing situations through his alignment and others’ gap responsibilities on the play. 
 
 
Quinton Jefferson (DT):
New Player
Contract: 1 Year, $3.25 Million (Dead Cap = $2.0 Million if 2021 Cut)
Speaking of Run Defenders, the Raiders signed Quinton Jefferson who from 2015–2019 (5 Seasons) put up a 74.1 Run Defense Grade (a B+ Grade) overall, while also posting a 60.1 Pass Rush Grade (a C Grade) over that span. In 2020 however he posted a 71.2 Pass Rushing Grade (a B Grade), the best of his career. Having played 92.5% of his career interior snaps at 3-Tech, he’s flashed pass rush potential as over the past 3 seasons he’s logged 105 Pressures combined, but it’s been thus far inconsistent. Nonetheless, for his contract cost this could prove worthwhile value on a 1-year contract where the 28 year old will be trying to put his best foot forward. And we could use the help, as last season we ranked 30th in the NFL in EPA (Expected Points Added) when defending Runs. 
 
One last thing to note is that he’s interestingly been moved around to the outside quite a bit, as he’s played 46.2% of his total career snaps (not just interior snaps) in a 4-Tech alignment, and an additional 16.5% of his career snaps in a 5-Tech alignment. Speaking of his 4-Tech alignment, in 2019 when playing for the Seahawks in the same scheme he’s in now, he was the 17th ranked interior defender in Pass Rush Win Rate % when facing double teams. The fact he also posted his best pass rushing grade to date with the Bills in 2020 (who only put him outside beyond the 4-Tech spot for 3.5% of his snaps), together these may indicate he’s best suited inside, and not moving all over the place. For only $3.25 Million though, this is a low risk signing for a player with positional versatility, and a potentially useful role player with some pass rush upside.
 
 
Solomon Thomas (DT):
New Player
Contract: 1 Year, $2.8 Million (Dead Cap = $2.7 Million if 2021 Cut)
Another player who’s been moved around the line quite a bit throughout his career, it will be interesting to see what we do with Thomas. With Thomas though, we may have a different story in front of us, as after being released by the 49ers he appeared to go out of his way to express some frustration with how he’d been utilized in San Francisco. 
 
I think with Thomas, the best summary is to quote the man himself, directly:
“I would definitely say that I like playing inside … That’s where I made my bread and butter at Stanford. I like playing from that 3-Technique. I think I can be real disruptive there. I can get into guards … I really like the inside … [The] inside, I feel like is where I can make my money … I know there’s a place for me that will let me go inside and wreak havoc.
— Listening, Rod Marinelli?
 
For whatever reason, Thomas only ever played 20.2% of his snaps as an actual 3-Tech – even though he was a DT in college, and he seemingly had been frustrated by his implementation.
Perhaps the only other thing to note with Thomas is that he’ll be coming off of an ACL Tear that he suffered in Week 2 of the 2020 Season. An injury that used to be career-ending, players are much more frequently returning to play after suffering this now. Nonetheless, it may be something to keep an eye on, though by the time the season starts it will have been almost an entire year since suffering the injury. This is different from TE Foster Moreau’s ACL tear, which happened much later in the season (Week 14 – a full 3 month difference) and was sometimes speculated as a reason why he didn’t end up playing much in 2020. There’s also the position difference, as a Defensive Tackle is generally not expected to be as adversely affected by the injury compared to a Tight End, who needs to plant, cut and drive hard on many plays with much sharper changes in direction.
 
 
Maurice Hurst (DT):
Cut
The 2nd biggest surprise of the offseason (after Hudson’s departure), it’s honestly still hard to believe we cut him. Like clockwork, every Monday after the games I’d load up the All-22 of the game and, like clockwork, he was consistently one of the only highlights on our entire defense. For 3 seasons. And speaking of those 3 seasons, he finished as our #1 graded defender in 2020, our #1 graded defender in 2019, and our #3 graded defender in 2018 (as a Rookie) among players with 200+ Snaps each season.
 
In 2019 he finished with the 3rd Highest Win Rate % out of ALL NFL Defensive Tackles when double-teamed, when he posted a 16.9% Win Rate vs. 2+ Blockers. So what did Paul Guenther (and Marinelli) do the next year? Use him less. Like, way less. Because of course. In 2020 he was only played on 25.0% of our defensive snaps, in favor of Maliek Collins who week-in/week-out was a dumpster fire. Hurst was soon picked up by the 49ers, where he’ll get to play alongside Nick Bosa, Javon Kinlaw, and Arik Armstead. It’s likely not a stretch to say that Raider Nation is rooting for him, as news of his release seemed to catch many by surprise. At the end of the day, though, it’s entirely on the coaches how the team is built, who’s retained and who’s let go.
 
 
Arden Key (DE):
Cut
A player whose story in the NFL was thus far all hype, he’d been slated as a Top 5 / Top 10 talent coming out of college, before dropping precipitously due to character concerns. Never one to finish what he started on the field with missed sacks, tackles and opportunities aplenty, it appears that off the field he won’t be finishing with the team he started with either. In his 3 years with the Raiders, he amassed an overall 24.6% Missed Tackle Rate, which would’ve qualified as the worst missed tackle rate in any of his seasons with us among all our defenders with 175+ Snaps. Needless to say, the misses won’t be.. missed.
 
 
Maliek Collins (DT):
Not Re-Signed
Another player who ended up being all hype, Collins was a 1-year rental who’d had a career year the season prior in 2019 with the Cowboys. With us, however, he went on to have an abomination of a season, finishing with a 39.2 Overall Grade (F), which was the worst grade across our defensive line, and somehow the 2nd worst grade on our entire team (behind only Johnathan Abram’s 35.9 Grade, which we will hopefully leave behind with Paul Guenther).
 
Among all 84 DT’s in the NFL with 400+ Snaps played in 2020, Collins ended the season as the 3rd worst (82nd) graded defensive tackle. And if we look at all players with 400+ Snaps (not just DT’s) played in 2020, Collins finished the season ranked 407th out of 417 Defenders (all positions). So much for the hype. We also see the perplexing nature behind the decision week-after-week to play Collins over Maurice Hurst, who’d shown much more promise throughout his time with us. Also, unlike Collins, Hurst was actually under contract for another season still (through the 2021 season), so any continued development would’ve only benefited the team further, and for cheap as he was still on a late-round rookie contract.
 
 
Johnathan Hankins (DT):
Re-Signed
Contract: 1-Year, $3.5 Million (Dead Cap = $3.5 Million if 2021 Cut)
“Big Hank” has flown under many fan’s radars, only starting to get sort of  talked about this past season – but he’s continued to show up and go to work regardless. He doesn’t have a sexy role, but from a football standpoint, it is very needed – he eats up blocks, forcing double-teams, but he also two-gaps (which is, as the term implies, when a defensive player takes care of 2 gaps instead of the usual 1). A player who can effectively two-gap frees up other players to make plays. It can create 1-on-1 matchups with your pass rush specialists, it can allow for different blitzes to be called, and it can even free up a LB to do other things on the play like focus on the pass a little more. 
 
In Gus Bradley’s scheme, having a strong DT and a strong DE who can effectively two-gap allows him to implement his 4-3 Under front – which is one in which Yannick Ngakoue could really feast. This is because Ngakoue and any pass-rushing DT we throw in on the weakside, will both get 1-on-1 matchups, as they’ll only be responsible for the weakside B and C gaps. Johnathan Hankins would be in charge of taking on both A gaps (two-gapping), and a strong DE like Clelin Ferrell could take on the strongside B and C gaps (two-gapping).
 
There really isn’t another player like Hankins on the team. As alluded to above, he’s a 1-Technique, in pretty much every sense. He’s never really shown much pass rushing ability, but that’s what your 3-Techs & DEs are for. It’s relatively rare that a 1-Tech possesses even close to very good (let alone elite) pass rushing skills. They’re basically run stuffers and lane cloggers. One thing that is at least somewhat concerning however is that with Hankins’ contract up after the season, we may need to start looking to the future at the position as Hankins would be 30 years old entering the 2022 Season – not the end of the world for a defensive lineman, but nonetheless Father Time can be cruel. The role is generally inexpensive to fill (even in the Draft), which may be what’s behind the relaxed approach, but it wouldn’t have been too surprising if Alim McNeill had fallen just 6 more spots in the 3rd Round, if we’d have taken him and allowed him to develop for a year before potentially taking over in 2022. Either way, we’re glad that Big Hank is still with us, and though players with his role don’t generally get a lot of love: we see you big guy!
 
 
Kendal Vickers (DT):
Re-Signed
Contract: 1-Year, $780,000 (Dead Cap = $0 if 2021 Cut)
Exclusive Rights Free Agent after 2021 season
At the beginning of last season, Vickers legitimately made you wonder how he was even in the NFL. Watching the All-22 after each game, he looked just straight up outmatched. But we need to remember he was a UDFA from the 2018 Draft, and yet Week 1 of 2020 was the first snap he’d ever played in an actual game – and this definitely showed on film. However, as the season progressed, he started to show improvement in the snaps he did have. He still didn’t look like a world-beater, but he at least looked passable. He played 15 games in 2020, and if we compare how he graded out in his first 8 games vs his last 7 games, it actually appears to reflect exactly this. 
 
From Weeks 1–10 (8 games) he logged 150 snaps and put up an abysmal 35.5 Grade (an F), and a Pass Rush Productivity of 3.0%.
• among rotation-level+ players in this span (60+ pass rush snaps) that Productivity ranked T-75th out of 130 (40th Percentile).
• his overall Grade however had him literally ranked 1st Percentile (meaning, it was only better than 1% of rotation-level+ players).
 
From Weeks 11–17 (7 games) he logged 165 snaps and put up a 62.3 Grade (a C+), and a Pass Rush Productivity of 6.1%.
• among rotation-level players and above in this span (45+ pass rush snaps) he ranked T-25th out of 130, and was 78th Percentile.
• his overall Grade however still had him barely ranked 47th Percentile among rotation-level+ players.
A full 2 letter grade improvement, and just over doubling his pass rush productivity is likely why the team was open to giving him another shot. There’s zero risk involved, with $0 dead cap penalty if he stops showing out and we cut bait.
 
Overall, he was played as part of our pass-rushing DT rotation, having logged 87.6% of his snaps at 3-Tech. If he continues to develop this season, we’ll have the option to keep him for at least one more year on a league-minimum deal, as he’ll be an Exclusive Rights Free Agent after this season. Any player that’s logged 2 or fewer seasons w/ 6+ Games on either {the Active Roster, Injured Reserve (IR), or the Physically Unable to Perform (PUP) list}, if they hit free agency then whatever team they just played with has exclusive rights to them, and has the option to sign them to a 1-year, league minimum deal without needing to compete with any other teams in a bidding war. So his re-signing is purely a zero-risk move, with at least some potential.
 
 
David Irving (DT):
Cut
After playing just 40 snaps last season (and 96 total over the past three seasons, after being out of the game in 2019 serving an indefinite suspension for violations to the league’s substance abuse policy), Irving was released late in Free Agency, close to a month after the Draft. His release – along with that of Maurice Hurst 2 weeks before the Draft – seems to further solidify Solomon Thomas’ and Quinton Jefferson’s roles on the team as the go-to 3-Techs (which are typically your pass-rushing defensive tackles). 
 
As for why Irving was released, his no-show for OTAs (Organized Team Activities) seems to have been the culprit. Though these were technically voluntary, OTAs are used to help develop players as well as begin the chemistry-building process among teammates. For a player whose commitment to the game was already in question, it’s what he didn’t do (show up) that seemed to ultimately do him in. A fringe player simply doesn’t have the same leverage as a star player. A star player already has an A in the class, and can afford to skip the voluntary, extra credit assignments (though those committed to being the best tend to do them anyway). A fringe player is on the brink of failing the class (or already is), and simply cannot afford to miss any voluntary, extra credit type assignments like OTAs. 
 
As Magic Johnson once said, “With few exceptions, the best players are the hardest workers.” Gruden has openly stated this as well, and has taken it further by saying that when that is not the case, “you’ve got a problem.”
 
 
Darius Philon (DT):
New Player
Darius Philon last played in 2018, after having been released in August 2019 by the Cardinals following his arrest for assault with a deadly weapon. Originally drafted in the 6th Round of the 2015 Draft by the Chargers, Philon is looking to get his career back on track. He was with the Chargers until 2018 which means Gus Bradley is familiar with him (Bradley having been their Coordinator from 2017–2020), as 73.8% of Philon’s 1,577 career snaps came in the two years under Bradley.
 
Under Bradley he registered a 4.1% Pass Rush Productivity during the regular seasons, and served as one of his 3-Tech DTs (a role typically reserved for DTs with pass rushing upside). For perspective, in 2020 that Pass Rush Productivity would’ve ranked him T-40th among 70 DTs in the NFL with starter-level pass rush snaps (better than 41.4% of such DTs), and in 2019 he would’ve ranked 45th out of 80 DTs with starter-level pass rush snaps (better than 43.8% of such DTs).
 

He did have some issues in closing the deal when tackling, as in 2018 he had the 3rd highest Missed Tackle % (& 3rd most Missed Tackle total) among 79 DTs with starter-level snaps when 21.6% of his tackle attempts failed (ranking him better than just 3% of starting DTs by this metric), and in 2017 he had the T-15th highest Missed Tackle % (& T-17th most Missed Tackle total) among 83 DTs with starter-level snaps when 14.3% of his tackle attempts failed (ranking him better than only 16.9% of such DTs). 
 
   

DRAFT IMPACT:
The Raiders used the extra 3rd Round Pick we received for Rodney Hudson (C) to draft Malcolm Koonce, in an attempt to address the team’s 27th ranked Pass Rush Grade. Koonce is an almost pure pass-rush specialist, similar in that sense to Yannick Ngakoue. The team hopes that this go at drafting a pass rush specialist goes better than it did with Arden Key, who never lived up to the hype in his 3 seasons with us. Though Koonce’s immediate impact of course is still unclear, one thing that is clearer is that the team’s “NASCAR” package – an all-gas/no-brakes defensive line grouping that employs your best pass rushers at each position – this package undoubtedly now has more ammunition than it’s ever had in Gruden’s tenure. At DE we have Ngakoue/Crosby/Koonce as options, and inside at DT we have Ferrell/Thomas/Jefferson as options (Ferrell having gained experience sliding inside due to his power & size).
 
 
 
Raiders All-Time Great Wide Receivers

Wide Receivers

 
The Raiders actually targeted our WRs the 2nd-lowest of any team in the NFL (255 WR Targets, ahead of only the Ravens’ 215 and way behind the #1 Steelers’ 447). Despite this, Gruden still found ways throughout the season to dial up plays for our receivers, and Carr led the assault. Our 2020 Rookie WRs Henry Ruggs and Bryan Edwards showed that they still have plenty of work to do on their technique if they’re going to staple themselves in the NFL, but with an actual offseason this year where coaches can be a lot more hands-on, the hope is they’re able to take advantage. An offseason developing chemistry with QB Derek Carr should be useful as well, as there were numerous times that the lack of it was evident in the 2020 season. Nonetheless, even if it wasn’t always obvious to fans, Henry Ruggs still made an impact as when he was on the field, our Offense literally had a 3.0x higher EPA (Expected Points Added) Per Dropback. Our Yards Per Attempt also increased +29.3% from 7.5 YPA to 9.7 YPA when he was on the field.
 
 
Nelson Agholor (WR):
Not Re-Signed

The Raiders struck gold with Agholor in 2020, as he became the leading WR on the team and somebody who could take advantage of the attention that Darren Waller & Henry Ruggs drew away from him in coverage. It won’t be the easiest task replacing what he was able to do, but with the way the Offense is set up and with Gruden calling the plays, it should nonetheless be doable. Agholor had the 2nd best statistical year of his career, despite playing in over 233 less snaps (and receiving 26 less targets) than his official best. But Gruden employed him differently than he had been used in the past, and this was also evident by Agholor’s ADoT (Average Depth of Target) shooting up to 15.7 Yards – a full 42.5% deeper than he’d averaged in the 5 seasons prior in Philadelphia. He also ended the year only 39 yards short of his career high, and he tied his career high Touchdown total with 8 TDs – again, despite receiving 26 less targets and also 29 less receptions. Drops did continue to be a problem for him – as he also posted a career high in drops – but he made enough plays elsewhere that they weren’t as noticeable. 

 
John Brown (WR):
New Player
Contract: 1 Year, $3.51 Million (Dead Cap = $3.24 Million if 2021 Cut)
The slated replacement for Agholor, John Brown is only 2 years removed from his career-best season where he put up 1,060 Yards at the age of 29, ending the season as the Bills’ #1 Graded WR as they made the playoffs. He will be 31 this season, which will be his 8th in the league. He’ll figure to be employed similarly to Agholor as, like Agholor, he has split snaps over his career between the Slot and out Wide. In his two seasons with the Bills, he averaged 63.3 Yards per Game, which is actually just slightly above what Agholor managed with us in 2020 (56.0 Yards per Game).
 
One thing we will be looking out for are injuries. Though in the last 3 seasons he’s only missed 8 games, 7 of those came in 2020 as he tried to battle through multiple injuries the entire season. 
 
The first two weeks he wrestled through a recurring Foot injury. In week 3 he then left the game vs. the Rams with a Calf injury, which proceeded to bother him until at least Week 5, where the Saturday before the game he then added a Left Knee injury (the team didn’t play until Tuesday). He fought with this left knee injury from Week 5 through Week 7, and missed the team’s Week 5 and Week 7 match-ups in that span. He played Week 8, but then injured his knee again during practices leading up to their Week 9 match-up (vs. Seahawks), though he still managed to put up 99 yards on 8 Catches & 10 Targets. His knee continued to bother him going into Week 10 vs. the Cardinals, where, during the 4th Quarter, he landed awkwardly catching a pass over the middle and suffered a Right High Ankle Sprain. This ultimately landed him on IR, and was enough to sideline him until Week 17 when he returned to play the Dolphins and put up 72 Yards & 1 TD (4 Rec on 4 Targets). That he managed to still put up a 70.3 (B) Offensive Grade for the 2020 Season despite facing a litany of injuries is perhaps a testament to his toughness, however. Nonetheless, hopefully he is able to rest his body up and get back to health as we could sure use him.
 

Willie Snead (WR):
New Player
Contract: 1 Year, $1.13 Million (Dead Cap = $987.5k if 2021 Cut)
Yet another 1-year contract, Willie Snead is slated to come in to fight for Slot WR snaps, though in his Rookie year he did have the best year of his career (984 Yds, 3 TDs, 69 Rec) when he lined up out Wide for 67.2% of his Snaps. The team has employed an interesting, yet refreshing and very welcome approach this year where every player is going to be expected to compete – and not just against players that have yet to do anything in the league. Otherwise, the team will move on to somebody who’s hungrier than you, and your snaps will go away. Hopefully gone are the days of lingering onto players who weren’t living up to either their draft status, pay, or hype.
 
Overall, Snead has had reliable hands as he’s posted a career 71.4% Catch Percentage. He may have held resentment with the way the Ravens offense was run as far as its employment of Wide Receivers, as back in February he’d made a couple quick statements about how a player can be great if a team’s system allows them to be, after Dez Bryant had come out and said he no longer thought the Ravens were a good fit for him either. For the record, the Ravens ranked dead last in the league in passing attempts, completions, and passing yards – and they also targeted their WR’s specifically the least of any team in the NFL, as they were the only team to do so less than the Raiders. Unlike the Ravens however, the Raiders were not afraid to pass the ball or take shots, as we had the 8th highest passing yards per game.
 
He’s coming off a season where he battled Covid in late November, then an ankle injury in late December that affected him through the end of the season and into the Ravens’ playoffs. By the end of it, he finished as the Ravens’ #1 graded WR, just edging out Marquise Brown (who, in fairness, still kept the gap close despite being much more involved in the offense). His grade was also the best he’d posted since 2016, when he was with the Saints. Hopefully Gruden is able to find ways to utilize him as Sean Payton was able to, as Snead’s years with the Saints were certainly the best of his career thus far.
 

Zay Jones (WR):
Re-Signed
Contract: 1 Year, $2.5 Million (Dead Cap = $2.5 Million if 2021 Cut)
Zay Jones has thus far, unfortunately, not done much with his opportunities in the NFL. But he’s at least shown enough to remain employed – whether that’d be true with most teams, or if it’s just ours, remains to be seen, but with his contract fully guaranteed this year it would seem the team plans on keeping him around (unless we feel like having wasted $2.5 Million). 
 
One thing Jones has had going for him is his propensity as a Run Blocker – something that likely wouldn’t matter so much on most teams, but on a Gruden-led team, can matter a lot more. In 2020, he posted an Elite, 90.1 (A+) Grade as a Run Blocker, which was #1 in the NFL among all 138 WRs with at least rotation-level Run Blocking Snaps. In 2018 (skipping 2019 as he was traded mid-season and had to learn a completely different system on-the-fly), he was a starting WR and posted the #9 best Run Blocking Grade among 68 WRs with starting-level Run Blocking Snaps. In his Rookie season (2017), he was again a starter and posted the #21 best Run Blocking Grade out of 73 WRs with starting-level Run Blocking Snaps. So, the run blocking trend isn’t new with Zay Jones. But now, the elephant in the room is that Wide Receivers aren’t linemen – Wide Receivers are paid to catch balls first and foremost. Blocking can be a big plus, but it is by no means a necessity. And as a Receiver, he has yet to do much of anything in the league. In 2020, he was only targeted 20 times all season, which wasn’t even rotation-level (instead only backup-level, i.e. someone who basically rode the bench all season). As such, the sample is too small to really draw many conclusions over, but it’s safe to say he wasn’t very impactful as an actual receiver since, to many fans who watched the games, he was seemingly a complete afterthought throughout the season. 
____________
*of note, while on the topic of run blocking WRs, in 2020 Bryan Edwards was ranked #5 among the same 138 WRs (rotation-level+) by the same metric after also posting an Elite, 86.9 (A+) Grade as a Run Blocker – something he was known for coming out of college.
¯¯¯¯¯¯¯¯¯¯¯
So how’s he been as a receiver?
If we go back to 2018 – before the 2019 season that saw him traded mid-season – Zay Jones barely generated 1.20 Yards Per Route Run, which ranked him T-67th among 79 WRs with 50+ Targets that season (only better than 14% of such WRs). By pure Offensive Grade, he graded out as the 69th WR out of the same 79 WRs with 50+ Targets (making him only better than 13% of such WRs). 
And in 2017, his rookie season, he barely generated 0.68 Yards Per Route Run, which ranked him Dead Last (81st) out of 81 WRs with 50+ Targets that season (making him better than.. 0% of such WRs by this metric) – and as for his Offensive Grade, as a Rookie he was also near dead last as he finished ranked 78th out of 81 WRs with 50+ Targets (only better than 4% of such WRs).
 
So, a lot of time out on the field but very little actual production as between his first two seasons, as a Starter, he was out on the field for a combined 1,038 Pass plays where he ran a route (493 in ’17 and 545 in ’18) and yet only combined for 0.95 yards per route run across his first two seasons (in 2020 he maintained this pace, yielding just 0.96 Yards Per Route Run). Our next closest WR to Zay Jones by this metric in 2020 was Henry Ruggs, but it wasn’t particularly close as even he managed 37.5% more yards per route run, in a season that Ruggs himself graded as a “D” level performance.
 
As for where he’s lined up, with the Bills he played similar positional percentages as with us thus far, splitting his time between the Slot and Outside (though favoring the Outside). He’s continued to be proactive in establishing chemistry with QB Derek Carr, having attended if not all, then definitely most throwing sessions Carr has put on. It didn’t seem to make much of a difference in 2020, but hopefully in 2021 things will be different.
 

Tyrell Williams (WR):
Cut
Originally signed to a 4-year, $44.3 Million contract, the Raiders only ever got 4 healthy games from Williams. 
Across 2 Seasons, he played in 14 games and all of those were in 2019 (.. two seasons ago). 
He contributed exactly 0 snaps in 2020 after tearing his Labrum, but nonetheless received $11.1 Million (after receiving $10.1 Million in 2019). In 2019, he played in the aforementioned 14 games, but only the first 4 of those were healthy – every game after that he was dealing with Plantar Fasciitis – which, for a WR, is a tough ailment to have when you have to plant, cut hard, drive, and jump regularly. Coach Jon Gruden had relayed that it’d felt like his feet were on fire, and unfortunately about the only thing you can do with the injury Williams had is rest. It was in a perhaps annoying gray area for him where it wasn’t severe enough for surgery, but yet still severe enough to really affect his play.
 
It’s tough because players obviously don’t want to get injured. And, to Williams’ credit, he really did try to play through the pain. He put up at least 501 snaps in-game while injured – and who knows how many more in practices throughout the season – as he tried to do what he could to help the team succeed. But, as promising as his first 4 Games seemed, he just wasn’t the same afterward. He had a Touchdown in each of his first 4, healthy games (averaging 1 TD/Game), but then only managed 2 Touchdowns the entire rest of the Season after injury. And the 1-on-1 matchup advantage it’d looked like we’d have with him, disappeared. 
 
At 6’4 with a 4.42 40 yard dash time, Carr could’ve had some fun with the WR had he been able to stay healthy. 
Unfortunately, that didn’t seem to be in the stars. 
In releasing Tyrell Williams, we were able to clear $11.6 Million in Cap Space.
That $11.6 Million will pay Henry Ruggs, John Brown, Bryan Edwards, Willie Snead, and Hunter Renfrow’s 2021 cap hits… combined.
 
 
 
 
Raiders All-Time Great Cornerbacks

Cornerbacks

 
Since Gruden returned (2018–2020, 3 Seasons) the Raiders have had the worst (32nd Ranked, dead last) Coverage Grade in that span, at 40.4 (an F). It’s been absolutely embarrassing. Fired defensive coordinator, Paul Guenther, was arguably the least favorite person in Raider Nation. And yet, Gruden gets a lot of the slack, even though it wasn’t his unit. He certainly deserves catching slack for hanging on to a clearly failing Guenther for way too long, but at the end of the day at least Gruden has continued to get a lot out of what he’s been handed (even when it’s been a rag-tag group of offensive linemen). Guenther on the other hand, never did. The hope is that with new defensive coordinator Gus Bradley, and one of the best Defensive Back coaches in the league in Ron Milus, we’re able to turn things around and leave the bad memories behind.
 
 
Lamarcus Joyner (“CB”):
Cut
From 2016–2020 (5 seasons), when playing Slot CB, Lamarcus Joyner yielded a 64.0 (C+) Grade in that span. That’s rotation-level.
In that same span, when playing Free Safety, Lamarcus Joyner yielded a 90.0 (A+, Elite) Grade. That’s Pro Bowl to All-Pro level.
So of course Paul Guenther played him week-after-week in the slot. Because that’s the kind of coordinator Guenther was. 
 
What makes it even more embarrassing however is that, despite barely yielding rotation-level Slot CB play in the last 5 seasons, Guenther wasn’t even able to get that out of him. In 2019, Guenther managed to get a 47.5 Defensive Grade (F) out of him, which of course is backup-level. He then followed that up with a 2020 campaign where Guenther, despite stubbornly insisting on keeping him in the Slot (and passing up on other, established Slot CB’s in Free Agency and inexpensive trades), still barely managed to get a 53.8 Defensive Grade (D) out of him.. which is still backup-level. So not only did his coordinator insist on sticking him at Slot CB (where he was never as good of a player), but he was actively made worse by that same coordinator.
 
To drive it home, here’s another couple tidbits. In 2020, Lamarcus Joyner allowed an absolutely insane 88.9% Completion Percentage when in Man Coverage. This was a full 6.8% higher than the next closest starting CB (310+ Coverage Snaps), ranking him dead last among all 85 CB’s with starter-level snaps. Oh yeah, he also allowed 13.3 Yards Per Reception when in Man Coverage. You normally need only 10 yards to get a 1st Down. As a target, he was basically guaranteed success for opposing offenses, and the opposite for our defense. Defensive Coordinator Paul Guenther received a promising player, and utterly squandered him.
 
 

Casey Hayward (CB):
New Player

Contract: 1-Year, $2.5 Million (Dead Cap = $2.5 Million if 2021 Cut)
From 2016–2020 (5 seasons), Casey Hayward graded out as the #1 CB in the NFL, posting a 91.1 Grade (A+, Elite) over that span. 
– What’s more is that 4 of those 5 seasons, he had Gus Bradley as his Defensive Coordinator (and Bradley is now our coordinator).
In 2020 though, at the age of 31, he had easily the worst year of his career as he battled an out-of-nowhere slew of injuries. It’d been years since he’d had injuries however, as you need to go all the way back to 2013 to find the last time he was really injured. That year (2013) he had some bad hamstring injuries as he suffered a partial, and then complete hamstring tear as he tried to play through it. Historically though, he’d been a bit of an ironman, largely being a stranger to injury problems. In fact, until Week 12 of the 2020 season, he had the longest active streak of games played by a CB @ 106 straight games. Overall, going way back to 2013, he’s only missed 2 games, and both happened in 2020. 
 
Casey Hayward has never been a burner. The general consensus among Chargers and football fans alike though has been that, historically, this didn’t matter as he was always able to make up for his lack of speed with his knowledge – but in 2020 he appeared to have lost more speed than could simply be made up for by knowledge & instincts. How much of this was due to injury, or age (or both), will be what we continue to find out from this season on. No matter what though, if nothing else Hayward’s pure, proven knowledge of the system can be worth his contract alone as having been a player that understood Gus Bradley’s system enough to perform Elite in it, he should be able to teach our Cornerbacks, Safeties, and (to a much smaller extent) our Linebackers on the concepts and their responsibilities within the system. Gus Bradley has a history as a LB Coach though, and so should be able to fill them in on the other things about the LB position in his system that a CB typically wouldn’t know. 
 
What kind of season is Hayward coming off of, though? We know he was injured, and he tried to grit it out & play through, but what did he put out? Among CB’s with starter-level snaps, he ranked #1 out of 85 CB’s in allowing the lowest Completion %. He also ranked 21st out of 85 CB’s in Snaps Per Reception allowed, and ranked T-9th in Forced Incompletion %, so he was at least generally able to still either stay in position and/or fight the ball away. So what the hell happened, then? How did he end the season with a 59.5 (C) Grade, the worst of his career? Well, one thing is that when he was beat, it was horrendous. 
— He allowed an utterly absurd 16.9 Yards Per Reception when he did allow a catch, which was the 3rd worst (highest) out of 85 CB’s with starter-level coverage snaps, meaning he was worse than 96.5% of starting CB’s by this metric. 
— Among the same starting CB’s, he also tied for the 10th most Touchdowns allowed with 5 TDs, which tied what.. our very own Nevin Lawson allowed.
— In Man Coverage specifically, he earned a 49.8 (F) Grade, which was only 1.2 points higher than what our own Lamarcus Joyner put up. However, overall he only played 17.3% of his coverage snaps in man coverage, which was the 7th lowest rate among the 85 CB’s. In general, Bradley did not have his CBs play much man coverage as even when lowering the bar to show anyone with even rotation-level snaps, the highest percentage any of his CBs played in man coverage was still less than 25% (Tevaughn Campbell, 24.4%).
— In Zone Coverage, he graded out comparatively much better, earning a 65.4 Grade (B–), though topping an F grade also wasn’t hard to do. His Zone Coverage grade also was only enough to rank him as the 56th CB out of the same 85 starting-level CBs.
 
As for what injuries came up in 2020, what were they so that we perhaps know what to look out for? 
• In the 4th Quarter of Week 5 he suffered an undisclosed injury (they had a BYE week after), which doesn’t help but I’ll mention for completeness sake. He nonetheless had to leave the game and missed the team’s overtime bout vs the Saints.
• In Week 8 however he injured his Calf in the final drive of the game as it was rolled up on. He was a full participant however by Wednesday’s practice, and suited up against us the next game. 
• In Week 11, during the 4th Quarter he injured his Groin, but this injury was bad enough that he had to miss their next game (Week 12 vs Bills), though he did return in Week 13 (vs Patriots) in a somewhat limited role, playing in 58% of their defensive snaps. 
• Finally, in Week 16 he injured his Hamstring and had to leave the game – this was the last time he suited up in 2020 as he was in-turn placed on Injured Reserve (IR) and missed Week 17. It’s unclear if it’s the same hamstring he tore way back in 2013, as no side was indicated. 

 
  

DRAFT IMPACT:
The Raiders drafted Nate Hobbs in the 5th Round of the 2021 NFL Draft with the pick we received for Gabe Jackson (RG), and Hobbs is expected to come in and compete for the Nickel/Slot CB position. He’s made some noise in camp thus far, but only time will tell how much he can translate that to actually earning quality game snaps, against quality competition. Interestingly, bringing him in for the Slot CB position means he’s in direct competition with Amik Robertson already, who was a promising prospect the team drafted just last year late in the 4th Round. Amik Robertson unfortunately came in during an offseason heavily impacted by Covid, with virtually zero hands-on time to actually coach him up – which only exacerbated the fact he was already converting from playing Outside CB to Slot CB, which actually has a world of differences separating them in terms of responsibilities and skills required, despite both sharing the “Cornerback” name. Nevertheless, Robertson and Hobbs will be the two youngest guns vying for the starting role, with 30 year old Nevin Lawson also hoping to make a transition back inside, providing more competition.
 
 
 
Raiders All-Time Great Running Backs

Running Backs

 
A Jon Gruden team wants to be able to run the ball. A Gruden led team is big on balance. A balanced team causes hesitation, guessing by the defense. And with a play caller as creative as Gruden, that little delay may be all he needs. In the game of football at the NFL level, it goes from a game of yards to a game of inches – where being out of position even the tiniest bit is often times the difference between success and failure in a defensive play. So if you can get a defender out of position through hesitation because they have to respect your run game, that’s great. But in the modern NFL, Running Backs are increasingly being expected to be a part of the passing game, which gets at another way to get a defender out of position that’s independent of scheme or play call: individual skill. A Running Back skilled enough in his route running can create a matchup nightmare for the Linebackers that are typically assigned to RBs – and if a Running Back can create space between him and the defender through his route running, this adds yet another weapon for an offense to deploy as they lead an assault on the defense. Let us look now at what Running Backs we made a move on, and how tactical of a weapon they may be.
 
 
Theo Riddick (RB):
Re-Signed
Contract: 1 Year, $1.18 Million (Dead Cap = $50k if 2021 Cut)
The running back room is looking pretty full, and Riddick is presumably playing the last fiddle, hoping to be the survivor in a backup battle that is likely to feature Jalen Richard and Theo Riddick. Riddick would be the less expensive between the two (representing a ~$2.3 Million savings), but Gruden values all his RBs, so he’s going to need to convince the Head Coach that he’s got juice that’s worth the squeeze. Riddick will enter the season at 30 years old, about 2.5 years older than Richard. Historically he’s been utilized as a receiving back, having averaged 61 Receptions (and 74 Targets) per season from 2015–2018 when he was with the Detroit Lions. He missed the 2019 season with a broken shoulder (clavicle), and spent 2020 largely riding the bench with us. In his career he has an almost identical amount of receptions (290) as he does rushing attempts (294).
 
Though he’s getting older now, in 2015 he actually posted the highest Receiving Grade (94.1, A+) of any RB since at least 2006 (when receiving grades came to be). 
In fact, from 2014–2018 he had the #1 Receiving Grade among all 63 RBs that ran 500+ Routes over that span (for context, Josh Jacobs ran 231 Routes in 2020), posting a ridiculous 93.3 Receiving Grade (A+) over that span. He also ranked #1 in forcing the most Missed Tackles (88) after the catch in that span. 
 
He was no slouch in pass protection either, which is a non-negotiable for Jon Gruden (and purportedly one of the main reasons Lynn Bowden was shipped out before playing a single down for us), with Riddick having never received less than a B– Grade in Pass Blocking in what’s known as True Pass Sets (basically, pass plays were nothing is available to bail out a pass blocker: no screens, or play action, or light 3-man rushes, or quick passes of less than 2 seconds after the snap).
 
After having basically two years off, we’ll see if he can beat out the younger Jalen Richard for the primary backup role – seated behind Josh Jacobs & Kenyan Drake who look to serve the 1α/1a role. It’ll be an interesting battle, as Jalen Richard himself has pretty much exclusively been known as a receiving back as well. Nonetheless, it’s hard to ignore that the above had to focus on what he’d done in the past (pre-2019), so here’s to hoping for the best between Richard & Riddick.
 
 
Devontae Booker (RB):
Not Re-Signed
Booker’s time in the Silver & Black was brief at 1 year, and though he looked serviceable as a rotational piece, it simply wasn’t enough for what we need – someone who can effectively step in and relieve Josh Jacobs, as the past two seasons have shown us that a full season’s load simply seems to be too much for Jacobs to carry (at least thus far). Jacobs’ no-fear style likely doesn’t help, and so it just seems to be something we may need to accept. Booker was built similar to Jacobs, but Jacobs provided much more upside in terms of elusiveness, and in-turn also as a receiver (a role Jacobs made big strides in, in Year 2, and one we hope to see continued improvement in). Booker would’ve been 29 years old heading into 2021, which isn’t old at most positions, but at a position as physical as RB he wasn’t likely to be a long-term solution anyway, and so the team moved on to find a new, younger suitor for a tandem that Gruden can hopefully rely on building part of his offense around for at least the next couple-few years.
 
The Top 20 RBs by Grade (w/ 100+ Rush Attempts) in 2020 had an average age of just 24.8 years old as the season started (meaning, they didn’t turn 25 until about Week 12 of the season), with only 3 players aged 27 or higher (Latavius Murray [30], Raheem Mostert [28], Mike Davis [27]). It’s simply a position that ages very quickly, and with a team that wants to be able to run the ball as much (and as well) as Gruden does, moving on to a player with more athletic upside who is also younger, simply seemed to be in the cards.
 
 
Kenyan Drake (RB):
New Player
Contract: 2 Years, $11.0 Million (Dead Cap = $8.5 Million if 2021 Cut)
Arguably the 2nd biggest signing the Raiders made in Free Agency was acquiring Kenyan Drake.
In Drake, the Raiders have made a statement that they don’t want just 1 player capable of being the leading back – we want 2.
Immediately, Drake is expected to leapfrog Jalen Richard who’s yet to show he can be anything more than a receiving back.
In 2020 alone, Josh Jacobs earned more rushing attempts (273 Att) than Jalen Richard has in his entire 5 year career (258 Att).
And Kenyan Drake? In 2020, he was only 19 attempts short (239 Att) of also eclipsing Richard’s career total.
… and yet, Kenyan Drake & Jalen Richard both still have identical career Target totals in the passing game (213 Targets).
 
As a receiver, Drake has earned 40+ Targets in 3 of his 5 seasons (which historically puts you in the Top 20–25 at the position).
He’s earned 60+ Targets in 2 of those seasons (2018 & 2019), which generally is right around Top 10 range.
In other words, he has shown that he can be utilized in the receiving game.. a versatility Gruden likely strongly entertained.
 
As a runner, Drake is coming off a season where he ran for 10 Touchdowns, which ranked him T-8th in the NFL.
And the season before? He ran for 8 Touchdowns, which again ranked him 8th in the NFL.
— Josh Jacobs just ranked T-4th in the NFL with 12 TDs in 2020, and T-13th in 2019 with 7 TDs after missing 3 Games.
Drake also just ran for 955 Yards in 2020 (12th most) — Josh Jacobs just ran for 1,065 Yards (8th most).
 
You suddenly realize we now have 2 Running Backs who are fully capable of leading the charge from the backfield, and that the 2-Headed backfield Gruden looks to deploy truly is a 1α/1a situation. Both can tote the rock, and both can catch the rock as well.
 
So Jalen Richard appears to be leapfrogged. Both can be receiving backs, but Drake’s got much more versatility than Richard does.
That means the backfield is now crimson tide colored with Jacobs & Drake both being former Alabama running backs.
 
The duo will look to tag each other in as one goes out for the other – something that Jacobs has needed as when we look back over his two seasons with us, the first 8 Games (Weeks 1-9) have been very different than the last 8 Games each season (Weeks 10-17).
 
Among RBs with starter-level run attempts:
– In 2019, Weeks 1-9, Jacobs had the #2 Grade (89.1A+) among all 33 such RBs. 
— In Weeks 10-17, he dropped to #12 out of 35 such RBs, dropping all the way to a 70.4 (B) Grade.
– In 2020, Weeks 1-9, Jacobs had the #5 Grade (78.5, A) among all 30 such RBs.
— In Weeks 10-17, he dropped way down to the #27 Grade (66.0, B–) out of 40 such RBs.
… so having Kenyan Drake now should hopefully help prevent the breakdown we’ve seen from Jacobs the past two seasons, and help him keep the dominant form he’s had on display the first 8 Games of each season thus far.
 
Now, as we wrap up the Kenyan Drake breakdown, somewhere up in the sky Al Davis is smiling down at one last little tidbit: 
– in 2020, Kenyan Drake was the 2nd fastest recorded player in the NFL, clocking 22.11 mph on a 69 yard TD against the Cowboys. Overall, this was the 5th fastest time recorded by any player over the past 4 seasons, behind only 3 other players (Cordarrelle Patterson, Matt Breida, and Raheem Mostert who has two spots in the top 5). Pure, unadulterated speed is what Al Davis lived for. We’ve now got a very fast Wide Receiver, a very fast Tight End, and a Running Back who can put on the thrusters too.
 
 
 
Raiders All-Time Great Linebackers

Linebackers

 
The Linebacking corpse was finally not our worst position group, as heading into the 2020 Season we seriously addressed it in Free Agency. We brought in Nick Kwiatkoski and Cory Littleton, two players whose skillsets near-perfectly complimented each other, and then during the season Nicholas Morrow finally started to show development. Gus Bradley was originally a LB Coach, which isn’t an uncommon start for a defensive coordinator given how much Linebackers have to know about everything in their defenses. There weren’t many LB moves to be made as Littleton & Kwiatkoski’s contracts not only go through the 2022 Season, but they were solidified as the team converted money in their contracts into bonus money – something a team generally does with players it plans on keeping around. So the list is short, but let’s look at what free agents Bradley did want on the team.
 
 
Nicholas Morrow (LB):
Re-Signed
Contract: 1 Year, $4.5 Million (Dead Cap = $4.5 Million if 2021 Cut)
It had started to seem like Morrow would never come around, and then 2020 happened. Though he started out the season slow, looking like the same player we’d grown accustomed to, as the season went on the lights started to come on for him. By the end of it all, he ended the season as the 22nd most valuable Linebacker in the NFL, having contributed the 22nd most WAR* (Wins Above Replacement) among all Linebackers.
*(WAR is a metric that, essentially, sets out to quantify how much of a contributor a player was toward generating wins in the NFL compared to a “scrub,” replacement-level player – thus, the more WAR, the more impactful the player
 
If we separate his first 6 games of the season vs his last 8 games (he played 14 total), we can see how he improved in 2020.
 
In his first 6 games, he:
– Had the 26th best Zone Coverage Grade (52.3, D) among 51 LBs with starter-level snaps in that span (better than 49% of LBs).
– Had the 17th best Man Coverage Grade (69.7, B) among the same 51 LBs (better than 66% of LBs).
– Tied for Dead Last in Forced Incompletion % (0%) among the same 51 LBs (better than 0% of LBs).
– Ranked 36th in Yards Per Completion (10.2 YPC) among the same 51 LBs (better than 29% of LBs).
– Tied for the 3rd-lowest total yards in coverage (92 yds) among the same 51 LBs (better than 92% of LBs).
 
In his last 8 games, he:
– Had the 3rd best Zone Coverage Grade (79.0, A) among 51 LBs with starter-level snaps in that span (better than 94% of LBs).
– Had the 12th best Man Coverage Grade (74.9, B+) among the same 51 LBs (better than 76% of LBs).
– Tied for the 2nd best Forced Incompletion % (13%) among the same 51 LBs (better than 94% of LBs).
– Allowed the 3rd-lowest Yards Per Completion (6.4 YPC) among the same 51 LBs (better than 94% of LBs).
– Allowed the 8th-lowest total yards in coverage (173 yds) among the same 51 LBs (better than 84% of LBs).
 

So, we’re hoping that Morrow can continue to show development, as in 2020 the lights seemed to start turning on for him compared to previous years. He does have a new coordinator, which will always muddy the waters a bit, but it’s at least switching to a coordinator with a history of using players to their strengths. And, hey, if it doesn’t work out, then we’re not tied to him beyond the season anyway.  
 
   

DRAFT IMPACT:
The Raiders technically drafted a Safety in Divine Deablo, but it was made immediately clear that the team has no intent on actually playing him at Safety. Instead, the team has stated they intend to use him as the Weakside Linebacker. One of the main things a Weakside Linebacker is tasked with doing is playing an active part in coverage. In college, the 6’3 226 lb Deablo struggled covering shiftier receivers, but did better at covering Tight Ends – which, if he can keep that up in the pros, would be great as it’ll allow us increased schematic versatility as our division has one of, if not the deepest TE bunches. The Chiefs have Travis Kelce, the Chargers have Jared Cook, and the Broncos have Noah Fant. And oh yeah, we have Darren Waller to test him in-house. There’s a phrase, “Iron sharpens Iron” – well Waller is a pretty dang good blade to run up against to keep you on point.
 
 
 
 
Raiders All-Time Great Tight Ends

Tight Ends

 
The Tight End position has been a position of strength for a few years now (even before Waller), and it continues to be arguably our best position on Offense outside of QB. We’re fortunate to have a Top 3 TE in Darren Waller, and another promising prospect in Foster Moreau who will, presumably, finally get playing time again now that Jason Witten is gone. The Tight End position is still criminally underrated in the NFL (with pay that matches that), but Darren Waller has helped to continue the revolution as we saw Kyle Pitts get drafted #4 Overall, whose player comparison was none other than, guess who? Our very own Darren Waller. But let us now look at the moves that happened this offseason that will affect our Tight End room.
 
 
Derek Carrier (TE):
Re-Signed
Contract: 1 Year, $987,500 (Dead Cap = $275k if 2021 Cut)
Carrier has never really shown much more than TE3 potential on our team, especially with Foster Moreau on the roster who showed promise in his 2019 Rookie season before going down in Week 14 with a season-ending knee injury (torn ACL). Carrier will be 31 years old by the time the season starts, and with little on-field impact lately we’ll have to see if he can justify a TE3 roster spot over Alex Ellis, Matt Bushman, and Nick Bowers – two of which (Bushman & Bowers) are green in the league and as such have little to analyze, and one of which (Ellis) has largely been a special teams player thus far. And speaking of special teams, it may just come down to that – who can provide the most utility value on it. Because unless a fierce competitor comes out of nowhere, Darren Waller & Foster Moreau seem to have the first two tight end spots locked down.
 
 
Jason Witten (TE):
Retired
Jason Witten came out of retirement, and then.. really didn’t show much. He also almost immediately retired after the season, waiting just 24 days to do so – so it, presumably, must’ve been pretty clear to him that he didn’t have it anymore. His last game in the NFL will have been one in which he earned 0 Targets (and thus 0 Receptions) – which is oddly fitting to the impact he had on the field the rest of the season as week-after-week, the potential future Hall of Famer unfortunately left many frustrated that he was continuing to take snaps away from Foster Moreau who, before getting injured in 2019, had been showing promise. Coach Jon Gruden bears responsibility in that as well, though, as he’s ultimately the one making personnel decisions on offense. One thing that is unclear however is if Foster Moreau’s recovery from his ACL tear was either delayed, or if the team was simply taking on an abundance of caution, as Moreau suffered the tear very late in the prior season (Week 14 of 2019).
 
Nonetheless, Witten continued to take the field, and Witten continued to not do much with the opportunities. In fact, among all 67 TEs who had 15+ Targets in 2020, Jason Witten earned the 3rd lowest Yards Per Route Run, clocking in at an abysmal 0.54 Yards Per Route Run (ranking him better than just 3.0% of all 67 TEs with 15+ Targets). Moreau by comparison was nearly 3x as efficient at earning targets and yards, albeit on 33 less routes run than Witten (though in 2019 Moreau still clocked in at 1.35 Yards Per Route Run). Witten did make a critical catch that may not be forgotten by Raider fans in our Week 11 match-up vs the Chiefs, connecting with QB Derek Carr in the front-right corner of the end-zone as he found a way to get open and secure the ball for a go-ahead Touchdown with just 1:43 remaining in the game (unfortunately, our defense was weaker than a wet paper bag, so we definitely didn’t stop the Chiefs from scoring).
 
There is an intangible factor though to having brought Jason Witten in, however. He was, at least hopefully, able to show our younger players how a potentially future Hall of Fame player practices, studies, and approaches the game. He also would have tricks of the trade, knowledge, and technique tips to pass down to our own young TEs like Foster Moreau and Darren Waller – who’s a positional convert from WR, who effectively also really only has 2 seasons playing TE (85.5% of his career TE snaps have come since 2019).
 
There seemed to be at least some mentor impact, as Foster Moreau shared words from Jason Witten that had stuck with him:
“The secret is in the dirt.”
Meaning, essentially, that everything starts with your feet. Your technique, kinetic chain, movement, blocking, getting in and out of breaks, creating separation, and even getting leverage – everything starts with and is first set up by how you interact with the dirt.
 
 
 
Raiders All-Time Great Safeties

Safeties

 
The Safety position has a lot of people hyped going into the season. We finally have a Free Safety, and we finally will get to see what Johnathan Abram is able to do in a Strong Safety role – a role that, at least theoretically, is supposed to match closest to his strengths. And the Free Safety we now have (Trevon Moehrig), himself showed impressive enough versatility in college that he was being considered by both single-high and two-high (“split field”) defenses. This versatility may allow Gus Bradley to get a little creative with how he’s implemented, though Abram may be a handicap in coverage that’d always need helped out. But what other moves were made at the Safety position this offseason? Let us give it a look.
 
 
Karl Joseph (S):
“New Player”
Contract: 1 Year, $987,500 (Dead Cap = $987.5k if 2021 Cut)
Karl Joseph has never really had the opportunity to settle into 1 spot, 1 role. He’s spent 48.9% of his career snaps aligned at FS, and 51.1% of his career snaps aligned in an SS role. Paul Guenther didn’t have typical Safety roles, but this even predated Guenther as even back in Karl Joseph’s 2 years under Ken Norton Jr he split out at 49.4% FS / 50.6% SS. Gus Bradley has significantly more defined roles for everyone in his system, however – which is one of the main things about his system that makes it much easier for players to pick up. 
 
He’ll be coming off a season where he partially tore his Hamstring in a practice leading into Week 4 (missing 2 games, and then another game after he tried to come back for a couple games). He attempted to play through it, fully participating in that week’s game vs the Cowboys, but it only led to him putting up easily his worst grade of the season (37.5 Grade, an F – also gave up a Touchdown & missed 3 tackles, a season-high). He’s partially torn his Hamstring in the past (2018 vs the Dolphins, Week 3, which put him out 3 games), and he’s actually had an injury every year going back to at least 2015. In 2020 he partially tore his hamstring. In 2019 he reportedly broke his foot and partially tore his plantar fascia. In 2018, as previously mentioned, he partially tore his hamstring. In 2017 he had his most minor injury, pulling his groin (no tearing; missed 1 game). In 2016, his rookie season with the Raiders, he sprained his left big toe bad enough to miss 4 games. Lastly, in 2015 in his final college season, he completely tore his ACL.
 
Nonetheless, despite injuries, prior to going to the Browns for the 2020 Season, Karl Joseph had earned an 82.2 Grade (A) on plays he’d aligned in the Box. For perspective, an A Grade is typically Pro Bowl to All-Pro level. Whether he ends up actually competing with Johnathan Abram or not is yet to be seen. Some rumblings have had him slated at FS which, to be fair, was his original position in college and he has flashed ability there as well. One of the things that can be frustrating in football is seeing players moved all around, either out of their positions of strength (the “forcing a square peg into a round hole” phenomenon in coaching), or simply never being allowed to truly learn & develop a main set of skills. When a player is asked to be a jack of all trades, you ride the line of them being a master at none.
 
He’ll still only be 28 years old when the season starts, and teammates have long made comments on his attitude and work ethic, his professionalism day-in/day-out. Abram has taken notice of it as well. At the end of the day, no matter where Gus Bradley ends up feeling he fits best in his system, he still has at least a few years ahead of him and if he can come in, compete, and push everyone to be better, then this 1-year, fully guaranteed contract is worth the shot and the spot on the roster. At worst, he’s a versatile backup to both SS & FS positions. At best, he pushes those ahead of him hard, and highlights the team’s newer, more aggressive sentiment that if you’re not showing out, they’re not waiting around anymore just endlessly hoping you get it together. You’re being offered millions of dollars, and the opportunity to be in the Top 1% of wage earners in the United States. If you’re not willing to commit to excellence, to be a part of the fire that burns brightest in the organization – the will to win – somebody else is.
 
 
Jeff Heath (S)
Cut
Releasing Jeff Heath saved us $3.15 Million in cap money. In a year where we were very tight on space, this move could be seen from a mile away. Playing in 13 Games with us, he served a borderline rotational role during 8 games in the first nine weeks of the 2020 Season, and then a starter role in 5 games during the last eight weeks. Though he definitely made some clutch plays for us (netting us 1 INT in our Wk 5 win over the Chiefs, and 2 INTs in our Wk 10 stomping of the Broncos), in the rest of the games the play simply wasn’t consistently starter-level quality. But he was never expected to be a long-term starter anyway.
 
He’d have been 30 years old coming into the ’21 Season, and with us drafting Trevon Moehrig (FS) in Round 2 of the 2021 NFL Draft (April 30th), he was released just 4 days later on May 4th.
Karl Joseph likely takes over his role now as the guy ready to step in, with Joseph’s experience playing both Safety positions. 

 
  

DRAFT IMPACT:
The Raiders biggest need outside of Offensive Line was Safety, and specifically the Free Safety position. The team scored big time when we landed Trevon Moehrig in the 2nd Round, who was widely regarded as the #1 Safety in the class. His versatility is expected to be a boon for the defense, having come from a 2-High system where he not only had to cover receivers more often than a 1-High system will typically have him do, but he also displayed supreme command of the defense as well as leadership as he regularly communicated with and guided his teammates on what to do and where to go. In college he was known for his high football IQ and was fluid in processing route concepts unfolding right in front of him – which is incredibly important at the Free Safety position – but he also showed good ball skills (actually leading the nation in Pass Breakups), good tackling, and play processing ability that allowed him to quickly react to run vs pass. Overall, he’s arguably the best prospect we’ve had in years at the Safety position, so it’s safe to say there’s a lot of excitement in Raider Nation to see him get to work. 
 
Outside of Moehrig, the Raiders also drafted Tyree Gillespie in the late 4th Round, and though it was initially unclear if he’d be playing the Strong or Free Safety position, our defensive coordinator Gus Bradley has stated that they’re playing him at Free Safety. Gillespie however has experience playing both roles, which is something he’s stated the staff liked about him. Gillespie gained some notoriety when he shut down TE Kyle Pitts, who was just drafted #4 Overall, but the NFL is big on consistency – if you can’t repeat your performances, then your highlights are dismissed as flukes. Though he had a bit of a downhill style in college, being in a system now where he’ll get to focus on one position with very defined roles eliminates a lot of variables in the evaluation process going forward with him (and many others) – he’s either got the skill-set for the role, or he doesn’t. The lack of switching roles from play-to-play (as is common in 2-High systems, such as what Paul Guenther ran) will show us how much juice he has for the Free Safety position. And then, in time, if his development begins to lack, with his background also playing Strong Safety the team could explore moving him some time down the road to a role more similar to that of Johnathan Abram.
 
In the NFL there are two basic systems: 2-High systems (think: Cover 2 & Cover 4), and 1-High systems (think: Cover 1 & Cover 3).
In Paul Guenther’s 2-High system, as with most 2-High systems, the two safety roles were not as clearly defined, essentially changing play-by-play. While that can make it harder on offenses to know what you’re doing, it also demands a lot more out of your two Safeties as on one play they may need to deploy Free Safety skills, and then the next play, Strong Safety skills – where the two call for entirely different things, and place you in completely different parts of the field, performing completely different roles. But in Gus Bradley’s system (which is a 1-High system), as in many 1-High systems everyone’s roles are much more defined and there is very little ambiguity in what each Safety is expected to do. This makes it much easier in terms of players learning the system, but also in terms of finding talent as it’s easier to find a player good at one than it is at both.
 
 

That’s it!

Well, with that, that concludes Raiderology‘s 2021 Offseason Summary of the moves that took place after the 2020 Season. 

These moves will be what we bring with us into the 2021 Season, so hope abounds that as the Autumn Winds blow this year, they help carry us into the playoffs. The rebuild that started in 2018 has come along nicely, with the silver and black ship having had many pieces replaced as we venture out on these seas. The offense has shown definite improvement each year, and had it not been for a historically bad defense in 2020, we in all likelihood would’ve been in the playoffs. With a new Defensive Coordinator however, the hope is that the Offense will finally not need to be the only one doing work on the team. It’s a long season that, with the new addition of a 17th game, just got even longer – you simply can’t carry dead weight for that long. At some point, the defense has to have legs of its own. If we can couple that with continued improvement by our receivers, the red zone struggles we had should start to work themselves out – and we should find ourselves smack in the middle of the 2021 NFL Playoffs!