The Las Vegas Raiders took a massive step in the right direction in 2021. They improved their bottom-tier defense and finally made the playoffs for the first time since 2016. While this was exciting, we all know that winning a Super Bowl title is the true goal. So with a new coaching staff and a locker room full of dedicated players, let’s take a look at three changes the Raiders need to make to find themselves in the Super Bowl.
The offensive line must improve.
Before 2021, the Raiders had a monstrous offensive line. Rodney Hudson, Gabe Jackson, Trent Brown, Kolton Miller, and Richie Incognito were all among the best at their position, but 3 of the 5 are making waves on other teams. Former head coach and general manager Jon Gruden and Mike Mayock had faith in their new line. They hoped the likes of Alex Leatherwood and Andre James could fill their big shoes. While it may have seemed promising at the time, the result was far from ideal.
The Silver and Black’s offensive line finished the season ranked 28th out of 32 per Pro Football Focus. Luckily, their hard work began to pay off near the end of the season, and their improvement from Week 1 to the Wild Card Round became undeniable. However, as the team navigates a new offensive line coach and a fresh head coach, it will be crucial to continue to trend upwards.
Keep an eye out to see if the new regime signs any free agent offensive linemen or if they choose to go the route of drafting one. Either way, the first step to getting to the championship game is improving the production of Derek Carr’s front five.
The Raiders’ efficiency in the red-zone must improve on both sides of the football.
All season long, both offense and defense struggled in the red zone. Once the Silver and Black got within the twenty-yard line on either side of the ball, the game plan seemed to sputter and stop.
The Raiders’ defense ranked last in red-zone efficiency through 2021. They allowed a touchdown on 77.08% of opponents’ red zone drives, per teamrankings.com. For comparison, the number one ranked red zone defense, the New Orleans Saints, allowed a touchdown just 43.48 percent of the time.
It’s impossible to argue that the defense didn’t see a massive improvement in 2021. But, if they want to continue to make strides towards the Super Bowl, it starts with not giving up so many points in the red zone.
Offensively, they ranked 29th in red-zone efficiency, finding the end zone 49.23% of the time. Thankfully, they have an extremely reliable kicker in Daniel Carlson, allowing them to put points on the board much more often than that.
Without Carlson, it’s hard to say how many games the team may have lost due to their inability to score touchdowns as often as necessary.
Thanks to new head coach Josh McDaniels, it’s safe to be cautiously optimistic that the offenses’ scoring ability will improve. In 2021, McDaniels guided his former team, the New England Patriots offense, to a touchdown in the red zone 63.08% of the time, a vast improvement from the Raiders’ less than 50%. An improvement in red zone efficiency on both sides of the ball may put more games in the win column in 2022 and beyond.
A Raiders Super Bowl means no more midseason collapses.
The Raiders have found themselves in a mid-season drought for three consecutive seasons. In 2021, after starting 5-2 before the bye week, Las Vegas lost 5 of 6 games, dropping to 6-7. All three of the previous seasons have been nearly identical. After starting the season strong, the offensive and defensive efficiency declined, and they found themselves far out of playoff contention.
2021 was the outlier. The Silver and Black were able to rally and win their last four games to propel themselves into the playoffs. Without their midseason struggles, the road to the playoffs may have been much smoother. McDaniels and his new team must ensure that the infamous mid-season collapses become a distant memory rather than a constant reality.
The road to a Raiders Super Bowl (or any other teams) isn’t easy. It takes everyone from the front office to the practice squad, and these three things are not the only obstacles Las Vegas has to overcome, but they’re a good start. If Head Coach Josh McDaniels can lead the Silver and Black past these obstacles, a Super Bowl berth may be closer than previously thought.