NFL Power Rankings Week 5: 7 Up, 7 Down – Thrive at Five

NFL Power Rankings Week Five, Credit: BillsWire

A wild and wacky Week 5 is done and dusted. What were the biggest topics on the tongues and minds of NFL folks league wide? Who were the heroes and villains of the fifth week? 14 of the hottest storylines dotting the NFL landscape. The Weekly NFL Power Rankings for week five are here and the question begs itself: who had the drive to thrive in week five?

Up

1. Kyle Pitts FINALLY gets his first touchdown

– The rookie star tight end finally got his first touchdown against the Jets on the soil of America’s greatest ally. Topping off his greatest game as the focal point of the Falcons’ offense (which necessitated due to injuries to the emerging Calvin Ridley). Perhaps this game propels the precocious rookie forward into being the premier tight end league-wide as once was promised? Rookie tight ends are notorious for being fickle in their impact. Head coach Arthur Smith hasn’t been utilizing him as the promised future at the position until Sunday so there’s that factor as well. Maybe this is the game that changes that. Pitts’ fantasy owners will surely love it. 

2. Burrow to Chase is the goods

– Quite a burgeoning friendship one would suspect if both stay healthy and fulfill their endless potential. Chase on target to, well, chase down the GOAT rookie receiver season of Randy Moss 1998. The ascendant star receiver added another 159 yards and a touchdown on just six receptions on Sunday against the Packers. Burrow put a mighty scare into the Bengals after getting hit hard on a scramble (he ultimately returned) and he was admitted to the hospital for a throat contusion. If both players can stay healthy, they can be one of the more lethal quarterback and receiver duos in this league.

3. 1 PM window finishes 

– The early slate delivered some wild hijinks to close it out. Which made up for the relatively nonchalant finishes that the late afternoon games provided us. We all witnessed the crazy back and forth missed kick contest between the Packers and Bengals extend beyond the start of the late window. A game Houston squad made it tough for the Patriots and held the lead until the Pats came back late. Denver got past its offensive struggles and made it a contest deep into the 60th minute against the Steelers. Detroit actually held the lead in a dramatic affair with the injury-depleted Vikings before ultimately succumbing to yet another long-distance game-winning kick. It’s a fun league-wide trend that these games are so close this season. The fans are simultaneously reaching for the antiacids and their phones on an increasing basis this year. We’re all here for the drama. 

4. Browns and Chargers stop playing defense

– The late slate did provide the viewers with some incredible offensive fireworks as both the Browns and Chargers decided to play a game of H-O-R-S-E in the fourth quarter. It was mind-boggling as each team traded long touchdowns like cryptocurrency. After a relatively quiet three quarters, the teams combined for whopping FORTY-ONE points in the final stanza. Both teams went over a combined 1,000 yards of total offense in this one. Justin Herbert continues to solidify his case as a top-five quarterback in this league with every bomb throw he makes and game-winning drives. Where else could you get an entire defense actively trying to drag a runner into the end zone? 

5. The Jameis Winston Experience 

– We got the full ride on Sunday on that roller coaster. He threw a ghastly interception then follows it up with this beauty of a deep shot to Deonte Harris. Overall, Mr. Winston has had a great season controlling his inner turnover demons thus far. He’s played well in Sean Payton’s system and with Taysom Hill’s unfortunate injury, looks to be the only passer touching the ball for a bit. Comeback Player of the Year contender? 

6. The 2021 MVP race crystalizes

– The race for the 2021 MVP award is likely down to three contenders as we move deeper into October and beyond. The three lucky contestants: Kyler Murray, Josh Allen, and Justin Herbert. There could be a dark horse that looms on the horizon like grizzled graybeards Aaron Rodgers, Tom Brady, and the like but it’s these three young guns battling it out. All three are off to fast starts and leading their teams as division contenders if not outright favorites. You can’t go wrong with any of them winning the award at the end. Allen is proving that he’s here to stay after a remarkable 2020. Murray is leading the league’s top offense. The Los Angeles Charger signal-caller has come on like gangbusters during his sophomore season after a remarkable rookie year. Allen likely wins it after establishing his bonafides last year. 

7. The 2019 MVP Stakes His Claim to the Crown

–  Lamar Jackson had a performance for the ages on Monday Night Football, leading the Ravens to a stirring comeback victory over the Colts. He’s well on his way to making the MVP race a four-way contest with the aforementioned three young guns above. It will be a thrilling race to the very end and Jackson has the precedence as a prior winner to know what it takes to win it. He has progressed every season as a passer under Greg Roman’s watch. Can he win the award for a second time?

Down

1. Special Teams coaches’ heart rates 
– The specialists in Week 5 were on one this week. A whopping 12 missed extra points plagued the league’s foot meeting with leather people, including THREE in the Texans-Patriots (in a dome, no less). The aforementioned Cincinnati-Packers featured both kickers missing game-winning kicks on repeat, including Mason Crosby missing THREE BY HIMSELF in about 15 minutes of game time. Of course, we can’t leave out the punters as a 0-yard punt AND a double punt happened! There’s nothing that epitomizes the weekend more than Evan McPherson pulling a Nick Young and celebrating a bit too early.

2. Injuries

– Another brutal week of injuries took a toll around the league as multiple stars are looking at long term issues. None more so than the Giants as Daniel Jones, Saquon Barkley, and Kenny Golladay were all knocked out of the game. The Browns didn’t escape as Jack Conklin, Denzel Ward, Greedy Williams, and JOK suffered game-ending injuries as well. Pittsburgh receiver JuJu Smith-Schuster injured his shoulder and is out for the season. The offensive linemen suffered heavily as Joe Thuney (broken hand), Oday Aboushi (ACL), Germain Ifedi (knee), Laremy Tunsil (hand), Sam Cosmi (ankle), Rodger Saffold (shoulder) were all declared OUT. At what point do the owners realize that the 17th game isn’t worth it? Do teams begin to schedule loss games like the San Antonio Spurs infamously made legendary?

3. Business is not booming for Miami 

– There’s no shame in losing to the GOAT quarterback. However, there is shame in how they lost. The Dolphins’ defense was dismantled in a devastating fashion as all three units were to blame. The secondary was lit on fire as Antonio Brown got loose on a pair of touchdowns. How dominant was the Bucs offensive line? Well, let’s say a picture is worth a thousand words. Not to mention that the Twitter account of Tua Tagovailoa’s gym went on a Brian Flores-related rant after the game. Things aren’t rosy for the denizens of Hard Rock Stadium right now.

4. Coaches wearing the scandalous scarlet letters 

– I won’t get into the Urban Meyer stuff this week as it’s been harangued into oblivion. It’s definitely not a great look for a coach with a questionable character already struggling to adapt to the pro game. The Jaguars looked relatively competitive on Sunday despite the week filled with questions about Meyer’s antics. However, on the west coast, Raiders head coach Jon Gruden is in a lot of hot water regarding racist emails about NFLPA director DeMaurice Smith. Then the New York Times broke the news that the Gruden emails got horrifically worse, way worse. Gruden has elected to resign, according to NFL Network’s Tom Pelissero

5. Denver’s offense is who we thought that they were 

– Try as they might, the Broncos’ offense just couldn’t get it going until it was desperation time against the Steelers. Teddy Bridgewater, while a capable quarterback, isn’t the most physically gifted passer. Throw in an offense that is recovering a key asset or two like Courtland Sutton, it’s going to take a minute to gel together. Next week might be a get-right game against the tumultuous scandal-ridden Raiders in the Mile High City.

6. Seattle without Chef Unlimited 

– We will get a few weeks’ glimpses into the possibly not too distant Wilson-less future with Russell Wilson out due to injury. Geno Smith takes over as the starter. The schedule is demanding to say the least with a road trip to Pittsburgh, home against the Saints, away at Green Bay, and home to Arizona dotting the next four out of five games. Can the Seahawks keep their heads above water in the Division of Death with Mr. Unlimited? 

7. The Chiefs defense is bad

– Yeah, nothing new here but it’s dire for the men under the watch of Steve Spagnuolo. The numbers are disastrous and I’m not sure Spags’ pedigree can save them this time. Missing their best defensive lineman Chris Jones isn’t helping much, either. It’s a long season yet the defensive statistics reflect a team with a much lesser talent profile. Wherever the season ends up for the Chiefs to be seen, it is ominous. Patrick Mahomes can’t keep on rescuing the defense when he’s battling some issues himself. 

Previous Editions

Week 1: Opening Overreactions

Wk 2: Perceptive Repeats

Week 3: So Nice, Do It Thrice

Week 4: Good Quads Like Saquon

Week 3 Game Preview: Dolphins @ Raiders

Credit: Harry How/ Getty Images
  • Date: Sunday, September 26
  • Time: 4:05 ET (21:05 UK Time)
  • Venue: Allegiant Stadium, Las Vegas, NV
  • TV: CBS and NFL Gamepass International
  • Record: Dolphins (1-1) Raiders (2-0)

Week 2 Recap

They say time heals all wounds and eases the pain. As I am writing this, and as I’m sure when you are reading this too, we all know as Dolphins fans this plainly isn’t true. With the foul taste of Week 17 still lingering in the minds of many Dolphins fans, it was almost inconceivable that things could get any worse. They did. In what can be a contender for one of the coldest takes of the year, led by my heart, I predicted that the Dolphins would win in a shootout. Oh how wrong I was. So where did it all go wrong?

In my preview article I stated there would be 3 keys to success against Buffalo:

Contain Josh Allen

With the threat of Josh Allen widely known the Dolphins needed to contain him. For the most part they did as Allen was only able to rush for 35 yards. However, with the Dolphins pass rush only creating 1 sack across the first two games, there was not really much need, as Miami were unable to generate consistent pass rush, despite Buffalo’s issue at tackle.

Elite Secondary Play

The Dolphins secondary deserved a lot better from this game. They held Josh Allen to 17-33 for 179 yards. Stephon Diggs completed 4 catches from 8 completions. Xavien Howard continued to show why he is the best corner in the league with yet another INT this time against Diggs. Rookie Jevon Holland recovered a fumble forced by Jerome Baker. The coverage of the secondary was elite and by the half Allen only had 62 passing yards.

Protect Tua

And this is where it all went wrong. Not only did the offensive line allow 6 sacks, 11 QB hits and 24 pressures of 45 dropbacks, starting QB Tua Tagovailoa left the game on a back of a cart following a sack by AJ Epenesa. After an average 2020 season, it very much feels like we are back in 2019 after last weeks performance. It was by no means pretty and was not addressed during the game. Flores and Jeanpierre have stated openly that they will address the offensive line this week, how though remains to be seen.

Star Performer

In an elite secondary like Miami’s it is very hard to stand out, especially if you are a rookie. Just ask Noah Igbinoghene. Jevon Holland however has had no such issues, even replacing Eric Rowe during the game. Against the Bills he was the second highest graded player on the defense, in what was a good defensive performance. Furthermore, he is the highest rated rookie defender in the league. It will be interesting to watch his performances compared with Raiders’ rookie safety Tre’von Moehrig who was the widely regarded No.1 safety in the 2021 NFL Draft. A lot has been said this week about Chris Grier’s drafting capabilities. Thus far, Holland is looking like a home run pick.

Expectations Heading into Week 3

The Raiders come into this game very hot. The Raiders lead the league in passing yards, averaging 8.8 Yards/Attempt, while managing 12 plays for 20+yards over two games. In that time the Dolphins have managed 3. What is all the more impressive is the teams that they have beaten in the Ravens and the Steelers, two elite defenses. Despite heavy reliance on Darren Waller Week 1 with 19 targets, Derek Carr began to spread the ball around against the Steelers, including Henry Ruggs, Kenyan Drake and Hunter Renfrow.

Nevertheless, without Josh Jacobs in the backfield their offense does look very one dimensional which plays into the Dolphins’ strengths. In Week 2 the Raiders run game managed 2.1 YPC on 25 attempts.

In a week that has been full of negativity, one positive has emerged in the return of Will Fuller. Fuller looks set to make his Dolphins debut against the Raiders. For the first time the Dolphins have all of their receiving options available to them, a luxury that has been missing for a long long time. A strong Dolphins’ receiving corps against a young Raiders’ secondary will be a key matchup throughout this game.

Key Matchup:

We all know that Darren Waller is a freak. Despite Eric Rowe being one of the best safeties in the league at shutting down TEs, he was no match for Waller when the two sides faced each other last December. With the performances of McCourty and Holland impressing in the first weeks of the season, it is unclear as to who will be guarding Waller and how the defense plans on shutting down the main focus of the Raiders’ offense.

Keys to Success

#1 Improvements on Offensive Line!!!

If the offensive line can improve to be just a functional, average, yet stable the Dolphins can win this game. A big if. It has been reported that Eichenberg has been taking reps at LG, RT and LT. In addition, Solomon Kindley looks at risk of being dropped or shifted back to RG if Jesse Davis does not feature, pushing Hunt back out to RT where he played last season. I believe that it should be Eichenberg who starts at LT which then pushes Jackson inside at LG, who typically does better with linemen around him. The offensive line will need to perform better against a strong Raiders pass rush who have 5 sacks on the season already

#2 Explosive Pass Rush

Miami did better at getting pressure to Josh Allen than they did against the Patriots, but it will not be enough. With the speed of Ruggs a potential mismatch against most likely Byron Jones, the Dolphins front seven have to do better at getting pressure in the face of Carr before those routes can develop downfield. The Raiders offensive line underwent quite the overhaul in the offseason, and with Richie Incognito out and Jermaine Eluemunor a player that didn’t make the Dolphins’ roster while losing Ronnie Stanley, this is a good time for Miami’s pass rush to get started.

#3 Put Points on the Board

There were several instances where the Dolphins left points on field and it should not have been a shutout. Down 14-0 DeVante Parker dropped a 33 yard TD pass from Brissett right into his hands. Following this Xavien Howard then intercepted Allen just outside the redzone. The Dolphins then elected to go for it on 4th and 2 at Buffalo 16 yard line. If the TD pass was completed and then the Dolphins elect to kick the field goal, the Dolphins are back in the game down 14-10 with the momentum on their side. From the dramatic ending last season in Vegas thanks to a game winning field goal by Jason Sanders, the Dolphins need to ensure they are coming away from drives with something to show for it.

Injury Concerns

The BIG news coming out this week is that starting QB Tua Tagovailoa is OUT this week and most likely for the next couple of weeks with fractured ribs. A disappointment to many fans in an all important evaluation year for Tua. Thankfully however, the Dolphins do have one of the best backup QBs in the league who will not lose us this game based off his performance. As it stands, the only other players who may be in doubt to feature are Jakeem Grant and Jesse Davis who were both limited in practice after leaving the game against the Bills.

The most notable names on the Raiders injury report is that it is looking unlikely that Josh Jacobs or Richie Incognito will play after not participating in practice, while DE Carl Nassib has been limited.

Score Predictions

After last weeks horrendously bad prediction on my behalf of Dolphins 31- 28 Bills, I am going to be much more reserved. Until I see some notable improvements on the offensive line early on in the game I cannot predict a Miami victory at this time. That is not to say it will not happen, so hopefully I am proven wrong this week. Check out the ATB Dolphins staff’s predictions below:

Bradley Davies 27-21 Raiders

Hussam Patel 24-17 Raiders

Chris Spooner 24-17 Raiders

Tyler DeSena 23-10 Raiders

Rishi Desai 20-17 Miami

Tanner Elliot 28-10 Raiders

Jared Vandermyde 17-14 Miami

Conclusion

This game is winnable. The Dolphins are tied with the Bills and the Patriots in the division. While it may seem that the sky is falling in after this Past week, the Dolphins still have a better record than this time last season. The Dolphins beat the Raiders last year. These next two games against the Raiders and Colts will be vitally important in getting the Dolphins’ season back on track if they are to mount any playoff push. Fins Up!

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Steelers Raiders Recap: Back to the Drawing Board

The Pittsburgh Steelers fell to the Las Vegas Raiders 26-17 this Sunday. After a remarkable performance from their defense, the Steelers upset the Buffalo Bills last week; the Raiders also won their opener in dramatic fashion against Pittsburgh’s rival, the Baltimore Ravens. Even though the Steelers’ offense played very inconsistently in Week 1, most seemed to expect them to beat Last Vegas, given that they had to travel across the country on a short week after a very emotional win. However, the Raiders got the best of the Steelers on Sunday for a number of reasons. We’ll begin our recap of the Steelers and Raiders matchup discussing injuries.

Injuries Abound

One element of this loss was the mounting injuries for the Steelers. Now obviously, every team deals with injuries; the Raiders lost both their starting guards at the beginning of the week, along with their starting running back. But the Steelers’ injury problems began late in the week. On Friday, cornerback Joe Haden and linebacker Devin Bush appeared on the injury report with “questionable” designations. On Sunday, both were declared inactive. 

To make matters worse, two more starters suffered injuries that knocked them out of the game on Sunday. Tyson Alualu fractured his ankle and could be lost for the season. But the worst loss came when TJ Watt pulled up in the first quarter. He went to the sideline and discarded his helmet and gloves. When he came out for the second half, he was in street clothes. Watt indicated that he suffered a groin injury, like Haden and Bush, but should be ready to go for this week’s game. 

Again, injuries are a part of the NFL. But losing four starters late in the week, including two during the game, prevents the coaches from being able to gameplan around these absences and get the backups reps with the starters. There’s also the fact that losing a consistent DPOY candidate and arguably the best edge defender in the NFL makes a significant negative impact on the defense. At the end of the day, it’s hard to expect a defense to be their best when they’re missing four starters with no practice to prep for it. But let’s dive into the actual game. 

Steelers Raiders Recap: Defense

Against the Bills, the Steelers did an excellent job at preventing explosive plays. They also prevented Stefon Diggs from destroying them like in their 2020 matchup. Part of this success is attributable to the Steelers’ willingness to sell out to stop the pass and play different types of coverages. Obviously, Pittsburgh’s pass rush helped as well, as they kept Josh Allen from being comfortable in the pocket. Mike Tomlin and the coaching staff took elements from their game plan against Buffalo and applied them to their matchup with Las Vegas. This strategy worked for a time.

The Steelers took extreme measures to eliminate tight end Darren Waller from the Raiders’ game plan. Waller earned double coverage, typically with an underneath defender and a safety over the top. Essentially, Pittsburgh wanted Derek Carr to beat them with his other, not-as-elite weapons. For most of the game, the Steelers’ defense shut down Waller and forced the Raiders to kick field goals. 

However, in the second half, the defense began to crack and erode. Darren Waller started getting involved; more importantly, the Raiders took advantage of the Steelers’ focus on Waller. Carr comfortably targeted his other weapons, distributing the ball to whoever was open. Players like Wille Snead, Derek Carrier, and Foster Moreau made clutch catches, with the latter scoring the Raiders’ first touchdown. 

The Slow Knife

The backbreaker, of course, came on a beautiful deep shot to Henry Ruggs III. The color commentator, Charles Davis, noted this on the broadcast: the Steelers’ focus on Darren Waller gave just enough room to get Ruggs open on that play. On that play, Minkah Fitzpatrick played as the single-high safety but kept his eyes on Waller. Carr made sure Fitzpatrick held his place, as Carr kept his eyes on Waller as well; Carr even added a very subtle pump fake to get Fitzpatrick to cheat towards Waller. Minkah got back but was just an inch/second too late and in a flash, Ruggs was in the end zone. 

There’s a lot of blame to be distributed for this play. One could obviously blame Minkah for not keeping proper depth. Against a guy like Ruggs, you have to make sure you keep the lid on the pot, so to speak. But I’m sure the coaches instructed Minkah to keep his eyes on Waller and make sure he doesn’t beat you deep. Furthermore, on 3rd and 9, you have to expect Carr is looking at Waller to convert. Give Carr tons of credit here; he took advantage of that assumption, and he threw a perfect ball to Ruggs. 

You could also assign some blame to Ahkello Witherspoon. Obviously, your job as a corner is to prevent a receiver from getting behind you; against a speed demon like Ruggs, that should be your only concern. But give credit to Ruggs here; if you look at the play above, he adds a little hesi-move to his route, causing Witherspoon to freeze and allowing Ruggs to get open.

One might bring up the fact that Witherspoon was playing where Joe Haden would usually line up. Even though Haden is obviously a superb technician as a cover corner, such that he doesn’t need to rely on his speed, I don’t think he would have done a much better job. At the end of the day, the Raiders offense did an excellent job executing, even when the Steelers took away their primary weapon. Pittsburgh wanted Las Vegas to beat them with their third and fourth options; they did just that. 

Steelers Raiders Recap: Offense

The Steelers offense has averaged 16.5 points through two games, a far cry from the explosive, versatile unit of the mid-2010s. However, in comparison to their performance last week, I would argue they looked markedly improved. Opening the game last week, the Steelers punted on every drive in the first half, going three and out on two of those five drives.

This week, they still didn’t score until midway through the second quarter. But they only went three and out once. Two of their first three drives ended in turnovers (an interception and a turnover on downs). Despite those mistakes, Ben Roethlisberger played very well, arguably his best game since last October (granted, that isn’t saying much). He did a good job surveying the defense and throwing to the right receiver. We even saw him throw some very nice deep balls. Not all of them were caught but more often than not, they were decently accurate and gave the receiver a legitimate chance to make a play on the ball. 

However, Ben was very reticent to test the defense over the middle in the intermediate range. This was most likely due to the Raiders’ coverage schemes. But to have a complete offense, you need to threaten that area. Hopefully, the Steelers can incorporate that into their offense in the coming weeks. 

Growing Pains

With that being said, the most pressing issue for the Steelers’ offense is the offensive line. Roethlisberger still did a solid job of getting rid of the ball quickly. But he took too many hard hits. Dan Moore Jr. took a step back in his second career start and Chukwuma Okorafor had another rough day at the office. The bigger problem, as many would expect was the run blocking. While it was somewhat improved relative to last week, as Najee Harris had a better game, it still isn’t good enough. Harris got stopped behind the line multiple times and he’s getting physically punished by defenders every play. 

Luckily, there is a remedy for these symptoms, although it might be unpleasant: time and patience. The Steelers’ offensive line in the mid-to-late-2010s was so dominant because they were experienced veterans with great chemistry as a unit. This offensive line features two rookies, a second-year player in his first year as a starter, a fourth-year player who is technically a backup and still their weakest link, and a veteran on his third team with pass-blocking limitations. Nothing is going to help this offensive line more than playing time with each other. This line is going to take their lumps, especially the younger guys. But that’s the necessary evil to get better. 

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Las Vegas Raiders and RAS

I have finally gotten the time to get back to working on this project. I only have *checks notes*…18 more teams to go!

I’m not really going in any specific order. I am just picking a team a random that has had their front office in place for at least three drafts.

Next is obviously the Las Vegas Raiders with Mike Mayock as their GM since the 2019 draft. You can also find Kent Lee Platte’s website here: https://ras.football/

Quarterbacks:

This one is super easy. Mayock has not drafted a single quarterback yet. So there is no information to go on yet.

Running backs:

With running backs Mayock has drafted only two in his time with the Raiders. Josh Jacobs and Lynn Bowden. Jacobs RAS was a 5.7 but Bowden did not work out due to recovery from an injury/surgery. So there is not much there to compare. Jacobs is 5’10 and Bowden is just under 5’11. Both are over 200 pounds. Outside of those things there isn’t much else to draw from.

Wide Receivers:

The Raiders have drafted three receivers in the Mayock era, Hunter Renfrow, Bryan Edwards, and Henry Ruggs. Of the three only two have RAS scores. Ruggs of course had a score of 9.55, Renfrow had a score of 2.94; so completely opposite. Ruggs and Renfrow are both smaller receivers. They are both under 190 pounds. The problem is their athletic testing is different or missing. For example Renfrow only did 7 reps on the bench, Ruggs did not bench. Renfrow showed decent agility numbers, where as Ruggs did not do agility drills. The only thing that can maybe be pointed out is their explosive testing. Ruggs had a 41 inch vertical and Renfrow had a decent 35 inch. So besides that and their size there is not much else comparable between them athletically. Edwards did not test at all. He measured 6’2 6/8ths 212 pounds.

Tight Ends:

The Raiders have only drafted one tight end in the last three years, Foster Moreau from LSU. He scored high on the RAS scale with a 9.47. Showed decent size at 6’4 253. Overall he was fast, quick and explosive.

Offensive Line:

With the offensive line Mayock has only drafted three, John Simpson in ’20, Alex Leatherwood and Jimmy Morrissey in ’21. Interestingly enough he has drafted one at each position, a tackle, a guard and a center. Now here is where we can see some connections. The RAS scores of all three are 8.53, 9.69, and 9.13. So it can be said that Mayock likes his offensive linemen to be highly athletic. The only real difference in their athletic testing is John Simpson’s agility numbers, they were poor. Otherwise though all their numbers graded out as good to elite. All three had great explosive testing.

Defensive line:

Just like quarterback, very easy. Mayock has not drafted a single defensive lineman in his three years as the GM.

Edge/Defensive end:

The Raiders have drafted three edge defenders since 2019, Maxx Crosby and Clelin Ferrell in ’19, and Malcolm Koonce in ’21. Now the problem here is only once of them has a RAS; Maxx Crosby with and elite 9.65 score. Now looking at the size of them Mayock seems to prefer edge defenders who are smaller-average size. Koonce is on the smaller side at 6’2 250, Crosby is a little bigger at 6’5 255 and Ferrell is the biggest at 6’4 264. With koonce there is no workout data on, he was seen as a relatively athletic rusher. Crosby had elite scores at everything. Ferrell’s agility numbers were good, but he had no other testing. So there is not enough data to go on right now, other than they don’t like the big edge defenders who can slide inside on occasion. Other than that there is much else to extrapolate.

Linebacker:

Mike Mayock has drafted three linebackers in his time with the Raiders, Quinton Bell in 2019, Tanner Muse in 2020, and Divine Deablo in 2021. Muse and Bell both tested out over 9.5 on the RAS scale, Deablo was not far behind with a 8.14. It can be said that Mayock likes drafting highly athletic linebackers. The three of them are 6’2-6’3 and also under 240 pounds as well. All ran very fast 40 times. Bell ran a 4.53 and Muse ran a 4.41, Deablo ran a 4.45. All three also put up at least 19 bench press reps. While it is a small sample size for now at least it can be said Mayock likes slightly undersized super athletic linebackers. He also likes moving big safeties to linebacker having done it with both Muse and Deablo.

Defensive backs:

Now here is where it gets interesting. Mayock a former defensive back himself has drafted a total of 8 defensive backs in 3 years! It is an important position, so most teams will draft a number of them but almost an average of 3 every draft? that is a lot. It is also pretty evenly spread out. The Raiders have drafted 5 corners and 3 safeties. Now only two of the nine do not have RAS scores. The rest all scored 6.26 or above. That score belongs to safety Tyree Gillespie, after him though the lowest was another safety Johnathan Abram with a 7.4 and Trevon Moehrig with a 7.37. The average RAS score of all the safeties that Mayock has draft is a 7.29, so above average definitely, but not elite.

The three safeties are between 5’11 and just over 6’0. They all also weight between 202-207. With the safties it seems like explosiveness has less of an emphasis. They seem to prioritize speed more. All three run a 4.52 or faster. All three tested poorly in explosive testing and average or poor in agility testing.

If you just count the cornerbacks the lowest was Trayvon Mullen with a 7.46, above him though was Nate Hobbs with a 9.62, then Isaiah Johnson with a 9.74. This averages out to a 8.94. So even more so it can be said that the Raiders front office likes their corners to score high on the athletic scale. Some people may say “well, yeah of course” but not all teams value that high level of athleticism in their defensive backs.

Continuing with the corners it seems the Raiders have two size types they like. Arnette and Hobbs are both just over 5’11 and both are about 195. Both also have pretty average speed. Arnette only ran the 40 so that is all the athletic testing available for him. Hobbs put up elite explosive numbers. With Mullen and Johnson both are just under 6’2 and between 200-205 pounds. Both have good to elite explosiveness. It seems that Mayock likes to have diffent size corners to match up with different receivers. Amik Robertson the 5th corner drafted stands out from the other corners. He is small at 5’8 187, but has no other testing on record.

Final Thoughts:

So outside of safety it seems Mayock really keys in on explosive testing, that would be things like vertical jump and broad jump. So if you are looking for players the Raiders may draft check their vertical jump and broad jump. They like their offensive linemen to be upper echelon athletes. Finally they like super athletic slightly undersized linebackers, especially big safeties they have move to linebacker. Finally outside of Amik Robertson they like their defensive backs 5’11+ and 195+.

La defensiva de los Raiders necesita un esquema sencillo.

El balance importa y las estadísticas de los Raiders no mienten.

Cada equipo necesita encontrar ese equilibrio entre la ofensiva y la defensiva; los Raiders han demostrado que la posición más importante dentro del campo la tienen cubierta y está funcionando bien, tan bien que los Raiders están a un paso de regresar a postemporada si tan sólo contaran con una defensiva con resultados decentes, éstos se pueden dar si se logra implementar un esquema defensivo sencillo principalmente para el perímetro defensivo de los Raiders.

En efecto, la ofensiva de los Raiders necesita mejorar en muchos aspectos, pero ahora no entraremos en detalle de aquello que necesita mejora; Derek Carr tiene que proteger mejor el balón cuando se vea obligado a correr; el otro aspecto que más impacta es la efectividad dentro de la zona roja. De acuerdo a estadísticas de PFF, con respecto a la temporada pasada, Carr tuvo el menor porcentaje de TD dentro de la zona roja desde el 2016, el último año en el que los Raiders jugaron en la postemporada. La ofensiva realmente tiene todo lo necesario para revertir esos números, con un buen trabajo de la defensiva (a través de un esquema defensivo sencillo) y la continuidad que ha mostrado la ofensiva, deberíamos ver mejoras considerables en esta temporada.

El papel de la defensiva también es fundamental, y aunque de este lado del balón las áreas de mejora son más, tal vez lograr una defensiva decente, no será algo que le cueste tanto trabajo a Gus Bradley y compañía.

Hay mucha incertidumbre (totalmente justificada) con respecto a cómo funcionará la defensa de los Raiders o qué resultados traerá. Más allá de esa incertidumbre, están los hechos, y el hecho más importante para la defensiva de los Raiders es que terminaron solo siete lugares lejos de ser la peor defensiva de la NFL.

Buscando soluciones con un esquema defensivo sencillo.

Bradley necesita implementar un esquema defensivo sencillo, es decir, lo menos complicado posible para que ésta joven defensiva puedan reaccionar y ejecutar eficazmente. Para ser eficiente, la comunicación debe de fluir en toda la defensa, y la retroalimentación que se genere dentro del campo, donde Bradley no está, será clave para empezar a evolucionar como defensa. Si la comunicación es efectiva y clara, tendrá mucho que ver con que Bradley tenga un jugador “ancla” en cada grupo defensivo.

Un “Cover 3” es: sencillo, versátil y fácil de ajustar.

Bradley es bien conocido por lo que consiguió con la “Legion of Boom”; haber llegado al Super Bowl XLVIII y dominar a Denver de esa manera, fue gracias a que los cuatro jugadores que cubrían la zona corta y la zona media del campo bajaban muy rápido a tacklear y ayudar a la línea defensiva, mientras que los 3 que cubrían la zona profunda del campo tenían la habilidad para identificar el desarrollo de la jugada efectivamente.

En la línea defensiva, su jugador “ancla” es el ala defensiva Yannick Ngakoue (yah-NEEK in-GAH-kway). El tipo de liderazgo y experiencia que el ex-Terrapin aporta a la defensa de los Raiders ayudará a traducir e implementar eseqiuamaplan de Bradley. Aunque sea la primera temporada de Ngakoue en la defensiva de los Raiders, el veterano de cinco años ha demostrado constantemente desde su primer año en la liga, sus habilidades físicas y la capacidad de jugar a un buen nivel cada temporada. La línea defensiva tiene muchos jugadores que permite rotarlos dependiendo el paquete defensivo que se quiera usar en el momento. Y al momento parece que es un grupo sólido, con una mezcla interesante de juventud y experiencia. Maxx Crosby se sigue viendo ágil y fuerte, Quinton Jefferson ha conseguido buenos números deteniendo la carrera y, además, contar con el cuatro veces All-Pro cuatro Gerald McCoy, elevará la competencia dentro de una unidad que necesita meter presión constante a los QBs rivales así como frenar el ataque terrestre.

Nicholas Morrow (50) linebacker de Las Vegas Raiders (Imagen de Matt Aguirre/Las Vegas Raiders)

El jugador “ancla” dentro del grupo de LBs no ha jugado un sólo snap para Bradley, eso no quiere decir que no se conozcan; Bradley dejó claro que Nicholas Morrow es el jugador que está en pisición para aforntar el liderazgo de la defensa. Desde el 2017, Morrow es el LB con más continuidad en la defensiva de los Raiders. Muchos linebackers han ido y venido, pero Morrow ha estado ahí y su actuación habla por sí sola, la temporada pasada como el único jugador de la NFL con al menos tres capturas de quarterback y nueve pases defendidos, esos nueve pases defendidos ocuparon el primer lugar en la liga entre todos los linbeackers. Otra razón válida para que los Raiders volvieran a firmar en marzo al graduado de Greenville (equipo de División III de la NCAA, el otro jugador que viene de esa división es el TE Derek Carrier, quien jugó en Beloit).

En el grupo de backs defensivos, el papel de “ancla” le pertenece a Casey Hayward Jr. Obviamente, está familiarizado y se siente cómodo jugando bajo el esquema de zona de Bradley. Hayward busca renovarse en la defensiva de los Raiders y hasta ahora, le lleva la delantera a Damon Arnette para quedarse como titular. Su contribución en un grupo muy joven de backs defensivos podría impulsar la unidad de inmediato y finalmente hacer que entiendan cómo jugar en este nuevo esquema. La inversión que se ha hecho en ésta unidad tiene que rendir frutos ya.

Las debilidades defensivas por aire y por tierra son bastante evidentes, afortunadamente para los Raiders tienen un híbrido que puede ayudar bastante a cubrir ambas debilidades. Las habilidades de Divine Deablo hicieron que brillara como safety en los Hokies de Virginia Tech, mientras que sus atributos físicos lo hacen ideal para dar soporte a la carrera dentro del cuerpo de linebackers. Independientemente de si Deablo juega como LB o S, no podemos dejar de considerar todos los picks que se le han dedicado en el Draft de la NFL a los backs defensivos durante los últimos años.

AÑOCBSDB
2021Nate HobbsTrevon Moehrig
Tyree Gillespie
Divine Deablo
2020Damon Arnette
Amik Robertson
2019Trayvon Mullen
Isaiah Johnson
Johnathan Abram
2018Nick Nelson
2017Gareon ConleyObi Melifonwu
Shalom Luani
2016Karl Joseph
Los jugadores en negritas están actualmente en el equipo.

Saber jugar “Cover 3” es básico y muy sencillo, como resultado, es bastante vulnerable a una defensiva secundaria sin la disciplina para esperar al correcto desarrollo de la jugada y no anticiparse. La joven defensiva de los Raiders tiene que ser lograr tener comunicación dentro del campo, con gente de confianza del coordinador defensivo en cada departamento, se puede lograr.