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2021 Las Vegas Raiders: Is it Put Up or Shut Up Time for Gruden?
Orlando Ramirez-USA TODAY Sports

2021 Las Vegas Raiders: Is it Put Up or Shut Up Time for Gruden?

The Raiders flirted with the playoffs in 2020 but ended up 8-8 and that has happened two years in a row. Their offense seems good enough to be a contender but the defense is lacking. As usually happens, coaches get the blame for mediocre players, and they changed defensive coordinators bringing in Gus Bradley to try and work magic. They also brought in 7 defensive free agents and drafted six more defensive players. It remains to be seen if that will be the answer.

Quarterback Derek Carr had a great year in 2020 throwing for 4103 yards with 27 touchdowns and only 9 interceptions. He appears to be a playoff-caliber signal caller. Josh Jacobs rushed for 1065 yards and for the 2nd year in a row he passed the 1000 mark. They signed Kenyan Drake to help take the load off of Jacobs and he is also a pass threat. Tight end Darren Waller caught 107 passes for 1196 yards and 9 TDs. Their wideouts include Hunter Renfrow who is a reliable 3rd down target and they are expecting Henry Ruggs III to have a break-out year after an injury-filled rookie season. The offensive line was overhauled and became younger and cheaper. This could be risky as it will take a while for them to gel together.

The Raiders spent a lot of effort retooling their defensive line. They signed free agent Yannick Ngakoue, who along with, Clelin Ferrell gives them an upgrade in rushing the passer. They also improved their depth inside. At linebacker, Vegas is hoping that Cory Littleton will play up to his capabilities after being a bust in 2020. He will be joined by Nick Kwiatkoski who had 81 tackles a year ago. In the secondary, they drafted Trevon Moehrig and he will be given every opportunity to start at safety. They are hoping Damon Arnette, a first round pick in 2020, to stay healthy and step up at cornerback.

Must Wins: Miami, Chicago, Philadelphia, Cincinnati, Washington, Denver, LA Chargers

Toss-Up Games: Baltimore, at LA Chargers, at Denver, at NY Giants, at Dallas

Probable Losses: at Pittsburgh, Kansas City, at Kansas City, at Cleveland, at Indianapolis

Summary in Two Sentences: Las Vegas made a lot of offseason moves to address their weaknesses and it would appear that management is trying to win. I would think Coach Jon Gruden will be feeling some heat if they go 8-8 again.

Predicted Finish: 2nd Place in the AFC West


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