The Raiders’ early 2020 success on offense might be a surprise to many, but it isn’t to us. Las Vegas had the makings of a great offense even before they added some much needed talent and speed in this year’s draft. On Monday Night against a good Saints Defense, we were able to see several of the different ways that they can effectively attack.
The first thing that stood out was that the Raiders can actually threaten downfield now. This was an issue from 2019 that we wrote about during the offseason. The Raiders had every piece needed to make the passing game effective, except for speed on the outside. Enter Henry Ruggs into the equation. Ruggs might not have the numbers to show for it so far, but defenses have had to honor his speed. You can see his impact on the below play.
That’s Ruggs at the top of the screen. Focus on his route and how it ended up threatening two defenders, taking both of them with him.
This left a huge void at the intermediate level for Derek Carr to exploit.
I look forward to seeing all the different ways Jon Gruden finds to take advantage of Ruggs’ talent.
You know what else stood out about the Raiders Offense on Monday? Tight end Darren Waller. Waller had a break-out season in 2019. On Monday Night, he was displayed on a national stage, finishing with 12 receptions for 103 yards and a touchdown. The Saints had trouble accounting for him all night. They even had trouble containing him in 1-on-1 situations with a cornerback, as you can see on this play below.
Yes, P.J. Williams has started to see more action at safety. But he still has a cornerback’s skillset. And Waller used his speed to break away from him here. Waller posed matchup issues for the Saints all night, as you can see here and here. He might be the most dynamic tight end in the NFL right now.
Jon Gruden had all sorts of tricks up his sleeve against the Saints, as he found ways to get his talented group of receivers open against man or zone.
Below is a look at what appeared to be an option route for Hunter Renfrow. You can see how Renfrow cut off his route in response to the middle-seam defender in Tampa-2 moving in anticipation of a deep over route.
It’s hard to defend a route that always ends up being the right one.
Against man coverage, Gruden used lots of trips bunches and stacks to find ways to manufacture open receivers. Take this below 3rd-and-9. Hunter Renfrow and Bryan Edwards were stacked at the top of the screen. This alignment is often used to create rubs or picks against man coverage. It appeared, based on their positioning, that the 2 Saints DBs over them would be playing the releases. This meant the inside DB would take whoever released inside and the outside DB would take whoever released outside, a tactic used to negate picks and rubs.
So what did the Raiders do? Both receivers released outside and vertical initially. Without clear definition of where their routes would go, this forced both DBs to commit with the outside DB locking on to the outside receiver (Renfrow) and the inside DB locking on to the inside receiver. That resulted in Renfrow instantly having leverage inside on his defender. And that’s where he took his route.
Even if the Saints weren’t playing the releases (and were playing the man instead), the formation and route combo created traffic for Renfrow’s defender to have to fight through. The design of the play helped create the separation. The result was an easy completion and a first down.
Derek Carr deserves plenty of credit for the way he executed on Monday night as well. He made several great throws against the Saints and kept the offense moving. Carr really does have the ability to make any type of throw, and he often makes several great ones per game. For him, it’s a matter of just gaining consistency. Hopefully for the Raiders, he’ll be able to do that with the weapons he now has at his disposal.
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