After a hot 5-2 start, the 2021 Las Vegas Raiders looked to be among the best teams in the AFC. However, it’s been a tumultuous downfall ever since. After the resignation of ex-head coach Jon Gruden and the tragedy involving Henry Ruggs III, the team has been in a downward spiral. Now sitting at 7-7, the season seems to be over as the schedule just gets more difficult. With 3 games left, let’s take a look at the good, the bad, and the ugly for the 2021 Raiders through three-quarters of the season.
2021 Las Vegas Raiders: Three-Quarter Mark, the Good, the Bad, and the Ugly
Probably the most reliable player on the Raiders, Hunter Renfrow has blossomed into one of the league’s best slot receivers. For a team that lacks weapons on offense with the loss of Henry Ruggs III and a banged-up Darren Waller, Renfrow has been the one consistent key on the Raiders offense. He is on pace to break 100 receptions on the season and join Hall of Famer Tim Brown as the only Raiders receivers with 100 receptions in a season. Renfrow is also an above-average punt returner and has been one of the few consistent things about the Raiders team.
In the off-season, the Raiders big free agent signing was edge defender Yannick Ngakoue to pair with Maxx Crosby. This couldn’t have worked out better for the team. Crosby has blossomed into one of the league’s best up-and-coming edge defenders and Yannick Ngakoue is having one of his better seasons. Ngakoue already has 8 sacks on the season, more than any player had for the Raiders in 2020. Add in rookie Malcolm Koonce and veteran Carl Nassib and this has become the strength of the team. As a result, the rest of the defense has played better at times with the emergence of a pass rush.
Second Half Derek Carr
The Raiders offense has taken a nosedive in the second half of the season. Although Derek Carr doesn’t have much support, the excuses are becoming unbearable. Carr is turning the ball over at a career-high rate and simply not getting it done. The Raiders offense has stumbled to an average of 17 ppg over the past 7 weeks, leading to an abysmal 2-5 record. Carr has to do a better job down the stretch of holding onto the football, especially in late-game situations. Even with all of the drama surrounding the Raiders in 2021, they need their leader to step up and have a solid last quarter of the season, something that hasn’t been true often in his eight-year NFL career. Carr is putting up decent numbers in some categories, but the red zone production has led to the abysmal second half of the season.
The Rich Bisaccia story started out as a good one, however, the glitter has faded. Bisaccia is way too conservative and simply out of his element as a head coach. The icing on the cake was the field goal in the red zone down 35-0 in Kansas City. For a guy that is coaching for his career right now, Bisaccia has just been way too passive for his own good. This combined with the bad play-calling and strategies on both sides of the ball has been hard to watch. Defensive coordinator Gus Bradley started out hot as a Raider but since has lost his shine. The two Kansas City games where he failed to adjust his scheme and gave up points in key situations to the Washington Football Team have caused concern about the defensive coordinator’s scheme. On the offensive side of the ball, the Raiders game plans have been a mess, and there is no clear indication of who is in charge. The rumors have circulated that it’s offensive line coach Tom Cable calling the shots on offense. Whatever the case may be, a fresh start is coming.
The 2020 Draft Class
Damon Arnette, Henry Ruggs III, Lynn Bowden Jr., and Tanner Muse, a list Raider fans will not soon forget. For various reasons on and off the field, half of the Raiders 2020 draft class is no longer on the roster. Leaving only Bryan Edwards, Amik Robertson, and John Simpson to carry the class. A very underwhelming bunch to say the least, as all three have been major disappointments in 2021. John Simpson ranks as one of the league’s worst interior linemen and doesn’t seem to be improving. Bryan Edwards was one of the more hyped-up players in the off-season and has fallen short of the mark. Finally, Amik Robertson is a depth player, that may find himself off the roster in 2022. A draft class with all whiffs can set a franchise back years and is the main reason the Raiders have no depth.
The Offensive Line
Former head coach Jon Gruden dismantled the offensive line heading into the 2021 season. Trading starters Trent Brown, Rodney Hudson, and Gabe Jackson, Gruden wanted a fresh start. Without sugar-coating anything, this was the biggest disaster in the Gruden tenure. The Raiders reached for Alabama’ Alex Leatherwood to start at right tackle and it’s been a train wreck. Leatherwood has already been moved to guard, where he just simply isn’t playing well. The Raiders offensive is playing as one of the worst in Raiders history at this point. With players like guard John Simpson and right tackle Brandon Parker, the unit as a whole is an embarrassment. The Raiders tout the 29th ranked rushing offense and have given up and quarterback Derek Carr has been one of the highest pressured quarterbacks in the league.
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