Welcome to the Podcast AF offseason review series, astutely titled “The Probe” – the unofficial official NFL offseason review series of the Vegas Golden Knights. Here, like most NFL “writers”, I will regurgitate takes I read or heard somewhere else and pass them off as original thoughts. Will Ryan Tannehill breakout in 2018? Was Mike McCarthy abandoned by the run game as a child? Does Saturn have a playoff atmosphere? Your questions, answered! Sponsored by “Ready Player One”, in theaters March 29th!
#2: Oakland Raiders. 6-10, 3rd AFC West
One day in November I was hanging with some friends, and was in the process of inserting what was essentially an entire chicken in the form of a panini into my mouth. That chicken then absorbed however many vodkas I drank that night plus the ancillary “end of night” beers later on. I thank that chicken for his service.
During this session of alcohol prep, some pigskin was being discussed. I said that Derek Carr was horrible. This was true, Derek Carr was terrible in 2017. Someone else then said, “I disagree, I think he’s going to be one of the best QBs in the NFL,” as if that was taking the opposite stance to what I said.
Derek Carr could still end up being one of the best QBs in the league at some point, but in 2017 he was objectively bad. That’s all I said. At that moment, he was bad. Even in 2016 he had some more minor decision-making problems and accuracy problems, but his offensive line earned him a fat contract. As Carr’s offensive line went, so did he, just like Andy Dalton and Kirk Cousins. When clean pockets weren’t handed to Carr, he struggled. This is partly why, according to Cian Fahey’s 2018 QB Catalogue, Derek Carr threw the most interceptable passes by any QB in the NFL. His footwork also regressed, likely because of his broken leg, but QBs normally take a year to come back from something like that so that’s not the biggest issue.
As of now, Carr is a supporting cast guy. He’s Hugh Jackman in the original X-Men. We’ve seen Carr with the supporting cast, and we’ve seen him without it. Jackman couldn’t save X-Men Origins. But later on he was the star of Logan. A QB can masquerade as elite when he’s got the pieces around him, but until you see him without those pieces you don’t know if he’s elite. This is why I know Andrew Luck is elite and why I’m not 100% sold on Carson Wentz being elite as opposed to pretty good, no matter how perfect of a human being he is.
So let’s talk about that supporting cast for Carr heading into 2018:
The run game suffered in 2017 and it was because the OL was built to be power blockers instead of zone blockers. The Raiders switched back to power toward the end of the season and the results were immediate. Problem #1: Jon Gruden runs a zone-blocking scheme. And he hired notable former shitty head coach of the Raiders Tom Cable, a disciple of zone-blocking. If they do this, it’s a bad sign for the run game.
The interior line is fine.
Marshall Newhouse, while providing one of the only entertaining Raider moments of 2017, sucked at tackle and was cut. Donald Penn was injured most of the season, the depth guys couldn’t hang, and now he’s injured again but should be good for next year? Look for David Sharpe to start next year and for Oakland to add a tackle in the draft.
Amari Cooper is not a good WR. He’ll get a few homeruns a year to please fantasy owners but I trust him as much as I trust dropping my kid off at Slick Rick’s Daycare. The WR production is dependent on Carr, who is dependent on the OL. The Raiders have also added blocking TEs Derek Carrier and Lee Smith. Jon Gruden is truly taking it back to 1998.
If there’s a team that should do what the Jaguars do on offense besides the Jaguars, it’s the Raiders. But the difference is Derek Carr, because in spite of throwing statistically more shitty passes than Blake Bortles last season, everyone knows he’s much better than Bortles and could at least offer some wrinkles to a Jacksonville-type offense.
As for the defense… (3-4/4-3 hybrid, the moving piece being Khalil Mack)
Movie Comparison: Revenge of the Sith
How do you fix a bad secondary besides not having them on the field for 40 minutes like the Giants did? A good pass rush. Murder the QB before he gets a chance to dissect your DBs. Khalil Mack can do that, as can Justin Ellis (who the Raiders extended after his career year in 2017). Eddie Vanderdoes had a rough rookie year playing 3T DT, but obviously could progress in year two. Everyone’s expecting the Raiders to jump on another pass rusher, likely to replace Mario Edwards Jr, so they can have a consistent pass rusher when Khalil Mack drops into coverage. It’s easier to replace one guy than to replace four.
Quick boring LB rundown:
- SAM: Bruce Irvin (ok)
- WILL: Corey James (stunk)
- MIKE: Tahir Whitehead (signed 3/$18M)
Projected Starting DBs:
- CB1: Gareon Conley (good as rookie and then shattered his shin or something fucked up like that.
- CB2: Rashaan Melvin (signed 1/$6.5M)
- FS: Marcus Gilchrist (signed 1/$4M
- SS: Karl Joseph (PFF has him in the green as the 35th-ranked safety in the NFL
The issues between these two groups speak for themselves. A lot of aging guys, a lot of guys on one-year deals, a few that just aren’t good, and a lack of depth behind them.
If I can figure that they just need to take this thing one step at a time and bolster the DL first, I’m sure the Raiders know that. You’d think. But the whole zone-blocking thing on offense makes me think Gruden wants to just run his scheme and will jam the square into the triangle slot until it fits (or doesn’t).
Gruden is poised to go 5-11.
MAJOR DRAFT NEEDS: EDGE, OT
QUESTIONABLE OFFSEASON MOVES:
- No point in signing Doug Martin. Severe lack of point. Basically a moon crater or purpose.
Hey I was wondering what you thought of George Ezra’s new album?
– Chris from Charleston
Chris I am in love with it. Probably the first album of 2018 that I’ve declared album fever for. Except only for the first 5 songs because they’re so good that I just go back to the beginning every time I get to song 6. So I don’t even know what the back half sounds like. This is usually what happens to me with new music.
In honor of Pete Prisco telling me I’m dumb and that I’ll fail, here’s this entry’s edition of “Prisco’s Pickanosis,” where I highlight something the Tom Brady of acting like an infant on Twitter was completely wrong about.
Raiders defense significantly improved late in the season, after Musgrave was fired.