Believe it or not, football is only a couple of months away. In a matter of weeks (okay, quite a few weeks), we’ll finally see the Las Vegas Raiders. In uncertain times, nobody knows if the team will be playing in front of Raider Nation, but make no mistake, they’ll be watching.
Here are five Raiders that I think Raider Nation should watch more intently.
Five Las Vegas Raiders to Watch in 2020
Henrqy Ruggs III
This feels obvious, but that doesn’t make it any less true. The team’s first of two first round picks figures to be a day-one starter, so obviously he’ll be one of the players that fans of the team are excited to watch.
But listen, the biggest impact that Henry Ruggs III will make for the Raiders? Won’t show up on his statsheet. Ruggs gives the Raiders a dynamic number one receiver, sure, but he also gives them something else they’ve lacked. Speed.
With Ruggs out there, teams have to account for him. They can’t focus on taking away Darren Waller and Josh Jacobs like they did last season. On any play, Ruggs could streak towards the endzone, he could have a bubble-screen or an end-around, his athleticism is rivaled only by his versatility, and defense have to be aware of that.
Ruggs opens up the entire offense the way that Antonio Brown was supposed to last season. So hopefully he has an explosive rookie season, but even if he doesn’t, his presence on the field opens everyone else up.
Johnathan Abram isn’t a rookie, but he might as well be. The Raiders only got a tease of the first round pick’s play last season, but he impressed. He screamed around the field, making impact plays, even after he tore his rotator cuff.
It’ll be interesting to see what he brings to the table as a full-time starter. Gruden loves his attitude, his alpha dog personality, and the fire he brings to everything he does. What kind of a force is he going to be on the Raider defense? Is he the physical piece the defense has been missing all this time? We’ll see, I certainly hope so.
He still can’t say pronounce salmon correctly.
It was either going to be Clelin Ferrell or Maxx Crosby here, for very different reasons. Crosby had an incredible rookie season, registering 10 sacks and forced four fumbles. It’ll be important for him to maintain that success.
But more important is the development of Ferrell. He was the fourth overall pick in last year’s draft, but his impact wasn’t consistently felt. This isn’t all his fault, especially considering the Raiders had him playing defensive tackle at points last season.
In 2020, this can’t be the case. He’s added 15 pounds of muscle, he’s been training hard, and he’s got a chip on his shoulder. The addition of Maliek Collins inside means there isn’t as much need for him to move inside, and he’ll be able to pick up some momentum on the edge.
In 2020, Ferrell will have every opportunity to prove the Raiders right for picking him as high as they did. If he’s successful, and ends up being a serious threat off the edge, then the Raiders will have the foundation of a great defense.
Trayvon Mullen had some flashes of absolute brilliance in his rookie season. After recovering from an injury early, Mullen worked his way up the depth chart, and after Gareon Conley was traded to the Houston Texans, found himself as the team’s starting corner.
And as a starter in a bad secondary, Mullen performed admirably. The team didn’t have an an elite pass rusher, and the Raiders were missing Conley, Karl Joseph, and Jonathan Abram from the original secondary, but he still played well. An athletic, physical corner, Mullen has everything you could possibly want in a number one corner.
However, Raider Nation has seen this before. Gareon Conley played well at first, David Amerson came in and showed out, people thought Stanford Routt could fill Nnadmi Asomugha’s shoes. The Vegas secondary, and defense as a whole, looks a lot better in 2020, let’s see if Mullen rises to the occasion and becomes one of the team’s young leaders on defense.
C’mon, when you read the name of this article, you know the starting quarterback was going to make an appearance. The most divisive of the Raiders, Derek Carr is absolutely a player to keep an eye on in 2020.
Raider Nation is familiar with all of the reasons for Derek Carr’s perceived shortcomings during his career. Early in his career, he was alone on a bad team. He didn’t have protection, an offensive line, or weapons. Piece by piece, they were added, and he started to produce, But then he got hurt, and the team made a bad switch at offensive coordinator, and let’s be honest, a carousel of coaching changes has played the biggest part in Carr’s struggles.
But it’s 2020. He’s had the same coaching system for three off-seasons now. No changes, whatsoever. His offensive line, one of the best in football, is the same as last year. Tyrell Williams, Hunter Renfrow, and Josh Jacobs are all healthy. The additions of Henry Ruggs and Lynn Bowden Jr. give this team some versatile explosiveness, and I’m a big fan of what Bryan Edwards brings to the table as well.
Everyone’s healthy, everyone should know the offense, this. is. the. year. I did a schedule prediction for the Raiders, and had them winning quite a few games. This is the year when Derek Carr must either silence his criticism or succumb to it.