It’s here! Finally, Raiders football is back! For the very first time, the Las Vegas Raiders will take the field today, taking on Teddy Bridgewater’s Carolina Panthers at Bank of America Stadium. It’s year three of Jon Gruden’s comeback tour, and if he wants to start off on the right foot, here are the three things he needs to do.
2020 Las Vegas Raiders Keys To Victory: Week One
Contain Christian McCaffrey
Duh? Christian McCaffrey is one of the NFL’s most dynamic and explosive playmakers, and was responsible for 44% of Carolina’s yardage last season and a fourth of their points. He did all of that while Kyle Allen was the starting quarterback and they enduring a coaching change halfway through the season. He’s a threat as a rusher (1,387 rushing yards and 15 touchdowns) and a receiver (116 catches, 1,175 receiving yards, and four scoring snags). The first, most important key to stopping the Panthers is containing him.
“Run CMC” is actually the perfect test for the new-look Raider defense. He’s the best receiving back in the NFL, and free agent acquisition Cory Littleton is supposed to be one of the best coverage linebackers in the game. The Raiders have invested a lot in the front seven, adding Maliek Collins, Raekwon McMillan, and Nick Kwiatkoski to help bolster a middle-of-the-pack unit from the year before.
How well the Raiders do or do not contain McCaffrey will be very telling about how much we can expect from the defense this season.
Redeem the Redzone
The Raiders themselves have owned up to their failures inside the 20’s last season. They had no problem traversing the field, finishing 11th in the league in total yardage, but they fell apart when it came time to score, finishing 24th in points.
This off-season, they addressed their redzone woes, bringing in a number of free agent running backs, drafting the versatile Lynn Bowden Jr. and the physical Bryan Edwards, as well as signing future Hall of Fame tight end, Jason Witten.
The Raiders bring back Derek Carr, the same starting five offensive linemen, Darren Waller, Foster Moreau, and Josh Jacobs as their core, so they don’t really have an excuse for scoring in short yardage situations. The team’s offense should improve this season, so when they find themselves in Carolina’s redzone, they need to score 7, not 3.
Attack an Old Friend
Believe it or not, Tahir Whitehead is starting for the Carolina Panthers. After losing Luke Kuechly, one of the best tight ends of the last 25 years, the Panthers are trusting Tahir Whitehead to lead their linebackers. Well, pretty obviously, the Raiders need to turn on film from last season, and do what literally everyone did to Whithead when he was on the Raiders.
In two seasons with the Raiders, whitehead gave up 105 completions on 137 targets for 1,404 yards and 10 touchdowns while only snagging one interception. That means that in his 32 games, he gave up an average of three catches for 44 yards, typically on third down. His replacement, Littleton, gave up 10 fewer yards a game and also managed to pick off five times as many passes.
So regardless of whether it’s a tight end, a running back, or even Hunter freakin’ Renfrow, if the Raiders catch Tahir Whitehead in coverage, they have to go after him. Jacobs said he wanted 60 grabs this year? Let’s start in Carolina.