As soon as Jon Gruden was named the new head coach for the Raiders back in 2018, fans expected him to help the organization get back to an elite level. That simply hasn’t been the case thus far, as the squad has not made it to the postseason since Gruden took over. Matter of fact, they haven’t been in the postseason since 2016. With that, Jon Gruden knows the pressure is on for the Las Vegas Raiders this season.
The team morale has been high for the Raiders at minicamp
Despite the team’s struggles in the past, which of course included missing the postseason last winter, the team morale has been high for the Raiders at minicamp. This is of course welcoming news for the fanbase, as they’re hoping the team can make plenty of noise in the AFC West this season. That’s going to be tough with the Kansas City Chiefs holding the best NFL odds across top-tier bookmakers, like BetNow, to win the division again.
Matter of fact, the Chiefs are the favorites to win the Super Bowl, which would be their second championship in the last three years. Kansas City played for the Lombardi Trophy last year, but lost to the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. One of the highlights for the Raiders last season was beating Kansas City at Arrowhead Stadium. The team was able to prove they can hang with some of the best teams in the league. Now, they need to take another step in 2021.
“We proved we can compete in the AFC West,” Gruden said after a practice session this offseason. “We proved we can win on the road. Now we’ve got to prove we can win at a much higher level. I think we’re better. I think we’ve got a chance to be much better and a lot deeper and be more competitive.”
Gruden is obviously saying all the right things here, but it won’t matter unless the team can actually deliver on the field on Sundays. What was most frustrating last year was how inconsistent the offense would be. That’s on quarterback Derek Carr, who will surely be motivated to shut up all of his countless haters out there. A trip to the playoffs would go a long way in doing that.
The new additions are ready to ball out for the Raiders
It goes without saying, but the new additions are ready to ball out for the Raiders as soon as Week 1 arrives. Several eyes will be on defensive end Yannick Ngakoue, as he signed a two-year, $26 million contract with Las Vegas back in March. When Ngakoue is healthy, he’s one of the best pass-rushers in the game. He’ll hope to provide opposing QBs with plenty of pressure next year.
Ngakoue spent the first four years of his brilliant career with the Jacksonville Jaguars. Then, he made his way to play for the Minnesota Vikings in 2020, before he was surprisingly traded to the Baltimore Ravens in the middle of the season. Combined for both teams last fall, the 6-2, 245-pounder posted a head-turning eight sacks and four forced fumbles. With him and Maxx Crosby ready to cause havoc in the trenches, Ngakoue is fired up.
“I think Maxx and myself are the best duo that’s going to come hit the scene — and I’m already putting that out there,” Ngakoue said. “I feel like the NFL, they’ve kind of shied away from that, and that’s cool. But Maxx is a hard worker. He’s a guy that’s putting in the work. Literally, I was just lifting weights right now, Maxx is in there doing things to get better. So it’s the dedication and commitment, and I can play all day with a guy like that.”
Crosby was sensational last year, recoridng seven sacks. The year before, he posted 10 sacks as a rookie. Now, he’ll have Ngakoue lining up with him ready to make countless amazing plays as well. Trust us when we say the rest of the AFC should be scared of what these two will be able to accomplish together. In the AFC West, the Chiefs and Patrick Mahomes better watch out.
Don’t forget about Derek Carr leading the offense
As excited as fans are for Ngakoue and Crosby to make plays on the defensive side of things, don’t forget about Derek Carr leading the offense. The veteran signal-caller has just as much pressure on him as Gruden, and fans have grown more and more frustrated with his play. However, when Carr is at the top of his level, he’s outstanding. He also loves the Raiders more than anything.
“I’d probably quit football if I had to play for somebody else,” Carr said at camp. “I am a Raider for my entire life. I’m going to root for one team for the rest of my life, it’s the Raiders. So, I just feel that so strong in my heart I don’t need a perfect situation to make things right. I’d rather go down with the ship, you know what I’m saying, if I have to.”
That quote above lets you know just how much Carr cares about this squad and his teammates. He wants success with the Raiders, the team he’s been with since 2014, at all costs. At the end of the day, Carr will have to deliver in a massive way next campaign. The defense has improved and the offensive weapons around him are ready to put on a show. Now, we must wait to see if Carr can answer the call and keep throwing touchdowns all over the field.