Raiders offense finally coming to form
It seemed like he was right last week when the Raiders scored 45 points against a Cleveland Browns defense that is actually better than advertised. After the first month of the season, the Raiders are forth in the NFL in passing with 333 yards per game. Jon Gruden is known for offense, so it was only a matter of time until quarterback Derek Carr and the rest of the offense figured out the complexity of his system.
“There has been a lot of work put in by everybody, not just me,” Carr said. “We’ll have one or two here where we’ll still learning stuff or like ‘oh man, we have to cover that more or let’s talk about this situation more.’ Through the first four games, we’re knocking some rust off, we’re knocking some things off that we’re learning on the fly. At the same time, I still feel like we’re doing some good things, moving the ball-wise and completing passes, running efficiently, protecting. All the things that are important and not easy to do. I feel like we’re in a good place, but I still feel like we could be a lot better. There’s no doubt in my mind that we’ve done a lot of things but we’re not near where we want to be yet.”
Another thing Gruden is known for is his fondness of veterans. While teams in the previous decade were trying to build their core through the draft, Gruden went out there with Brian Johnson, Brian Griese and Jeff Garcia as his quarterbacks in Tampa Bay. His star receiver was Joey Galloway in his 30s.
Oddly enough, Galloway’s best string of years was with Gruden and the Buccaneers. Which is why it should come as no surprise that with 370 receiving yards and two touchdowns, veteran tight end Jared Cook is on pace for a career year in his tenth season.
“He’s nice to have,” Carr said. “I’m glad we have him. I’m glad he runs routes for me, blocks for me, all those things. He’s a stud, man. He’s one of the best at what he does in the whole world. I’m glad that we have him. I’m glad he decided to come here in free agency two years ago. We’re able to see in every system that he’s been in, the two systems that he’s been in here, he’s been productive. He’s been a good player. To have a guy like that, coaches love him because you create mismatches and problems and things like that, but at the same time when you get him the ball he can do some things after the catch, too. Kind of like a receiver, almost, that not a lot of tight ends can do.”
Gruden’s penchant for veterans means Carr also has 33-year-old Jordy Nelson. He started slow with only five catches for 53 yards in the first two games, but rebounded with 11 catches for 221 yards and two touchdowns in the last two weeks. However the Raiders offense doesn’t go without the balance and toughness provided on the ground by Lynch. It was no coincidence that the Raiders’ first win and Lynch’s first 100-yard game came on the same week.
By rushing for 130 yards against the Browns, Lynch is now in the league’s top five in rushing at 300 yards, on pace for his seventh 1,000-yard season in his 11-year career. What’s amazing is while nearly every other running back is trying to avoid contact in order to extend a limited shelf life, Lynch powers through contact and is still among the best running backs after a decade in the league.
Lynch is also in the top five in carries at 68. If he were to average 20 carries a game for the rest of the season, his total (308) would be good for the second most carries last season behind Le’Veon Bell (321), 2016 behind Ezekiel Elliott (322), and 2015 behind Adrien Peterson (327). While other running backs tend to either wear down or get hurt later in the season under that kind of load, Lynch is the exception to the rule.
“We’ll just keep feeding him Skittles,” Gruden said. “Keep sending him out there as long as he can.”
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