Raiders Stats and Storylines: Week 9 Edition

The biggest storyline this week is an obvious one.

It’s also the most tragic storyline in my 30+ years as a Raider fan: A 23-year-old woman lost her life due to a senseless, selfish and lethal decision by Henry Ruggs. No matter the postseason outcome, this Raiders season will be remembered for this week’s tragedy.

Nobody can predict how the team will respond on the field, but off the field you can’t do much better than Derek Carr’s response:

SportsCenter on Twitter: “”He needs people to love him right now … If no one else will do it, I’ll do it.”Derek Carr says he’ll always be there for former teammate Henry Ruggs. pic.twitter.com/t3efYcNuaM / Twitter”

“He needs people to love him right now … If no one else will do it, I’ll do it.”Derek Carr says he’ll always be there for former teammate Henry Ruggs. pic.twitter.com/t3efYcNuaM

It’s important to recognize what Carr said and didn’t say. He didn’t say that he forgives Henry Ruggs nor did he in any way condone Ruggs’ behavior. Instead, he offered something so simple yet so profound: love. That message of compassion — in response to an unspeakable tragedy — was powerful.

No Raiders storyline will have the effect of this one, but there are ten other, much-smaller storylines that will impact the remainder of the season. Let’s take a look.

1. Bisaccia’s Path to History

Over the course of the next 10 games, Rich Bisaccia has a chance to do what no NFL interim head coach has done before: Lead his team to the playoffs.

With a win over the Giants, it wouldn’t be just a chance, it would be a 76% chance, according to The Upshot:

Not only would a win make them solid postseason favorites in The Upshot’s projections, it’d also give the Raiders nearly a 50% chance of hosting a playoff game.

A loss, on the other hand, would make hosting a playoff game an uphill climb, especially with their remaining schedule.

2. Tough Sledding after Giants Game

The Giants are a bad team dealing with COVID issues. That combo makes the game very winnable, despite the Raiders being only 3-point favorites.

What follows this game is much more treacherous:

After facing the Giants, 6 of the 9 remaining games are against teams who have a 49%+ chance of making the postseason, according to PFF.

That stretch will look much more traversable if the Raiders take care of business in New York.

3. Bisaccia Trying to Reverse Raiders Post-Bye Woes

While the Giants may not be a formidable opponent this week, history certainly will be:

Josh Dubow on Twitter: “#Raiders 3-15 after bye in past 18 seasons, worst in NFL https://t.co/TQwdlyvRfz / Twitter”

Raiders 3-15 after bye in past 18 seasons, worst in NFL https://t.co/TQwdlyvRfz

Suffice to say, none of those 21 prior teams have had the same caliber of defense as this Raiders team. Couple that with a weaker-than-normal opponent and they should be able to improve that mark to 4-15.

4. A Tale of Two Offenses

The good news: The Raiders are a top-flight passing offense. The bad news: They can’t run the ball.

The discrepancy between these two is second-highest in the NFL:

Tej Seth on Twitter: “teams with the biggest difference between their pass and rush efficiency (EPA difference between pass and run):1. rams (+0.51)2. raiders (+0.39)3. chiefs (+0.35)4. vikings (+0.34)5. cardinals (+0.33) / Twitter”

teams with the biggest difference between their pass and rush efficiency (EPA difference between pass and run):1. rams (+0.51)2. raiders (+0.39)3. chiefs (+0.35)4. vikings (+0.34)5. cardinals (+0.33)

There are two reasons for such a large discrepancy: (1) The Raiders are exceptional at throwing the ball and (2) their run game is missing a fundamental piece.

5. Raiders Run Game Culprit

The question: What is the fundamental piece the Raiders run game is missing? To answer that, let’s look at how three different Raiders have fared running the ball:

All three have negative EPA/rush, even though two of them are rushing for more yards than expected.

That combo points to the culprit: the run-blocking.

In fact, the run-blocking is not just bad, it’s historically bad. Below are the worst run-blocking units from each of the last five years:

The Raiders PFF run-blocking grade of 44.5 is not only the second-lowest among these teams, it’s low enough that the ’21 Raiders have a chance to end the season with the worst run-blocking grade of the PFF era.

6. Mike Mayock: Bargain Shopper Extraordinaire

The remainder of this season isn’t just an audition for Rich Bisaccia. Mike Mayock’s GM title could be on the line, as well.

There are two budget-friendly signings that should be high on his resume:

  1. Casey Hayward ($2.5M Cap Hit)
    • Lowest target rate among CBs with 200 coverage snaps
    • Highest PFF coverage grade among CBs with 200 coverage snaps
    • 52nd-highest cap hit this season among CBs
  2. Yannick Ngakoue ($5M Cap Hit)
    • 1st in pass-rush get-off time among edge rushers
    • 11th in total pressures among edge rushers
    • 45th-highest cap hit this season among edge rushers

The total cap hit for Hayward and Ngakoue is only about $600K more than the cap hit Nelson Agholor has with the Patriots ($6.9M).

Snagging two all-pro caliber players at a similar price as one complementary receiver should be a feather in Mike Mayock’s GM cap.

7. Best Raiders Cornerback Tandem in Recent Memory

Perhaps the best Raiders cornerback tandem in my lifetime was 1998. That season, the Raiders acquired an aging former pro-bowler (Eric Allen) and paired him with an athletic rookie (Charles Woodson). The result was a 4th-ranked pass defense.

Could history be repeating?

It certainly seems so, with Casey Hayward playing the role of cagey vet and and Nate Hobbs as the upstart rookie. In fact, they’re not just the two best Raider corners in recent memory, they’re the top two in PFF’s coverage grade (among CBs with 200+ coverage snaps):

  1. Casey Hayward Jr. (LV): 83.3
  2. Nate Hobbs (LV): 81.8
  3. Taron Johnson (BUF): 81.3
  4. A.J. Terrell (ATL): 80.9
  5. Jalen Ramsey (LAR): 80.2

Together the top-two corners in coverage grade make a grand total of $3.235M. Not a bad value, especially when you consider it’s only $300K more than LaMarcus Joyner is making with the Jets this season.

8. Nate Hobbs: Darkhouse DROY Pick

As established above, Nate Hobbs is a standout cornerback this season. Therefore, it’s natural to think of him as a potential Defensive Rookie of the Year (DROY) candidate.

His PFF rank among defensive rookies certainly bears that assumption out:

RankPlayerPFF Grade
1Jeremiah Owusu-Koramoah81.1
2Zaven Collins80.7
3Kwity Paye79.0
4Nate Hobbs78.6
5Greg Newsome II71.8

Yet, when you look at the DROY odds on Draft Kings, nobody has lower odds than Nate Hobbs at +10000.

If Hobbs adds a few splash plays to his otherwise solid resume, expect his DROY stock to climb.

9. Replacing Henry Ruggs on the Field

Replacing Henry Ruggs’ production will be on one thing. He had 24 catches for 469 yard and 2 touchdowns.

Replacing his speed will be another. Ruggs was clocked running faster than 21 mph twice this season. Those were two of the eleven fastest times in the NFL this season, according to Next Gen Stats.

It’ll be next to impossible to replace that speed midseason. But the Raiders will have to try and here are the rumored candidates and how their stats compare to Ruggs:




Player

PFF
Receiving
Grade
Yards Per
Route Run
on Deep
Passes



ADOT
Henry Ruggs73.924.0817.1
Odell Beckham Jr.66.17.3314.3
DeSean Jackson72.130.021.5

Odell Beckham’s age and talent make him an intriguing option. If the goal is to immediately replace a deep threat, however, it’s DeSean Jackson’s resume that fits the bill.

10. Hunter Renfrow: “That Man is So Elusive”

One position that is solidified among the Raiders WR corps is the slot.

Hunter Renfrow is not just getting open and catching passes. He’s also making defenders miss in the open field:

Travis Gilkeson on Twitter: “Through 8 weeks, Hunter Renfrow’s 11 missed tackles forced:* Is tied for first among all WRs this season * Is more than any Raiders WR has had in an entire season since 2016 when Crabtree had 14 pic.twitter.com/GzFBQ7vyRW / Twitter”

Through 8 weeks, Hunter Renfrow’s 11 missed tackles forced:* Is tied for first among all WRs this season * Is more than any Raiders WR has had in an entire season since 2016 when Crabtree had 14 pic.twitter.com/GzFBQ7vyRW

At his current pace, Renfrow will end the season with more missed tackles forced than any Raiders WR in the PFF era. As Ian Eagle sums it up at the end of that clip: “That man is so elusive.”

Not too shabby for a former 5th-round draft pick.

Twitter: @TravisGilkeson

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5 thoughts on “Raiders Stats and Storylines: Week 9 Edition

    1. Before my time, but that was an outstanding tandem. The Raiders have had some great duos over the years. Terry McDaniel and Albert Lewis being another from when I first started following the team. Thanks for reading!

  1. Great write up. Run blocking a mess and the pass blocking is poor too. Kinda frames the elite nature of a season Carr is having.

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