Before the Las Vegas Raiders play their second preseason game against the Rams at 7 p.m. PDT Saturday night at SoFi Stadium, head coach Jon Gruden is relishing the chance for his team to go against some of the best players in the league during joint practices:
“We’re looking at the Rams experience as a couple more preseason games,” Jon Gruden said of the two scrimmage days. “You might not see the starters in the Rams game as much as you’ll see them if you were at practice. Sean McVay and I will talk about that a little bit and try to come up with what we deem as the best thing for both of our teams. We want to see the best against the best, and we want to use the preseason game to see the guys that are inexperienced to see where they are in terms of their growth.”
Starters like Matthew Stafford, Aaron Donald and Jalen Ramsey (more on him later) will be center stage when both teams face off during scrimmages. Let’s go ahead and look into the biggest stories and highlights coming out of the land of silver and black.
Will Jon Gruden be on the hot seat if his team stumbles again?
To answer a question as old as time, no, Jon Gruden is not gone yet. Could he be after this season? It’s worth wondering in NFL circles after his teams have collapsed in a sea of chaos and crappy “defensive” play the last couple years.
Gruden hasn’t had much success since leaving his cozy ESPN broadcasting booth in 2018. His teams have been 19-29 under his watch, missing the playoffs three times. He’s had a couple close calls with the first coming in 2019 when the Raiders started 6-4, only to lose five of their last six games. Then last year in their grand Vegas debut, the Silver and Black started 6-3 and collapse once more by losing five of their last seven to miss the playoffs again at 8-8. Only in Vegas could the Raiders make the house lose every freaking time.
I hate that we’re at the point of the NFL offseason where I am starting to feel optimistic about the Raiders chances of making the playoffs.— D. (@DrewInThought) August 11, 2021
Only to be crushed in week 14 due to another late season collapse.
Please prove me wrong this year.
LV has been spotty at best with drafting and that’s a big reason for them continually remaining in football purgatory. They’ve hit on running back Josh Jacobs and offensive tackle Kolton Miller but have WAY overreached on players like defensive end Clelin Ferrell and cornerback Damon Arnette in the first round.
For the most part, quarterback Derek Carr has fared well with Gruden. Through three seasons in Chucky’s offense, Carr has had three 4,000-plus yard passing seasons under Gruden, with an improved touchdown-to-interception ratio, yards per game and passer rating, each year. Gruden has kept his Carr from veering into a ditch as he’s been improving each year, most impressively without a true number one receiver.
"We could do just about anything you want to consider on offense with Derek Carr"#Raiders HC Jon Gruden talks about his QB and offense heading into the 2021 season.— SiriusXM NFL Radio (@SiriusXMNFL) August 17, 2021
Video #RaiderNation pic.twitter.com/Q6i7HZvVIJ
Defense has been holding the Raiders back during Gruden’s second stint with the team. The unit bottomed out last season after ranking 30th in points allowed, 25th in yards, 29th in sacks, and tied for 23rd in interceptions. Their defensive coordinator Paul Guenther was fired midseason due to these struggles. Vegas has made some additions to the defense like lineman Yannick Ngakoue and second-round safety Tre’von Moehrig to give them a boost, but the one true cure-all would be to just win, baby.
Who have been the standouts during the offseason & preseason?
Last week, wide receiver Zay Jones had a strong start to the preseason, catching three passes for 57 yards in a 20-7 win against the Seahawks. This could be a sign of bigger things to come as he attempts to carve out a larger role in the offense. If he continues to impress his head coach as much as he has, this won’t even be a question.
“I would say his ceiling is untapped,” said Gruden, via W.G. Ramirez of the Associated Press. “He’s taking advantage of these opportunities. …I’m rooting for him, I’m really happy for him because nobody has work harder than him.”
Rams fans might want to look away from this next section as pass catcher Hunter Renfrow certainly made a name for himself during the first day of joint practices. LA pitted their number-one defense against the Raiders’ number-one offense and Renfrow made the most of it while lining up in the slot against superstar corner Jalen Ramsey.
Ramsey made a few plays, as usual, but Renfrow really got after him. On one play, Renfrow split Ramsey and torched him on a flawless route towards the right corner of the end zone. He also made another great tightly contested catch on Ramsey a few moments later.
Who knows what all truly went down as Ramsey reportedly got pretty ticked off and possibly managed to track down all the practice footage to be burned on a later date. Regardless, Renfrow made the most of his afternoon and doesn’t seem to care about all the trash talk as he walked the walk for one day at least.
“For me, personally, I don’t really know when people are talking. I’m just kind of locked in and doing my job,” Renfrow said after practice (per the Raiders’ official website). “It was definitely spirited. He’s obviously a great player. There’s a reason why he’s one of the best players in the league.”
As the Raiders have been desperately seeking defensive help for the last few seasons, one rookie they picked up might be the answer to some of their issues. There’s currently an opening at slot cornerback and Nate Hobbs out of Illinois is doing what he can to slide into that role. At the moment, he’s leading his competition given with his size, speed and toughness needed to play the position. Gruden has said that Hobbs “might be the opening day starter” if he keeps up his efforts like this sack he had against Seattle:
Raiders requiring proof of vaccination for all home games
In non-football related news, Allegiant Stadium will require proof of vaccination from all fans attending home games during the 2021 season. This has clearly been a controversial topic of choice across the country and luckily for you (since I’m not in the mood to cover this debate) I’ll only tell you how the team plans to address the ongoing pandemic.
Las Vegas Raiders to require proof of COVID-19 vaccination for Raiders games at Allegiant Stadium: pic.twitter.com/DZROVz1uLu— Allegiant Stadium (@AllegiantStadm) August 17, 2021
Fans will show proof of vaccination through CLEAR’s free mobile app and Health Pass feature. Once they’re cleared to enter the building, they’ll be able to without wearing a mask. For any unvaccinated fans who show up the stadium on game day, they’ll have a last-gasp of getting in as the Raiders will be offering vaccinations on-site. Normally, most teams giveaway rally towels or team posters, not shots, but hey, free is free am I right?
The Raiders are the second team to implement proof of vaccination requirements after the New Orleans Saints. This policy will go into effect when Las Vegas hosts the Baltimore Ravens on Monday Night Football in Week 1.