It has been a disappointing few seasons for the Las Vegas Raiders with Jon Gruden as their head coach. In his first three seasons in his second stint with the Raiders, Gruden has compiled a 19-29 record, missing the playoffs in each season. Despite the reports of Gruden and Derek Carr not being on the same page at times, Carr remains the starting quarterback entering the 2021 season.
The defense of the Raiders needs some work as they’ve had an extremely dismal defense in recent years. Playing in a division with Patrick Mahomes and Justin Herbert isn’t ideal, but Las Vegas would still love to see major improvements on defense in the upcoming season.
While the Raiders are hoping to see a winning season for the first time since 2016, here are five bold predictions for Las Vegas in 2021.
Bryan Edwards Leads All WR’s In Receptions On The Raiders
During the 2020 NFL Draft, the Raiders surprised some people by making Henry Ruggs the first wide receiver off of the board, ahead of guys like CeeDee Lamb, Justin Jefferson, and Jerry Jeudy. Ruggs would proceed to have a quiet rookie campaign, catching 26 passes for 452 yards and two touchdowns while the names above all had stellar rookie seasons.
While some fans may expect Ruggs to bounce back in his second year, Bryan Edwards is the second-year wide receiver in Las Vegas I believe leads team on the roster in receptions in 2021. Of course, I still think Darren Waller finishes as the top pass-catcher on the Raiders in the upcoming season.
Marcus Mariota Ends The Season As The Starting Quarterback
The Raiders are reluctantly moving forward with Carr as their starting quarterback in 2021. But as somewhat of a surprise, Las Vegas has kept ahold of Marcus Mariota, who remains the backup to Carr for the second straight season.
Carr isn’t a top-tier quarterback in the NFL and he isn’t the most athletic, even though he’s more mobile than other quarterbacks in the NFL. But with Carr being an underwhelming option, this could be the year that Gruden benches Carr in favor of Mariota before the season concludes. This could be the final year we see Carr operate as the starter of the Raiders.
The Offensive Line Allows 40+ Sacks
Over the course of the offseason, the Raiders overhauled their offensive line, ridding of Gabe Jackson, Rodney Hudson, and Trent Brown. Las Vegas has boasted one of the best offensive lines in recent seasons, so ridding of their marquee linemen is a head-scratching move for the Raiders.
Given the losses that the team underwent on the offensive line, we could see them allow 40+ sacks in 2021. The offense line in Las Vegas allowed fewer than 30 sacks in 2019 and 2020, but the changes they made on the offensive front could lead to more pressure from opposing defenses.
Raiders Total 20+ Takeaways On Defense
The defense of the Raiders has failed to consistently create takeaways in recent seasons. In the past two seasons combined, Las Vegas has totaled 30 takeaways on the defensive side of the ball. For comparison, the Miami Dolphins recorded 29 takeaways in 2020 as an entire defense.
While the Raiders haven’t been productive in creating turnovers, there is optimism due to their exciting secondary of Casey Hayward Jr., Travyon Mullen, Johnathan Abram, and Trevon Moehrig. The addition of Yannick Ngakoue to their defensive line should also help the cause.
Cory Littleton Records 130+ Tackles
Before the 2020 season, the Raiders brought in Cory Littleton and Nick Kwiatkowski in hopes to address their need at inside linebacker. Given Littleton’s athleticism, Las Vegas was hoping to get a sideline-to-sideline linebacker that would be a tackles machine and a solid cover linebacker. On the contrary, he struggled with 82 tackles, zero interceptions, and zero pass breakups in 2020.
In his two seasons prior with the Los Angeles Rams, Littleton had 125+ tackles, 2+ interceptions, and 9+ pass breakups in each season. Following a disappointing campaign in 2020, Littleton will bounce back to lead the team with 130+ tackles in 2021.