Back in December, coming off an embarrassing 43-6 Week 12 loss to the Atlanta Falcons, the Las Vegas Raiders had a must-win game against the winless New York Jets to keep their playoff hopes alive. They responded in dramatic fashion with quarterback Derek Carr finding Henry Ruggs III for a late 46-yard touchdown and a 31-28 victory over New York.
The “Miracle in the Meadowlands” looked to be the shot in the arm that Las Vegas needed. However the Raiders then lost to the Indianapolis Colts in Week 13, the San Diego Chargers in Week 14, and saw their playoff chances evaporate for good following a Week 15 loss to the Miami Dolphins. Las Vegas, who began the season 6-3 and finished 2-5 have not made the playoffs since 2016.
With the current Las Vegas Raiders’ odds to win the 2022 AFC Conference are +2500 and +5000 to win the Super Bowl, the team needs to make some changes.
Defensive Changes Needed
Last season, quarterback Derek Carr led an offense that finished 10th in the NFL in scoring with 434 points. However only seven teams allowed more yards during the season than the Raiders and only two, the Jacksonville Jaguars and the Detroit Lions allowed more points. Las Vegas surrendered 29.8 points per game and according to general manager Mike Mayock lacks playmakers on all three levels of the defense.
The question is how will Maylock address this issue. The upcoming 2021 NFL Draft doesn’t appear to have any top-end talent defensive talent, particularly where the Raiders pick. It’s more likely that the Raiders will use free-agency. Given that Las Vegas was 30th in the league in totals sacks, it’s assumed that they will be all-in for an impact down lineman. There several proven pass rushers expected to hit the market, including Melvin Ingram, Yannick Ngakoue, Matt Judon, and most notably, J.J. Watt.
J.J. Watt Rumors
While it’s an unlikely destination, imagine how bright a three-time Defensive Player of the Year like J.J. Watt would shine in Las Vegas.
The initial assumption has been that Watt will join the Steelers to play with his younger brother. However, ESPN’s John Clayton, speaking on 93.7 The Fan radio in Pittsburgh, stated that the fact that Watt’s brother plays for the Steelers does not mean he is headed there, and indicated that Green Bay, Tennessee, and Buffalo were the front runners and that Las Vegas was a dark horse.
From a team perspective, both the Titans and Raiders would stand to benefit the most by acquiring Watt, but the Packers and Bills are closer to being contenders and that may be higher on Watt’s list than cashing a large paycheck.
While Watt is no longer the pass rusher he was in his prime, Jon Gruden loves veteran leadership. Watt would certainly be a strong addition to the Raiders. Expect Las Vegas to make more than a passing run at Watt.