As Raiders fans eagerly await the start of training camp at the end of the month, they have lingering questions about their favorite team, including what the ramifications would be if the 2021 season goes south.
Here is a sampling of what arrived in this week’s Raiders mailbag:
Willie Gabel (@willieg21): If Raiders finish 6-11 or 5-12, does Mike Mayock get sacrificed while Jon Gruden’s seat warms for 2022?
VINCENT BONSIGNORE: The Raiders believe they have addressed the major issues that contributed to their second-half collapses over the last two years, specifically a defense that surrendered the third-most points in the NFL and was bottom three in creating sacks, turnovers and getting opponents off the field on third down. They genuinely believe a big step forward is possible.
As a result, the thought of taking a step back with a 6-11 or 5-12 finish is almost unfathomable. If that were to occur, there would be some serious soul searching, the kind that typically leads to changes.
Jon Gruden is going into his fourth year in charge and his third with Mike Mayock as his co-pilot. While there is frustration that things haven’t come together as quickly as some would have hoped, there is also an acknowledgment that the Raiders are trending in the right direction.
A losing season would represent a major departure from that positive momentum, and everything would be on the table in terms of addressing that.
Søren Nicolai Tordenskjold Andersen (@SorensLeif): Is Bryan Edwards flying under the radar? How many rookies can be legit starters this season? Can Javin White beat out the competition to be linebacker 4? Where will Tanner Muse play, safety or linebacker?
VB: Injuries sidetracked Bryan Edwards’ rookie year, but the team likes him and expects improvement provided he stays healthy.
Rookies Alex Leatherwood and Tre’von Moehrig are the projected starters at right tackle and free safety, respectively, but keep an eye on first-year defensive back Nate Hobbs, who is in the running at the slot cornerback position. Also, safety Tyree Gillespie and rush end Malcolm Koonce could push for rotational snaps.
The backup linebacker positions are wide open. The leading candidates — Javin White, Tanner Muse and rookie Divine Deablo — have virtually no experience. Muse is strictly a linebacker at this point.
The Raiders added veteran Darron Lee to alleviate that, but they need the youngsters to step up in training camp and show they can be relied on.
Brian Powers (@BPowNYC): Thoughts on Chargers defensive end Melvin Ingram still being available. Gus Bradley guy, very productive. That position has been one of our biggest weaknesses in the recent past.
VB: Ingram talked to some teams during the offseason, but it appears no one was willing to meet his contract demands. If you put yourself in Ingram’s shoes, you are probably waiting things out, letting teams get a good look at their rosters in training camp and hoping multiple teams decide they need a pass rusher and come calling.
If so, that could create a bidding war in which he gets closer to what he is seeking. Chances are, he lands with a team at some point this summer, but probably closer to the regular season.
Could the Raiders be in the mix? A lot depends on whether they see the necessary progress from rookie Malcolm Koonce and their other edge rushers.
Armando Reyes (@Raiderrey87): With Maxx Crosby and Yannick Ngakoue on the edge, what are the plans for Cle Ferrell under Gus Bradley?
VB: When Ferrell was healthy last year and before he was stricken with COVID-19, he was grading out among the top 12 defensive ends in football, according to Pro Football Focus. He finished the season at No. 16. By all measurements, he was the superior player to Crosby, even in pass-rush efficiency with a grade of 70.0 (out of 100) compared to 58.2 for Crosby.
In Crosby’s defense, he played hurt during some parts of the season and, frankly, played too many snaps. In fact, he played nearly 200 more snaps in 2020 compared to 2019, and that could have resulted in his diminishing returns.
That isn’t to slight Crosby as much as it is to point out Ferrell played well last year and his arrow continues to point upward. The addition of Ngakoue, a healthier Crosby and a continually improving Ferrell creates a nice situation for the Raiders, especially with Ferrell’s ability to slide inside on known passing downs, with Crosby or Ngakoue to the outside of him.
An educated guess would be Ngakoue and Ferrell the starting ends in the base defense, with Ferrell moving inside on passing downs, replaced by Crosby at end.