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Giants vs. Raiders: What to expect when the Las Vegas has the ball

QB Derek Carr is having a terrific season for Las Vegas

Philadelphia Eagles v Las Vegas Raiders Photo by Ethan Miller/Getty Images

After losing in Kansas City on Monday Night Football to the Chiefs, the New York Giants will host the Las Vegas Raiders, off of their BYE week, at MetLife Stadium in Week 9. Although it shocks many, the Raiders sit atop the AFC West at 5-2.

Las Vegas is in a prime position to seize their division with the Chiefs early struggles and the Chargers losing their last two games. The Raiders have won their only two games under interim head coach Rich Bisaccia, who took over after Jon Gruden resigned due to uncovered contemptible e-mails.

The offense of the Raiders hasn’t missed a step without Gruden, despite injuries to running back Josh Jacobs (chest) and star tight end Darren Waller (ankle), both of whom may return in week nine.

Quarterbacks

Quarterback Derek Carr is playing insanely good football this season; he has five games with more than 300 yards passing, and he ranks second behind Tom Brady in passing grade, per Pro Football Focus.

The Las Vegas offense is currently 10th in points per game with an average of 25. Carr has the team averaging 393 yards per game, ninth in the NFL, and the Raiders are second in passing yards per game - Carr averages 307 yards per game with his arm.

Carr has 180 completions on 266 attempts (67.7 percent) for 2,269 yards, 12 touchdowns, and 5 interceptions. He has quietly surpassed 4,000 yards in three straight seasons, and he’s on pace to do it once again. Carr’s yards per attempt so far in 2021 is 8.5, a solid jump from 7.9, which was his average the last two seasons.

In the NFL, Carr is third in completed air yards, fourth intended air yards, and fourth in total passing yards, all while being 12th in yards after the catch; translation, he’s throwing the ball deep! The notion that Derek Carr is a check-down machine - something that was perpetuated earlier in his career - is demonstrably false in 2021.

Carr has a bad throw percentage that ranks 27th in the NFL. His pressure rate is akin to the Lions’ Jared Goff, the Chiefs Pat Mahomes, and the Falcons’ Matt Ryan, so his pockets aren’t always clean. Through seven games, the eight-year veteran has impressed, and he’ll look to attack the Giants secondary deep with an interesting group of skilled position players.

Running backs

The Raiders have struggled to establish the run - an identity they attempted to cultivate in Las Vegas. General manager Mike Mayock selected Josh Jacobs to uphold this desired identity, but a rash of questionable offseason moves rendered the offensive line as a marginal unit.

The offense ranks 28th with an average of 85 rushing yards per game. Jacobs has been inefficient but missed the last game with a chest injury. Jacobs doesn’t have great holes to run through; he averages 2.2 yards before contact, but he’s not breaking many tackles, either.

Jacobs has one run of more than 12 yards this season (a 15-yard run in Week 1). He’s not overly explosive, and he’s not creating a lot of space. He’s still only 23 years old, but he’s averaging 3.4 yards per carry this season after averaging 3.9 last year. He just needs to do a better job with the marginal hand that he’s dealt.

Kenyan Drake and Jalen Richard are the other two running backs on the roster. Drake had issues with Gruden but has played well since Gruden’s departure. He has 18 carries for 93 yards and two touchdowns through the last two games; he also has 187 yards receiving and one touchdown catch.

Drake is explosive and is a solid backup to have behind Jacobs. He has done a solid job with Jacobs missing time, and he should earn more opportunities once Jacobs returns. Richard just came off Injured Reserve; he’s a passing downs back who is hard to corral in space. I expect to see him split time in third-down situations with Drake.

The Raiders aren’t afraid to use their fullback, Alec Ingold, as a receiver as well. This could be a bigger part of their game plan with Henry Ruggs III not being a factor anymore.

Wide receivers

2020 first-round wide receiver Henry Ruggs III was released by the Raiders after a reported DUI that resulted in the death of a person early on Tuesday morning. Just a tragic situation.

Ruggs III was the vertical threat of the team. This release will lead to more snaps for Zay Jones, who has only played 98 snaps this season for six catches, 115 yards, and a touchdown. Jones’ aDot (average depth of target) was comparable to Ruggs III, albeit with less opportunity.

Bryan Edwards, a second-year player out of South Carolina, will now be the de facto No. 1 receiver. Edwards is a talented player who has arguably been underutilized in this offense. Edwards also has a deep aDot of 14.9 yards. His workload is about to expand far beyond the 18 catches on 29 targets that he’s seen this season. He has 346 yards and a touchdown on those 18 targets.

The safety blanket for the Raiders’ offense is Hunter Renfrow - an excellent receiver who excels with finding voids in zone coverage. Renfrow has a short 6.7-yard aDot but consistently moves the chains. His 38 receptions (on 51 targets) leads the team, and he now leads the team in yards with 399 after the release of Ruggs III.

Willie Snead IV was recently released by the Raiders and is now with the Carolina Panthers. Expect someone to be added to the Raiders roster in the coming days.

Tight end

Darren Waller missed the last game with an ankle injury but should be full go for this Giants matchup. Waller is one of the best tight ends in the league; his production has been down - for him. Waller has 33 catches on 52 targets for 378 yards and 2 touchdowns. Waller is used all over the field; he aligns “inline” about 55 perent of the time with a 25 percent snap share in the slot.

Waller is a mismatch nightmare; I expect the Giants to put James Bradberry on him, similar to what they did in certain situations against Travis Kelce.

Foster Moreau had a great game without Waller against the Eagles; he caught six passes for 60 yards and a touchdown. He’s a competent backup tight end. He’s not an incredible athlete like Waller, but he’s a good player. I also expect more 12 personnel with no Henry Ruggs III, so expect to see a solid amount of Moreau.

Offensive line

Pro Football Focus has the Raiders offensive line ranked dead last in run blocking and 24th in pass blocking, which is really a testament to Carr’s ability to have this team at 5-2. The ineffectiveness on the offensive line makes the Raiders’ already questionable offseason moves of trading Trent Brown and Rodney Hudson even more maddening from a Raiders’ fan perspective.

Kolton Miller and Brandon Parker were the starting tackles against the Eagles while first-round tackle selection Alex Leatherwood moved to right guard. Miller and Parker are both incredibly long players. Miller is a great athlete who has developed into a solid technician at the tackle position.

Parker is a stiff player who should, theoretically, struggle against players like Azeez Ojulari. Leatherwood’s struggles on the right side led to Parker playing more in recent weeks, but Parker hasn’t been great, either. The right side of this line is exploitable.

John Simpson is the left guard, and he’s more of a mauler. Simpson and center Andre James are young players who should struggle with the Giants’ interior defensive line. The overall offensive line doesn’t create a lot of space for Josh Jacobs, and they’re not the best pass blocking team. The Giants could gain an advantage in the trenches when the Raiders have the football. That can be enhanced if this Giants’ secondary continues to play well as it did in the last two games.