The Raiders 2018 couldn't have gone much worse. Jon Gruden won just four games to start his second tenure as Raiders head coach. That wasn't the start many expected for Gruden and these Raiders, who entered the 2018 offseason with lofty expectations. They weren't met on the field, which is all we're focused on for this report card.
Analysis of Gruden's controversial trades, cuts and personnel moves are fodder for another piece. The football product was obviously hurt after trading Khalil Mack and Amari Cooper. It wasn't as good when Gruden was formally set on a full-scale rebuild.
Let's grade out how the Raiders fared during a 4-12 campaign in his 2018 season report card:
The Raiders featured two old running backs who found old form this season. Marshawn Lynch was the first, running with great power and force until a groin pull shut his season down after Week 6. Doug Martin picked up the mantle at that point and ran well but not excellent until the final two games. Jalen Richard proved a perfect match for Jon Gruden's offense, and will be featured prominently in both the run and pass. Martin's expected back – Lynch seems less likely, though he's an enigma -- though a new back could be added to the mix. Having so many injuries at guard hurt the ground game, which wasn't steady enough to be truly effective.
Derek Carr started slower than he'd like in his first season working with Jon Gruden, but his performance improved with his comfort level. He went 322 passes without an interception, and posted his first 4,000-yard season in 2018. He was sacked 51 times thanks to a shaky offensive line with two rookie tackles. He was constantly cycling through receivers, due to injury and the Amari Cooper trade, and finished with Jared Cook, Jordy Nelson and not much else. The Raiders finished 18th at 234 yards per game through the air, which was unspectacular at best. The passing game disappeared at times, though three of the team's four wins were earned by Carr heroics. Gruden's complex system still works, even though it calls for more check downs and short passes than fans would like.
The Raiders finished 30th against the run, which could be considered a high mark after spend most of the season dead last defending ground attacks. The Raiders were awful on the interior, especially before Justin Ellis returned off IR, and struggled to consistently set a proper edge. Linebackers missed two many tackles, and cornerbacks allowed rushers to break big plays outside. Opponents were able to run steadily, and make big runs that changed games. This was a major defensive defect that severely hurt the team's chance to win.
The Raiders secondary became a team strength as the season wore on, with improved play from Gareon Conley and Daryl Worley. Karl Joseph came on strong near season's end, improving a position group that was considered a weakness earlier in the year. Reggie Nelson was a liability before going on injured reserve, though Erik Harris was solid at free safety and Marcus Gilchrist was just okay filling several roles in the secondary.
While the back end was okay, the pass rush was awful. The Raiders finished with a franchise-low 13 sacks this season, and were dead last in total quarterback pressures. Life was tough with Khalil Mack traded and Bruce Irvin ineffective before being cut. Too much was put on Arden Key and Frostee Rucker off the edge, leaving the Raiders lacking in this area.
Daniel Carlson set a franchise record for field goal conversion percentage, and seems to be a long-term answer at the kicker spot. The jury's still out on punter Johnny Townsend, who struggled in his rookie season. The Raiders brought several special teams coverage guys in via free agency, including Keith Smith and Kyle Wilber. It's tough to say they made a grand impact in those areas.
The on-field product wasn't good enough to win games, with a talent disparity so lopsided the Raiders lost nine games by 14 points or more, and were outscored by 177 points this season. That's awful. That's non-competitive and unacceptable by any standard. Gruden and defensive coordinator Paul Guenther are talented play callers and play designers, but didn't have the talent required to get either unit play up to a professional standard. There was improvement as the season progressed, but still not enough to be in many games.
The Raiders must add several new pieces to the offense and defense in 2019 to be more competitive against quality and even average competition.