4 keys to a Raiders victory vs. Dolphins

Raiders defense
Sep 13, 2021; Paradise, Nevada, USA; Las Vegas Raiders cornerback Casey Hayward Jr. (29) celebrates a touchdown with teammates against the Baltimore Ravens at Allegiant Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports

The Las Vegas Raiders host the Miami Dolphins at Allegiant Stadium tomorrow for a 1:05 p.m. kickoff. The Raiders are looking to win its first home game against Miami in 25 years when the Silver and Black defeated the Dolphins 17-7 at the Oakland-Alameda County Coliseum in 1996. Here are 4 keys to a Raiders victory and remain undefeated:

Utilize the fans

Two weeks ago, the Raiders played in front of their first sold out crowd at Allegiant Stadium to kick off the 2021 season on Monday Night Football. All 61,756 were treated to a thrilling game as the Raiders defeated the Baltimore Ravens 33-27 in overtime.

Following that game, players and coaches were talking about how the fans gave them the energy and belief to pull out the win.

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Aug 29, 2021; Santa Clara, California, USA; Las Vegas Raiders head coach Jon Gruden walks onto the field before the start of the game against the San Francisco 49ers at Levi’s Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Cary Edmondson-USA TODAY Sports

Head coach Jon Gruden told the media on Friday this team needs the fan support for tomorrow’s game.

“Excited to play at home, especially when you have a stadium like that and fans like we have,” Gruden said. “So, we expect a great atmosphere. We just want to deliver for them. That’s our number one goal. It’s not going to be easy. We need all the fans to help that we can get.”

The defense needs the energy to give them the extra motivation to make a stop on third down or a critical fourth-and-short play late in the ball game, especially when the Raiders are playing a team that will not have its starting quarterback in your home stadium.

2. Running backs need to find groove

On the injury report, lead running back Josh Jacobs is doubtful to play due to an ankle injury.

4 keys
Sep 13, 2021; Paradise, Nevada, USA; Las Vegas Raiders running back Kenyan Drake (23) runs the ball against the Baltimore Ravens during the second half at Allegiant Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports

That means, the duo of Kenyan Drake and Peyton Barber will have to step up in his absence once again.

In addition, with Dolphins cornerbacks Xavien Howard and Byron Jones guarding some of pass catchers, such as wide receiver Henry Ruggs, the running backs have to step up.

Through Las Vegas’ first two games, the Raiders running backs have combined for 46 rushing attempts for only 134 yards. That totals up for only 2.9 yards per carry.

Gruden said the rushing attack has to improve, from both the running backs themselves, but also the blockers.

“We feel pretty good, honestly,” Gruden said. “We’ve got to get them some better looks in the running game. We misfired on some assignments. We’ve got to play better. We have to run the ball better collectively. It’s not just the back and his statistical data. We have to block better. We have to call better plays. We have to execute better and running the ball the first couple of weeks has been obviously not good enough.”

3. O-line needs to continue to improve

Although the offensive line is not as proven and has as much experience compared to units in previous years, the Raiders still need to provide the protection and open gaps for the running backs. Among the offensive line unit, one player who remains out is left guard Richie Incognito, who has been dealing with a calf strain since training camp.

4 keys
Photo:Las Vegas Raiders

“I don’t think we’re being cautious,” Gruden said. “I don’t think there’s been a setback. It’s just a calf strain. It’s just taking time and he won’t play this week.”

As a result, John Simpson and Jermaine Eluemunor has replaced both Incognito and Denzelle Good, who tore his ACL during the Week One game against the Ravens.

Gruden said everyone, including the offensive line, such as Eluemunor and Simpson, has to improve as the season progresses.

“We have to play better,” Gruden said. “We’ve got to keep getting better. They’re both doing some good things, but we all have to do better. We have to coach better. We all have to do better Miami is going to force us to do that if we want to win. ”

4. Continue to distribute the ball

One of the keys behind quarterback Derek Carr’s success in 2021 is that he is not throwing the ball to just one pass catcher. He is finding different players at different moments in the game.

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Sep 19, 2021; Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, USA; Las Vegas Raiders quarterback Derek Carr warms takes the field before playing against the Pittsburgh Steelers at Heinz Field. Mandatory Credit: Philip G. Pavely-USA TODAY Sports

Carr, who leads the NFL in passing yards through two the season’s first two weeks, is at his best when he finds different guys on a drive. Sunday’s first touchdown drive is a perfect example.

In the third quarter against the Pittsburgh Steelers, he found Bryan Edwards for an 18-yard gain. Next, he threw it to Drake for nine yards. Two plays later, he found Hunter Renfrow followed by a long pass to Ruggs. and ended the drive on a touchdown pass to tight end Foster Moreau.

By throwing the ball to different receivers and tight ends, the defense will not know who will get the ball and what the next play will be between a run or pass, especially against a Miami defense, who was tied with three other teams with an NFL-leading 18 interceptions in 2020.  

We know tight end Darren Waller will get his targets, but the more Carr utilizes his receivers, the more potent the offense will be.

The Dolphins and Raiders kickoff at 1:05 p.m. The game will be televised on CBS.