LAS VEGAS (KTNV) — We are days away from the first Monday Night Football game of the 2021 NFL season. Former Raider and current ESPN broadcaster, Louis Riddick, shares his thoughts on the 2021 season opener.
Tina Nguyen: What are some things you're watching for as we head into this Monday night matchup?
Riddick: You want to see how this revamp defense really looks for this football team for the Raiders. Because I think from an offensive perspective, you know, that, by large, all the key components come back. But I think the most important thing for the Raiders as far as their ability to contend in the AFC West is how does the defense look? How does Gus Bradley call the game? Can they rush the passer or can they stop the big plays on and on and on? So, I think that's where my focus will be.
Nguyen: Do you think that changing the defensive coordinator can be enough to upgrade this defense from last season?
Riddick: Yeah, I think it's a start, right? I mean, cause I think first and foremost, you have to have people on the same page that starts with communication. Communication starts with, the flow of information from the coaching staff down to the signal, callers down to the linebackers and safeties and then they just disseminate it from there. Gus is one of the great teachers of the game. He's been for a very long time. He has coordinated some very high level defenses, and that's really going to be what is expected of him right out of the gate.
Nguyen: The Raiders have not been to the playoffs since 2016. They've struggled to get over this hump over the last couple of seasons. So Louis, what do you think the Raiders need to do to right the ship this year?
Riddick: I think being efficient as far as putting the ball in the end zone is number one. I think being able to run the ball and pass the ball they get inside the red zone is something that Jon Gruden has made a point of emphasis since he came back to the Raiders and something that is a point of emphasis right now. Heading into this first game, when they get down inside the 20, make sure you score points, score touchdowns, more so than field goals. That will be key.
Nguyen: Do you think this is the year that the Raiders can make the playoffs?
Riddick: I think they better be in the playoffs for a lot of people. Although Mark Davis has a lot of affection and a lot of loyalty to Jon because his father did, too. We understand how important loyalty is, but in any sport and in many businesses, this is still a bottom line business. He needs to make it to the playoffs. They need to be the contender because that's why you're in the NFL as an owner. That's why you're in the NFL as a coach and as a general manager, to be a contender.
Nguyen: Will this Raiders defense be able to handle what the Ravens got cooking on the ground game?
Riddick: That's the fun part about this is that they're offensive rushing attack is so dynamic because of the fact that Lamar is such a, one of a kind transcendent type of athlete. Now, their run game has taken a hit recently with the injury to J.K. Dobbins who they lost for the season because of that last preseason game with the knee injury. But this offensive line is really kind of, it's in a state of flux in Baltimore. There's just a lot of different components to this run game this year, that for a first game, maybe won't be hitting on all cylinders and maybe that's something that Vegas can kind of capitalize on and take advantage of.