You have to give the Las Vegas Raiders credit. The 2021 NFL season has been a tumultuous one for the Raiders organization. Still, they’re sitting at 5-3 and in a great position to contend for the AFC West title. The leaders in the locker room have stepped up, especially quarterback Derek Carr. Darren Waller praised Carr for his leadership and details why he’s so valuable for Las Vegas.
The Raiders have battled adversity throughout the 2021 season
The fact that the Raiders are in the position they are is a testament to the leaders in the locker room. Many teams would fold if placed in a similar situation.
Las Vegas lost its head coach, Jon Gruden, after just five games. Gruden’s inexplicable actions brought plenty of negative attention to the franchise. Interim head coach Rich Bisaccia stepped in during a challenging transition period and coached this team to two straight victories over the Denver Broncos and Philadelphia Eagles.
The Raiders also lost two of their most recent draft picks. The team released former first-round wide receiver Henry Ruggs III after facing charges for driving under the influence resulting in death and reckless driving.
The team recently cut ties with former Ohio State cornerback Damon Arnette after a video surfaced of him brandishing a gun and making death threats.
Some teams don’t deal with this much controversy over the span of a few years. Somehow, the Raiders have to navigate all of this during the same season.
Players like Darren Waller and Derek Carr have stepped up to help Las Vegas push through.
Darren Waller praised Derek Carr’s leadership
Darren Waller is arguably the most talented player on the Raiders’ roster. As gifted as the Pro Bowl tight end is, he knows the team wouldn’t be 5-3 without quarterback Derek Carr.
Waller recently sat down with Pro Football Hall of Fame head coach Tony Dungy for NBC Sports’ Football Night in America. He spoke about Carr’s passion on and off the football field.
“Determination, grit, and intensity,” said Waller of the three-time Pro Bowl quarterback. “His intensity level has always been high. But this year, like, you see it in his eyes, and you just feel the vibe. He’s just on point with the way that he plays. We just know he’s going to go out there and be consistent and keep us all on the same page.”
Waller added that Carr’s energy is contagious and gives the rest of the team a major boost.
“He keeps us having fun but also gives us a motivational word or a kick in the butt when we need it,” he added. “He’s a very valuable leader and a valuable person for this team.”
Darren Waller and Derek Carr each bring something different to the table, but it’s clear that their presence has galvanized this Las Vegas Raiders football team.
Las Vegas has a legitimate chance to make the playoffs
The Raiders haven’t made the playoffs since 2016, and before that, they hadn’t been since 2002. For many years, this franchise was a doormat for the rest of the NFL, but it seems to have turned a corner.
Las Vegas is only eight games into the 17-game season, but the team is heading in the right direction. Though it’s been an up-and-down season, the Raiders have notched statement victories over the Baltimore Ravens and Pittsburgh Steelers.
The Raiders have a middle-of-the-pack offense, led by Derek Carr. While he hasn’t been elite, he’s been efficient. Carr has made the most out of a bad hand. It helps to have talents like Darren Waller and running back Josh Jacobs sharing the field with you. When healthy, Las Vegas can put points on the board.
Defensive coordinator Gus Bradley’s unit is on the cusp of being a top-10 defense. The Raiders’ defense is allowing 23.6 points and 340.6 yards per game. The strength of this unit is its elite pass rush, led by Maxx Crosby and Yannick Ngakoue. The duo has combined for 11 sacks through the first eight games.
The Raiders have a monumental Week 10 matchup against the Kansas City Chiefs on Sunday Night Football. If they win, they’ll be in sole possession of first place in the AFC West.
It’s a long season, but the Las Vegas Raiders should be proud of where they are and where they’re going.
All stats courtesy of Pro Football Reference.