The second Jon Gruden era in Oakland is off to a rocky start. The Raiders have taken early leads in both of their games to start the season, only to watch the opposition eventually pull out a win. In Week 1, it was the Rams that battered the Raiders during the second half, cruising to a win. In Week 2, it was the Broncos that rallied late to earn a 21-19 win over Oakland when, for the vast majority of the game, the Raiders appeared in total control.
A common thread in both losses is a general lack of pass rush, as the Raiders have only two sacks in two games, and per Football Outsiders’ adjusted sack rate (which takes sacks per pass attempt, adjusted for down and distance) they’re 29th in the league at 3.2 percent (league average is five sacks and a 6.7 percent adjusted sack rate).
Not having a good pass rush is generally a bad situation for any NFL team, given the nature of the league today. However, the optics for Oakland’s poor pass rush look even worse considering they traded one of the league’s premier pass rushers in Khalil Mack mere days before the season because they didn’t want to pay him. Mack has been terrorizing opposing quarterbacks for the Bears through two games, and for Raiders fans and the rest of the NFL viewing public, it’s impossible not to separate the two.
Gruden himself is really not helping his case when it comes to the perception of the Mack trade. It’s possible, depending on how the draft picks shake out, that in a few years this trade looks less like a disaster and a bit more like a fair trade. However, right now it looks bad and Gruden’s continued insistence on seeming befuddled by the Raiders’ poor pass rush and how to improve it only digs his hole deeper.