Inside the Raiders’ Closed-Door Meeting: How Davante Adams Sparked Turnaround

Davante Adams

Getty Las Vegas Raiders WR Davante Adams

Welcome to Heavy In The Trenches, a weekly Wednesday column by Heavy’s NFL insider Matt Lombardo, bringing you insight on the latest storylines and rumblings around the league. You can follow Matt on Twitter @MattLombardoNFL.

For the Las Vegas Raiders, something needed to change. Drastically.

After opening the season with legitimate Super Bowl aspirations, the Raiders entered Sunday afternoon’s tilt with the AFC West rival Denver Broncos at 0-3, amid a string of heartbreaking losses that had Vegas’ season on the brink.

That’s when All-Pro wide receiver and 2022 newcomer Davante Adams had seen enough.

“We had a captains’ meeting when we got back from that last game on the road,” Adams said, during an October 4 appearance on Heavy’s The Matt Lombardo Show.

Adams, who has appeared in 11 postseason games during his time with the Green Bay Packers, stood up and spoke out in the captains’ meeting. So, too, during subsequent meetings leading up to Sunday’s game against the Broncos.

His message was clear.

“It was all about accountability,” Adams, who appeared on behalf of Tide, told Heavy. “And some of the things that were acknowledged earlier in the week. It was a different intentionality that was brought to practice. We realized that our record didn’t, and still doesn’t quite yet, reflect that. But, we have a great roster. So, we just had to figure out whatever it is … Were we playing hard enough?

“I think when everybody started to get a little bit more real, locked in on their assignments, and discipline, that’s the result you’ll get, being able to go out there and get wins against good teams. That’s the standard. That’s how we expect to operate going forward.”

After imploring more from his teammates, Adams busted a personal slump, catching 9 passes for 101 yards, as the driving force in a 32-23 victory.

Las Vegas’ early-season struggles are far from the outlier, in what has been an underwhelming showing from a division many expected to be the most competitive in football.

Back in the preseason, there was a legitimate belief inside the league and out, that the AFC West could send as many as three teams to the NFL Playoffs. After the season’s first month, the 1-3 Raiders are the only team under .500 in the division, but trail the Kansas City Chiefs by just two games for the division lead, with a major opportunity staring them in the face.

If the Raiders are to turn their season around, it has to begin in Week 5 in a monumental Monday Night Football showdown in Arrowhead Stadium, against those very Chiefs.

After this Monday night date with Patrick Mahomes, Travis Kelce and the high-flying Chiefs, the Raiders have the chance to make up some ground following a Week 6 bye. When Vegas returns from the early off week, they’ll host the Houston Texans, travel to take on the New Orleans Saints and Jacksonville Jaguars, before closing this upcoming five-game opportunity with the rudderless Colts back in Sin City.

Finish that stretch 4-1, and opportunities are abound for the Raiders to make a strong second-half push.

Wherever the Raiders go from here, there’s a real chance that their season was sparked by Adams stepping into a leadership role.

During those meetings as Las Vegas reached a crisis point, Adams’ emergence as a culture driver, in addition to his ability as the offense’s driving force, may prove to be just what the Raiders needed.

“We had a couple of meetings with the coaches,” Adams pointed out. “I had the opportunity to talk to the team and address a few things; not calling anybody out, but calling on everybody to bring a little bit more.

“Especially as far as the time spent on studying, helping someone else, or being more locked in the moment and in these games. So, now we can acknowledge the reasons we were losing, can change it, and be a team that’s a really solid team.”

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How Cooper Rush Is Stabilizing the Dallas Cowboys

Jerry Jones asked for a quarterback controversy, and at the very least, the Dallas Cowboys have found an insurance policy.

“If he comes in and plays as well as Prescott played,” Jones told reporters in the days prior to Cooper Rush’s Monday Night Football start against the New York Giants. “I’d walk to New York to get that.”

With Dak Prescott sidelined since the second half of the Cowboys’ season-opener against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers with a fractured thumb that required surgery, Cooper Rush has been a calming presence and a consistent game-manager for Dallas’ offense.

Rush is now unbeaten in his three starts, completing 60.8% of his passes for 737 yards with 4 touchdowns, is averaging 7.2 yards per attempt, on his way to producing a 93.9 passer rating.

“[Cooper] is going out there and just playing within the offense,” a Cowboys team source told Heavy, on the condition of anonymity to speak freely about Rush. “He’s not trying to do too much, and most importantly, he’s stacking smart decisions with the football.”

Sunday against the Washington Commanders, and for the most part since Rush stepped into the starting role, the Cowboys have been meticulous about putting their backup quarterback in position to succeed.

Rather than forcing the ball downfield, Rush has feasted on screens to running backs Tony Pollard and Ezekiel Elliott, which has opened up opportunities for CeeDee Lamb, Michael Gallup and Noah Brown, who took backup reps with Rush in practice, in the moments the Cowboys do go vertical.

The offense hasn’t been perfect, and Rush may not have the upside Prescott brings, but he has managed the game plan flawlessly, played within the system, and delivered the consistent results the Cowboys have needed to survive and advance the past three weeks.

Rush’s future with the Cowboys is certainly complicated by Dallas’ commitment to Prescott. And Prescott’s $49 million cap number in 2023.

However, for a team in the throes of a division race with the Philadelphia Eagles in the NFC East, but a roster with plenty of holes to fill if it is ever going to climb another rung up the championship ladder, Rush could be a valuable trade commodity, as well.

Although, some inside the league are skeptical.

“I don’t think he really has much trade value at all,” an NFC personnel executive told Heavy, on the condition of anonymity to discuss a player from another team. “He’s played well, but this really feels like another media darling quarterback situation.”

Whether the Cowboys try to cash in on Rush as the NFL trade deadline approaches on November 1, are even able to, or are instead content to move forward with one of the strongest backup quarterback situations in the league remains to be seen.

But, Jones should probably start shopping for comfortable walking shoes.

NFL Power Rankings Week 5

1. Philadelphia Eagles (4-0)

2. Buffalo Bills (3-1)

3. Kansas City Chiefs (3-1)

4. Baltimore Ravens (2-2)

5. Green Bay Packers (3-1)

6. Cincinnati Bengals (2-2)

7. San Francisco 49ers (2-2)

8. Miami Dolphins (3-1)

9. Los Angeles Rams (2-2)

10. Tampa Bay Buccaneers (2-2)

Quote of The Week

“I trust Jalen. I trust Jalen. I trust Jalen, right, because he’s going to be touching the ball every single time.” — Philadelphia Eagles head coach Nick Sirianni, on quarterback Jalen Hurts, via NBC Sports Philadelphia

Sirianni’s about-face in Week 4 against Jacksonville, overcoming a 14-0 deficit to a punchy and talented Jaguars team, may be the most impressive line on the Eagles’ 2022 resumé. But Jalen Hurts‘ evolution as a quarterback is one of the most significant headlines of the 2022 season.

Hurts leads the NFL in yards per attempt (9.1), is fifth in the NFL in passing yards (1,120) and has shown marked improvement in his decision-making from the pocket and his patience on when to run. He has a stranglehold on that locker room from a leadership standpoint, in his second season as the Eagles’ starting quarterback.

It is now obvious that Sirianni has seen real growth in Hurts, as well. Especially after deciding to go for it on 4th down 11 times, 3rd most in the league, while converting on 63.6% of those tries. Likewise, Hurts has rewarded Sirianni’s faith by knowing when to slide, when to get down, when to avoid contact, to live to play another day.

As Senior Bowl Executive Director Jim Nagy recently pointed out, Hurts has shown consistent growth and evolution as a quarterback, be it from his time at Alabama to his time at Oklahoma, his workouts at the Senior Bowl to throwing at the NFL Combine, to his growth through his first three NFL seasons.

Hurts is a key cog in the undefeated Eagles’ Super Bowl hopes this season, and Sirianni’s trust in allowing the 24-year-old to continue growing and maturing as a passer just might prop Philadelphia’s window open for years to come.

Final Thought

San Francisco 49ers defensive coordinator DeMeco Ryans is going to be a head coach during the NFL’s next hiring cycle.

Monday night against the defending conference champion, and vaunted Los Angeles Rams, Ryans was the architect of a game plan for the ages.

Armed with All-Pros Nick Bosa and Fred Warner, free agent pickup Haason Ridgeway, and a menacing front-seven, Ryans unleashed an onslaught of relentless pressure on Matthew Stafford. By the fourth quarter, Ryans had the Super Bowl-winning quarterback seeing ghosts, and sensing pressure in his face even when it wasn’t there.

Ryans stunted Bosa up the middle. Ran outside game with Ridgeway. And he sent the house all night long.

By night’s end, Ryans’ 49ers defense sacked Stafford seven times, safety Talanoa Hufanga returned an interception 52 yards for a touchdown, and San Francisco ran away with a 24-9 statement of their arrival in the playoff chase.

Ryans’ former teammate with the Eagles, cornerback Nolan Carroll, vividly remembers Ryans taking him under his wing, and the ferocity he brought to Philadelphia’s defense during their time together from 2014 through 2015.

“DeMeco is a true leader,” Carroll told Heavy. “He was always calm. I never really saw him get angry. He had this way of getting you hyped up, but always motivating you to play for him.”

Fast forward seven years and it is easy to see that leadership rubbing off on Ryans’ 49ers defense.

In February 2022, Ryans interviewed for the Minnesota Vikings and Las Vegas Raiders head coaching vacancies, and while he did not land a top job this past hiring cycle, what the 38-year-old put on film against the Rams combined with the way his players respond and buy in on a snap-by-snap basis, will make him a favorite this upcoming year.

“I’m not surprised at all by what he’s doing,” Carroll said. “He was given the keys to run that defense in Philly. He got to learn more as an assistant coach under Chip Kelly. Then, he took over and they have the right pieces in place.

“If San Francisco continues this success, I see him getting a head coaching job next year.”

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