After qualifying for the playoffs last fall for just the second time since 2002, the lights of Las Vegas have never been brighter for Josh McDaniels’ Raiders this season. A unit expected to compete within the arms race that is the AFC West, let’s dive into the roster to provide a clearer lens into a team looking for much more than a Wild Card round departure this year.
Off the jump, I get it, the Raiders look like they could be extremely fun this year. However, on paper, they have the most holes on either side of the ball in comparison to the other three teams in their division. I love the addition of wide receiver Davante Adams to pair with quarterback Derek Carr. Wide receiver Hunter Renfrow is a sneaky star. Tight end Darren Waller has become one of the top flex options in football. Running back Josh Jacobs has enjoyed success. And the edge duo of Maxx Crosby and Chandler Jones now should push the pocket all campaign long. But outside of those headliners, I have questions. After all, a high amount of jersey sales won’t win Lombardi trophies.
While having plenty of offensive weapons at his disposal, if Carr is on his back behind a front five that could prove to be the league’s worst, they won’t exactly matter. After finishing in the bottom half of sacks allowed in 2021 (40.0), fresh bodies are needed up front going forward.
On the defensive side of the ball, their depth at edge rusher behind Jones and Crosby is non-existent. If you are still banking on Clelin Ferrell working out, a hat tip to you, but it doesn’t look promising.
Behind them is a Raiders linebacking core headlined by Denzel Perryman, who did enjoy an above average 2021 season (154 tackles). But he doesn’t have much in the way of help with both Jayon Brown and hybrid athlete Divine Deablo starting alongside him. They are two players that will be asked to do a lot in Defensive Coordinator Patrick Graham’s unit. Brown will learn under live fire after switching to middle linebacker and Deablo is still getting his toes wet at the NFL level after appearing in just 26% of the defensive snaps in his rookie season.
In the secondary, starting corners Rock Ya-Sin and Trayvon Mullen Jr. won’t scare anyone and while I remain optimistic about Tre’von Moehrig’s development and the continued improvement of rookie Nate Hobbs, there are a ton of “what ifs” present to sort out this year.
That being said, if all comes to fruition, watch out. As long as Carr is under center, the Raiders have a shot.
Carr has been a resounding voice in the locker room that has led by example in each of the past eight seasons. The tandem of him and Adams is going to be the go-to ticket in Sin City. While the duos of Patrick Mahomes and Travis Kelce, and Justin Herbert and Keenan Allen, have headlined the division for the past few seasons, the two former college teammates in Carr and Adams have everything to gain in propelling Las Vegas past the Chiefs, the quickly improving Chargers and the Russell-Wilson-led Broncos this fall. A division title looks a tad far-fetched right now, but with newfound headlining faces on either side of the ball, Las Vegas has found themselves in a prime position to surprise in McDaniels’ debut tenure.