After an offseason that featured one of the biggest moves by any NFL team, the Las Vegas Raiders looked like a team that could compete with the best of the AFC. Three weeks into the 2022 season, the Raiders are the only team without a win or even a tie. So what’s going on? The person who can be pointed to as the most obvious scapegoat is new head coach and offensive play-caller Josh McDaniels. In fact, after the Raiders lost their third straight game, this week to the Tennessee Titans, team owner Mark Davis had a closed-door meeting with his new head coach.
McDaniels had a good track record of calling plays on offense in his time as the Patriots’ offensive coordinator from 2012 until 2021, winning three Super Bowls with New England and being the architect of quarterback Mac Jones’ successful rookie year. When he came in as the Raiders’ new head coach, many expected him to help Las Vegas take the next step to become a perennial playoff team and possible Super Bowl contender. Leading the charge on offense would be freshly extended quarterback Derek Carr and his former college teammate, newly acquired elite receiver Davante Adams.
Things have not gone as McDaniels or the Raiders have hoped through three weeks. McDaniels’ new offensive scheme just isn’t working in Las Vegas.
Carr has the worst passer rating and completion percentage since his rookie season, albeit in a very limited sample size. His average depth of target has dropped half a yard this year from last year. Hunter Renfrow is getting fewer targets past five yards and hasn’t been as successful creating yards after the catch as a result. Adams has failed to be the field-stretcher the Raiders hoped for, and it has felt like Carr is trying to force the ball to the dynamic receiver even when he’s not always open. Tight end Darren Waller has had issues with dropped passes in costly moments. With all of the chaos in the passing offense, Mack Hollins, whom I tabbed in the preseason as a potential WR3 for the Raiders, leads Las Vegas with 240 receiving yards, just as everyone expected.
Meanwhile, the run game hasn’t gotten much of a chance to get going, whether because of the early game script, poor offensive line play—the Raiders have trotted out seven different offensive line looks in three weeks—or McDaniels’ insistence on passing. It seems that with all of the receiving weapons the Raiders have, McDaniels might be unwilling to run the ball as often as he should.
For example, in the Raiders’ brutal Week 2 loss to the Arizona Cardinals, Las Vegas led, 20-0, at the half. When they got the ball on the second drive of the half and were still up 20 points, they ran just once and passed twice in a three-and-out drive ending in a punt. Three drives later, still winning 23-7, Las Vegas passed three straight times in their first possession of the fourth quarter, another three-and-out that gave Arizona the ball back with 12 minutes left. The Cardinals went on to score in four minutes then tied the game two drives later as time expired before winning in overtime.
The offensive play-calling in that game absolutely deserves a heavy part of the blame. Why keep five running backs on the roster if you’re not going to run the ball in situations you’re supposed to run the ball?
Las Vegas has had plenty of defensive issues as well. There hasn’t been any production from big-name free agent signee Chandler Jones through three games, leaving fellow edge rusher Maxx Crosby’s two sacks as the only ones for the team this year. Meanwhile, the secondary has been struggling to stop the passing attack. Defensive coordinator Patrick Graham’s overly aggressive blitzing—which, as I’ve just noted, hasn’t created more sack production—has left a talent-needy cornerbacks group vulnerable. As a result, the Raiders are giving up the seventh-most passing yards per game (267) of all NFL teams.
McDaniels has to make some big adjustments going forward to avoid wasting the potential of the team he has in front of him. This is a team that was in the playoffs last year but is now the only 0-3 NFL team. Luckily for Las Vegas, they’ve got more winnable matchups to come against Denver (McDaniels revenge game, anyone?) and Houston after their Week 6 bye. If the proper adjustments aren’t made though, even the winnable matchups could become losses.
McDaniels doesn’t deserve to be on the hot seat quite yet. Carr also struggled immensely in the first year of Jon Gruden’s second stint as the Raiders’ head coach, and there’s still time to right the ship. The important thing is that McDaniels does right the ship in time with all of the potential the roster has, or he may once again be out of a head coaching gig in just two years.
- Dec 07, 2022
- Dec 07, 2022