Week one is here. Josh Jacobs is back. Jimmy G. And Davante Adams are healthy. The offensive line is intact and looks much more in sync than a year ago. Michael Mayer is off the mend. Hunter Renfrow is healthy too.
Josh Jacobs ended his holdout and signed his contract, even though it took them weeks for him to sign basically the same contract that was offered before camp. Nonetheless, the Raiders lead offensive weapon is back in Silver and Black for this season at least.
The defense got Tyree Wilson some snaps. Marcus Peters was finally signed. Maxx Crosby looks as good as ever. The defensive line also added a couple of rookie defensive tackles as well signed a new starting linebacker and safety.
Vegas has even more hope for this season than last. It’s year two of the coaching staff. No new system or regime excuses.
Of course, everything seemed a little too quiet for RaiderNation. Chandler Jones was locked out of the facility and couldn’t reach any of the figureheads. He took to social media where he unfollowed the team and key players. Jones also went on a social media rant. He won’t play in Week One, according to reports.
It’s unclear why this all happened. Some say he is getting cut or traded. That’s weird given his replacement Tyree Wilson has been hurt all offseason. It’s even more weird considering Jones restructured his deal and added some years to the end of it. Wilson had limited reps in camp and preseason. He looks like he still needs to knock some rust off before it is fair to expect anything from him.
Vegas was hoping for a bounce back year with Jones. He also could be a great mentor for Wilson. So far it looks like the social media was a big misunderstanding, but who really knows? There’s speculation Jones could’ve been going through it mentally.
Nonetheless, the Raiders do not have time to get off to a slow start. They have two division games in the first four games. Their other two matchups come against a contending Buffalo team and rising Steelers team.
They’ll also have the NFC North and the Patriots in the stretch after that. No one is really sure what to expect from those teams but the Raiders aren’t that much more of a sure thing either. Vegas oddsmakers have the Raiders around the 5-7 win-total mark.
If the Raiders hope to upset that, it begins once again with running the rock. Last year, they did a great job riding Josh Jacobs as the lead back early and often.
Now, the offensive line should improve with some increased continuity. Only Alex Bars was let go from last year’s starters. You won’t see any tears here because he was by far the weakest link. Expect the offensive line to have improved push, particularly on the double teams.
Of course, Jacobs may or may not be in full form due to missing camp. Vegas also relied on Zamir White and company more. We should see them sprinkle in more backs by committee. That should also preserve Jacobs and keep defenses on their toes.
Further, the biggest move the Raiders made was replacing Derek Carr at QB. Jimmy G. Is surrounded by even more weapons as the Raiders added Jakobi Meyers, Austin Brate and Meyers. They also kept Hunter Renfrow, despite trading away Darren Waller.
The idea is that Jimmy G.’s playoff experience and decision making gets Vegas farther than Carr every did. However, I think that will really come down to the strength of the defense. Garoppolo has always had a stout defense aiding his gameplay.
The good news is, Vegas added Marcus Peters to the secondary. He’s a high level playmaker and plays the game with a high IQ. Peters is among the interception leaders since he entered the league. Vegas has not had a player that can create turnovers like that in awhile.
Moreover, the Secondary as a whole is looking a lot stronger. Nate Hobbs is healthy and the team signed Michael Epps fresh off a Super Bowl appearance with the Eagles. Trevon Moehrig is looking better after taking a step back last year. Rookie Jakorian Bennett and Chris Smith add some needed youth to the group. They also retained Brandon Facyson and David Lang for some veteran DB help. Amik Robertson could also help out at safety and corner.
Vegas’ biggest weakness is clearly the defense. There is a lot of talk about Devine DeAblo’s ascension into the starting linebacker role. He has battled injuries in the past. It remains to be seen what he can do. Robert Spillane is the other linebacker. He can be hit or miss. I’d still love to see them add more there. I’m not the biggest Luke Masterson or Amari Burney fan, even if they are both young. Masterson doesn’t have the coverage skills to stay on the field and Burney is super raw.
The defensive line will once again be anchored by Maxx Crosby. Bilal Nichols and Jerry Tillery were brought back after flashes last year. They both give the front some scheme flexibility. I think this group should be great getting off the ball. I just hope they can help out Crosby versus the pass and their linebackers in the run. Jones and Wilson should be an upgrade over Jones and Ferrell last year. Wilson has a lot more upside than Ferrell due to raw talent and tools. However, Wilson is probably even less developed than Ferrell.
If the defense can get after the passer and the secondary can convert some turnovers the Raiders should have a chance on every game. If they can’t stop the run though, they won’t be able to pound the ball and control the clock as easily as they would like. You have to earn the right to rush the passer by handling business versus the run on the first two downs.
Furthermore, Jimmy G. Has to be great on third down. Hopefully he’s healthy and not afraid to step up and scramble for a first down, unlike ghosts of Raiders past. It’s both a blessing and a curse that Jimmy G. Is not the deep ball thrower that Carr is. Yes, that means less highlight deep passes down field. It also means less cringe-worth sacks or dump off passes for no game. Garoppolo has to get the ball out quick so his playmakers can create big plays if they are not going to push the down the field.
All this is much easier when the Raiders have got starts and leads to sit on. It’s easy to sink and dunk when you come out with rhythms and execute. It’s easy to keep running the ball when you’re ahead on the scoreboard. It’s easier to sack the quarterback or jump routes for picks when opposing teams are playing catch-up. Therefore, this defense is really going to rely on the offense to put them in winning positions. Moreover, I think the offense will be better at capitalizing on field position and converting drives into points. The Raiders long struggled in the red zone under Carr. Converting in the red zone is Jimmy G.’s quickest path to showing he is an upgrade over Carr.
Vegas has a chance if the Raiders offensive line can continue the momentum it built last year and someone other than Crosby steps up in the pass rush. Strong trench play will be critical to the Raiders success, particularly early in the season.
Denver offers a strong matchup. The Broncos are a three-point favorite over the Raiders today. Jerry Jeudy and Courtland Sutton will give the Raiders’ rebuilt secondary a real test. The pass rush will be critical to helping the Raiders get the Broncos’ quick passing attack contained. The Denver offensive line improved by adding Mike McGlinchey at right tackle. They also added Ben Powers at guard. Lloyd Cushenberry and Garrett Bolles are both still there. There’s a lot of draft and free agency resources invested in the Denver offensive line.
On defense, Denver added defensive lineman Zach Allen. Overall, the Raiders have a good chance to establish themselves versus a rebuilt veteran defensive line in Denver. Dominating the Broncos defensive line would really help the Raiders start strong.
Either way, nobody wants to 0-1. There’s a lot of reasons to not have hope this season but there’s also just as many reasons the Raiders could have a great season. Vegas just needs to execute. Of course, we’ve been saying that the last 20 years. The losing has to stop. It is time the Raiders get back to excellence.
Shout out to Tom Brady who looks like he was always meant to wear Silver and Black. Brady always beat Manning, who has ties to the Broncos organization. Let’s hope the Raiders keep their streak versus the Broncos going.