Schedule: @CAR, NO, @NE, BUF, @KC, BYE, TB, @CLE, @LAC, DEN, KC, @ATL, @NYJ, IND, LAC, MIA, @DEN
Additions: LB Cory Littleton (FA), EDGE Carl Nassib (FA), LB Nick Kwiatkowski (FA), QB Marcus Mariota (FA), S Jeff Heath (FA), DL Maliek Collins (FA), TE Jason Witten (FA), S Damarious Randall (FA), WR Nelson Agholor (FA), WR Henry Ruggs (Draft), CB Damon Arnette (Draft), RB/WR Lynn Bowden (Draft), WR Bryan Edwards (Draft)
Losses: EDGE Benson Mayowa (FA), CB Daryl Worley (FA), LB Tahir Whitehead (FA), S Karl Joseph (FA), RB DeAndre Washington (FA), WR Tyrell Williams (Injury)
Remember two years ago when Raiders fans were literally counting down the days until Jon Gruden was gone? While that site is awesome, the perception around Chucky come a long way since then. Leading the team to a three-win jump from his first season helped put an end to the articles calling for his head. So did the move to Las Vegas.
Did you know the Raiders moved to Las Vegas? Of course you did. Every article or video you see about the team is required to mention it at least twice.
I’m sure a lot of Raiders fans are expecting another sizable jump in 2020, but I don’t see it. Let’s not forget that they finished with an abysmal -106 point differential despite their average record. Or that their best win came against an 8-8 Bears team starting Chase Daniel at quarterback. While fans will be disappointed by an unchanged record, I think they’ll be a much more legitimate 7-9 this time around.
Anyone who’s been following me for a while knows I’ve been high on Josh Jacobs from day one. After hitting the ground running as a rookie, I think he takes another step forward in year two. This season, the Raiders might actually throw him the ball. Despite a huge year on the ground, Jacobs was only targeted 27 times, catching 20 and totaling 166 yards. Gruden said himself that they want to get him more involved. Draft this man in fantasy with confidence.
The Alabama product also has the benefit of a great offensive line. PFF doesn’t love them, but they rank very highly in most offensive line metrics. Just use the eye test, too. That line is full of big, mean dudes who move people off the ball. Las Vegas spent a lot on this group, and they’ve gotten a great return on their investment.
Ground and pound is this team’s identity, partially because the quarterback and receiving options are so lackluster. I actually like Derek Carr, but it’s clear the Raiders don’t view him as the future. Marcus Mariota isn’t, either.
With Tyrell Williams out for the season, the receivers aren’t much better. Las Vegas is relying on Hunter Renfrow, Nelson Agholor, Zay Jones, and three rookies. One of those rookies is insanely fast and was the 12th pick this year, but the point stands. I’m worried about rookies this year, and even in a normal season, this group wouldn’t be great. The Raiders do have a talented and deep tight end room, though. Darren Waller is the best receiving option on the team.
Defensively, Las Vegas was great against the run and terrible against the pass. After a sizable offseason overhaul, the latter should see improvement. Cory Littleton and Nick Kwiatkowski will be much better in coverage than last year’s linebackers. That doesn’t say much, but the duo has potential. Littleton is excellent while Kwiatkowski was great down the stretch last season. 2020 will be his first season as a full-time starter, so we’ll see if that was just a mirage.
Carl Nassib will boost a pass rush that totaled just 32 sacks last year. I love him as a third end. A breakout from Clelin Ferrell will go a long way, too. A 2019 first-rounder, he was upstaged badly by fourth-rounder Maxx Crosby (10 sacks). I’m a little skeptical of Crosby repeating that total considering 4 of those sacks came in one game and he only had 14 qb hits. Still, those three are a nice young edge group. If this is the year the “inevitable” Arden Key breakout finally happens, they’ll be better than just nice.
On the inside, Maliek Collins is the most notable example of the Raiders’ obsession over former Cowboys. He’ll join Johnathan Hankins and Maurice Hurst to form an excellent interior trio.
Once again, I got unbelievably lucky with timing. Just as I was starting the secondary section, I got the alert that Damon Arnette broke his thumb. It’s too early for details on his season outlook, but he was so impressive in camp that the Raiders released Prince Amukamara. The rookie was expected to start across from 2019 second-rounder Trayvon Mullen while Lamarcus Joyner handled the slot.
Starting safety Johnathan Abram is intriguing after only playing 48 snaps as a rookie. He’ll start next to free agent signing Damarious Randall with The Goat Jeff Heath hopefully getting some time as well. I didn’t love the secondary to begin with, and Arnette’s makes me even more skeptical. They won’t get torched like last year, but expecting above-average play might be too optimistic.
The Raiders are one of the teams I’m most interested to watch this season. They have playoff potential, yet too many weaknesses to actually predict a postseason berth. Their schedule is perfect, at least from an analyst perspective. Instead of a cupcake slate like fans would hope for or a murderer’s row like rivals would, they get a bunch of similarly-talented teams, including two in their own division. By the end of the year, we’ll know how Las Vegas stacks up.
What’s your record prediction for the Raiders? What did I get right or wrong? Sound off in the comments.