Team Caspules: Las Vegas Raiders

September 5, 2023

© Gary A. Vasquez-USA TODAY Sports

The Raiders entered last season with a ton of optimism. They were coming off a 10-7 campaign, despite having to endure a lot of turmoil. Rich Bisaccia replaced Jon Gruden during the season and helped guide Las Vegas to the playoffs, where the Raiders lost 26-19 to the eventual AFC champion Bengals.

Josh McDaniels entered the picture as the team’s new head coach, looking to springboard off that success during his first season in silver and black. It didn’t happen. Instead, the former Broncos head coach looked in over his head again, leading his team to a disappointing 6-11 season.

That led to a lot of changes this offseason. Most notably, Las Vegas made a change at quarterback. After nine seasons with the Raiders, Derek Carr is out; he’ll be replaced by Jimmy Garoppolo.

It’s a big gamble, as McDaniels wants to be reunited with a player he coached in New England. It puts both the head coach and the quarterback under a microscope.

Will it work? There are certainly plenty of doubters.

What to like about the Raiders…

  • Josh Jacobs is among the best weapons in the NFL. He led the league in rushing a season ago, racking up 1,653 yards on 340 carries, while also hauling in 53 receptions for another 400 yards. That’s more than 2,000 total yards from scrimmage, to go along with 12 touchdowns. He’s amongst the most-productive running backs in the league, a weapon that will help Las Vegas stay in every game.
  • The wide receiver room is loaded. DaVante Adams had 100 receptions for 1,516 yards during his first season in the desert, plus a league-high 14 touchdowns. He’s joined by Hunter Renfrow, a slot receiver who had 1,000 yards in 2021 and is trying to bounce back from an injury-riddled season. Plus, Jakobi Meyers was a nice free-agent addition, as he exceeded 800 yards in each of the last two seasons in New England.
  • Jimmy Garoppolo may not wow anyone with his physical skills or his stats, but the guy knows how to win. During his nine seasons in the NFL, the quarterback has compiled a 40-17-0 record. Winning two out of three starts is pretty impressive, as is his 87-to-42 touchdown-to-interception ratio. He doesn’t make mistakes. He makes just enough plays. And he helps his team win. That’s why Las Vegas went out and signed him.

What not to like about the Raiders…

  • The defense isn’t very good. Last year, Las Vegas finished ranked 28th on that side of the ball. It’s the main reason why the Raiders finished 6-11, as they simply couldn’t stop anyone. They gave up 24.6 points per game, putting a lot of pressure on their offense. To make matters worse, they forced an NFL-low 13 turnovers, so they weren’t helping to set up a short field or put points on the scoreboard.
  • The offense is in transition. Not only is Garoppolo replacing Carr at quarterback, but they also need to find someone to fill the void left by Darren Waller’s departure in the passing game. Josh Jacobs is a great player, but he’s unhappy with his contract status; he’s back on a one-year deal. That’s a lot of upheaval for a group that was flirting with being a top-10 offense a year ago.
  • Josh McDaniels might not be a very good head coach. Since starting his tenure with the Broncos with a 6-0 start, the Raiders head coach is just 11-28. That got him fired in Denver and might very well lead to the same thing in Las Vegas. He was a great coordinator in New England, especially with Tom Brady at quarterback, but has struggled almost everywhere else he’s been.

Steve Quinne’s Pick: Raiders under 6.5 wins (-130)

The Raiders have a brutal schedule. Not only do the play the Broncos, Chargers and Chiefs twice apiece, but they also have to go to Buffalo, Detroit and Miami. Las Vegas will host Minnesota, Pittsburgh and both New York teams. That’s a lot of playoff contenders on the docket, making it difficult to see how they’ll improve upon last year’s record. The decision to go with Jimmy Garoppolo will put Josh McDaniels squarely on the hot seat after just two seasons.