NFL - AFC WEST
2021-2022 TEAM LEADERS
Las Vegas Raiders
Las Vegas Raiders News and Picks
One of the biggest changes for the Raiders this offseason was at the offensive line. That was the direction of their first-round draft pick when they selected Alabama tackle Alex Leatherwood with the 17th overall pick. Trevon Moehring, a safety from TCU, was the Raiders’ second-round pick. Linebacker Malcolm Koonce was selected in the third round.
The 2020 season started off promising for the Raiders. They were 6-3 after a Week 10 win over the Broncos, and they’d recorded wins against each of their division rivals. But the next week, they lost in a shootout to Kansas City, they were dominated by a bad Falcons team, lost in overtime to the Chargers, and their 8-8 final record left them out of the playoffs once again. It was a disappointing end to what looked to be a run to the postseason back in October.
Tight end Darren Waller is an athletic freak and one of the best tight ends in football. He presents defensive matchup problems wherever he lines up. Running back Josh Jacobs is one of the best backs in football. A first-round pick in 2019, Jacobs has gone over 1,000 yards in each of his two NFL seasons. Still just 23 years old, Jacobs has yet to realize his full potential. Obviously, as the quarterback, Derek Carr is key to the success of the Raiders. But he’s often overlooked for his quality of play. He makes some controversial decisions, like throwing the ball away on fourth down. Carr also fumbles the ball too much. But he has three straight 4,000-yard seasons, and he hasn’t missed a start since 2017.
As good as Darren Waller is, the Raiders wide receivers have struggled. In come veterans, Willie Snead and John Brown, to hopefully spark the Raiders offense and to give second-year player Henry Ruggs vets to learn from. The shore up a lagging pass rush, defensive end Yannick Ngakoue signed for $13 million a season. The former Jag, Viking, and Raven has 45.5 sacks in five NFL seasons. And not wanting to run Josh Jacobs ragged – his 273 rushing attempts was the most for a Raider since 1994 – the Raiders added Kenyan Drake to their backfield. Drake rushed for 955 yards and ten touchdowns last season in Arizona.
As part of the wide receiver makeover, the Raiders said goodbye to Nelson Agholor and Tyrell Williams. Agholor signed for big money in New England, while Williams moved on to the Lions. One of the strengths of the team last season, the Raiders offensive line, is now a question mark. Right tackle Trent Brown is back with the Patriots after a trade, Pro Bowl center Rodney Hudson was traded to the Arizona Cardinals, and right guard Gabe Jackson was traded to the Seahawks. Denzelle Good takes over right guard, Andre James is the new center, and rookie Alex Leatherwood is the starting right tackle. Safety Lamarcus Joyner is now a New York Jet and tight end Jason Witten is once again retired.
The Raiders finished in fourth place in 2018, third place in 2019, and second place in 2020. But that same line of progression is very unlikely to continue in 2021. The Chiefs have a stranglehold on first place, and both the Chargers and Broncos have improved this year. It’s possible that the Raiders will finish in second place again. It’s also possible that they could finish back at the bottom of the division. If the Chargers Justin Herbert improves on his incredible rookie season and the Denver defense is as good as advertised, getting into playoff position in the AFC West will be a challenging proposition.
Las Vegas Raiders Team Offense
The offense hasn’t been a problem for the Raiders. As a unit, they ranked eighth in yards in 2020 and 10th in points scored. Derek Carr is more than serviceable at quarterback, and he should have another 4,000-yard season. Darren Waller is a star at tight end and is always a threat to have a huge game. And the backfield combo of Josh Jacobs and Kenyan Drake is going to be one of the best in the league this season. Expect another top-10 offense in Las Vegas.
Las Vegas Raiders Team Defense
As good as the offense was last year, the Raiders defense was worse. They finished 30th in points allowed and gave up at least 30 points in 10 games last season. There was no greater example of the defense killing the offense than when the Raiders scored 31 points against the Chiefs in Las Vegas, only to give up 35 points, including a game-winning touchdown to a wide-open Travis Kelce. There are a couple of new pieces in the secondary, but that’s a minor upgrade at best. The defensive line has Yannick Ngakoue and Solomon Thomas as new additions, and that should be better than the 2020 version.
Frequently Asked Questions
Probably not. He signed a 10-year, $100 million contract, and he’s only in year four. Fans will be unhappy if the team misses the playoffs yet again, but owner Mark Davis doesn’t have the money to buy out his contract.
Considering the Raiders were just 8-8, it’s surprising that based on 2020 records, they actually play a tougher schedule than the Chiefs. The Raiders schedule is the eighth hardest in the NFL. Of course, a part of that is facing the Chiefs twice.
If Yannick Ngakoue, Solomon Thomas, and Maxx Crosby can get to the quarterback, this defense will be much improved. If they all play like they did in 2020, this defense will remain a season-killing liability.
Allegiant Stadium is a year old, but for the first time, fans in Las Vegas (and visiting from around the league) will get a chance to see it. It seats 65,000 fans for football and cost $1.97 billion to build.