After 59 years in California, the Las Vegas Raiders now start a brand journey in the state of Nevada. They would wrap up their last season in Oakland with a 7-9 overall record which was tied with the Denver Broncos for second in the AFC West behind the Kansas City Chiefs. Head coach Jon Gruden is now entering his third year of a 10-year, $100 million dollar contract and continues to help build this team into a playoff contender.
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It has been three years since Derek Carr powered his Raiders to a 12-4 record and got them into their first playoff appearance in more than a decade. However, three years later and Carr’s grace period seems to have run out. Raiders management made a number of important moves at the wide receiver and quarterback position this past offseason both through free agency and the NFL draft.
Firstly, former Tennessee Titans starting quarterback Marcus Mariota was signed to a two-year, $17.5 million contract. $10 million dollars of which is tied up in incentives. How will Carr respond is the question. For the first time in his career with the Raiders, Carr has a legitimate threat to his job in Mariota.
During the NFL draft, Mike Mayock would target the wideout position right from the outset. With teams first pick, they sniped Henry Ruggs III with the 12th selection. Ruggs, who is well-regarded as the quickest receiver to have come out of the 2020 draft. Consider, Ruggs topped all players at the NFL Combine with a time of 4.27 in the 40-yard dash. He should be able to give Carr that home-run threat he’s been craving since Amari Cooper‘s departure. Bryan Edwards would be drafted with the team’s fourth selection, adding even more potential firepower to what is already a beefed-up offensive attack. In his 2019 campaign, Edwards would finish eighth in SEC receiving yards.
Carr led an offense in 2019 that ranked 26th in the NFL in points scored per game. His offensive output last season was certainly a mixed bag, as he would finish a respectable eighth in total passing yards along with a mediocre 19th in passing touchdowns. Tight end Darren Waller would go onto to have a career year, as he would lead all Raiders in receiving yards. In order to add some depth behind Waller, the Raiders would go out and get longtime Dallas Cowboys tight end, Jason Witten. After coming out of retirement in 2019, Witten would produce over 500 yards receiving and four touchdowns with the Cowboys last season.
After playing his first five seasons with the Philadelphia Eagles, Nelson Agholor now joins the Raiders. Agholor would agree to just a one year deal at just over a million dollars. His best season was in 2017 where he would rack up eight receiving touchdowns and 768 yards on 95 total receptions. Hunter Renfrow was one of the more underrated weapons last season for the Raiders receiving group. Selected in the fifth round in 2019, Renfrow would finish third on the club in both yards receiving and touchdowns through the air. Expect him to build upon his rookie season and potentially increase his red zone touchdowns this season.
Running back Josh Jacobs would top 1,000 yards rushing in his debut season, which broke the record set by Marcus Allen for most rushing yards by a Raiders rookie. Jacob’s will be looking to greatly improve upon his 20 receptions from a season ago. The Raiders would add Kentucky running back Lynn Bowden Jr early in the draft. A true dual-threat during his time as a Wild Cat, Bowden played a number of positions both on the offensive and defensive side of the ball. After combining for 21 rushing attempts in his first two seasons with Kentucky, he would explode for 185 attempts along with over 1,800 yards from scrimmage.
As a club, they finished 19th and 23rd respectively in yards and points allowed per game. Tahir Whitehead was the commander on the defensive side last season. He was the only player on the defense that started all 16 games. Whitehead led all Raiders in solo, assisted, and combined tackles. Whitehead has now since left for the Carolina Panthers, having been signed to a one-year deal.
The Raiders would make a number of key defensive signings in off-season free-agency. This included Carl Nassib, defensive end, Maliek Collins, defensive tackle, along with a pair of linebackers in Nick Kwiatkoski and Cory Littleton. Just two seasons ago Littleton was the leading tackler for the Los Angeles Rams in their Super Bowl meeting against the New England Patriots. Kwiatkoski joins the Raiders after four seasons with the Bears. Kwiatkoski would have a career season in 2019, in which he would produce 76 combined tackles in eight total games played. He will be slated to start at the weakside linebacker position.
After missing out on Eli Apple, the Raiders would bring in safety Damarious Randall. In Randall’s previous two seasons with the Cleveland Browns, he produced four interceptions, 15 defended passes, three quarterback hits, and 146 total tackles.
With the club’s second and fifth picks in the draft, they targeted a pair of defensive players, selecting cornerback Damon Arnette and linebacker Tanner Muse out of Clemson. Some called the Arnette pick a reach, having been selected just seven spots after Ruggs, however the Raiders had a glaring hole to fill at corner position. In his four years at Ohio State, he allowed just a single touchdown.
Predicting the 53 Man Roster
Expect them to go with three quarterbacks. Carr should be given a fair opportunity to keep his job, for now, but he knows what time it is with Mariota is firmly in the mirror. It’s going to be a very tight squeeze in order for Peterman to slide into that third string slot.
The tailback position is set in stone at this point. Bowden is a real fascinating talent, along with being the Wildcats starting tailback, he would also play the last eight regular season games as the lead quarterback. Ingold returns as that pivotal blocking fullback for Jacobs.
This is a pretty solid core of six, as I do not expect there to be any real surprise additions to the 53 man roster. Notably, Edwards would be included with the first-team offense during the first week of team practices. Although this could be a complete one-off, Edwards is a player to keep an eye on in the near future.
While Witten isn’t quite the talent he once was, the legendary tight end still has enough left in the tank to be that serviceable back to Waller. Moreau is a red zone magnet until a knee injury in week 11 derailed his efforts, Moreau had already racked up five touchdown receptions. He has since returned to training camp and looks to be healed.
Miller will continue to cover the left tackle position with Brown manning the right tackle slot. For the last number of days Brown has been absent from team practice, however, it’s not expected that Brown will be out for too much longer. Incognito returns after having re-signed for another two seasons.
Collins and Hurst are expected to start opposite one another at the defensive tackle spot. Hankins started all 16 games for the Raiders last season in which he combined for 50 tackles. Ross comes off a season-ending injury and has reportedly had a good camp.
Ferrell is going to be looking to greatly improve on his rookie campaign, in which he produced just 4.5 sacks. Ferrell will control the right side opposite Crosby. A fourth-round selection in last seasons draft, Crosby comes off a stellar rookie campaign in which he racked up 10 sacks. Nassib should be a solid rotational player.
This will be a much more different linebacker core from a season ago. With Morrow, Littleton, Kwaitkoski looking after the strongside, middle and weakside linebacker positions respectively. Voted as a first-team All-ACC, Muse is a true downhill tackler that can lay the boom like nobody’s business. Along with being a solid linebacker Muse is also quite adept at special team duties.
In order to fill that right cornerback spot opposite Mullen, the Raiders needed a suitable veteran. In early May they would add 10-year veteran Amukamara. Amukamara is going to be a useful mentor to young players like Arnette and Robertson. It likely won’t be long until Arnette begins wrestling away that starting spot opposite Mullen.
Abram has reportedly returned to camp in good shape. It was in week one of last season that Abram would suffer a torn rotator cuff. After seven solid years with the Dallas Cowboys, Heath would sign on with the Raiders for the next two seasons, at $8 million dollars. However, he is still recovering from shoulder surgery.
Carlson still controls the kicking duties. Cole is expected to return for his second year as the starting punter. His longest punt in 2019 went for 74 yards.
The Raiders upgraded at a number of positions, even making a couple of nice low key signings. By letting Whitehead walk in the offseason and replacing him with Kwiatkoski, the Raiders shave 6.5 million dollars off the team’s salary cap. It’s pretty much a given barring an unforeseen setback to Patrick Mahomes, the Chiefs repeat as AFC West division champions in 2020. However, the opportunity is certainly there to snipe one of those wildcard spots. The Raiders have given Carr every opportunity to increase the club’s win total from a season ago.
Season Prediction: 9-7 and they snare one of the three wild card spots.
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