As teams head to training camp and the NFL season approaches, The 33rd Team asks its experts to preview every team’s outlook for the 2023 season. In this installment, Mike Martz takes a deep dive into the Las Vegas Raiders.
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What To Know: Offense
When coach Josh McDaniels came in, QB Derek Carr‘s production dropped off remarkably. It’s common with veteran quarterbacks and a new head coach with a system or something he wants to install. So I understand why they moved on from him.
They brought in free agent Jimmy Garoppolo, who McDaniels had with New England Patriots. Garoppolo will buy into everything that he’s doing. They put the offense in with that guy, and he kind of mentors everybody else while you’re not there. McDaniels is trying to get his guys in there in Garoppolo and then Brian Hoyer as a backup.
Last year, the biggest question for the Raiders was that the offensive line was awful in 2021. It made a dramatic jump up to probably in the top 10 or 15 and was consistent. That was primarily because nobody got hurt. This allows them to go out and improve their perimeter guys and not spend time trying to bring in free agents or draft picks on the offensive line.
And they did that. They drafted WR Tre Tucker from Cincinnati, a good return guy who gives them more speed. They have Hunter Renfrow and Davante Adams, and they brought in Jakobi Meyers and some other free agents at wide receiver. It’s going to be a really good group. They picked up TE Austin Hooper as a free agent and took TE Michael Mayer out of Notre Dame.
Then you throw in the No. 1 runner in the league in RB Josh Jacobs. The lineup is potentially pretty impressive. This really could be a very, very substantial offense.
What To Know: Defense
The defense was the Achilles’ heel of this team. If you go back over the past 10 or 15 years, their secondary has notoriously not been very good, probably the worst they’ve ever been.
Then they got a whole secondary in free agency: two safeties and two corners. CBs Duke Shelley and Marcus Peters will change the dynamic back there. Jakorian Bennett, who they picked up in the draft, will have a hell of a camp. They have added a free agent or draft pick at every position in the secondary.
They only had six interceptions last year, tied for the worst in the league. They’re at the bottom of the league in terms of sacks, and they’re at the bottom of the league in terms of completion percentage against. When a team has 67 or 68 percent of passes on the season completed against it, that’s not good. All those things point to a secondary problem. It’s allowing opponents to run around free.
They’ll be much improved in the secondary and on defense.
Biggest Off-Field Storyline
The biggest issue in the offseason was not getting Jacobs signed. That’s just not good at all. The league’s top two or three running backs are so different from the rest of them, and they deserve that money. There are just a few guys at that position who can be the reason why you win, and he’s definitely one of them.
The thing that doesn’t equate is here they have the top rusher in the league and they’re No. 17 in terms of rushing as a football team. So they put the saddle on him pretty good, and they’ll continue to do that. He’s so different, and he’s so good. He just means too much to the football team.
Breakout Player Prediction
The guy who is going to have a breakout year is Garoppolo, if he’ll stay healthy. They are good on the offensive line, and they really added weapons to that offense. He could have the best year he’s ever had.
He’s comfortable with McDaniels. The system benefits him. They’ll gear things toward what he does really well. There’s a comfort level between the two: the head coach/play caller and the quarterback. Because the offensive line is playing so well and with the quality of the perimeter people, he’ll have a great season if he stays standing. That’s always been a question for Jimmy G: Can you keep him healthy?
Move Raiders Should Make
The biggest needs are the secondary and at linebacker to help them with their rush. They’ve reloaded everything in the back end, and they can’t help but get much better.
If they can add to the offensive line and gain depth, they should. They got through last season without injuries. It’s not a real deep offensive line, even though they’re very good. What could end up being a challenge for them is the depth of their offensive line.
2023 Season Expectations
I think they’re probably going to be third in their division. They’re in a really good division (AFC West). Denver’s going to be an outstanding team. You’ve got Kansas City and the Chargers. The Raiders are going to be fortunate to get into the playoffs. I just don’t know if they’re going to be good enough.
Mike Martz is a former NFL head coach and offensive coordinator, most notably for the St. Louis Rams. He was the OC for the Rams’ “Greatest Show on Turf” offense in 1999 when they won Super Bowl XXXIV. As head coach, he led the Rams to two division titles, and an appearance in Super Bowl XXXVI.