What is Wrong With the Raiders?


The Las Vegas Raiders have been nothing short of a disappointment this season. After Sunday’s loss to the Jacksonville Jaguars, they sit at 2-6 and at the bottom of the AFC West. After starting the season with playoff hopes, they are now slotted to pick third in next year’s NFL draft through Week 9. With only Houston and Carolina holding worse records and therefore more favorable draft orders.

So what is wrong with the Raiders? How did it get to this point?

For starters, the defense has been terrible. Through Week 9, Raiders defense has given up 371.3 yards per game. The 5th-worst in the league, and 25.1 points per game, 6th-worst in the league. In the last three games, against Davis Mills, Andy Dalton, and Trevor Lawrence, this defense has allowed 410, 367, and 403 yards respectively. They can’t stop anybody, especially when it matters most. The defense is 3rd-worst in opponent 3rd-down conversion percentage (48.04%) and 2nd-worst in opponent red zone touchdown percentage (74.07%). Perhaps the most egregious statistic, however, are the Raiders in goal-to-go situations. When opponents have gotten into a goal-to-go situation this year against the Raiders, they have scored a touchdown. Every. Single. Time. That’s 100%, and that’s the Raiders defense.

Sure, the defense has had to deal with some injuries, most notably second-year CB Nate Hobbs, who was placed on IR on October 17th with a broken left hand. Hobbs was having a stellar star to the season and has been sorely missed. However, outside of DE Maxx Crosby and (kind of) S Duron Harmon, nobody else has even been notable on this defense so far. This is especially disappointing for new addition Chandler Jones. Who the team signed to a 3-year $52.5 million contract this offseason. Jones was supposed to form a fearsome pass-rush tandem with Crosby, but instead he has been pretty much nonexistent. With 17 tackles and just 0.5 sacks through 8 games. Ranking 55th out of 61 edge rushers in PFF pass rusher productivity. The 50-Million-Dollar-Man has contributed (or not) to a Raiders pass rush with the fewest sacks in the entire NFL (9).

On offense, it has been better, but not by much. While this team wasn’t expected to be any good defensively. They were expected to be an offensive juggernaut with the addition of WR Davante Adams. They haven’t lived up to expectations, ranking 16th in total offense (338.4) and 15th in scoring offense (22.9) through Week 9.

The offense obviously starts with the quarterback, and career Raider Derek Carr…

The offense obviously starts with the quarterback, and career Raider Derek Carr has had a lackluster season thus far, with some fans calling for his job midway through the season. Carr is the epitome of mediocrity this season: 25th in completion percentage (62.3%), 16th in passing yards (1,880), 13th in touchdowns and interceptions (11-5). He’s been fine, but it hasn’t been good enough, especially when it matters most. While Carr has always been limited, he’s always had a certain clutch gene, proven by his 56 game winning drives since 2015, good for 8th in the league. This year, he hasn’t been able to have the same ice-cold effect. In the 4th quarter, Carr’s numbers dip to 56.1% completion with 3 touchdowns and 3 interceptions. 

Fans expected Carr to get better with better weapons, but he has not, and the weapons have been inconsistent as well. The biggest weapon Carr added was obviously Davante Adams, his old college teammate at Fresno State. Adams has been very dependable with the Raiders, leading the league in receiving TDs and top-10 in all three receiving categories. What has been inconsistent is his role in Josh McDaniels’ offense, which he himself has described as “like learning Mandarin.”

It seems that McDaniels is unable to find the sweet spot for Adams, as he will have weeks like Week 1 (10 rec, 17 tgts, 141 yds, 1 TD) and Week 9 (10 rec, 17 tgts, 146 yds, 2 TD) immediately followed by performances like Week 2 (2 rec, 12 yds) and Week 8 (1 rec, 3 yds). Adams remains a top-3 receiver in the league, but is underutilized in the offense and can’t find a consistent role, which is a big issue for a receiver the Raiders just paid $141.25 million this past offseason.

While Adams has still found a way to be productive, Carr’s other weapons have not. Darren Waller has missed the last three games with a hamstring injury, but before that, he wasn’t much better. Waller has just 16 catches for 175 yards and a TD in the four games he has suited up for. In the Raiders’ 24-22 loss to the Tennessee Titans in Week 3, Waller dropped not one, not two, but three wide-open touchdown receptions in one game, with the last one being intercepted by Kevin Byard in the end zone and effectively icing the game.

While Waller has been bad, WR Hunter Renfrow has somehow been worse. Renfrow came into this year as one of the most improved receivers in the NFL, breaking out last year for 103 receptions and 1,038 yards. This year, he is on pace for 52.5 receptions and 480 yards, about half of his production last year. He has disappeared in multiple games this season, and when he has shown up, it has been for the wrong reasons. In a Week 2 overtime loss to the Cardinals, Renfrow fumbled on two straight plays in overtime. The second was taken back for a Cardinals touchdown and the Raiders lost the game. 

On this play, Renfrow suffered a Grade 1 concussion and sat out the next two weeks aiding his injury. When he came back for Week 5 Monday Night Football against the rival Kansas City Chiefs, the team was excited to have him back. On 4th-and-1 of the Raiders’ game-winning drive down by 1. Renfrow ran the wrong route and collided with Davante Adams, knocking both to the ground and giving the ball back to the Chiefs to kneel and ice the game. So, Hunter Renfrow has been an integral part of not one but two game-losing plays this season for Las Vegas.

One of the only bright spots has been RB Josh Jacobs, who, similar to Davante Adams, has not been able to find a consistent role despite being top 5 in both yards (743) and TDs (6). McDaniels’ offense has won both games he gives Jacobs at least 21 carries, and the six games he has not, the Raiders have lost. In a career year, his contributions are wasted because his number is not being called enough.

So, the defense has been bad, the offense has been okay…

So, the defense has been bad, the offense has been okay, so those are the biggest problems, right? Wrong. The main problem of this team is coaching. Head coach Josh McDaniels has to be one of, if not the biggest wasters in the entire National Football League. He wastes talent by not building his game plans around it. As we have seen by the underutilization of the two brightest offensive stars, Adams and Jacobs. He wastes leads, as he has already blown leads of 20 to the Cardinals, 17 to the Chiefs, and 17 to the Jaguars this past week, already giving him more blown 17-point leads of all previous Raiders coaches combined. Great job Josh!

In his most recent loss to the Jaguars, the Raiders were driving with a chance to go up late in the game. On 3rd-and-2 with 2:34 left and 2 timeouts, he called a deep passing play to Davante Adams on the left sideline, which fell incomplete. Then, he called another passing play over the middle to Hunter Renfrow, also incomplete. Remember, McDaniels has a TOP 5 RUNNING BACK IN THE LEAGUE and ran two deep passing plays when he needed just two yards to keep the drive alive.

These situational blunders late in games have been a mainstay in the McDaniels experience. He can’t call a good 2-point conversion play to save his life. As he has already failed on two against the Chargers to cut the lead to a field goal. Then one against the Chiefs to win the game (they could have just tied it up and went to overtime). Against the Saints, the Raiders did not cross the 50-yard line until late in the 4th quarter. McDaniels decided to try a fake punt midway through the first quarter. It didn’t work

Josh McDaniels is the ringleader of this Raiders clown show and of all the problems, he is the biggest. For all Raiders fans’ sake, here’s to hoping this team can turn it around and become competitive. Or at least play up to the massive amount of talent on this roster, especially offensively. Next week, the Raiders will take on the struggling Indianapolis Colts (3-4-1). Led by Sam Ehlinger in his second NFL start. This should be a winnable game, but as this team has proven, you never know. Go Raiders!

Stay tuned to see if the Raiders turn it around…

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