Continuity Can Give Raiders Edge in AFC West

Most of the Las Vegas Raiders’ starting lineup on offense is coming back intact. They will be tested as early as Sunday against the Carolina Panthers, but that could end up giving them an advantage in the AFC West.

The offensive core is pretty much intact but there are key differences

After an offseason full of uncertainty, Derek Carr will lead the Raiders for a seventh straight season. Coming back is also his whole offensive line, tight end Darren Waller and running back Josh Jacobs. Although the Silver and Black ranked 24th in points scored in 2019, they decided against nuking their offense and starting from scratch. Instead, they kept most of his core intact and brought in few new faces to complement the players already in place.

Wide receiver was the group the Raiders needed to upgrade the most in the offseason and that’s what they did. With the 12th overall pick, they selected Henry Ruggs III over CeeDee Lamb and Jerry Jeudy. Later in the process, they chose Bryan Edwards in the third round. They will start for the Raiders against the Panthers in Week 1 and offensive coordinator Greg Olson believes they will perform well.

Ruggs and Edwards weren’t the only acquisitions the Raiders brought in during the offseason though. They also signed wide receiver Nelson Agholor and veteran Jason Witten in free agency. Neither of them will have a featured role on the team’s offense. Darren Waller is the starter at tight end, and Ruggs and Henry are the starters at wide receiver. However, Agholor and Witten will play a key role in Las Vegas’ offense. Witten provides in a talented yet young tight end room, while Agholor can step in at any moment and sub in.

Related: Raiders HC Jon Gruden Says RB Christian McCaffrey’s A Versatile Weapon

The Chiefs will be tough to beat but the Raiders have some pieces in place

The Kansas City Chiefs remain at the top of the AFC West and arguably the NFL. They showed they aren’t suffering a Super Bowl hangover after beating the Texans 34-20. The championship will likely run through them again and the Raiders will need to bring their ‘A’ game if they want to beat them. The Athletic polled personnel around the league and they said the Raiders should benefit from the lack of turnaround they had.

I think they have continuity. They did not change a whole lot, whereas Denver changed offensive coordinators and the Chargers have a new quarterback. I think that continuity with a veteran quarterback in Derek Carr and a run game will help Las Vegas be in the mix this year — the next team after Kansas City in that division.

We don’t know if Broncos quarterback Drew Lock will suffer from a sophomore slump. Similarly, it’s uncertain how the Los Angeles Chargers will fare in their post-Phillip Rivers era with Tyrod Taylor at the helm. Even though both teams could turn out to be good in the long run, there are no hints of that happening right away. That can give the Raiders a leg up in the AFC West race.

The Raiders made key moves in the offseason without altering their offensive core. Will see how that plays out against the Panthers on Sunday.

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Top Photo: Don Juan Moore/Getty Images

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