The Las Vegas Raiders recently introduced their new general manager, Dave Ziegler, from the New England Patriots organization. Ziegler has his work cut out for him if he wants the Raiders to be successful, and here are the top two position groups that require his immediate attention.
Prior to the 2021 NFL season, the Raiders’ front office completely dismantled the offensive line, which at one time was a top five unit. While the stars of that line (Rodney Hudson, Gabe Jackson, and (not a star) Trent Brown) were traded away, the Raiders opted to improve the line through the draft.
Is Leatherwood a bust?
The Raiders drafted right tackle Alex Leatherwood from Alabama, who had a “rough” rookie season. Leatherwood finished the season with a Pro Football Focus 29.0 pass-blocking grade and allowed a season high of 65 pressures. The line in general was abysmal, finishing the year ranked 28th out of 32 teams. Left tackle Kolton Miller was the only bright spot on the offensive line, allowing half the pressure that Leatherwood gave up.
The new general manager will have to address this position not only from a pass blocking point of view to protect Derek Carr, but from a run blocking perspective as well. Josh Jacobs is nearing the end of his rookie deal, and the upcoming season will provide insight into whether or not an extension is warranted. Jacobs finished last season with his lowest output of 872 rushing yards, averaging four yards a carry with nine touchdowns. In the previous two seasons, Jacobs logged over 1,000 yards with 12 (2020) and seven (2019) touchdowns, respectively. Jacobs did set a new record for receiving yards, with 348. This could be because he used his skills instead of relying on the offensive line and the Raiders’ problems with the passing game after losing wide receiver Henry Ruggs III.
What about the Raiders’ WR corps?
While on the subject of Ruggs, the next position group that Ziegler needs to focus on is the receiving corps. Ruggs played his last game with the Raiders during Week 7’s contest against the Philadelphia Eagles. That game resulted in a 33-22 win, one of the few comfortable wins of the season. Shortly thereafter, Ruggs was arrested and released from the team after a fatal motor vehicle collision. Prior to his release, the team was 5-2, and Ruggs had 469 yards on 24 receptions with two touchdowns. While his stats weren’t off the charts, he had almost tied his 2020 production and was on pace for a 1,000-yard season.
A bigger loss is that Ruggs and Carr had finally begun to click, on and off the field. The chemistry needed for success between quarterback and receiver takes time. Sometimes, it takes longer than other duos, and the loss of Ruggs was felt immediately. Following Ruggs’ release, DeSean Jackson joined the team. He ended his stint with the Raiders by playing in nine regular-season games. He accumulated 233 receiving yards and one touchdown. The Silver and Black finished the remaining games with a 5-5 record, finishing the year at 10-7 and squeaking into the playoffs.
The Raiders need to find Ruggs’ replacement…
In order for the Raiders to get back to the level when they had Ruggs, Ziegler will need to acquire a true number one option. Whether it be via free agency or the draft in April, the new general manager needs to make it happen. If he’s willing to spend top dollar, Davante Adams and Allen Robinson might be available. The draft will also have several options due to a deep receiver class. Ohio State’s duo of Garrett Wilson and Chris Olave provides easy options for the Raiders. Treylon Burks of Arkansas is 2022’s version of DK Metcalf, so that’s another route. Regardless of which way the Raiders go, Carr needs help if the new brass wants this team to return to the playoffs consistently.
Starting off with a bang…
Ziegler can start off his career in the desert with a bang if he can hit on both of these position groups within the upcoming months. Carr’s brother, David Carr, spoke to Colin Cowherd on “The Herd” and advocated for his brother, stating, “They did about as good as you can do this year with what they were given, and they made it work. They’re not that far away, if you could add a couple pieces.Â There has to be a commitment from the organization that they’re going to give him what he needs to succeed. He only wants to win a Super Bowl. He’s not here for the money.”
If Ziegler and new head coach Josh McDaniels want to show Carr they have a Commitment to Excellence, and specifically a commitment to winning, they need to address these missing pieces immediately.
*Top Photo: Heidi Fang/Las Vegas Review-Journal