The 2022 season saw the Raiders regress across the board as Derek Carr failed to adjust to the new system implemented by head coach Josh McDaniels. The weapons outside Davante Adams and Josh Jacobs struggled to stay on the field. Even worse, the young defense was exposed in coverage and run support.
Simply put: It was an unmitigated disaster in year one of the Dave Ziegler era. Can the group rebound and find its way back to the postseason in 2023? It is too early to know for sure. But one way to see this improvement in the win column is by trusting the new additions.
4 Raiders Who Will Have Surprisingly Big Roles In 2023
Out with Carr, in with Jimmy Garoppolo. This move is enough to cause uncertainty, especially when factoring in the latter’s injury history. Still, McDaniels is more familiar with Jimmy G and should have an easier time running the system, which brings some semblance of optimism to the quarterback room.
Elsewhere on the roster, several other fresh faces joined the fold. Which of these players will surprise the fan base and see more in-game action than we currently expect? Are there any Raiders from previous seasons that could make a leap in production?
Let’s answer some of these questions by looking in-depth at the roster heading into 2023. While there are many question marks about the lineup, these four players can make a shocking impact this season.
Byron Young Will Prove He Is Ready To Start As A Rookie For Raiders
1. Byron Young (DT)
It would have been too easy to name a bunch of rookies, so my goal is to stick to players with minimal fanfare. Defensive tackle Byron Young is first up, as the Alabama veteran has all the traits and opportunity to earn a starting role before opening week.
Young is a smidge undersized for a full-time defensive tackle, but he makes up for it with experience and absurd strength at the point of attack. He is arguably the best run defender on the roster already, and with his untapped potential as a pass rusher, the upside is worth betting on.
Not to mention a lack of difference-makers on the Raiders’ interior line. Young is better than Jerry Tillery and Bilal Nichols right now. With a strong training camp, it would make sense if the Crimson Tide standout logged the most snaps of any player on the interior in 2023.
Vegas Has A Potential Day 1 Starter In The Secondary
2. Christopher Smith II (DB)
As of this writing, Trevon Moehrig and Marcus Epps are expected to hold down the safety positions for the Raiders. However, rookie Christopher Smith II could throw a wrench into things with a strong offseason and preseason.
The Georgia defender fell all the way to the middle of day three at the 2023 NFL Draft, allowing Vegas to scoop him up and walk away with a steal. Sure, “steal” is a silly term to throw around before a player ever takes a snap on Sundays, but if Smith develops into a starter in year one, the label will fit him to a t.
Smith exhibits unbelievable range while playing as a deep safety, and his ball skills are up there with anyone in last year’s draft class. He must cut down on his 15.1 percent missed tackle rate, but the former Bulldog will see snaps as the third safety regardless. Patrick Graham should throw Smith into the fire and let him learn with in-game reps.
Raiders Will Look Within To Replace Josh Jacobs
3. Zamir White (RB)
Branching out from the most recent draft class, the Raiders will seek more production from the running backs behind Jacobs. Who knows, maybe the team will be searching for a starter in the backfield if Jacobs extends his holdout to the regular season.
Whether it be as a backup or spot starter, Zamir White is a name to have on your radar. The former Georgia star appeared in 14 games as a rookie but struggled to find footing in the faster-paced NFL.
With a full season under his belt, White should look more like the player we grew accustomed to seeing with the Bulldogs. In his collegiate career, the 215-pound bruiser had an otherworldly ability to make defenders miss. From running them over to snatching their ankles, White was truly elusive.
The second-year player must improve his vision, as the offensive line opened up a gaping running lane many times in 2022, only to see White barrel into the back of a lineman instead. He is not much of a threat as a pass catcher, but neither is Jacobs. It is not a one-for-one replacement, but White can find success as the top back in Vegas.
The Best Five Linemen Should Play For Vegas
4. Thayer Munford Jr. (OL)
The offensive line boasts one of the best left tackles in the NFL with Kolton Miller. The criminally underrated Jermaine Eluemunor bookends the unit on the right side. Sadly, all three positions between them leave much to be desired.
Dylan Parham is the most promising of the bunch, but Andre James and Alex Bars have proven to be liabilities in their short careers. Thayer Munford Jr. is a potential replacement at guard, even though he only has experience on the outside as a professional.
In 216 pass-blocking reps as a rookie, Munford posted a strong 71.0 grade via Pro Football Focus. All his action came at tackle, but the former Buckeye started at guard in his final season at Ohio State.
McDaniels should find a way to get the best linemen on the field, regardless of where each player lines up. It may take some creativity, but Munford should see more action with a good showing at training camp. He is better than Alex Bars — without a doubt.
*Top Photo: Mark J. Rebilas/USA TODAY Sports