Raiders Josh Jacobs Davante Adams

Las Vegas Raiders 2023 Outlook: The Good, The Bad, And The Ugly

It all seemed surreal just one calendar year ago. The Las Vegas Raiders defied all odds, punching their ticket to the playoffs despite losing their head coach and premier wideout mid-season. At one point, the team sank below .500 with a 6-7 record before capping off the year with a four-game winning streak behind Josh Jacobs’ 376 rushing yards. Even with the Silver and Black being bounced out of the playoffs early, Raider Nation was too excited for what the future holds to be upset. That excitement rose in the offseason when Derek Carr, Hunter Renfrow, Darren Waller and Maxx Crosby each received extensions. Oh, and Davante Adams came to Sin City, too.

Things can change quickly, though. What was once a seemingly-endless supply of optimism quickly became a nightmare. Fans couldn’t wait for the ’22 season to begin, and once it finally did, those same fans couldn’t wait for it to be over.

Despite Las Vegas’ previous success and promising future, things couldn’t have gone much worse for the Raiders in 2022. The team didn’t earn a single win throughout September, finishing the first half of their season with a record of 2-7. Both Carr and Waller found themselves on a new squad at the conclusion of the ’23 campaign despite signing extensions one year prior. And, the league’s leading rusher, Josh Jacobs, remains unsigned to this day – we’ll expand on that later.

It’s not all bad, however. There’s good, there’s bad, and there’s straight up ugly; and we’re going to touch on each.

Las Vegas Raiders: The Good, The Bad, and The Ugly

The Good

The good is quite simple: Davante Adams, and Maxx Crosby.

Adams and Crosby aren’t just two of the best players at their positions, but they’re two of the best players in the entirety of the NFL – regardless of position. Both landed in the top-25 of Pro Football Focus’ top players of 2022 list, with Adams at 19 and Crosby at 23. Each of the two also earned All-Pro honors per the outlet’s own awards, crowning Adams as a first-team All-Pro with Crosby as a member of the second-team.

It would be wrong to not mention Josh Jacobs on the list of Raiders who PFF thinks highly of. The 25-year-old running back topped both Adams and Crosby on the outlet’s top players of 2022 list, coming in at 10th-overall. This isn’t the section to talk about Jacobs, though.

Not only did Davante Adams earn first-team All-Pro via PFF’s own awards, but he also was recognized as an official AP first-team All-Pro at the season’s end. Crosby didn’t make the All-Pro list in 2022, but he was a second-team All-Pro the year prior.

For Adams, he has earned his third-consecutive first-team All-Pro honor. For Crosby, league executives can’t stop praising him. “His effort and intensity on a daily basis, I’ve never seen it matched,” an NFL defensive coach told ESPN’s Jeremy Fowler.

There’s more good than just these two players, of course, but they truly are the peak of ‘the good’ for the Raiders. Some additional positives include: The team’s incredibly-deep wide receiver room (more here), the criminally-underrated cornerback unit (more here), and the health of a quarterback who’s all too familiar with Josh McDaniels’ system.

The Bad

How much time do you have?

While 2021 was a story of overcoming adversity, 2022 was a book on everything an NFL team shouldn’t do – from the regular season, to the following months in the offseason.

Josh McDaniels and the Raiders won a mere six contests in their latest campaign, but that number should’ve been closer to nine, or even 10. The Silver and Black were steadily competitive throughout the year, but with an interesting caveat: Las Vegas was worse than any team, in the history of the National Football League, during the second half of football games. With four losses where the team had a double-digit lead at the half, McDaniels and the Raiders broke the long-standing NFL record for most losses of this variety in a single-season.

Was this the fault of Derek Carr?

Well, no. Besides Carr statistically being one of the most ‘clutch’ quarterbacks in league history – with records such as most passing touchdowns in a single-season, most fourth-quarter comebacks and game-winning drives from ’15-’22, and owning several records under most fourth-quarter comebacks during the first X amount of years of a player’s career – Jarrett Stidham suffered the same fate during Week 17; the first game of the season without Carr. Early in the third-quarter, Stidham hit Davante Adams for six to go up 24-14. Yet, the Raiders still came out on the wrong side of the scoreboard in the end.

That’s not just bad; that’s downright embarrassing.

Raiders still have units that could use immediate improvement

Then, there’s the team’s linebacker core. This unit wasn’t very good to start with, and only got worse by losing their best player, Denzel Perryman, to the Houston Texans in free agency. Outside of drafting safety/linebacker Amari Burney, who will play linebacker at the pro-level, and signing Robert Spillane to a two-year, $7 million contract, nothing has been done to fix the position group.

The offensive line – specifically the interior – is another place of worry. It’s true Josh Jacobs led the NFL in rushing yardage last season, but would he have done that without logging more forced missed tackles (90) than any other player?

Rookie Dylan Parham blocked well on rushing downs, as proven by his 66.9 run-blocking grade. On passing downs, however, it was a struggle. With 55 pressures allowed, Parham was responsible for the third-most allowed pressures among all offensive lineman in the NFL. This gave the third-round pick a pass-blocking grade of 48.8.

Parham’s counterpart Alex Bars was better on passing plays, surrendering 38 pressures for a grade of 55.4. However, when the team was running the football, Bars struggled. The first-year Raider earned a run-blocking grade of 39.6, not only finishing as the lowest-graded player on the Raiders’ ’22 roster in this category, but the lowest-graded Raider since Andre James when he earned a 32.0 run-blocking grade on 54 snaps in 2019.

To Andre James’ credit, his improvement as a run-blocker is night and day. This past season, James was the highest-graded run-blocker when blocking in a zone, earning a grade of 77.9.

It might seem as if I’ve [unfairly] focused on the bad as this section is twice as long as ‘the good’ portion, but that’s not the case. In fact, I actually named more things that are good than those that are bad.

The Ugly

This one is the easiest of them all. Actually, it might be the easiest ‘ugly’ of all 32 teams league-wide: Josh Jacobs, and the handling of the entire situation.

The situation continues to get uglier every day. Saquon Barkley reached a one-year deal with his club; meanwhile, Jacobs has flown out of Las Vegas to focus on his own training.

Jacobs and the Raiders couldn’t reach a long-term agreement by the deadline to do so, but it wasn’t due to lack of effort. In fact, the 25-year-old was in his car outside of the team facility on the exact hour of the deadline, hoping to quickly sign an agreed upon deal. Unfortunately, that didn’t happen.

I’ve written an excessive amount on Jacobs and his situation up to this point. There are two things I’d like to quote from myself, each stemming from a different article.

“The first-team All-Pro has two words to say about the entire situation: Bad business. He isn’t wrong, either. What type of message is this sending to free agents who the Raiders are pursuing? Even if you happen to be the most productive player at your position, at a mere 25 years old, you still aren’t getting an extension with the team. Can you name anyone who craves a lack of job security, especially if they’re the best at what they do? I certainly can’t.” You can find that story here, which documents Jacobs’ unrivaled consistency and the mishandling of his contract situation.

The second quote comes from my full thoughts on the Raiders and Josh Jacobs officially not striking a long-term deal, found here.

Another Raiders captain on his way out?

“There are three separate parties who this situation directly affects – none in a positive way, either.

1. Potential incoming free agents

The entire league is monitoring this situation. In the eyes of an outside player looking in, Las Vegas has tried little to give a home-grown player a second contract who was the most productive at their position league-wide. Of course, Jacobs doing this while being all but 25 years old and still failing to earn that extension further magnifies the horror of this situation.

2. The Raiders’ already-discouraged locker room

Las Vegas was supposed to set the league on fire in 2022. With Davante Adams now in town, there was no way the team would move backwards from their 10-7 campaign the year prior. Well, when you manage to break the long-standing NFL record for most single-season losses in games where you had a double-digit lead at the half, you tend to take steps in the wrong direction. For the Raiders, this meant going from a postseason berth in ’21, to a 6-11 record in ’22.

Worse than that, the locker room watched as the team’s near-decade pillar of leadership, Derek Carr, was cut mid-February. In March, Pro Bowl tight end Darren Waller was next to be escorted out of Las Vegas. Both of these players had signed contract extensions in the 2022 offseason, only to be tossed before their extensions kicked in. Trent Sieg was another player who was replaced, and, per The Athletic’s Vic Tafur, multiple players on the roster weren’t happy with his release. All three of these players were once team captains; now the locker room has to watch another team captain get replaced?

3. Josh Jacobs”

If that doesn’t define ‘the ugly,’ then I don’t know what does.

Team leaders stand with Jacobs

Davante Adams has since spoken on the situation. Late last week, Adams took to the Dan Patrick Show to talk about his currently unsigned teammate.

“There’s only a handful that I feel I could go to literal war with, and he’s one of those guys. So, when I think about winning the Super Bowl and what it takes to win one, because I haven’t done that yet, I think about having a guy like him in the backfield,” Adams stated. “The way he thinks about the game, the way he approaches it.. he helped me with some of that stuff and it was great having another dog next to me out there.”

The All-Pro wideout made it clear he supports Jacobs’ stance in fighting for what he believes he’s worth.

Maxx Crosby, the other half of ‘the good’ for the Raiders alongside Davante Adams, also fully supports Jacobs and his fight to get paid. Jacobs was outside of the facility during the final hour of the deadline, and Crosby was right there with him. Hopeful that a last-second deal would transpire, the two sat in Jacobs’ car in the parking lot.

Jacobs is ineligible to sign a long-term deal until January of 2024. In the meantime, he’s still able to strike a one-year agreement, just as Barkley did on Tuesday.

*Top Photo: AP Photo/Rick Scuteri

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