The Las Vegas Raiders offense boasted a solid stint in Year 1 of the Josh McDaniels era. The unit ranked 12th in scoring and 11th in yards. After an offseason of significant upheaval on that side of the ball, it will be interesting to see what the group looks like in McDaniels’ second season. It all begs the question: Will it be better? Or worse?
Did the Raiders upgrade at quarterback?
The biggest change from 2022 to 2023 comes at the most important position. Derek Carr’s reign of slightly above-average play is over. In his place comes the definition of average, Jimmy Garoppolo. On paper, this may seem like a downgrade. After all, Carr is arguably more talented. Whether it’s arm strength or overall athleticism, the former Raider has the upper hand in several physical areas. However, we must consider “fit” when addressing this swap.
Last year, it just didn’t seem to work between the team’s longtime signal-caller and its first-year head coach. Carr regressed significantly in 2022, as he never found comfort within the new system. Conversely, Garoppolo is very familiar with the system.
“Jimmy G” spent his first three years in the league with McDaniels in New England, flanked by Tom Brady and Bill Belichick. We saw the benefit of that familiarity last season with Jarrett Stidham against San Francisco. Still, Garoppolo is a significant upgrade over Stidham, so there’s that.
The offense should flow more smoothly this year, at least in theory. While it might not see as many explosive plays in the passing game, Garoppolo will likely be more effective. One could argue that the fact this unit could improve despite downgrading in talent is an indictment of McDaniels, but that is not what matters at the end of the day. What is important is the end product on the field—the passing game should be better this year in Vegas.
Does Josh McDaniels have running back concerns?
Obviously, Josh Jacobs’ availability is the most glaring question mark for the Raiders right now. Assuming he plays, he will buoy the offense alone. The former first rounder is a dynamic runner, flexing an unparalleled ability to force missed tackles. That trait, combined with his ability to make plays in the passing game, makes him one of the most valuable offensive weapons in the league. McDaniels has now had a full year to utilize Jacobs’ talent; in 2023, it could be even better for the team and its All-Pro ball carrier.
However, there is a very real chance that Jacobs never plays another down in a Raiders uniform. If that happens, Vegas will have over 2,000 total yards worth of production to replace. That task will mostly fall on the shoulders of Zamir White, Ameer Abdullah, and Brittain Brown. Can that committee actually replace what Jacobs brings to the table? That is a tough sell to the fans and the locker room.
Quiet improvements elsewhere should help McDaniels implement system
While Carr, Garoppolo, and Jacobs have dominated the headlines, those stories don’t tell the full story. The Raiders made multiple savvy moves on offense this offseason. Most noteworthy, they have made a potentially franchise-altering change at tight end.
Darren Waller and Foster Moreau are out, and Austin Hooper and Michael Mayer are in. Hooper and Mayer (at least in the latter’s rookie year) likely cannot replace Waller’s pure talent. But Waller’s fickle availability is not something the Raiders will miss. Assuming this new pairing can stay healthy, they both have more upside than Moreau. This position should be a slight upgrade.
The changes at wide receiver have been more subtle. The biggest move is Jakobi Meyers replacing Mack Hollins. While Hollins did play well last year, Meyers was better. Keep in mind his numbers were inflated a bit by being New England’s top wideout, which will not be the case in Las Vegas. Nevertheless, it is still an upgrade for the Silver and Black.
The only other question is whether or not Hunter Renfrow can improve upon a disappointing 2022 campaign. Assuming he is at least healthy, the supporting cast behind Davante Adams makes a group that was already one of the team’s biggest strengths even stronger.
On the offensive line, the Raiders did not make any splashes this offseason. Still, there is plenty of reason to believe this group will improve in 2023. Last season, they got off to a slow start. McDaniels played musical chairs early on, trying to find the most optimal grouping. Once things settled down, this unit steadily improved as the season went on. That should continue this year as young players like Dylan Parham develop. Expect to see some natural growth upfront.
Can Josh McDaniels put it all together?
All signs point to the Vegas offense being better in 2023. McDaniels now has things the way wants them, and theoretically, it should go more smoothly in Year 2. We shouldn’t see any games like the debacle that occurred in New Orleans.
While it should be better, there is one huge caveat: Josh Jacobs. If the Raiders’ star running back does not return, it is impossible to see how they can properly replace his production. Without him, the offense would not just fail to improve; it would become significantly worse this season.
*Top Photo: AP Photo/John Locher