For all the flack Jon Gruden gets about his ability to build rosters, nobody should be questioning his talent as a play-caller. Last season, the Las Vegas Raiders finished eighth in yards-per-game and 10th in points-per-game with a wide receivers room that nobody was envious of. This year, the Raiders will need more of the same — having rebuilt their offensive line and left the receiver room largely untouched.
I’m higher on the offensive line group than most, I think, but the wide receiving group scares me. That said, as long as Darren Waller and Josh Jacobs remain at Derek Carr’s disposal — not to mention a playmaker like Kenyan Drake — I won’t ever be too worried about this unit.
QB: Derek Carr
Backups: Marcus Mariota, Nathan Peterman
I’ll never understand the Derek Carr haters personally — and maybe that’s because I’ve been scarred so badly by the quarterbacks this franchise has trotted out since Rich Gannon retired — but by all accounts, he’s a top 10-15 quarterback in this league (and in this offense). Behind him, the Raiders have arguably the best backup quarterback in the league in Mariota, which matters more in the COVID world than it would normally. Heck, even Peterman proved he’s “serviceable” for short stints this preseason.
RB: Josh Jacobs
Backups: Kenyan Drake, Peyton Barber
FB: Alec Ingold
Jacobs remains underrated around the league and remains Jon Gruden’s favorite toy in the non-Darren-Waller division. He’ll get his usual dose of carries this season and should surpass 1,000 yards easily (especially with an extra game). Drake, while expensive, gives the Raiders one of the best pass-catching backs in the league and a guy who can line up in the slot or out wide if needed. This group will be a matchup nightmare.
Meanwhile, while fullbacks aren’t the sexiest position group in the league, Ingold has grown as both a rusher and receiver and remains a major weapon for the Raiders.
WR: Bryan Edwards, Henry Ruggs III, Hunter Renfrow
Backups: Zay Jones, Willie Snead IV
We know how good Renfrow is at getting open and catching everything thrown his way, but the ceiling of this offense will be determined by how big of a contribution the Raiders can get from Ruggs and Edwards. Both guys entered last season with a ton of hype, but neither lived up to it for one reason or another. This summer, they’ve been rested all preseason, and the buzz around the team remains optimistic. Watch out for Jones to make a bigger impact than expected this year, as he looked outstanding this preseason.
TE: Darren Waller
Backups: Foster Moreau, Derek Carrier
Waller is one of the three best tight ends in the league without question, and he remains a guy you can pencil in for at least six grabs seemingly every week. However, my breakout guy for the Raiders this year is Moreau — who flashed as a rookie before being forced to sit behind Jason Witten last season. I think he scores 7+ touchdowns this year.
OT: Kolton Miller, Alex Leatherwood
Backup: Brandon Parker
OG: Richie Incognito, Denzelle Good
Backups: John Simpson, Jermaine Eluemunor
C: Andre James
Backup: Nick Martin
Gone are Trent Brown, Gabe Jackson and Rodney Hudson — in are Alex Leatherwood, Denzelle Good and Andre James. This was the big storyline in the national media all offseason when the reality is the changes aren’t nearly as big as many would have you believe. Good has played in 31 games over the past two seasons due to injury, James has been with the Raiders since 2019 and has always been highly regarded by Tom Cable, and while people act like losing Brown was a big deal, keep in mind the guy played in just 16 games over the past two seasons.
Leatherwood has been impressive this preseason, but there will likely still be growing pains for the rookie right tackle — but besides that, I don’t have any real concerns about this group. Simpson is a competent backup (and hopefully future starter) at guard, and Martin has been a starting center in this league since 2017. Brandon Parker at backup tackle is moderately terrifying, but find me a coach in the league who feels great about his backup tackle…
Specialists: AJ Cole (P), Daniel Carlson (K), Trent Sieg (LS), Kenyan Drake (KR), Hunter Renfrow (PR)
Backup: Henry Ruggs III (KR, PR)
Cole and Carlson are the new Lechler and Janikowski — a talented duo who will hopefully be penciled into this spot for the next decade. Sieg is a guy you never hear about (which is a good thing), and Renfrow is one of the best punt returners in the league.