The NFL is officially back! This Thursday, the NFL Preseason kicks off its annual Hall of Fame Game — the 2022 version of which just so happens to feature the Raiders, and in order to gear up for it, we’ve put together a two-part primer breaking down the roster.
While there have been seasons in which the Raiders defense has been the better unit (okay, so it was a long time ago), the truth is that this season will rise or fall on the shoulders of the team’s offense — so we’ll start there.
One of the biggest storylines this summer, though, hasn’t involved any of the 90 guys currently on the roster but the guy who will be patrolling the sidelines and barking orders. Josh McDaniels joined the Raiders in January after establishing himself as one of the best play-callers in the league, beating out interim coach Rich Bisaccia and a host of other candidates.
With McDaniels’ arrival has come a pretty significant roster overhaul, and so in each position group below, we’ll do our best to highlight one name to watch. In some cases, it might be the best player in the group, but in others, it might be the most intriguing guy heading into the preseason. So, let’s dive into the offense…
On the roster (alphabetical): Chase Garbers, Derek Carr, Jarrett Stidham, Nick Mullens
No controversy here as Carr capped his offseason by signing a fat extension, cementing him as the team’s quarterback for the foreseeable future — and for good reason. With Marcus Mariota departing for Atlanta, Stidham and Mullens will battle it out for the backup job.
Player to Watch: Stidham
Stidham has thrown just 48 career passes, but McDaniels shipped a 6th-round pick to New England to go and get a familiar face in May (the Raiders also received a 7th-rounder in the swap). When Mullens was first signed, I assumed his spot was safe — but McDaniels knew what he was getting with Stidham, which makes me think he’s now the favorite to hold Carr’s clipboard.
Running Back / Fullback
On the roster: Ameer Abdullah, Austin Walter, Brandon Bolden, Brittain Brown, Jakob Johnson (FB), Josh Jacobs, Kenyan Drake, Zamir White
Jacobs is back in what will be the final year of his rookie contract after the team decided not to pick up the former first-round pick’s fifth-year option, which should give him plenty of motivation this season. Drake missed most of last season after coming over on a big contract, while White was the team’s fourth-round pick and could be the team’s running back of the future. White has missed all of the team’s practices thus far with an undisclosed injury. Johnson and Bolden are, like Stidham, former Patriots who followed McDaniels to Las Vegas and should be strong bets to make the final roster.
Player to Watch: Jacobs
I’ll be honest: I’m a believer in Jacobs. I think he’s one of the more underrated running backs in the league who has battled injuries and poor offensive line play thus far in his career. I get not paying a running back the amount a fifth-year option required, but he remains a guy I’d love to see in silver and black long-term.
On the roster: Davante Adams, Demarcus Robinson, DJ Turner, Hunter Renfrow, Isaiah Zuber, Jordan Veasy, Justin Hall, Keelan Cole, Mack Hollins, Tyron Johnson
It’s fitting that Adams’ name comes at the front of that list because he’s not just the headliner of this group but probably of the entire roster. Beyond Adams and Renfrow, there should be a healthy battle for the remaining roster spots, with veterans like Hollins, Robinson and Cole the favorites to suit up in Week 1.
Player to Watch: Adams
Duh. He’s arguably the best receiver in the league, he’s teaming up with his college quarterback and best friend in Carr, and he’s putting on a jersey he wore as a kid.
What’s not to love about this story?
On the roster: Cole Fotheringham, Darren Waller, Foster Moreau, Jacob Hollister, Jesper Horsted, Nick Bowers
Waller completes what is one of the best collections of skill position players in the league, and he’s backed up by Moreau — whose career still seems to be ascending. This group should be fun to watch because of McDaniels’ history of making the tight end group a focus of his offense.
Player to Watch: Moreau
Nobody is taking Waller’s job anytime soon, but Moreau has proven he might be ready for an increased workload and some more time in two tight end sets. Coming out of LSU, the report seemed to be that he was a blocking tight end with okay hands, but the 6’4″, 250-pounder has shown remarkably soft hands and could be poised for a bit of a breakout.
On the roster (position given is from the team’s roster): Alex Bars (OL), Alex Leatherwood (G/T), Andre James (C) Bamidele Olaseni (T), Brandon Parker (T), Dylan Parham (G), Hroniss Grasu (OL), Jackson Barton (T), Jermaine Eluemunor (OL), John Simpson (G), Jordan Meredith (OL), Lester Cotton St. (G), Thayer Munford Jr. (T)
As you’re scrolling through the offensive roster up until this point, it’s hard not to get excited. A top-12 quarterback, a strong running back room, and then three of the better receiving weapons in the league — what’s not to love?
Well…the offensive line.
Aside from Kolton Miller at left tackle, there’s not a whole lot to love in this group unless you’re among the most optimistic people out there and believe in a bunch of guys taking a huge step forward. Andre James was fine at center last season, John Simpson, Brandon Parker and Alex Leatherwood were less-than-fine. Beyond those guys, you’ve got a bunch of unproven young guys who were mostly late-round picks or undrafted (with the exception being third-round rookie Parham). So far at camp, Miller-Simpson-James-Cotton Sr.-Parker has been the first team unit.
Name to Watch: Carmen Bricillo and Dave Ziegler
I’m cheating a bit here by listing Bricillo (the team’s OL coach) and Ziegler (the GM), because these two guys are the only hope this unit has of being average. Unless Bricillo is a miracle worker or Ziegler splashes some of the team’s remaining cap space, this unit is going to be a problem.
On the roster: AJ Cole (P), Daniel Carlson (K), Trent Sieg (LS)
No need to bring in camp legs here, as the Raiders boast one of the best specialist groups in the league. Carlson led the league in made field goals last season (40) while nailing 93% of his kicks. Cole, meanwhile, led the league in punting average (50.0). Both guys are locked down long-term, so this should be a drama-free unit in 2022.
Name to Watch: None