The Raiders finished the 2020 season with an 8-8 record, good enough for second in the AFC West. Their season peaked with a win over the Kansas CIty Chiefs in Week 5, but the Raiders also managed to take down several other top teams from a year ago in the Cleveland Browns and New Orleans Saints.
Las Vegas made huge waves within the news cycle in March by essentially blowing up their offensive line, which has been one of the best units in the NFL over the past five years.
Gone is center Rodney Hudson, arguably the league’s most-consistent. Gone is Gabe Jackson, a longtime stalwart at guard. And gone is Trent Brown, the team’s big-money free agent right tackle that they signed prior to the 2019 season.
We’re currently three years into the Jon Gruden experiment and the team has only made marginal gains in that time. A second-place finish in the division isn’t too shabby behind the Chiefs but that placement may speak more to the quality of the rest of the division as opposed to where the Raiders currently are at. And after their recent move to move on from players who made up the best position group on the team, I don’t see the Raiders making any notable progress during the upcoming season.
Notable Additions: S Karl Joseph (Browns), RB Kenyan Drake (Cardinals), WR John Brown (Bills), DT Quinton Jefferson (Bills), C Nick Martin (Texans), DE Yannick Ngakoue (Ravens), WR Willie Snead (Ravens), DE Soloman Thomas (49ers)
Despite having one of the best young backs in the NFL, the Raiders went out and signed former Cardinal Kenyon Drake. Drake can do a lot of things for an offense, so expect him to see most of his work as a third-down back with extra utility.
The biggest free agent signing from this offseason is undoubtedly Yannick Ngakoue. The former Jaguar spent time with both the Vikings and Ravens in 2020, accumulating eight sacks, and now comes to Las Vegas where he will pair with Maxx Crosby on the edge.
The additions of John Brown and Willie Snead will reinforce a wide receiver room that never got much out of Tyrell Williams in his two seasons with the team. Brown will pair with Henry Ruggs to give them some real juice while Snead is a steady contributor who can line up anywhere.
Nick Martin is a solid replacement for Hudson at the pivot and Soloman Thomas gives the Raiders a former first-round pick with some inside-outside versatility along the defensive line.
Notable Losses: OT Trent Brown, OG Gabe Jackson, C Rodney Hudson, WR Tyrell Williams
As I mentioned above, the Raiders blew up the only strong position group they had going for them. Josh Jacobs’ early success can easily be attributed to these players and now they’re all playing elsewhere. I’d expect a huge drop in efficiency for Jacobs and I wouldn’t expect big things from Drake, either.
Williams was expected to be a contender for the team’s top wideout after the Antonio Brown debacle, but injuries piled up and he’s now reunited with Anthony Lynn in Detroit.
2020 Record: 8-8
2021 Record Prediction: 6-11
The Raiders have been able to hang with some of the best teams in the NFL occasionally due to their ability to play tough, hard-nosed football by running the ball efficiently which then shortens games against high-flying offenses. Without a top-five offensive line, the Raiders are going to have to now lean on...what? The defense doesn’t have any notable stars on roster while the entire offense is going to take a hit without the same level of protection being provided for Derek Carr. Yeah, all that speed is great, but will Carr have enough time to consistently hit those receivers whenever they beat defenses deep? I’m not so sure. In a division where the Chargers and Broncos are expected to be much better in the trenches, the Raiders may have just expedited their path to the basement to the AFC West once again.