The Raiders ended the 2020 season with an 8-8 record, enough for second place in AFC West. Their season peaked with a win against the Kansas CIty Chiefs in Week 5, but the Raiders also managed to beat several other top teams from a year ago at the Cleveland Browns and New Orleans Saints.
Las Vegas made big waves in the news cycle in March by essentially blowing up its offensive line, which has been one of the best units in the NFL for the past five years.
Gone is the Rodney Hudson Center, which is arguably the most enduring in the league. Gabe Jackson, a longtime guard, is gone. And gone is Trent Brown, the real attacker for the team they signed ahead of the 2019 season.
We are currently in the Jon Gruden experiment for three years and the team has only made marginal profits during this time. A second place 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 than to the raiders’ position. And after their recent transfer of players who made up the best position group on the team, I don’t see any significant progress by the Raiders in the coming 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 (49er)
Despite having one of the best young players in the NFL, the Raiders went out and signed former Cardinal Kenyon Drake. Drake can do a lot of things for a crime, so expect him to see most of his work as a third-down-back with added benefit.
The biggest free agent to sign from this off-season is undoubtedly Yannick Ngakoue. The former jaguar spent time with the Vikings and ravens in 2020, collecting eight sacks and is now heading to Las Vegas where he will mate with Maxx Crosby on the sidelines.
The additions of John Brown and Willie Snead will add to a large reception room that has never done much for Tyrell Williams in his two seasons with the team. Brown will pair up with Henry Ruggs to give them real juice, while Snead is a steady contributor that can line up anywhere.
Nick Martin is a solid replacement for Hudson on pivot and Soloman Thomas gives the Raiders an earlier first-round pick with some inside-out 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 for them. Josh Jacobs’ early success can easily be attributed to these players and now they are all playing elsewhere. I would expect a huge loss of efficiency for Jacobs, and I wouldn’t expect big things from Drake either.
Williams should be a contender for the team’s top wideout following Antonio Brown’s debacle, but injuries have piled up and he is now reunited with Anthony Lynn in Detroit.
2020 record: 8-8
2021 record forecast: 6-11
The Raiders competed on occasion with some of the best teams in the NFL, as they were able to play tough, die-hard football by running the ball efficiently, which then shortened games against high-flying offenses. Without a top 5 offensive line, the Raiders now have to lean on … what? Defense has no noticeable stars on the roster, while the entire offensive will score a hit without Derek Carr providing the same level of protection. Yes, all of that speed is great, but will Carr have enough time to consistently hit these receivers if they hit the defense deep? I’m not sure. In a division where the chargers and broncos are expected to be much better in the trenches, the Raiders may have just once again sped their way down to the basement for AFC West.