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State of the 2023 Las Vegas Raiders: Can Jimmy Garoppolo, Josh McDaniels lead playoff push?

Where does your squad stand in 2023? Adam Rank sets the table by providing a State of the Franchise look at all 32 teams, zeroing in on the key figures to watch and setting the stakes for the season to come.

Members of the Raiders organization, Raiders fans around the world and those who get teary-eyed whenever they hear the NFL Films Autumn Wind music ...

We had such high hopes for the Raiders headed into last year. They were coming off a playoff appearance. Josh McDaniels had a second chance. Davante Adams and Derek Carr were reunited. And yet, it all went horribly, horribly wrong. Not Adams, he was dope. But can the Raiders put that behind them and make a return back to the playoffs? Good question. But before we look forward, let's take a quick look back.

2022 rewind

One high from last season: The events of the video below. I'm sorry, but if you read my look at the state of the 2023 New England Patriots, you knew this was coming:

One low from last season: Pretty much everything else that happened in 2022. Actually, the win that was secured by that play put the Raiders at 6-8, giving them a slight chance of making the playoffs. But a loss to the Steelers one day after the 50th anniversary of the Immaculate Reception put any dreams of postseason qualification pretty much out of reach. And then the organization told its all-time leading passer, Derek Carr, to stop coming to work with two weeks left in the season, denying him a chance to say goodbye to Raiders fans on the field.

2023 VIPs

Quarterback: Jimmy Garoppolo. I'm a huge fan of Derek Carr, and I don't believe the Raiders' problems in 2022 were his fault. But Josh McDaniels did inherit Carr when he became head coach last year, and I don't necessarily begrudge McDaniels the chance to switch to a QB he presumably knows well and is comfortable with, like how Will Ferrell always needs to have Luke Wilson in a lot of his movies (or, at least, the good ones). You might say that maybe McDaniels just want to kick it old school with Garoppolo -- although it's not like I'm breaking that news to you, like I'm some sort of anchorman. Fine, I'll stop. Garoppolo has had success with McDaniels (who, by the way, doubled down on the familiarity factor by also bringing in longtime Patriots QB Brian Hoyer): In two starts in New England in 2016, Jimmy G. completed 71.2 percent of his passes for 496 yards with a 4:0 TD-to-INT rate, a passer rating of 119 and a 2-0 record. I can cherry-pick some stats that show Garoppolo is more efficient than Derek, but I wouldn't discount the impact of McDaniels and Garoppolo having a past working relationship.

Projected 2023 MVP: Garoppolo. It has to be. One thing about Garoppolo is that he's a winner. He went 38-17 in his 55 starts with the 49ers. Even last season, he was really good, logging a 7-3 record with 16 touchdown passes and four picks. Another big plus: the four playoff wins on his ledger (Carr has none so far). But can Jimmy G. stay healthy? Garoppolo has missed 30 regular season games over the last five seasons, including the final five regular-season games of 2022 (he also missed all three playoff games) after suffering a foot injury. Then, because of a "clean-up" surgery performed on the same foot, he was required to sign a waiver before he could join the Raiders. McDaniels isn't worried, but I'm sure Raiders fans will rest easier once they've seen Garoppolo get through a whole season.

New face to know: Jakobi Meyers, receiver. Meyers, as you know, threw maybe the best pass of the season for the Raiders in 2022. I don't feel good about referencing that play again. ... Kidding! I can't stop watching it!

In all seriousness, Meyers has had 700-plus receiving yards in each of the last three seasons. He's another guy who has spent a lot of time working previously with McDaniels in New England. In fact, Meyers set his career highs of 83 receptions for 866 yards in 2021 when McDaniels was the Patriots' offensive coordinator. I will likely post or link to clips of that "highlight" again, but remember, this guy can play. 

2023 breakout star: Tyler Hall, cornerback. Hall played limited snaps for the Raiders after being promoted from the practice squad in late November, but he ended up earning the second highest defensive grade on the team (86.9) from Pro Football Focus -- behind stud Maxx Crosby. Hall's situation is reminiscent of how the Raiders would take other team's castoffs back in the day and turn them into stars. After failing to stick in previous stops with the Falcons and Rams, Hall started seven games (three starts) in Vegas, allowing nine completions on 18 targets last year, with a passer rating of 56.3, according to PFF. The folks at PFF seem to be pretty high on Hall. Could he end up becoming a regular starter?

2023 braintrust

Table inside Article
Head coach Josh McDaniels
General manager Dave Ziegler
Offensive coordinator Mick Lombardi
Defensive coordinator Patrick Graham
Special teams coordinator Tom McMahon
  • Look, fans can question Josh McDaniels on whether it was an upgrade from Derek Carr to Jimmy G. But the thing is, it's McDaniels' squad, and he should be able to go with the quarterback who he thinks gives him -- and the Raiders -- the best chance to win. It's like standing on the tee box and your friend is trying to talk you out of using your 5-wood, but that's your favorite club so you're going to use it. And let's not just overlook the fact the Raiders were 12th in total and scoring offense last season. The unit was productive, so maybe we need to let McDaniels cook.
  • The problem is on the defensive side of the football. Patrick Graham built a reputation of turning around defenses -- like he did for the Giants in 2020. But he wasn't quite able to recapture the magic in Las Vegas. This happens often when a new coordinator is installing a new system. Maxx Crosby recently told Sports Illustrated that things are "going a lot smoother" this time around. And hey, having a year under your belt in the system can really benefit teams.

Roster reshuffling

Below is a rundown of the Raiders' most notable roster developments for the 2023 season, including this year's draft class, as well as key acquisitions and departures via free agency and trade.

Table inside Article
Draft class (round-pick) Key additions Key departures
Tyree Wilson, Edge, Texas Tech (1-7) Jimmy Garoppolo, QB Derek Carr, QB
Michael Mayer, TE, Notre Dame (2-35) Brian Hoyer, QB Jarrett Stidham, QB
Byron Young, DL, Alabama (3-70) Austin Hooper, TE Mack Hollins, WR
Tre Tucker, WR, Cincinnati (3-100) O.J. Howard, TE Foster Moreau, TE
Jakorian Bennett, DB, Maryland (4-104) DeAndre Carter, WR Darren Waller, TE
Aidan O'Connell, QB, Purdue (4-135) Phillip Dorsett, WR Clelin Ferrell, Edge
Christopher Smith II, DB, Georgia (5-170) Jakobi Meyers, WR Andrew Billings, DL
Amari Burney, LB, Florida (6-203) John Jenkins, DL Jayon Brown, LB
Nesta Jade Silvera, Arizona State (7-231) Robert Spillane, LB Denzel Perryman, LB
Brandon Facyson, CB Rock Ya-Sin, CB
David Long, CB Duron Harmon, S
Marcus Epps, S
Jaquan Johnson, S

2023 roadmap

Three key dates:

  • Week 1 at Denver Broncos. The Raiders are one of four teams to open the season with back-to-back roadies. And one of just three teams to open with three of their first four away. They're at Denver in Week 1, at Buffalo in Week 2 and at the Los Angeles Chargers in Week 4. They are home for Pittsburgh in Week 3.  
  • Week 6 vs. New England Patriots. Does this count as a Jakobi Meyers REVENGE GAME? I'm torn on this one. I can almost guarantee a former Patriots quarterback will be suiting up for the Raiders. That's all I'm going to say for right now.  
  • Week 16 at Kansas City Chiefs. The Raiders open up with three of four on the road, then close with two of their last three on the road, with a game in Indy in Week 17 following this contest.

Will the Raiders be able to ...

.. stop some people on defense? This is the exact same sentence I wrote in this space last season. We already talked about the Raiders' ranking 26th in points allowed last season. I didn't tell you that was their exact same ranking in 2021. One thing the Raiders must absolutely do is get to the quarterback. Crosby was the only Raiders player with more than five sacks in 2022, leading the team with 12.5. He also paced the NFL with 22 tackles for loss and was second with 35 quarterback hits. Chandler Jones had the highlight touchdown against the Patriots, but he finished with just 4.5 sacks and three tackles for loss, his lowest totals in a season where he's played in at least six games since 2014. Jones has 112 sacks since entering the NFL in 2012, which is tied for the second-most in the NFL over that time. He's 33, but he should still have some game left in him. First-round pick Tyree Wilson out of Texas Tech could help -- if Will Anderson Jr. was the normie draft analyst's favorite, Wilson felt like the hipster analyst's pick, at least to me. Wilson led the Big 12 with 50 quarterback pressures last season, had five games with at least two tackles for loss and led the Big 12 in tackles for loss (27.5) in 2021-22. The Raiders could have something working if all three of these players can get to the quarterback this season.

... score enough if the defense doesn't improve? The Raiders are loaded on offense. Davante Adams set a single-season Raiders record with 1,516 receiving yards in 2022, surpassing Hall of Fame receiver Tim Brown's 1,408 in 1997. Adams also led the NFL with 14 touchdown catches. So, that part worked for the Raiders. And I expect him to exceed again this fall despite the change at quarterback, considering he leads the NFL in receptions (532), receiving yards (6,826) and touchdowns (61) since 2018. In fact, Adams has 11 more touchdowns in that span over the No. 2 guy, Tyreek Hill (50). You know the Raiders have Meyers. Hunter Renfrow is a fine third option. The team will need to replace Darren Waller, who it traded to New York back in March. And then there is Josh Jacobs, who was given the franchise tag but failed to reach a long-term deal with the Raiders before the July 17 deadline. He is not expected to be at training camp. The Raiders need him. And that's quite an understatement -- I'm not a complete idiot. Jacobs was an absolute monster last year with 1,653 rushing yards and 2,053 scrimmage yards. He joined Hall of Famer Marcus Allen as the only other Raiders player with more than 2,000 scrimmage yards in a season. Jacobs also had five games with at least 140 rushing yards and a touchdown in 2022.

One storyline ...

... people are overthinking: Tom Brady is at the ready. This reminds me of back in the day when the Macho Man was on WWF commentary, having his in-ring career cut short. You always felt that someday you were going to see him back in the ring. And he did after he jumped to WCW. I'm not saying that Brady would come out of the owners booth or broadcast booth to quarterback the Raiders, and he insists there won't be another unretirement. But if he did, he would be bringing the Tuck Rule full circle in some respects. How can we not think about that? Especially given the injury history with Garoppolo. I'm only a human being. I can't stop thinking about this.

For 2023 to be a success, the Raiders MUST:

Reach the playoffs. The AFC is tough and the Raiders are in the same division as the defending Super Bowl champion Chiefs, so we have to temper things a bit here. But McDaniels inherited a playoff team a year ago and ended up winning just six games. So, it's very fair to have the postseason as the expectation for this team. And there always seems to be an expectation for the Raiders to win. ... "Just win, baby," and all of that.

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