As you all know, the team formerly from Oakland has landed themselves in a prime location — Las Vegas. It almost feels as if a team should’ve been here a long time ago.
For the brand-new Las Vegas Raiders this upcoming season, the phrase, “lights, cameras, action,” has never been truer.
The beginning of the 2019 season was a lot to handle for Raiders fans, with high hopes for Antonio Brown; and then, in a few weeks, never wanting to hear his name again. Brown’s overall attitude was something that could not be tolerated, and it was apparent that he had some issues to deal with, off the field. The season didn’t end as badly as many had thought, resulting in a 7-9 record with a roster that had many new faces and a ton of young, undeveloped talent.
As the 2020 season progresses, there will be a number of topics to follow for the Las Vegas Raiders. Although every year has the general headlines like contracts, rookies, and injuries, this year has proven to be immensely different — and highly anticipated.
NO PLACE LIKE HOME
The Raiders have moved to Las Vegas and will be playing on their own field, Allegiant Stadium, but without fans. Considering what is going on in our country, it probably is a smart play to not allow fans in our brand-new facility. With that said, it certainly is a disappointment, and although we had a loyal and rabid fan base in Oakland, the early word is that they will travel — and we will not miss a beat when that opportunity presents itself.
One of the first points of interest, like many teams, is the quarterback position. This year is clearly a make-or-break campaign for Derek Carr, and what he did last year with a depleted receiving corps, went somewhat under the radar, nationally. In my belief, you can win with a quarterback like Carr, but the team wasn’t able to build around him quickly enough, and many of his former teammates are off the team from previous years.
Tyrell Williams is currently suffering from a torn labrum and will be out for the rest of the year, which immediately puts Carr in a similar spot to last year. The main difference is, Williams was an established player who could step up and make plays.
This means that Henry Ruggs, the first-round draft pick from Alabama, will get more targets. Ruggs will get his opportunity very quickly. Big-bodied Bryan Edwards will also get a bump in playing time and target share. A few familiar faces behind them that could step up are guys like Zay Jones and Nelson Agholor, both guys with plenty to prove. Also, don’t you dare forget about Hunter Renfrow. The wide receiver room will certainly be competitive, and hopefully, a group that can get behind opposing secondaries.
The offensive line should, once again, be a strong unit. Kolton Miller and Trent Brown are book-end tackles, with Richie Incognito, Gabe Jackson, and Rodney Hudson on the interior. The offensive linemen are definitely a confidence-booster for Raiders fans. The hogs on both sides of the ball never get the love, when in reality, success can’t be had without them.
The tight ends are another underrated asset to this team, especially adding a future Hall-of-Famer in Jason Witten. Even if Witten doesn’t produce very much, it is hard to get upset with having a veteran presence like him in the locker room, mentoring Darren Waller and Foster Moreau. Witten and head coach Jon Gruden seem like a perfect fit, both on and off the field.
The running back room will still be highlighted by Josh Jacobs, who unmistakably is one of the more versatile backs in the league; a very tough back who reminds me a little of Brian Westbrook, as far as where you can use him. Jalen Richard is still hanging around and can give Jacobs a break when needed, as well as former Denver Bronco Devontae Booker. I wonder if his workload gets a little heavier due to the injury to Tyrell Williams, as well as the year he had in 2019. I wouldn’t be surprised if they made a move to bolster the depth of unit.
The rush defense last year was better than expected, and players like Maxx Crosby made a quick name for themselves. We are still waiting a little for Clelin Ferrell to come along, but he has the tools to turn into a serious pass-rusher. I do think that some of the backups at those line positions have a chance to pass guys on the depth chart if they can’t produce, such as Mo Hurst and Arden Key.
The linebackers go unnoticed, but they have some old-school, Raider-type players and have proven to be steady and stout. Las Vegas added Cory Littleton this offseason and he should add a little veteran presence, as well as a potential leading voice in the huddle. Kyle Wilber will be brought back and has reached an extension, which gives the Raiders some depth.
The secondary has been a revolving door for as long as I can remember. There have been some veterans who just didn’t have the juice anymore, whether it was age or nagging injuries. The projected starting corners are a first-year player in Damon Arnette, and second-year player Trayvon Mullen. Arnette was somewhat of a reach, but has been impressing in camp and was an elite corner in college before his injury. If it is any indicator, they come from Clemson and Ohio State; those two schools not only have been competing for National Championships, but they produce NFL players as much as any team. One of the more exciting players on the back end would be Johnathan Abrams, who has Bob Sanders-type potential and plays just as recklessly, though an early injury cut his season short.
It pains me to say that this team could go anywhere from 5-11 to 9-7, but I honestly think it comes down to Derek Carr and the defense. I believe Henry Ruggs will be as good, if not better, than advertised; Josh Jacobs will continue to evolve as a premier back; and Darren Waller and that offensive line will continue to develop a sense of unity and chemistry — but, I am not sure the defense is ready.
The Raiders finished 7-9 last year, and my prediction for the brand-new Las Vegas Raiders in 2020 is 8-8.
(Featured Image Credit: Michael Clemens / Raiders.com)