Raiders
Photo Credit: TQ/Franchise Sports Media

New FSM Feature: 2022 Raiders Season Preview

Franchise Sports Media

 

The Las Vegas Raiders are about to kick off the 2022 NFL season in a few days, and it’s time to get Raider Nation ready. Just like the Silver and Black adding new faces to their team this offseason, Franchise Sports Media added some as well.

FSM is pleased to welcome Gabe Santiago to the team. A Bay Area native, Gabe graduated from UC San Diego and has previously worked for KNBR (San Francisco), Wynn Las Vegas, and The Action Network. You can also hear him calling play-by-play for UNLV Hustlin’ Rebels baseballGabe will be writing features on the Raiders as well as writing a weekly column on the “3 Best Bets of the Weekend” and hosting the FSM Raiders podcast.

FSM kicks off our Raiders coverage by breaking down the Raiders position groups. With Pro-Bowl additions on both sides of the ball, the 2022 Raiders will field their best squad since moving to Las Vegas and should compete for an AFC West championship.

 

Position by position: A DB group with something to prove


Raider Nation may be a few decades and Hall of Famers removed from the notorious Soul Patrol secondary but make no mistake. The 2022 Silver & Black defensive backfield will be their deepest since relocating to Sin City.

When it all comes together, this group of DBs will be anchored by two talented returning starters: Trayvon Mullen and Johnathan Abram. Of course, Mullen is still shaking off lingering toe issues, but Abram appears at full strength heading into the season.

Also, young safetyman Tre’Von Moehrig is coming off an impressive rookie campaign. He will be the eye in the sky for Las Vegas’ new-look defense. Barring any injuries, the secondary should not continue to be a problem spot for the Raiders (as was the case the last two seasons).

As widely reported this offseason, the AFC West managed to get even wilder, with some expert analysts claiming this could be the best offensive division in NFL history. Basically, defensive backs will be tasked with their biggest challenge yet. As aforementioned, the Raiders are more equipped to handle those offenses this year than any other in this era.

 

LCB depth chart:

 

#27 Trayvon Mullen, Jr. – PUP  (4th yr – 6’2”/200 lbs)

Unfortunately, the player in the Raiders’ defensive backfield with the most physical ability has had some issues with availability. Drafted by the Silver & Black back in 2019, Mullen was an integral cog in the Clemson Tigers’ natty run, earning the 2019 CFB National Championship Game D-MVP en route to definitively defeating Alabama. Standing at 6’2” and running a 4.45 40-yard dash, Mullen has all the tools and talent to be a true No. 1 corner, but he will need to stay on the field to establish that. In his first two years in the NFL, Mullen played in every game (starting 26 of 32 contests).

However, last season, Mullen was plagued by a chronic toe issue and was eventually forced on the shelf after only five games. He currently remains on the Raiders’ PUP list, and given the demands of the position, Mullen will need both feet in top shape—I don’t think it’s a stretch to say that every single DB in the AFC West will be busy this year. Keep an eye out for Trayvon updates this preseason.


#21 Amik Robertson (3rd yr – 5’8”/187 lbs)

Coming from Louisiana Tech, Robertson, like many of his fellow Tigers, has fantastic coverage and ball skills. Back for year three with Raider Nation, Robertson will strive to increase his usage (having checked into 18 games in two seasons, starting at corner twice). At 5’8”, you might assume he has cover one matchup troubles with taller receivers (especially in the red zone), but Robertson is scrappy and plays through the ball with active hands. Ideally, Mullen will be healthy enough to lock down the other corner spot, but Robertson must be ready since his number may be called at any moment. Don’t rule out seeing Robertson at nickel throughout the season; He’ll line up favorably against some of the league’s quicker route runners.

 

SS Depth Chart:

 

#24 Johnathan Abram (4th yr – 6’0”/205 lbs)

Here is a player that would fit right in with the Soul Patrol; 4th-year Jonathan Abram brings the needed physicality to the Raiders’ strong safety spot. The 27th overall selection from the 2019 NFL draft and star from that season’s HBO Hard Knocks, Abram talks fast and plays even faster. Shot out of a cannon, he runs the alley better than most safety men in the league but has also shown some issues with over-pursuing and discipline. That has translated to Abram being a force against the run-game while also suffering some notable blown coverages.

In cover 1, he has the capability to be the most dynamic player on the Silver & Black defense. If his cover three skills improve, he may put his name in the Pro Bowl conversation. Yet to play an entire season in his short NFL career, it should be Abram’s goal to start every game in the 2022 campaign. He played briefly in last week’s Hall of Fame game victory, registering a solo tackle. Over these next three preliminaries, monitor his discipline and commitment to coverage. He is the latest thrilling player to don the jersey number 24 in a long line of Raiders legends and has all the potential to make a significant leap this season.  

 

#33 Roderic Teamer (3rd yr – 6’0”/205 lbs)

Teamer is suiting up for his third season in the NFL, his second with Raider Nation. Born and raised in New Orleans (playing his college ball at Tulane), football is a way of life for Teamer. Standing at 6 feet, 205 pounds, Teamer resembles more of a free safety but has experience at both safety spots. He has dealt with shoulder injuries over the last two years, only playing in 10 games during that span. However, with Abram slotted in front of him (and given the speed at which Abram plays), Teamer will see some action in spots. He was absent for last Thursday’s preseason victory over Jacksonville; Let’s see if he suits up in PRE2 against the Vikings.


FS Depth Chart:

 

#25 Tre’von Moehrig (2nd yr – 6’2”/202 lbs)

Selected by the Raiders as the 43rd overall pick in 2021, Moehrig got his feet wet in the NFL by starting all 17 games (plus one playoff contest) last season. As a rookie, Moehrig was mostly impressive, making 55 tackles, defending six passes, and picking off one. With a physical frame of 6’2”, 200+ lbs, Moehrig has the prototypical size to thrive at free safety in the NFL while also possessing cornerback coverage skills (recruited from High School as a CB). A defensive and special teams star at TCU, he will serve as MLB-Hall-of-Famer Reggie Jackson once proclaimed, “the straw that stirs the drink,” playing an athletic centerfield for the Silver & Black. Given the surrounding talent in this Raiders’ secondary, he will complete the package by overseeing things from the top.

#37 Tyree Gillespie (2nd yr – 6’0”/207 lbs)

Another member of the Raiders’ 2021 draft class, Gillespie, played his college ball at Missouri. Although he has yet to start a game for the Silver & Black, he did see action in 11 contests last season (mainly as a special teamer). At 23 years of age, he is one of the youngest returning players and is younger than much of the 2022 rookie class, as well. Gillespie has a solid all-around build for an NFL safety and will do well to build on his experience from his rookie season. Moehrig may have the starting spot on lock, but depth in the defensive backfield is always needed, especially considering the pace of play from the fellow offenses in the AFC West. Expect Gillespie to get a fair amount of work in the preseason. Worth noting: In last week’s HoF game, Gillespie logged two solo tackles. 

 

RCB Depth Chart:

 

#26 Rock Ya-Sin (4th yr – 6’0”/190 lbs)

A former second-round draftee, Ya-Sin comes to Las Vegas after three seasons on a prolific Colts defense. Having started 29 of 41 games in action, Ya-Sin has proven more than reliable at the professional level. So far, his rookie year (2019) has been his most productive; He outputted 62 tackles with five passes defended and an interception, also recovering a fumble. Opposite Trayvon Mullen, the Raiders can use a man of Ya-Sin’s talents. Also, having both starting corners standing north of six feet tall is a luxury in the NFLLegion of Boom cornerbacks Richard Sherman and Brandon Browner is a recent tandem that comes to mind. Undoubtedly, Ya-Sin and company will have ample opportunity to showcase their skill. The first real test is around the corner: Week 1 against Keenan Allen and Mike Williams.

#29 Anthony Averett (5th yr – 5’11”/185 lbs)

A two-time National Champion at Alabama, Averett was drafted by Baltimore in the fourth round of the 2018 NFL draft. With the Ravens last year, he saw an increased workload after much of Baltimore’s defensive backfield was depleted with injuries in the weeks leading up to the 2021 regular season. Averett would answer the bell, starting 14 games, making 54 tackles, and stealing three interceptions with 11 passes defended. Given the demanding nature of the cornerback position (possibly the most tasking spot in all sports), Averett will see time on the outside and in the nickel. He did not play in last week’s game in Canton, but perhaps we will see him on the field in Las Vegas this Sunday.

 

Nickel Depth Chart:

 

#39 Nate Hobbs (2nd yr – 6’0”/195 lbs)

Taken by the Raiders in the fifth round of last year’s draft, Hobbs is back for his sophomore season after starting nine games as a rookie. Also, in 2021, he registered 73 total tackles with one interception, getting on the field for every game except Week 14 at Cleveland. With a solid height of 6’0”, Hobbs can play either inside or outside but will likely see most of his burn in the nickel. In today’s version of the NFL, having a stud at nickelback is vital, especially in the fourth quarter (again, consider the quarterbacks that Las Vegas will battle this season). Hobbs can be that effective presence for the Raiders’ secondary; With length and strength (31.5-inch arms/17 bench press reps at the 2021 NFL combine), Hobbs can match up with receivers of all shapes and sizes.

#20 Darius Phillips (5th yr – 5’10”/190 lbs)

In last week’s Hall of Fame exhibition, Phillips was the most impressive member of the Raiders’ defensive backfield; His presence was on full display early, as he nearly forced a fumble on Jacksonville’s second drive of the game. On a JAX catch near the right sideline, Phillips flew up and cracked the Jags receiver across the thighs, who proceeded to cough up the rock. Replays would show the offensive player down-by-contact, overturning the fumble. Not to worry, Phillips produced a strikingly similar play in the second quarter, dislodging the ball again while fellow Raider Duron Vernon recovered possession (no overturn this time)! I have Darius Phillips as a player to watch all preseason. He flies around and brings pop, and judging from his four tackles last week, Phillips was clearly eager to hit someone in a different uniform than his.

 

Position by position: Solidification at linebacker


A year ago, Raider Nation was deep in exploration of assistance at the linebacker spot. Since leaving Oakland for Southern Nevada, the Raiders’ linebackers have left much to be desired from a production standpoint. Now going into 2022, the middle seems more solidified.

Since last season, Denzel Perryman has arrived and thrived for the Silver & Black, K.J. Wright has come and gone, and many younger, trimmer options have been considered. Of course, with an electric defensive line, Las Vegas will need reliable players behind them to fill the leaks. Perryman is up to the task and has vast experience within the division. Divine Deablo will start alongside him at the Will-spot, as the two will be one of the smallest interior LB tandems in the NFL. However, thinking of the way the game has become saturated with air attacks, perhaps this more diminutive mold is the linebacker of the future.

At this point, the Hall of Fame game win is in the books, and even though the Raiders showed many positives, preseason bliss should not linger on. With the Minnesota Vikings coming to Vegas for the next test, there is still much work to be done. 

 

MLB Depth Chart:

 

#52 Denzel Perryman (8th yr – 5’11”/240 lbs)

A wily vet, Perryman has played all seven of his previous NFL seasons in the AFC West. Originally selected out of Linebacker U (Miami) in 2015 by the thenSan Diego Chargers, Perryman spent over half a decade with the Bolts, never starting more than ten games in a season. Of course, last year was his first season in Silver & Black; He confidently produced career-highs in several categories, including solo tackles (102), total tackles (154), passes defended (3), and games started (15). By the conclusion of the 2021 season, Perryman would get his first Pro Bowl nod at the ripe age of 29.

With K.J. Wright now retired, Divine Deablo will be Perryman’s full-time running mate. The two have some continuity from last season and make for a uniquely athletic interior. With Perryman coming off a career year, look for him to take the initiative on the field, tying everything together in the middle for the talented position groups in front and behind him. Be sure to monitor the rapport between Perryman and incoming DC Patrick Graham, as that relationship between middle linebacker and defensive coordinator is perpetually paramount. 

 

#53 Kenny Young (5th yr – 6’1”/235 lbs)

The former-UCLA Bruin was selected initially by Baltimore back in the fourth round of the 2018 NFL draft but has seen the majority of his on-field action as a member of the Rams (through multiple stints). In 2021, he began the season by starting the first six games with Los Angeles before being traded to the Broncos (unsure if the Rams elected to award Young a Super Bowl ring for his efforts). For Denver, he started seven games late in the season and offered support to one of their most problematic position groups.

Fast forward back to the present, and Young boasts experience playing ball in some of the most tenacious NFL divisions. After last season, Raider Nation is quite comfortable with Perryman leading the defense from the Mike spot, but Young brings depth and the presence of someone who has been around the block. Young played sparingly in the HOF game and produced two tackles in the victory. He’ll assuredly get more work over the next three weeks and may even line up next Perryman as will backer for Deablo in short-yardage situations.

 

WLB Depth Chart:

 

#5 Divine Deablo (2nd yr – 6’3”/226 lbs)

After being selected from Virginia Tech by the Raiders in round three of the 2021 NFL draft, Deablo did well to play in every contest last season, starting the last five games. Over his rookie campaign, he compiled 45 total tackles, with one resulting in a loss of yardage. Now that he is no longer sharing the position with K.J. Wright anticipate these numbers to leap exponentially in 2022. Admittedly, at 6’3”/226, Deablo resembles more of a box safety (ala Kam Chancellor) than an inside linebacker.

However, Deablo’s height from the Will backer will be an advantage in coverage at the second level, not a slight. Sure, he’s not as broad as most NFL linebackers, but that can easily be offset with timely play recognition (study your film, kids) and disciplined tackling technique. Deablo is rangy and athletic–That was on display in the Hall of Fame game wherein he made three tackles in short work. I imagine he’ll continue to get reps here and there this preseason, but all eyes will be on Deablo come Week 1 at the Chargers, the Raiders’ bonus home game. Look for him to make the jump in his second year at the professional level.

#50 Jayon Brown (2nd yr – 6’0”/225 lbs)

Another UCLA guy, Brown was born and raised in Southern California before starring at high school football powerhouse, Long Beach Poly. He has been in the league since 2017 when the Titans drafted him in the fifth round. In his first NFL season outside of Nashville, Brown will look to be a contributing member of a smaller Raider linebacking corps. Like other players in this group, Brown is slimmer than the quintessential Kirk Morrison-type, but he already has 66 professional games (39 starts) under his belt.

Whatever he lacks in physical mass, he makes up for with athleticism; He’s grabbed an interception in every season since his rookie campaign. In an AFC West loaded with talent through the air, a player of Brown’s size and skills will be needed, as he can match up favorably with certain backs and receivers. In the opening bid at Canton, Brown brought down two solo tackles. Throughout the preseason, monitor how well Brown can transition from playing the run to playing the pass. 

 

LT Depth Chart:

 

#74 Kolton Miller (5th yr – 6’8”/325 lbs)

Taken by the Raiders as the 15th overall selection in the 2018 NFL draft, Kolton Miller is back to anchor the offensive line in year five. Undoubtedly, he is the best O-linemen on the Silver & Black, as he is a top-10 player at the LT position. Despite his enormous frame of 6’8”/325 lbs, Miller is agile, athletic, and durable. Over his tenure with the Raiders, he has started all 63 games he’s played in, only missing two contests in four NFL seasons. Considering that the O-line has been in rotating chaos the past two seasons, Miller’s consistency does not go unnoticed, especially from the guy whose back he is protecting: Derek Carr.

After Carr broke his fibula at the end of the 2016 season, the Raiders did right by him when they took Miller in the first round of the 2018 draft (along with T Brandon Parker in the third round). After last year, it is apparent that Carr is back to operating the pocket with confidence, comfort, and precision. Essentially, he has Miller to thank for some of that peace of mind. At a highly competitive position, I see big #74 bringing home his first All-Pro or Pro Bowl nod this season. 


#72 Jermaine Eluemunor (6th yr – 6’4”/345 lbs)

Considering Alex Leatherwood’s inconsistent rookie season, coach McDaniels is leaning on a familiar face—Enter Jermaine Eluemunor, a tried vet who possesses the skills to play tackle or guard. Eluemunor came to Vegas from New England a year before McDaniels and saw the field in 14 games (despite only starting three times in 2021). His familiarity with both the existing team and the incoming regime should go a long way in the locker room. At this point in the year, I’d say nothing is set on the offensive line other than the aforementioned Miller. With that said, do not rule out seeing Eluemunor; That may be left or right side, guard or tackle. Dynamic depth is always a very good thing, especially at 345lbs!  

 

LG Depth Chart:

 

#76 John Simpson (3rd yr – 6’4”/321 lbs)

After starting 17 games in 2021 for the perpetually-injured Richie Incognito (Cogs played 14+ years on the line in the NFL; He’s earned that) last year, John Simpson will get the opening nod at left guard. Simpson also played in seven games as a rookie in 2020, so the Clemson product does have some solid experience to build on. With Incognito now retired, the position is Simpson’s to lose. I haven’t had the chance to break down his skills and techniques extensively, but I know he is big, young, and fast. Let’s hope this former-Clemson Tiger can produce at the level that fellow college teammates Renfrow and Mullen have shown.

C Depth Chart:

 

#68 Andre James (4th yr – 6’4”/300 lbs)

We mentioned this offensive line has been in flux since entering the 2020s. Except for Miller on the end, James is the only returning O-lineman that started at the same spot from a season ago. Coming to the Raiders as a UFA in 2019, James did not see much action until 2021 (primarily due to playing behind 3x Pro Bowler Rodney Hudson), wherein he started every game at center for Raider Nation. Indisputably, James plays the game with an unrivaled tenacity, which is absolutely required at the center spot. Not only is physicality required there, but the center is solely in charge of identifying the opposing defensive cues and relaying the appropriate calls to the rest of the O-line (similar to what a catcher does for a baseball team). With an entire season of starts now under his belt, expect Andre James to build on his continuity and make the next step this season.

 

#65 Hroniss Grasu (4th yr – 6’3”/300 lbs)

The Raiders add some necessary depth to the interior offensive line by bringing in Grasu (a player who has seen most of his snaps at center but can also play guard if needed). In 2017, Grasu was a third-round draft pick by the Chicago Bears after an active college career at Oregon. However, last season, he did not see any regular season action while spending time on the Raiders’ practice squad. With more familiarity, Grasu should see the field this year for the Silver & Black. Although his pass-blocking skills can be improved, he is nasty in the run game. Given his flexibility between center and the two guard spots (a recent trouble spot for Vegas), I’m confident Grasu will have his name called at some point in 2022.

RG Depth Chart:

 

#67 Lester Cotton, Sr. (3rd yr – 6’4”/335 lbs)

Starting on Andre Miller’s right this season will likely be the 26-year-old Lester Cotton. Another Alabama man on the roster, Cotton, played in four games last season for the Raiders. However, at 6’4”/335lbs, he has the prototypical size to thrive at offensive guard in the NFL. I can’t say Cotton has RG locked down quite yet, but if his footspeed improves, he’s a cohesive choice for the position. Remember, the interior O-line has been one of Vegas’ most glaring needs. Let’s see how things look at this spot come September.

 

#64 Alex Bars (4th yr – 6’5”/334 lbs)

In my opinion, Bars resembles an NFL tackle more than he does a guard, but again, flexibility is a luxury at this level. At 6’5”/334lbs, Bars is your quintessential lineman from Notre Dame; After all, the Irish have churned out maulers up-front for decades. His pro career began in Chicago in 2019, and over the Bears’ past two seasons, Bars has played in every game (only starting 11 of them). Like many others on the Vegas offensive line, I don’t see him married to RG alone. Don’t be shocked if Bars winds up getting some burn at RT, as well. 

RT Depth Chart:


#75 Brandon Parker (5th yr – 6’8”/320 lbs)

Drafted by the Raiders a couple of rounds after Kolton Miller in 2018, the two men are built brilliantly similar: Tall, broad, athletic, and dangerously powerful. Parker would wind up starting 12 of those games back in 2018, which served as his career high until last year when he started 13 games for Raider Nation. Over his previous four seasons in Silver & Black, Parker has shown mixed results on the field, but his competitive spirit has never wavered. In 2021, he demonstrated himself as the more serviceable option at RT than rookie Leatherwood. Now in 2022, don’t let yourself imagine that he’ll go quietly and wait for Leatherwood to take the job. Often, players perform best when their back is against the wall. Could this be that make-or-break year for Parker as a member of the Raiders?


#70 Alex Leatherwood (2nd yr – 6’5”/312 lbs)

Here’s a polarizing player! One of the biggest on-field stories last season in Raider Nation was the progression of 2021 17th overall pick, Alex Leatherwood. Whether you feel he was selected too high or not is moot now; The kid is back for another season and certainly has the potential to thrive in this league. At 6’5”, 312lbs, he has excellent size and explosion. After playing LT for the Crimson Tide at a consensus All-American level, the Raiders took Leatherwood hoping to swing him to the right side. Early in 2021, his lack of discipline constantly had him working behind the 8-ball. Frequent false starts and holding penalties are always troublesome for an offense but will be exponentially magnified when pertaining to a recent first-round pick.

To troubleshoot, the team tried to plug-in Leatherwood at guard, but a fit there was not apparent. Still, Leatherwood has been durable, starting all 17 games last season and dealing with everything dealt his way by the media. Given his size, athleticism and potential, keep an eye on his progression these next four weeks—Perhaps being thrust out of the starting lineup will light his fire!

 

Starting with the quarterbacks (since most things tend to), let’s go through the backfield player-by-player and see what we’re in for:

 

QB Depth Chart:

 

Raiders
Photo Credit: TQ/Franchise Sports Media

#4 Derek Carr (9th yr – 6’3″/210 lbs)

Entering his ninth NFL season (all as starting man for the Raiders), Derek Carr is positioned for a career-defining year. He is the longest-tenured Raider and has all the tools to go the distance with this version of the Silver & Black. Through eight seasons, he holds just about every franchise passing record. Carr earned three Pro Bowl selections in his first four years behind an average completion rate of 61.4%. Over the four seasons since then, he’s done well to increase that clip to a fantastic 68.75%. Also, consider the amount of coaching turnover he’s endured over that period.

Last year, Carr shattered his personal bests for both completions (428) and passing yards (4,804) en route to a Wild Card berth, all while dealing with immeasurable off-field issues. We know he’s a true leader and has the entire organization behind him. He does most things well at the position and has continually improved at his craft (even utilizing his legs more when needed). If the game is on the line, Carr has repeatedly proven that he can be counted on to do the deed. In 2022, his supporting offensive cast is likely the strongest it has ever been; The reunion with WR Davante Adams has been the hot topic of the summer. Regardless, you better believe DC is ready to turn up this year. All systems go, the cue that “Runaway” hype video. Let’s have a toast!

#3 Jarrett Stidham (3rd yr – 6’3″/214 lbs)

Another guy coming over from New England with coach McDaniels is projected No. 2 quarterback Jarrett Stidham. Once considered the successor in Foxborough to Tom Brady, Stidham has played in eight games throughout his career, throwing for two touchdowns. These days, he’s a calendar-year removed from shoulder surgery, a procedure that caused him to miss all of the 2021 season. An Auburn product, Stidham has shown great strides to allow him to contend for the backup job. He has a pro-style skill-set and certainly looks taller than 6’3″.

#9 Nick Mullens (5th yr – 6’1″/210 lbs)

Last season, Mullens was in a backup role between the Eagles and Browns after spending his first two years in San Francisco. His alma mater is Southern Mississippi, and like Brett Favre, Mullens is a true gunslinger. In spot work throughout his career (20 games), he has passed for 407 completions with 26 touchdowns and 22 interceptions. There’s a chance you remember him from a game back in 2018, wherein the most productive start of his career came against the Raiders; He put up 262 yards and three TD throws behind 72.7% passing. Undeniably, Mullens plays hard. Look for him and Stidham to push each other over the next month.

 

RB Depth Chart:

 

Raiders vs Colts
Photo Credit: Bobby Ellis/Getty Images

#28 Josh Jacobs (4th yr – 5’10″/220 lbs)

I mentioned above that Jacobs is a top-10 running back in the NFL right now, and I say that with my chest. Over his three seasons at the pro level (all with the Raiders), Jacobs has rushed for nearly 30 touchdowns. He also brings a complete skill-set to the tailback spot, employing good vision, solid pass blocking technique, and above-average route running ability from the backfield.

He narrowly missed the 1,000 rushing-yard mark last season (872) for the first time in his NFL career; However, throw in his receiving numbers from 2021 (348), and you’ll see Jacobs did well to produce 1,200+ all-purpose yards last year. Fellow Alabama-alum RB Kenyan Drake’ll back him for the second consecutive campaign. When both are right (and considering the entire offensive skill group), opposing defenses will have to account for absolutely everything.

Remember: In an era of high-flying passing attacks, the run game still controls the clock, keeps the defense honest, sets up the play action, and eventually pops the home run. Expect McDaniels’ offense to maintain that commitment with Jacobs as the anchor.

#23 Kenyan Drake (7th yr – 6’1″/211 lbs)

A true pro, Drake is returning for his second season with the Silver & Black. Back in 2016, he was initially drafted in the third-round by Miami; He spent three seasons with the Fins, starting 14 games and producing 15 overall touchdowns. Drake’s best individual season came not long ago (in 2020) as a member of the Cardinals; at year’s end, he compiled 239 carries for 955 yards and ten scores. In the lone season since then (with Las Vegas), his numbers took a slight dive to 545 all-purpose yards, scoring three times. That makes some sense since he only played 12 games (broken ankle) and was slotted behind Jacobs all year, so look for Drake to build on those figures in 2022. KD got his medical clearance on July 21st, so he is now more than ready. Also, have some confidence; If #28 goes down for a game, #23 can jump right in and make plays–Expect a little more from Drake this year.

#34 Brandon Bolden (10th yr – 5’11″/220 lbs)

Another one of McDaniels’ boys coming over with him from the Pats (feel how you want to feel about that, but those guys know how to win), Brandon Bolden is a wily vet. He’s entering his 10th season at the NFL level, and for any running back, that is an accomplishment to be proud of. They often say “the best ability is availability,” and Bolden has not missed many games over the last decade (he’s played in 131 contests over nine seasons). His usage rate has never been extremely high in any one year; His 63 carries back in 2015 are still his pinnacle. With that said, he did catch 41 passes for 400+ yards last season, so he has value in this offense (and he knows McDaniels’ system). I don’t have Bolden as the solidified No. 3 RB just yet; he’ll need to beat out rookie Zamir White and vet-Ameer Abdullah, two runners with dynamic skill sets. Right now, Bolden gets the No. 3 slot for seniority and familiarity in the offense. As mentioned, this is my most intriguing position battle of the preseason. Let’s see who steps up!

 

FB Depth Chart:

 

#45 Jakob Johnson (4th yr – 6’3”/255 lbs)

We’ll all miss Alec Ingold. Teammates described him as the “engine of the Raiders’ offense,” but this is the pros, and these things happen. We have a new guy! Another former Pat, fullback Jakob Johnson will now be the guy burying defenders on power runs. Originally from Germany, Johnson played his college ball at Tennessee. Over his past two seasons in the pros, he started every game for New England. In the modern era, many programs have shied away from utilizing a fullback, but not the Raiders (and wisely so).

Given that offensive gameplans are predicated on matchups, timing, misdirection, and anticipation, fullbacks can be extremely useful in the short-passing game (Ingold showed us that. Worth mentioning—Johnson caught one TD with New England). He has yet to run the ball at the NFL level, but that will likely change this year. At 6’3″, 255lbs, you can bet that defenders will not be eager to square up with Johnson. Look for him to have a significant role this season.

Photography by TQ for Franchise Sports Media

 

Is the Raiders’ wide receiver corps the strongest group on the roster?

 

Raiders
Photo Credit: Trisha LaCoste/Franchise Sports Media

As Summer’s truest month (July) comes to a close, the buzz around Raider Nation is already near mid-season levels. Once again, a new era is on the horizon for the Silver & Black. Freshly acquired head coach Josh McDaniels is eager to get the 2022 campaign underway, and with the Raiders selected to play this year’s Hall of Fame game (vs the Jacksonville Jaguars on August 4th), we are officially less than a week away from kickoff in Canton, OH!

Of course, former Raider Richard Seymor is getting his call to the Hall this year. But, more noteworthy, legendary wide receiver Cliff Branch is also getting his due-enshrinement (posthumously: DO BETTER, NFL).

Speaking of generational pass catchers, we know that much of the early excitement brewing within Raider Nation is simply due to the acquisition of All-Pro wide receiver (and lifelong Raiders fan) Davante Adams. So naturally, Adams, who is currently regarded as the NFL’s top receiver, is showcasing almost no weaknesses at the position. He’ll team up with former college teammate and Raiders-signal caller Derek Carr, hoping to push the Las Vegas offense to elite status.

Last season, the Raiders’ receiving numbers were quite varied. Losing their No. 1 WR before Week 8 in catastrophic fashion certainly did not help, but the Raiders managed to collect 429 receptions as a team in 2021 for 4,808 yards (both figures were 3rd-best in the AFC). However, in terms of touchdowns caught, Las Vegas was in the bottom half of the league with 23 (tied with Detroit and Pittsburgh). Adding a receiver like Adams, who has grabbed 29 touchdowns over the last two years, should help tremendously in that department.

He’ll be the undisputed No. 1 target in Derek Carr’s offense. Returning to the team will be dynamic options in tight end Darren Waller and wide receiver Hunter Renfrow, both with two seasons of experience playing with Carr.

Of course, the Raiders did suffer some losses. Wide receivers Zay Jones (JAX), Bryan Edwards (ATL), and DeSean Jackson (FA) will not be returning. With that said, let’s take a glimpse at the projected depth charts heading into the 2022-23 NFL season, beginning on offense.

Moving into the backfield, it’s safe to assume that some of your favorite Raiders will not be dressed to play. That especially pertains to signal-caller Derek Carr and likely star runner Josh Jacobs. However, with that said, the QB room behind Carr is quite solid, so I’d still expect quality offensive production when the Raiders’ 2s, 3s, and 4s are on the field.

Last year, Marcos Mariota was the solidified No. 2 quarterback in Vegas, even getting on the field (situationally) here and there. As many thought, Mariota has found a starting job elsewhere (Atlanta), and good for him! Enter Jarrett Stidham and Nick Mullens: A couple of guys that possess the ideal tools to step in if needed.

This year’s running back group is also built deep. Jacobs is a top-10 player at the position, and Drake will look to jump back into his explosive change-of-pace role. Behind them, it will be too much fun to watch the competition between vets Brandon Bolden and Ameer Abdullah with the Raiders’ most recent 4th-round pick, rookie Zamir White; That may be the offensive position battle I watch most over these four preseason contests.

Unfortunately, the Raiders will move on from one of their backfield captains of the past couple of years. Fullback Alec Ingold has taken his talents to South Beach (literally, he’s on the Dolphins now). We wish him well, but coach McDaniels has got it covered. Coming over from New England with him is the 6’3″, 255-pound Jakob Johnson. If you could custom-mold an NFL fullback, Johnson would be that player.

 

WR depth chart:

 

Raiders
Photo Credit: TQ/Franchise Sports Media

#17 Davante Adams (9th yr – 6’1”/215 lbs)

You know who he is. Adams is coming off of back-to-back 1st team All-Pro seasons and deservedly so. He is an elite, disciplined route runner who can line up wide, in the slot, or at the flanker. Most importantly, Adams finds the end zone; We mentioned his 29 receiving touchdowns over the past two seasons (career-high 18 touchdown rec in 2020). Back with Derek Carr, these two produced video game numbers while at Fresno St. As Bulldogs, they hooked up for 233 receptions for 3,031 yards and 38 touchdowns en route to a couple of Mountain West Conference Championships.

#13 Hunter Renfrow (4th yr – 5’10”/185 lbs)

Fresh off his first Pro Bowl nod, I’m sure the entire NFL community is now well aware of Hunter Renfrow. Last year, Renfrow was the most productive slot machine in the league as he hauled in a whopping 103 catches (one shy of Tim Brown’s Raiders single-season catch record of 104 rec) with nine touchdowns, picking up 51 first downs along the way. Simply put, his agility and understanding of route concepts vs. coverages make him a matchup nightmare. Whether matched against a corner, nickel, linebacker, or safety, 3rd & Renfrow is likely to win one-on-one.

#11
Demarcus Robinson (7th yr – 6’1″/202 lbs)

The other prominent newcomer to the Silver & Black receiving corps, and this one is twice as sweet. Demarcus Robinson is an absolute burner, showcasing top-tier speed when tracking the deep ball. With Ruggs and Jackson long gone, Robinson will brilliantly serve this role for the Raiders. The cherry on top; he (along with Tyreek Hill) can no longer line up against the Raiders as a member of the Chiefs; I’m sure most of us remember that game from 2019 at the Oakland Coliseum wherein Robinson went six rec/172 yds/2 TD. Be happy he’s now in Las Vegas!

#10 Mack Hollins (5th yr – 6’4″/221 lbs)

After trading away big-body possession receiver Bryan Edwards, the Raiders will look to Mack Hollins to fill that void, only with more consistency. Undeniably, Edwards made some astonishing catches in crunch time last season but was often missing in most other situations. Hollins, originally drafted from UNC by the Eagles, comes to Vegas from the Dolphins, where he started only three games a year ago, catching four touchdowns. Hollins will undoubtedly draw favorable matchups with the right skill group on the field.

#84 Keelan Cole (6th yr – 6’1″/ 194 lbs)

Cole very well could end up being the X-factor of this group. He played his college ball at Kentucky Wesleyan before being drafted by Jacksonville in 2017, to which his best season came in 2020 (55/642/5). After spending a season with the Jets, Cole comes to Vegas looking to solidify himself. If he can get back to that 2020 level of production, he will be a valuable 4th option for Carr—Let’s keep an eye on Cole. His skill set is solid all the way around. 

 

TE depth chart:

 

Raiders
Photo Credit: TQ/Franchise Sports Media

#83 Darren Waller (7th yr – 6’6″/255 lbs)

Here’s another man who needs no introduction! Inarguably, Darren Waller is a top-3 NFL tight end when healthy and also has the potential to go down as an all-time great. We mentioned Hunter Renfrow being a matchup nightmare; Waller is essentially Freddy Kruger. Despite boasting an imposing physical frame, Waller has track speed and freaky athleticism. When not nursing an injury, there isn’t a single NFL defender that can cover him without help. Additionally, Waller’s story and journey showcase just how resilient he can be. Along with Adams and Renfrow, Waller is a vital figure in Derek Carr’s passing game.

#87 Foster Moreau (4th yr – 6’4″/250 lbs)

Big Fof is entering his fourth season in the NFL, all of which have been with Raider Nation. Moreau is a football player through and through; His skills as both a receiver and blocker have kept him on the field. This makes sense since Moreau is a Louisiana guy (LSU). Football is in his blood. However, this upcoming season could be incredibly bright for Moreau. With coach McDaniels now at the helm, expect two-tight end sets to be common, especially in the red zone. Remember how effective the Patriots’ Gronk + Aaron Hernandez packages were back in 2010-2012? Yup, McDaniels was part of that.

#88 Jacob Hollister (6th yr – 6’4″/239 lbs)

Originally drafted out of Wyoming by the Patriots, Hollister has seen his best days (so far) as a member of the Seahawks. Over two seasons in Seattle, Hollister produced a respectable 66 catches for 558 yards and six scores. Unfortunately, last year, he was part of the organizational dumpster fire in Duval County (FL) and should be eager to play elsewhere. However, with Waller and Moreau confidently slotted at TE1 and TE2, Hollister has a legit chance to make this team as TE3; The position battles between him and Bowers should be a camp storyline this summer.

#82 Nick Bowers (2nd yr – 6’4″/265 lbs)

The former Penn State Nittany Lion is entering his sophomore campaign in the NFL. Only 26 years old, Bowers still has much to learn at the professional level. Last year, he was able to get into five contests as a member of the Silver & Black, but mostly in running situations; Bowers is still looking for his first regular-season catch! So can he make the leap in year 2? Bowers certainly has the size to thrive on Sundays, but let’s monitor the progression of his receiving skills over camp.

 

Campers:

 

QBs: Chase Garbers

A 3+ year starter at UC Berkeley, can the dual-threat kid from Newport Beach prove he belongs in the NFL?

RBs: Zamir White (2022 4th rd selection), Ameer AdbullahAustin Walter, Brittain Brown

The running back room is an emporium of talent in the spirit of competition. So look for these guys all to push each other in the right direction.

WRs: Tyron Johnson, Jordan Veasy, DJ Turner, Isaiah Zuber, Justin Hall

TEs: Jesper Horsted, Cole Fotheringham

Tackles: Tyrone Wheatley Jr. (yup, the old RB has a son, and he is massive), Jackson Barton, Thayer Munford Jr., Olaseni Bamidele

LBs: Darien Butler, Curtis Bolton, Luke Masterson

PUP: 16 Dillon Stoner (2nd yr – 6’0″/196 lbs) – UNDISCLOSED

 

 

Photography by TQ for Franchise Sports Media

 

The Raiders will continue to have training camp in Henderson, Nevada at the Intermountain Healthcare Performance Center before heading out to Canton, Ohio for the NFL Hall of Fame game. Stay tuned for the next positional preview from Gabe on Franchise Sports Media.

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-Gabe Santiago – Franchise Sports Media

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