Earlier in the offseason, you’ll come across a ton of predictions. How do you see the Las Vegas Raiders’ 2022 season panning out?
Despite the Raiders’ notable roster moves, they’re viewed as the bottom team in the AFC West in the eyes of some analysts. Last week, Pro Football Focus’ Ben Linsey listed the Silver and Black 21st in roster rankings.
Vegas heads into training camp with pressing questions along the offensive line and in the secondary with a new defensive coordinator, though the team has some clear strengths as well.
Let’s take a look at some realistic over/under totals with a verdict for passing touchdowns, rushing yards, receiving yards, interceptions, sacks and win totals.
Derek Carr: Over or under 30 passing touchdowns
Derek Carr’s critics have expressed frustrations with his passing touchdown totals. He’s only thrown for 30-plus touchdowns in one out of eight seasons.
In 2015, Carr threw 32 touchdown passes with wideouts Michael Crabtree and Amari Cooper as his top targets. During his tenure, the Raiders have fielded a balanced offense, but they’ve recently struggled in the red zone. He’s contributed to that issue.
Carr averages about 24 passing touchdowns per season, but this year, he has a top-notch pass-catching group that features two-time All-Pro wideout Davante Adams, Pro Bowl tight end Darren Waller and Pro Bowl slot guy Hunter Renfrow.
Carr has the best receiving corps of his career, which will strongly benefit his passing numbers. Expect him to reach a new career high in passing touchdowns—perhaps 35 scores. For context, only seven quarterbacks threw more than 34 touchdown passes in 2021.
Josh Jacobs: Over or under 900 rushing yards
Last season, Josh Jacobs rushed for a career-low 872 yards behind a subpar offensive line. Well, the Raiders may roll with the same offensive line personnel as they did in Week 1 of the 2021 campaign with Kolton Miller, John Simpson, Andre James, Denzelle Good and Alex Leatherwood from left to right.
If that’s the case, fans would hope to see the unit make strides with chemistry, natural growth in the young linemen and Good healthy after he tore his ACL last September.
Even if the Raiders’ offensive line improves, Jacobs may not reap the full benefits. He’s in the backfield with Kenyan Drake, Zamir White and Brandon Bolden.
Drake and Bolden will likely make their biggest contributions as pass-catchers, though the former can certainly handle a sizeable rushing workload. Jacobs may cede a larger portion of his carries to White, whom Vegas selected in the fourth round of the 2022 draft as its second pick.
The Raiders didn’t exercise Jacobs’ fifth-year option, so the team may pivot to White in the second half of the campaign to see what he looks like in a bigger role before 2023.
With Drake and White in the mix, Jacobs may not carry the ball 200-plus times as he’s done in each of his first three seasons. Head coach Josh McDaniels may feature him as the lead back, but the play-caller’s track record in New England suggests that he’ll spread the ball among his crowded running back room.
Davante Adams: Over or under 1,300 receiving yards
Davante Adams has eclipsed 1,300 receiving yards in three of the past four seasons, but Carr hasn’t played with a wideout who’s racked up 1,200 receiving yards in a single term. Fans should look for a middle ground here.
Carr already has a rapport with Adams, who played with him at Fresno State. They should have a productive connection right out of the gate.
However, Carr knows how to spread the ball when necessary, and he has the offensive weapons to do that by design in the upcoming campaign. Adams hasn’t played in a pass-catching group that compares to the talent in Vegas’ unit with Waller and Renfrow.
Adams’ receiving yards total will dip a little bit, but that’s not because of the switch from Aaron Rodgers to Carr. He has to share more of his targets with quality pass-catchers in Vegas.
Over the last four years in Green Bay, Adams didn’t play with two Pro Bowlers who recently posted 1,000-plus-yard receiving seasons. He may not reach 1,300 receiving yards, but his touchdown total should remain in the double digits because the Raiders need significant help in that area.
Chandler Jones and Maxx Crosby: Over or under 20 sacks combined
Before you immediately project the over, keep in mind that the Raiders haven’t had a duo combine for 20 or more sacks since Derrick Burgess (11) and Warren Sapp (10) registered 21 together in 2006.
Yet this duo has a shot to match that number. Maxx Crosby has a 10-sack season on his resume, and he’ll probably see fewer double-teams with Chandler Jones on the opposite side.
In six of the last seven seasons, Jones has recorded at least 10.5 sacks. In 2020, he only played in five games because of a biceps injury and finished with one sack.
Last year, Jones showed that he can still perform at a high level, logging 10.5 sacks to earn his fourth Pro Bowl nod. While healthy, he’ll command some double-teams as well.
Don’t make the mistake of measuring an edge-defender solely on sacks, pressures matter, but Crosby and Jones will win their one-on-one matchups more times than not, which will result in high sack totals.
Trayvon Mullen: Over or under 4 interceptions
Trayvon Mullen set the bar high for himself when he told a Raiders fan to hold him to his expectation of seven or eight interceptions via Twitter:
Mullen has lofty goals, but let’s lower the number to a less extraordinary total. For him, four seems like a fair number because he’s yet to record more than three interceptions in a single season going back to his time at Clemson.
As a pro, Mullen has four interceptions in 37 games. He’s been a solid cornerback but not a ball hawk.
In 2019 and 2020, Mullen led the Las Vegas Raiders in pass breakups, and he’s the safe bet to do it again if healthy. However, we should look for safety Trevon Moehrig to lead the Raiders in interceptions. As a sophomore at TCU, he picked off four passes and let some opportunities slip through his fingertips last year.
Raiders: Over or under 8.5 wins
Even though the Silver and Black plays in a tough division with the Kansas City Chiefs, Los Angeles Chargers, who added Khalil Mack and J.C. Jackson, and the new-look Denver Broncos with quarterback Russell Wilson, Adams and Jones will elevate their team, too.
Carr is primed to have his best season if the offensive line shows any sort of improvement. The defense has some question marks with new coordinator Patrick Graham, but Jones, Crosby and Pro Bowl linebacker Denzel Perryman give that unit a solid foundation.
Outside of the AFC West, Vegas should match up favorably against the Arizona Cardinals, who won’t have star wide receiver DeAndre Hopkins in Week 2 because of a six-game suspension for violating the league’s performance-enhancing drug policy, the Houston Texans following a Week 6 bye, the Jacksonville Jaguars, who will try to help quarterback Trevor Lawrence rebound from a rough rookie campaign and the Seattle Seahawks with Geno Smith and Drew Lock as their potential starting signal-callers.
If the Raiders can at least split with all their divisional rivals, they should hit the over for a winning record.
Maurice Moton covers the Raiders for Sportsnaut. You can follow him on Twitter at @MoeMoton.