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Las Vegas Raiders: 6 fact-or-fiction scenarios for the 2023 NFL season

With the 2023 NFL season underway, it’s time to take a final big picture look at how the Las Vegas Raiders campaign could pan out over the next four months.

First, we cannot ignore the ongoing storyline around Chandler Jones, who’s been active on social media in a public dispute with head coach Josh McDaniels, who, of course, declined to discuss the matter with the media.

At this point, Jones’ tenure with the Raiders seems like it’s coming to an abrupt end, but someone has to fill his void on the edge. Malcolm Koonce will likely see an immediate increase in snap count while rookie first-rounder Tyree Wilson comes along gradually after his extended recovery from foot surgery this summer.

Related: Unlock Fantasy Sports Success! Get FREE Insights & Tips From Dr. Roto and His Team Of Big-Money Fantasy Winners!

What else may be in store for Raiders fans in the upcoming term?

Let’s analyze six season outcomes and use recent trends and data to come up with a verdict, fact or fiction.

Aidan O’Connell will start in at least four games

NFL: Preseason-San Francisco 49ers at Las Vegas Raiders
Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports

Jimmy Garoppolo missed an average of six starts per year in five seasons as the full-time lead signal-caller for the San Francisco 49ers. In that five-year stretch, he’s played more than 11 games in a single campaign twice.

Though no one can predict an injury, Garoppolo’s durability issues have cost him more than a handful of games in multiple seasons. Following an offseason with foot surgery and scheduled days off from practice, Garoppolo doesn’t seem primed to play through a full 17-game slate.

Fortunately for the Raiders, they’ve seen some promise in rookie fourth-rounder Aidan O’Connell, who went 43-of-62 passing for 482 yards and three touchdowns in three preseason games.

Aside from a Garoppolo injury, McDaniels should insert O’Connell into the lineup if the season goes off the rails, and the team falls out of the playoff picture, which is similar to what happened last year when Jarrett Stidham took over for Derek Carr in the final two games of the season.

O’Connell played well against backups, but the Raiders should at least find out what he can do with starters around him and on the other side of the line of scrimmage because they’ll probably have to make a decision on whether or when to take a quarterback in the 2024 NFL Draft.

Verdict: Fact

Related: Josh Jacobs and the NFL’s top running backs of 2023

Las Vegas Raiders’ Josh Jacobs rushes for over 1,200 yards

NFL: Kansas City Chiefs at Las Vegas Raiders
Gary A. Vasquez-USA TODAY Sports

We had a good look at Zamir White in the preseason, and he didn’t show us anything worth a discussion, which means Josh Jacobs may carry the majority rushing workload again.

In three exhibition outings, White ran the ball 26 times for 86 yards and a touchdown. His yards-per-carry average falls into Trent Richardson territory.

For those unfamiliar with Richardson’s NFL career, the Cleveland Browns traded him to the Indianapolis Colts two games into his second season after they selected him with the No. 3 overall pick in the 2012 draft. He averaged 3.3 yards per carry in three pro campaigns.

Though White doesn’t garner the same expectations as a former top-three draft pick, he’s not going to last long on the pro level averaging 3.3 yards per carry. If Richardson only spent three years on this level with that subpar rushing efficiency, what do you think will happen to a fourth-round pick?

White doesn’t seem ready for a bigger workload, which means Jacobs could handle 15-20 carries per game.

In two out of four years, Jacobs has recorded 273-plus carries. If he matches that number of rush attempts in 2023, the reigning rushing champion would barely clear 1,200 yards on the ground.

After Vegas signed Jacobs to a modified franchise tender that has a base value of $11.8 million, we shouldn’t be surprised if he logs well over 250 carries in 2023.

Verdict: Fact

Marcus Peters will lead the Las Vegas Raiders in interceptions

Marcus Peters has a track record for being a ball hawk with 32 interceptions in eight seasons. Coming off a down year in which he had to adjust to a new defensive coordinator (Mike MacDonald), the 30-year-old has something to prove to doubters who say he’s washed up.

Now two years removed from a torn ACL and in a defensive system that better suits his strengths in coverage, Peters should have a decent season, but opposing quarterbacks may target rookie fourth-rounder Jakorian Bennett more than the savvy veteran who has sticky hands.

Over his last two years at Maryland, Bennett recorded five interceptions. Assuming he gets the nod to line up on the boundary when Nate Hobbs moves to the slot, he’ll likely have opportunities to pick off passes from quarterbacks who prefer to test him over Peters.

Bennett left some interceptions on the field on the collegiate level, but he has the ball skills to hold onto a few as well. The rookie will lead the team in interceptions with a high volume of targets headed his way in the upcoming campaign.

Verdict: Fiction

Related: Ranking the Las Vegas Raiders defense heading into Week 1

Maxx Crosby records career-high in sacks

NFL: Preseason-San Francisco 49ers at Las Vegas Raiders
Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports

Because of the developing storyline around Jones, the Raiders will likely turn to Koonce and Wilson to fill a void on the edge opposite Maxx Crosby.

In a slow career start, Wilson missed just about all of training camp while recovering from a foot injury and only played 12 snaps in the preseason, per Pro Football Focus.

While many Raiders fans want to see Wilson make an immediate impact, it’s a tough ask for a rookie who missed most of the offseason program. Koonce is more likely to have a third-year breakout, but he would have to take a tremendous leap from the previous season in which he played just 68 defensive snaps all year.

Crosby will have to put on a Superman cape to salvage the Raiders pass rush, and he’s capable of doing so.

Though Crosby isn’t quite a household name like T.J. Watt and Nick Bosa, he deserves more recognition as one of the league’s best edge defenders.

Since 2020, Crosby has seen a steady rise in his productivity. Last season, he led the NFL in tackles for loss (22), and he registered a career-high 12.5 sacks.

If Crosby had a well-known brother in the NFL or the Raiders won more games, he would garner more Defensive Player of the Year buzz. Perhaps he does it with 15 sacks and 20-plus tackles for loss. Vegas may need a herculean performance from him to field a respectable defense.

Verdict: Fact

Related: Josh McDaniels and NFL head coaches on the hot seat

Las Vegas Raiders fire Josh McDaniels after the 2023 season

NFL: Las Vegas Raiders Training Camp
Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports

With the discussion around Jones’ recent social media activity, some Raiders fans have come to the conclusion that the “Patriot Way” has rubbed another player the wrong way.

Jones may have a personal issue that’s separate from the team. Regardless, don’t expect owner Mark Davis to admit that he hired the wrong head coach within two years, especially after he talked about the need for synergy between his lead skipper and general manager.

Davis hired McDaniels and general manager Dave Ziegler as a pair. They came in together, and if things go absolutely sour in the locker room, they’ll likely leave together, but it probably won’t happen this year.

Again, Davis understands this Raiders team isn’t close to a contender yet. He’s likely on the same page with Ziegler and McDaniels with the focus on development for a team in rebuild mode, though they refuse to use the term.

Barring a revolt within the player’s leadership core, McDaniels will get at least a third year to turn this team into a competitive playoff squad.

Verdict: Fiction

Related: NFL Week 1 power rankings

Raiders will win more games than they did last year

Initially, the Raiders seemed equipped to win several games with an expensive offense. Remember, Vegas has the fifth-most cap dollars invested in that side of the ball.

With that said, the Raiders have a tough stretch through the first half of their schedule with three of their first four games on the road. Now, they have to figure out how to resolve a situation with Jones and help Crosby rush the passer.

Teams with a noisy entrance into the regular season tend to fizzle out early in the year. While the players may say Jones’ situation isn’t a distraction, the veteran edge-rusher had been a model teammate and likely formed a bond with guys in the locker room who are concerned with his recent posts on Instagram.

Because of Jones’ absence, Wilson’s late start in the offseason and Koonce slated for a bigger role as an unknown commodity, the Raiders pass rush seems questionable at best aside from Crosby. With a subpar linebacker corps, this regime’s offseason moves and a big free-agent whiff on Jones will put a lot of pressure on a remodeled secondary.

While the Raiders offense can score with consistency, the defense raises major concerns with high-scoring non-division opponents such as the Buffalo Bills, Minnesota Vikings, Detroit Lions, Miami Dolphins and the new Aaron Rodgers-led New York Jets on the schedule. Vegas won’t top last season’s six-win total.

Verdict: Fiction

Maurice Moton covers the Raiders for Sportsnaut. You can follow him on Twitter at @MoeMoton.

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