It’s been a brutal start for the Las Vegas Raiders (0-3) under new head coach Josh McDaniels. The Raiders are limping home to Allegiant Stadium to host their division rivals in the Denver Broncos (2-1) Sunday and it’s perhaps an understatement to call it a “must win” for Vegas.
The Raiders, the NFL’s only 0-3 team, must quickly put a good game together to save what is left of their season. Since 1980 in the NFL, teams that start 0-3 have just a 12% chance of making the playoffs. Fortunately for the Raiders, the Chargers were walloped by the Jaguars last week and the Chiefs lost to the Colts meaning their loss was a tiny bit less damaging within the AFC West. Still, the Raiders are underperforming in every aspect of the game except kicking.
For the Raiders to get the win against a stingy Denver defense that ranks third in the league against the pass and sixth against the rush, it must get more out of its star players like Derek Carr, Davante Adams and Darren Waller. It also must get a more balanced approach from McDaniels on offense using the running game to open up the vast potential of Las Vegas’ passing attack.
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Here’s this week’s look at those players on the rise and those searching for answers.
Las Vegas Raider’ Stock Up entering Week 4
Mack Hollins, the Raiders’ leading receiver with 240 yards in 2022, has been a major surprise and enjoyed his breakout game vs. Tennessee. Always regarded as a special teams player, Hollins connected with Carr in Nashville and the results were spectacular. He was also one of just a few Raiders to show some fire and emotion on this identity-less offense. With Hunter Renfrow missing the game with a concussion and Waller unable to reel in catches, Hollins filled the void nicely. Pro Football Focus graded Hollins at 85.9 vs. the Titans and he now has his highest-ever overall season score at 71.5. Look for the Raiders to utilize him more moving forward as he solidifies his place as the team’s No. 3 wideout.
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Foster Moreau is healthy and dominated early against the Titans in the Raiders’ 24-22 loss in Nashville. While the stat line (three catches for 44 yards) doesn’t look overly impressive, Moreau could increasingly be important for the offense. While Waller is coming off his worst game as a Raider, Moreau seemingly has a hot hand — if McDaniels gets the ball to him. Look for Waller to line up at receiver and Moreau at tight end in certain sets against Denver this weekend. The “Feed Foster” movement is underway and the young player appears to be ready for the challenge.
Stock down for key Las Vegas Raiders figures
Johnathan Abram’s stock continues to plummet and we’re ready to delist him from our Raiders player stock market. Perhaps one of the worst Raiders safeties in coverage, he gave up a perfect passer rating against Tennessee. Let me say that again: Ryan Tannehill had a perfect passer rating throwing against Abram who gave up 81 yards and two touchdowns in coverage. The Raiders didn’t exercise Abram’s fifth-year option and it’s no wonder why. The team will move on from the one-dimensional box safety after this season.
Waller is back on the down list and we all know why: his drops and tipped pass in the endzone that led to an interception really hurt his team. To his credit, Waller owned up to it during the postgame locker room media scrum saying his focus wasn’t good enough. Although we appreciate the mea culpa, he just signed a massive extension after “holding in” during training camp. Waller did not work out with his team, claiming he had a hamstring injury. His lack of running the Raiders’ new offense, coupled with his lack of focus, has been evident and Vegas needs more from one of the game’s top tight ends.
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This one hurts us. Kolton Miller is the anchor of the Raiders’ much-maligned offensive line but his performances through three games have been suspect and disappointing. PFF grades Miller at just a 65.3 so far on the season. His high mark was in Week 2 vs. Arizona (68.8) and his low was in Week 1 vs. the Chargers (59.0). Miller is still a Pro Bowl-caliber player but we believe the musical chairs on the offensive line mean no one on the unit is settled. This is why I have said all along it wouldn’t work optimally for this Raiders team to continue with the rotation. Play your best five guys and maybe Miller will settle in and be the player we’ve all grown to appreciate.
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Yes, we’re violating our own rules again by naming the coach to the list. McDaniels isn’t far behind Nathaniel Hackett showing he’s struggling in the head role for Las Vegas. His inability to get the most out of his team early, keep a consistent and balanced offensive game plan moving, and have no sense of urgency, all are troubling this early in his tenure. For those calling for him to be fired after three weeks, settle down. Quick hires and fires are what got this franchise where it’s been the past 30 years. McDaniels must do better, and if he gets to 0-5, changes will come but he won’t lose his job this season. That doesn’t mean he gets a second year if this thing gets a lot worse.
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