Las Vegas Raiders big money offense continues to sputter under Jimmy Garoppolo

Entering the 2023 season, most observers discounted the Las Vegas Raiders as a playoff team, predicting as low as four wins and consistently between six and seven. When Las Vegas started 1-0 with a big AFC West win on the road in Denver, many started questioning whether they got it wrong.

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After Sunday’s lackluster showing in a 26-18 loss to the Pittsburgh Steelers at Allegiant Stadium, perhaps those early predictions were right on the money.

Does Davante Adams’ comments show growing locker room frustration?

NFL: Pittsburgh Steelers at Las Vegas Raiders

The comments made by star wide receiver Davante Adams are concerning, even though he echoed similar sentiments in the offseason about the direction of the Raiders under coach Josh McDaniels. Adams isn’t outwardly demanding a trade but his comments after the Steelers loss show he doesn’t want to be part of a dumpster fire in Vegas.

As my broadcast partner Moe Moton and I said during the offseason, we only saw McDaniels as being on the hot seat if he lost the locker room. It’s early in the season, but Adams’ comments are not a good sign and with the Raiders going to Los Angeles this week to take on the Chargers, things might already be at a tipping point for some Raiders veterans.

Field goal shows a lack of confidence in the offense

NFL: Pittsburgh Steelers at Las Vegas Raiders

The NFL world is a bit perplexed this Monday regarding McDaniels’ decision to kick a field goal down by eight with 2:22 left on the Pittsburgh eight-yard line. It was a fourth down and instead of going for it, McDaniels elected to pull within five, knowing he needed a touchdown to win the game.

When asked why he chose to kick instead of going for it with an offense that had started to gain a little momentum, McDaniels was quick to dispute it showing a lack of confidence in his offense.

“Like I said, it doesn’t matter what the decision is if we don’t execute well. And so, if you choose to kick it there, you have to play defense and I have confidence in our defense,” McDaniels said after the loss. “They’ve been playing well and thought we had an opportunity to get the ball back there with maybe a couple of minutes to go and have a shot to go down there and win it with a touchdown. So, that was the thought process.”

The Las Vegas Raiders’ defense ranks near the bottom of the league and has yet to create a turnover through three games. This season, the Las Vegas offense is the fifth-highest paid against the salary cap. Something doesn’t quite add up.

“We would’ve needed another possession anyway. It’s not a lack of confidence. We went for it multiple times,” McDaniels said.

The Raiders, and their weak defense, could not hold Pittsburgh and they never got the ball back. The decision to make it a five-point game instead of trying to tie it up was crucial and questionable.

Josh Jacobs was better but Las Vegas Raiders run game still anemic

NFL: Pittsburgh Steelers at Las Vegas Raiders

There was improvement for the Raiders running the ball — barely. Josh Jacobs finished the day with 17 carries for 62 yards with much of it coming late after Pittsburgh moved into nickel coverage.

Despite a better number, the run game didn’t factor much for a Raiders offense that continues to be listless and is vastly underperforming. The run game is critical to set up the short and intermediate passing game McDaniel’s system is known for. Without the ability to keep defenses honest, options disappear and this is part of why the Raiders are struggling to move the ball.

On Sunday night, after their first long touchdown to Adams, they failed to score until late in the fourth quarter and quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo has six interceptions and just three touchdowns so far this season.

The Las Vegas Raiders rank 28th in scoring with 15.0 points per game heading into Monday night’s action. This is up 1.5 points over last week, where they were dead last in the NFL. Still, 15 points a game in the loaded AFC isn’t going to get it done. Especially when the Raiders have poured a ton of cash into their offense.

“We haven’t done a very good job of running the football for three games,” McDaniels said of the running offense and Jacobs. “And we’ve had a few moments here and there as you referenced, but we need to do a better job of keeping the line of scrimmage clean and giving him an opportunity to get through the line of scrimmage to the linebackers and into the secondary and the defense.”

“Jimmy gimmies” hurting Las Vegas Raiders offense

NFL: Pittsburgh Steelers at Las Vegas Raiders

It’s hard not to focus on the lack of production from the Raiders new quarterback. Garoppolo has vastly underperformed in three games since he was brought in to replace Derek Carr.

Garoppolo threw three interceptions, was sacked four times against the Steelers, and has more interceptions (6) than touchdowns (5). His 68% completion rate is above his career average but he is distributing the ball mostly to Adams and Jakobi Meyers. He’s not been able to find new tight end Michael Mayer, former Pro Bowl tight end Austin Hooper, or Hunter Renfrow.

When asked about Garoppolo’s struggles, particularly with turnovers, McDaniels didn’t offer much on where he stands.

“Those are plays obviously we don’t want to make,” McDaniels said. “Jimmy makes a lot of good plays, but obviously, when the quarterback holds the ball, he holds the fortune of our team also in his hands when he’s doing those things. He knows. He understands the situation. He had a couple of plays where we have to make a smarter choice and just go ahead and go to the next play, whether it’s second and long or whatever it may be.”

In the end, McDaniels doesn’t need to say anything as it’s evident the bill of goods Raider Nation was sold on why Garoppolo was the answer – efficient, protects the ball – hasn’t materialized in his time so far in Vegas.

The three amigos on defense…and then lots of questions

NFL: Pittsburgh Steelers at Las Vegas Raiders

While the Raiders’ defense has received sharp criticism, especially after the Buffalo loss, the lack of complementary football is the true boogeyman for this team. But it is still a work in progress and continues to tread water without marked improvement.

Las Vegas’ defense has only three definite long-term impact players — EDGE Maxx Crosby, cornerback Nate Hobbs, and emerging linebacker Divine Deablo. The rest all are still developing or have major question marks on their longevity.

Crosby is a freak of nature and has no help, which means his ability to disrupt the game is limited. Rookie Tyree Wilson is nowhere near ready and Malcolm Koonce, playing for Chandler Jones, isn’t consistent enough to help create pressure off the other edge meaning teams are neutralizing Crosby.

Deablo is coming into his own, and his game against Pittsburgh was his best. Despite some good performances, the unit still needs to be improved overall.

The Las Vegas Raiders continued to struggle and gave up 28 points to a Steelers team that was dead last in the league in overall offensive production and still has yet to create a turnover after 12 quarters of football.

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