Preview of regular season
The start of the NFL and Las Vegas Raiders season is just around the corner which means we’re officially in previews season and Mike Tanier at Football Outsiders put together one of the best ones in the business. To preview the Football Outsiders Almanac, they were kind enough to answer five of my questions with the data from the book to give Raider Nation a little glimpse of what to expect from the Silver and Black in 2022.
To get the full almanac, follow this link.
1. The Raiders were a playoff team last year and made some significant additions this offseason, most notably Davante Adams and Chandler Jones, but they also lost or swapped out a couple of key defenders in Casey Hayward and Yannick Ngakoue. How has the offseason changed their projected win/loss total?
Our projection for the Raiders comes out almost exactly at .500: 8.6 wins. One reason why that may seem low is because statistically, the 2021 Raiders did not look like a 10-7 playoff team. Our “estimated wins” formula for 2021, for example, suggests that they had the stat profile of an 8.4 win team. They exceeded that for a variety of reasons that I am sure Raiders fans remember, including a pair of games against COVID-impacted opponents in December (Browns down to all their backups, Carson Wentz trying to play the Unvaccinated Hero).
So the Raiders improved this offseason, but they had more need for improvement than their record suggests, and they also play in a conference where many other teams also improved.
2. Speaking of Adams, how do you project his production will compare to his days in Green Bay, and how will his presence impact Darren Waller and Hunter Renfrow?
We project a 108-1,338-9 stat line for Adams. One reason that may sound modest is because Renfrow and Waller may get more of the target share than Guy Aaron Rodgers Doesn’t Really Like #1 and #2 got in Green Bay. Also, our KUBIAK projections price in the possibility of injury, so no player is really projected for 17 games; most players are projected for something like “15.8 games.”
As for Adams’ influence on the others, the boilerplate answer is that he will open up more opportunities underneath. And I am sure he will. But Henry Ruggs and later Desean Jackson each did a fair job of keeping safeties honest in 2021. Derek Carr attempted 90 passes of 20+ Air Yards last year. Only Tom Brady attempted more!
I think Adams will make Carr a much more efficient deep passer. That could lead to a “rising tides” situation for everyone’s offensive numbers.
3. Same question as above but with Jones and Maxx Crosby?
Jones is somewhat more likely to draw double-teams away from Crosby than Yannick Ngakoue was. I also think Patrick Graham should do an excellent job scheming to get these guys sacks.
4. Building off of that, Las Vegas’ secondary is going to be young and is expected to be the weak spot of their defense. Have they done enough to improve their pass rush to mitigate that issue, and what are your expectations for the Raiders’ defensive backs?
That’s the rub. It’s not just the cornerback corps, it’s the off-ball linebackers and the interior defensive line. They all project to be ordinary at best, leaving the Raiders with about a league-average defense. The easiest way to neutralize a great pass rush is to stay “ahead of the sticks.” Teams should be able to use the running and short passing game to do just that.
5. How does Josh McDaniels’ system mesh with Derek Carr’s skill set from an analytical perspective?
McDaniels has excelled over the years at adapting his system to different QBs: Young Brady (Bombs away!), Old Brady (ultra-technical short passing!) Mac Jones (Running and screens!), even Cam Newton/Matt Cassel/Tim Tebow (Mix in designed runs!). Carr is a fine decision maker and short-to-intermediate passer, and I think McDaniels has plenty of concepts that Carr can run successfully (as did Jon Gruden, who loved decisive short-to-intermediate passers).
One thing I expect to see is lots of 12 personnel with Waller and Foster Moreau in an effort to keep defenses in base, get the most from the running game and create play-action opportunities. Oh, and the extra tight end could help out if, say, the right tackle struggles. It should be an effective offense. It just may not be an offense ready to win lots of AFC shootouts.