3 Ways the Raiders Can Salvage Their Season After a Disastrous 0-3 Start
The last thing the Las Vegas Raiders needed this season was to start off on the wrong foot, but that’s exactly what has happened. The club is winless through three games for the first time since 2018 and are on the brink of being out of playoff contention in a deep and talented conference.
Although the Raiders haven’t made it to the win column yet, every game has been a tight finish that has come down to the fourth quarter or overtime. They’re 0-3 in one-score games in 2022, the complete opposite of last season when they were 7-2 in such situations.
This doesn’t bode well for the Raiders, as they’re in the toughest division in football, and the schedule doesn’t get any easier.
Head coach Josh McDaniels has already met with Mark Davis about the early-season struggles, but the issues with the team aren’t all on him; Derek Carr looks disjointed, the offensive line is a mess, and the defense can’t stop a nosebleed.
Nevertheless, the Raiders are still a very talented team and can flip the switch by making a few improvements. Here are three ways the Raiders can salvage their season.
Josh McDaniels needs to make things easier for Derek Carr
McDaniels has been one of the most successful offensive coordinators in recent memory. He won six Super Bowls with the New England Patriots and commanded one of the most dominant offenses for over a decade. Once he left Foxboro, though, things changed for some reason. He struggled in Denver, and now he’s struggling in Las Vegas.
The Raiders have the 18th-best offense in the league, which shouldn’t be the case given the talent level across the board. But a sound offense requires a good quarterback, and Derek Carr is not playing up to expectations through three games.
Carr is completing 60.8% of his passes for 850 yards, six touchdowns, and four interceptions and has been erratic with the football this season. He ranks second worst in bad throws (28) and poor throw rate (24.3%) while having the fifth lowest on-target percentage (68.7%). Carr has been uncharacteristically inaccurate this season, and it’s been a massive hindrance to the offense’s output.
This issue can easily be solved by fixing one thing with the offense: get Davante Adams the ball.
Adams produced his typical stat line in Week 1, catching 10 passes on 17 targets for 141 yards and a touchdown. The past two weeks, however, he’s caught just seven passes on 17 targets for 48 yards and two scores.
Regardless, the offensive philosophy needs to change. With a struggling quarterback throwing to elite pass catchers behind a bad offensive line, McDaniels needs to reshape the offense to get the ball to the playmakers and let them work.
The Raiders need to be more efficient in the red zone
Capitalizing in the red zone is what separates the good teams from the bad, and Las Vegas is in the latter group right now. The Raiders have entered the red zone a league-high 13 times but are scoring a touchdown just 46.2% of the time, the seventh worst in the NFL.
Recently, the Raiders have struggled to punch the ball in from within the opponent’s 20-yard line. They have ranked in the bottom 10 in this metric each of the past four seasons, including last year when they were the fourth-worst in the league.
This wouldn’t be surprising if the Raiders didn’t upgrade its roster immensely this offseason by acquiring one of the best red zone route runners in the NFL in Davante Adams.
With the Green Bay Packers, Adams was one of the most lethal weapons in the game in this part of the field. Since 2020, he has scored 24 touchdowns in the red zone, the most in the NFL.
So far this season, Adams has been targeted 10 times inside the opponent’s 20 but has only caught four passes. Again, this is affected by Carr’s accuracy issues at the moment.
The quarterback has also thrown to Darren Waller and Mack Hollins five times each in the red zone so far this season. Waller is one of the best tight ends in the league and has caught 12 red zone touchdowns since 2019. Even so, Adams is a game-changer and adds a unique element to this offense. Whether he’s covered or not, the Raiders need to find the end zone and finish drives.
The Raiders need someone not named Maxx Crosby to step up on defense
Crosby, who signed a four-year, $95 million contract extension this offseason, has generated two sacks and nine pressures in three games. The All-Pro defensive end is the only one that’s been able to take down opposing quarterbacks, as the Raiders are tied with the Arizona Cardinals for the least amount of sacks in the NFL.
Jones, meanwhile, has garnered six pressures and zero sacks. The 32-year-old edge rusher agreed to a three-year, $51 million contract with the Raiders back in March. He’s fresh off a 10.5 sack season and has achieved double digit-sacks in seven of the past nine campaigns but has yet to bring that level of production to Las Vegas.
It’s not just the pass rush that’s underperforming; it’s the secondary, as well. The Raiders are conceding the seventh-worst passing defense (267.0) and the eighth-worst scoring defense (25.7) through three games.
Las Vegas has just two takeaways to its name this season. That’s not what the team had in mind with the emergence of young cornerback Nate Hobbs or when they acquired Rock Ya-Sin from the Indianapolis Colts.
If the Raiders had a small margin for error to start the season, that line is razor thin now. The season isn’t over, though. There are still 14 games to be played, but the cards are stacked against them, and it’s reaching now-or-never territory to turn things around.
Stats courtesy of Pro-Football-Reference