Raiders' Biggest Weaknesses Ahead of 2022 NFL Training Camp
The Las Vegas Raiders have been one of the NFL's most talked-about teams this offseason, and for good reason. They're coming off a playoff berth, added a new head coach in Josh McDaniels and landed two huge additions in Chandler Jones and Davante Adams.
Expectations are high for the Raiders, and they're embracing them.
"Who wouldn't want the expectations to be high?" tight end Darren Waller said, per The Athletic's Tashan Reed. "We feel like the character was developed last year. When you have a mixture of talent and character, I feel like that’s what allows you to accomplish what you want to accomplish. We welcome those expectations."
While Las Vegas expects to be a contender in 2022, this doesn't mean that it is a perfect team. The Raiders should be better than they were a year ago, but they still have some weaknesses, on paper, heading into training camp.
Here, we'll dive into the three biggest question marks surrounding the Raiders with camp approaching. We'll dive into what these weaknesses could mean for the regular season and how they may be addressed in the coming months.
The addition of Jones gives Las Vegas one of the better pass-rushing duos in the league. He joins 2021 Pro Bowler Maxx Crosby to form a tandem that produced a combined 18.5 sacks last season.
Injuries happen, though, and depth is extremely important in the NFL. This is where Las Vegas is lacking, and if either Jones or Crosby misses significant time, the defense could be in trouble. The team traded Yannick Ngakoue to the Indianapolis Colts this offseason for cornerback Rock Ya-Sin, and there just isn't much depth at edge-rusher.
Crosby and Ngakoue were the only Raiders players to log more than five sacks last season.
2019 fourth overall pick Clelin Ferrell is still on the roster, but he had just 1.5 sacks last season and might not even play on the edge often this year. According to Vincent Bonsignore of the Las Vegas Review-Journal, Ferrell has been getting reps at defensive tackle this offseason.
If new defensive coordinator Patrick Graham can finally unlock Ferrell's potential, it would be ideal. The Raiders can also hope to see a surge from free-agent addition Kyler Fackrell, who hasn't had more than five sacks since 2018.
However, it would make a ton of sense for Las Vegas to continue strengthening the position. Bringing back Carl Nassib could be an option, and guys like Ryan Kerrigan and Anthony Barr remain unsigned.
If the Raiders' pass rush cannot hold up, it's going to put a lot of pressure on a cornerback group that has its fair share of questions.
Ya-Sin joins Trayvon Mullen Jr. as a starter on the perimeter. However, there isn't a ton of proven depth after those two. Las Vegas parted with another dependable starter, Casey Hayward, in free agency.
Nickelback Nate Hobbs showed promise as a rookie in 2021, finishing with an opposing quarterback rating of 92.1. However, he still only has 16 games and nine starts on his resume. Free-agent addition Anthony Averett is coming off a strong campaign with the Baltimore Ravens, but he hasn't been consistent as a pro.
In 2020, Averett allowed an opposing quarterback rating of 105.6 in coverage.
Mullen's injury history and lack of consistency add to the uncertainty in the cornerback room. The 2019 second-round pick missed games with foot and toe injuries last season and gave up five touchdowns the previous season.
With Hayward out of the picture, it would behoove Las Vegas to consider a free agent like Joe Haden or Trae Waynes as another option. The Raiders ranked a solid 13th in passing yards allowed last year, but the cornerback depth isn't what it should be for a team with championship aspirations.
This is the big one. There is no bigger weakness, on paper, than the Raiders' offensive line right now.
Last season, the Raiders line surrendered 40 sacks and paved the way for a rushing attack that ranked 27th in the league. Kolton Miller was reliable at left tackle, but things were far shakier on the right side.
2021 first-round pick Alex Leatherwood was particularly disappointing. The former Alabama tackle was moved to guard, where he struggled. He was responsible for 14 penalties and eight sacks allowed in 2021, according to Pro Football Focus.
The Raiders didn't make a major move to address their line, with rookie third-round pick Dylan Parham being the biggest addition.
Ideally, Las Vegas will strengthen its line with camp competition—and new offensive line coach Carmen Bricillo is already challenging his unit.
"I've had an opportunity to start challenging them on some of those things of what you want your resume to be. When you put the film out there, what’s your resume?" Bricillo said, per The Athletic's Tashan Reed.
Still, it wouldn't hurt to consider adding a free agent like center J.C. Tretter or right tackle Bryan Bulaga to the mix. Right now, the Raiders' line doesn't appear to be much better than it was a year ago, and it wasn't very good.
If the line doesn't improve, it will likely be the one weakness that prevents Las Vegas from being a true title contender this season.
*Advanced statistics from Pro Football Reference unless otherwise noted.