Major Changes Raiders Must Make After 2-5 Start to 2022 NFL Season

Alex BallentineNovember 2, 2022

Major Changes Raiders Must Make After 2-5 Start to 2022 NFL Season

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    LAS VEGAS, NV - OCTOBER 23: Las Vegas Raiders head coach Josh McDaniels watches action during the game featuring the Houston Texans and the Las Vegas Raiders on October 23, 2022 at Allegiant Stadium in Las Vegas, Nevada. (Photo by John Rivera/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images)
    John Rivera/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

    Despite a 2-5 start that includes Sunday's shutout loss to the New Orleans Saints, Josh McDaniels hasn't given up on the Las Vegas Raiders' 2022 season.

    The head coach, whose first year with Las Vegas hasn't gone to plan, reminded the media after the game that all the Raiders' goals are still in front of them. But if he's truly going to guide this team to the playoffs, it needs significant changes—as soon as possible.

    There's plenty of blame to go around for the Raiders' rough start, but all hope is not lost. Despite the poor record, they are 15th in ESPN's football power index and there are things to like about what they've done so far.

    Here are three changes Las Vegas can make to turn things around and keep 2022 from being a lost year.

Target Hunter Renfrow in the Red Zone

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    Las Vegas Raiders wide receiver Hunter Renfrow (13) lines up during the first half of an NFL football game against the Arizona Cardinals, Sunday, Sept. 18, 2022, in Las Vegas. (AP Photo/Rick Scuteri)
    AP Photo/Rick Scuteri

    The greatest failing of the Las Vegas offense has been in the red zone.

    The Raiders are ranked 22nd in red-zone touchdown percentage, and it's the only situation where they are averaging a negative EPA on a per-play basis, per The 33rd Team.

    It doesn't help that Hunter Renfrow has become a non-factor.

    Last year, the 26-year-old had the fourth-highest share of red-zone targets in the NFL. He converted 23 targets into 18 receptions for nine touchdowns. Defenses struggled to contain his route-running, and the Raiders could depend on him to find a way to get open.

    Injuries have limited Renfrow to five games this season, but the Raiders aren't looking his way when they get close to the end zone. He has just two targets inside the 20.

    The Clemson product was likely to regress when it came to red-zone targets as soon as the team traded for Davante Adams, who's fourth in red-zone target percentage and has turned 13 looks into three touchdowns.

    At this point, though, it's obvious they are going to throw it to Adams anytime they get close. Drawing up some plays for Renfrow close to the end zone could help spark an area of the offense that desperately needs it.

More Aggressive Defensive Play-Calling

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    Chandler Jones has not helped elevate the Raiders' pass rush.
    AP Photo/Rick Scuteri

    Patrick Graham was supposed to be a major upgrade at defensive coordinator for the Raiders. The results have not indicated that, though.

    While the offense has been productive at times, it's hard to get too excited about anything the defense has done. It is 24th in yards allowed per play and 25th in scoring defense.

    Perhaps the worst part is that the Raiders are dead last in takeaways on the season. It's hard to win games when you are losing the turnover battle, and it's hard to win that battle when you aren't forcing any turnovers.

    Maxx Crosby is propping up a bad pass rush. He has six sacks and 16 pressures for a team that is 28th in pressure percentage.

    Graham is known for being fairly tentative. The Giants blitzed around 25 percent of the time with him at the helm last year and that's the mark the Raiders are at right now.

    However, when you aren't forcing any turnovers, aren't putting pressure on the quarterback and are generally failing on defense, it might be time to switch tactics.

    Crosby is capable of dominating one-on-one matchups, but Chandler Jones has been a disappointment and the Raiders don't have many other scary pass-rushers. Graham must find ways to manufacture pressure which can lead to turnovers.

    At 2-5, the Raiders have nothing to lose and should be playing defense that way.

Move Johnathan Abram to Linebacker

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    Las Vegas Raiders safety Johnathan Abram plays against the Tennessee Titans in an NFL football game Sunday, Sept. 25, 2022, in Nashville, Tenn. (AP Photo/Mark Zaleski)
    AP Photo/Mark Zaleski

    The Raiders' problems on defense aren't just about a lack of pressure. They haven't gotten much from their linebacker unit in general.

    Divine Deablo has been an excellent tackler with 76 combined stops and just three missed tackles. But he has struggled in pass coverage, giving up three touchdowns already and has a passer rating of 123.6 when targeted.

    Denzel Perryman has been a disappointment compared to his 2021 campaign. He's missed 11.3 percent of his tackles this season and was charged with giving up a touchdown to Alvin Kamara in coverage in the blowout loss to the Saints.

    Jayon Brown has been out with a hamstring injury, and Blake Martinez is a fine run-stuffer but doesn't offer much in the way of coverage.

    The Raiders need to upgrade at linebacker but don't really have options outside of the team at this point in the season.

    Moving Johnathan Abram there would give them an athletic and fast player who is at his best playing closer to the line of scrimmage. With Duron Harmon and Tre'von Moehrig taking over as the top two safeties on the roster, he is an asset who doesn't have a clearly defined role.

    Giving Abram more of the linebacker reps could be a benefit to both the player and the team.