For all the talk about how this year’s Las Vegas Raiders team is “different”, they sure do look the same.
With yesterday’s loss to the Washington Football Team, the Raiders have now lost four out of their last five games and their playoff hopes are dwindling. If they do end up watching the postseason - which seems very likely - it will make the third year in a row the team started the season off hot, only to flame out down the stretch. Granted, this year’s collapse started with a 5-2 record, and the previous seasons’ started at 6-4, so I guess 2021 technically is different.
Anyway, enough of that rant and let’s move on to Las Vegas’ winners and losers from Sunday.
WINNER: Hunter Renfrow
With Darren Waller out of the lineup, the Raiders needed someone within the receiving corps - multiple people really - to step up and Hunter Renfrow did exactly that.
Renfrow was targeted 10 times yesterday and caught nine passes for 102 yards, making it the first time he’s cracked triple-digit receiving yards in back-to-back games since Weeks 16 and 17 of his rookie season. Of his nine receptions, seven went for first downs, which ranks tied for second among receivers so far this week, to go along with a 109.2 passer rating when targeted and two forced missed tackles. Also, 81.7 PFF receiving grade is currently good enough for sixth-best at the position.
To be honest, we should come to expect this from the three-year pro at this point. He’s become one of the most reliable offensive players on the team and is emerging as one of the best slot receivers in the NFL. PFF has him as the sixth-highest graded slot receiver for the entire year, and he’s only 240 yards away from being the organizations’ first 1,000-yard wide receiver since 2016 when Amari Cooper and Michael Crabtree broke that mark.
In a year that’s been filled with inconsistency, the third-down slot machine seems like one of the players - and maybe only player - to show up and produce week in and week out.
LOSER: Zay Jones
Staying with Las Vegas’ wideouts, we’ll flip the script and talk about underperforming one, Zay Jones.
Jones was targeted six times and only managed to have three catches for 21 yards against the Football Team. Beyond a middling stat line, it’s the missed opportunities that he left on the field which were the most infuriating.
With about 2:30 remaining in the game, the Raiders had a third and seven from the Football Team’s 18, and Carr targeted Jones on a corner route. The pass fell incomplete and Las Vegas settled for a field goal that proved to be the difference between winning and losing.
Carr put the ball in a good spot, towards the back of the endzone and away from the defenders, but Jones started running with his hands out when the ball was in the air instead of showing them late, which slowed him down. Continuing to run your route and flashing hands as late as possible is just wide receiver 101.
Even so, the five-year vet had another opportunity to put the game away on a deep bomb at the end of the game. Complain about the lack of a pass interference penalty all you want, but the ball hit him in the shoulder and should have been caught as his ball tracking continues to be an issue.
It’s the little things that he’s not executing that are making the difference which is more frustrating since he’s been in the league for several years now.
When Henry Ruggs was released, Jones had a perfect opportunity to emerge as a potential top target moving forward for the Silver and Black, however, he has proven to be the exact opposite. In Weeks 1-7, he was targeted seven times for six receptions, 115 yards and one touchdown. Since then, he’s had a larger volume of targets with 22 but only has 11 catches for 142 yards and zero touchdowns, not the production the Raiders are looking for or need.
WINNER: Brandon Parker
What might have been the biggest surprise of the day for Las Vegas is Brandon Parker played arguably his best game of the season.
He earned an overall grade of 75.5 from PFF and had marks of 73.5 as a run blocker and 75.4 in pass protection. While those numbers may not seem all that impressive, his overall and run-blocking grades are the second-highest he’s had this season and that’s the highest pass protection grade he’s received.
Granted, Parker did give up a sack but that was the only pressure he surrendered and it came on a longer developing pass play where he lost late in the rep. Also, this was just the second game in the last six that he wasn’t called for a penalty.
The fourth-year pro still has a lot to prove in these last five contests to stick around next year, but yesterday was certainly a step in the right direction. The real and more difficult test will come next week when he lines up across from Melvin Ingram, Frank Clark and the red-hot Cheifs’ defense.
LOSER: Raiders’ coaching staff
When Rich Bisaccia took over as interim head coach, he entered a uniquely favorable position. Most of the time when someone takes over midseason, they’re inheriting a bad team with no shot to make the playoffs and it’s the new coach’s job to just get everyone through the season.
However, Bisaccia took over a squad with a winning record and a roster that was primed for a postseason push, only to fall to .500 and seemingly lose any hopes at making the tournament.
To make matters worse, he was quoted after the game by The Athletic’s Jimmy Durkin saying: “If you’re results-oriented all the time, then you’re just looking at the scoreboard and spending your life up there.”
That statement would be fine if Bisaccia was a traditional interim head coach of a young team that had a losing record, but again, that isn’t the case. It’s almost like he doesn’t realize he’s interviewing for the full-time job and winning games is exactly how he’d land the gig.
But beyond the man in charge, yesterday was an absolute failure by the coaching staff.
Greg Olson’s offense has now scored more than 16 points just once in the last five games, and even Gus Bradley doesn’t have much of a leg to stand on after the defense failed to keep Washington off the scoreboard on their two-minute drive.
At the end of the day, it’s pretty telling that the Raiders consistently and significantly play better on short weeks than longer ones, as they had 10 days to prepare for the Football Team. With more time to game plan, coaching plays a bigger factor in the game and the Silver and Black don’t seem to have the upper hand in that department, regardless of the opponent.
WINNER: Divine Deablo
It’s been a quiet first season for Divine Deablo. Heading into yesterday’s game, he had only recorded 27 defensive snaps and four total tackles on the year. However, an injury to Cory Littleton catapulted the rookie into more playing time on Sunday and he was able to take advantage of the extra reps.
Deablo took 38 snaps on defense against Washington and was Las Vegas' second-leading tackler with 11 in total, one tackle behind Denzel Perryman for the team lead.
Against the run is where the Virginia Tech product shined the most. He earned a 72.4 grade in that department, tied for 11th among Week 13 linebackers, and registered two run stops at a 12.5 percent rate, ranking tied for 14th and 12th at the position, respectively. That’s especially impressive considering he was coming off the bench cold.
Now, Deablo did struggle in coverage a bit. He allowed four of four targets to be completed for 51 yards and a passer rating of 118.8 while earning a 51.7 coverage grade, so there’s still some room for growth. However, one of those four completions did result in another defensive stop, meaning it wasn’t like he was completely lost in coverage.
Also, shoutout to Malcolm Koonce who played in his first regular-season game and got his first NFL sack. If there’s one silver lining from yesterday’s game, it’s that the Raiders got some significant contributions from their younger players.
LOSER: John Simpson
Heading into the game, I was very worried about how John Simpon would hold up against the likes of Jonathan Allen and Daron Payne, and it turns out my fear was warranted.
Simpson gave up four pressures, which is tied for the most he’s surrendered in a single game and is tied for the fifth-most among guards this week, and he earned a 94.0 pass-blocking efficiency rating, the sixth-lowest at the position. To make matters worse, of the four pressures, one was a sack and the other was a QB hit so it’s safe to say he didn’t do his job to protect Carr.
Even as a run blocker, the 2020 fourth-round pick struggled to hold his own. He earned a 40.2 run-blocking grade from PFF, which is his lowest mark since Week 2 and the third-worst among guards for the week.
The Raiders will likely be in the interior offensive linemen market this offseason and Simpson is running the risk of having his spot taken if he continues to play like this.