Here’s a quick exercise for you, Raider Nation. Picture the Las Vegas Raiders roster in your mind. Got it? Now count how many playmakers you think the Silver & Black have on defense. Now that’s done, go ahead and count how many playmakers you think the Raiders have on offense.
Was there a disparity in the quantifiable exercise? I counted defensive playmakers on one hand — three to be specific. How about you?
No Raiders defensive coach is going to admit it, but part of the reason that side of the ball is considerably behind it’s offensive counterpart is due to the absence of playmakers. Patrick Graham’s unit has sexy names like Maxx Crosby and Chandler Jones, no doubt. They have a seek-and-hit middle linebacker in Denzel Perryman. A budding cornerback in Nate Hobbs and a young promising safety in Tre’Von Moehrig. Outside of Mad Maxx, however, the group is lacking trident star power. It’s a unit devoid of takeaways and remarkable resolve and ranks (rankings).
Unlike Josh McDaniels group. The offense is loaded with star power. No matter what category you decide to place Derek Carr, the quarterback can get it done. Running back Josh Jacobs is running with purpose. Wide receiver Davante Adams is as advertised and tight end Darren Waller still scares defenses. It’s no wonder that group ranks (rankings).
Yet, offense and defense can do so much more — especially from Week 7 onward since Las Vegas’ bye week has come and gone. Let’s take a look at two players on each side of the ball that need to break out of their funk this coming Sunday against the Houston Texans to help get the Raiders trending back towards the win column.
Hunter Renfrow: A hit, ensuing fumble (returned for a game-winning score in overtime), and concussion knocked the slot machine out for two games. In a season marred by miscues, the dynamic wide receiver has a paltry 20 targets, 14 catches, 105 yards, zero touchdowns stat line. A year after scoring nine touchdowns to lead the team, Renfrow is still in catch-up mode. Getting up to speed and more involved forces opposing defenses to account for yet another weapon on the Raiders offense.
Darren Waller: A clean bill of health on his hamstring is paramount, but if Waller is available and plays, the Raiders need to help him break out of his early-season funk by throwing his way and getting him involved early. The tight end hasn’t gone over the 50-yard receiving mark since Week 1 and is sporting a paltry stat line that reads: 24 catches, 16 yards, 175 yards and one touchdown. Waller is just too much of a mismatch not to be moved around and isolated in matchups.
Chandler Jones: The veteran pass rusher was a disruptive force off the edge in the first half of the tilt against the Chiefs. Las Vegas needs more of that from him this weekend against Houston. He still doesn’t have a sack to his name and has 12 total tackles and one stop for loss. According to Pro Football Reference, Jones generated eight pressures, three quarterback hurries and five quarterback hits. If he starts hitting home on his rush, it’ll give Crosby a much-needed tag team partner.
Tre’Von Moehrig: A hip ailment forced the safety to miss two games but he hasn’t been the same type of stingy defender he was his rookie season. Pro Football Reference charts Moehrig with eight completions on 11 targets (a 72.7 percent completion rate) for 225 yards and two touchdowns in three games. Opposing quarterbacks sport a 154.4 rating target him. In 17 games last year and 100 percent of the defensive snaps, Moehrig allowed a completion rate of 58.3 percent (14 of 24) for 181 yards and two touchdowns (rating of 92.5).
Defensive takeaways: Graham’s defense is tied with the Washington Commanders for the least amount of takeaways in the NFL at three. Las Vegas has two interceptions and a fumble recovery (for a touchdown) this season. In comparison, the unbeaten Philadelphia Eagles lead the league with 14. Overall, the Raiders’ turnover differential sits at -2 (due to four interceptions and one fumble lost) The Eagles are +12. The need for the Silver & Black to take the ball away from opposing offenses can’t be stressed enough.
Red zone remediation: Week 7 is another opportunity for Las Vegas to improve on the 25th-ranked red zone offense (nine touchdowns on 19 trips, 47.4 percent) and the 32nd-ranked red zone defense (14 touchdowns allowed on 17 trips, 82.4 percent). Player execution is the culprit both Raiders coaches and players, alike, identified when it comes to red zone woes. For those curious, here’s some historical red zone data (offense/defense plus league ranking):
- 2022: 47.4 percent (25th in the league)/82.4 percent (32nd)
- 2021: 51.7 (26th)/81.4 (32nd)
- 2020: 54.2 (23rd)/61.8 (16th)
- 2019: 52.8 (22nd)/67.3 (30th)
- 2018: 53.5 (22nd)/59.7 (18th)
- 2017: 58.8 (7th)/47.9 (9th)
- 2016: 57.1 (14th)/57.9 (24th)
- 2015: 61.0 (9th)/51.7 (9th)
- 2014: 72.4 (1st)/52.6 (15th)