We’re about to reach the halfway point in the season and the Las Vegas Raiders are closer to earning the No. 1 overall pick than they are to a playoff spot. The season is dwindling away so the Raiders have to win their Week 9 matchup against the Jacksonville Jaguars this Sunday.
The good news for Las Vegas is they head to Jacksonville as slight favorites on DraftKings Sportsbook as they have the more talented roster. However, that could have been said for the majority of their games this year but they’ve failed to execute. We’ve reached the “it’s now or never” point in the season which puts extra pressure on the entire team this Sunday, especially for the players listed below.
Yes, the starting quarterback is always an X-factor but this week is especially important for Carr. He’s coming off arguably one of the worst games of his career after being held to just 101 passing yards against the Saints, the third-lowest single-game total in his nine years as a pro. For more context, he only participated in 14 percent and 37 percent of the offensive snaps in those other two contests, respectively.
So, this weekend is all about bouncing back for Carr and luckily, he’s heading into an advantageous matchup.
The Jaguars’ secondary has some young talent with cornerback Tyson Campbell and safety Andre Cisco. Those two have played well this season with Campbell boasting a PFF coverage grade of 77.0 and Cisco sitting at 73.4, as they’ve combined for four interceptions and four pass breakups. However, the rest of the crew leaves something to be desired.
Among the defensive backs who have seen the field in Jacksonville, only Shaquill Griffin (61.9) and Andrew Wingard (60.1) have above-average coverage grades. Griffin was placed on injured reserve last week and Wingard has played a total of four snaps, so there should be plenty of passing lanes open this Sunday.
In their last three games, the Jags have allowed 273.0 passing yards per contest which is the fourth-most in the NFL during that time frame. So, Carr should have an opportunity to put up some impressive numbers this weekend and it would honestly be pretty concerning if he doesn’t.
Talk all you want about how Jacksonville overpaid for Christian Kirk in the offseason but he’s been productive, especially in the slot. Of his 35 catches, 498 yards and four touchdowns on the season, 23, 357 and one have come as an inside receiver. The latter figures rank tied for seventh, third and tied for 14th among wideouts this year.
That means Robertson, who has been filling in as the Raiders’ nickel corner since Hobbs has been out, is going to have his hands full on Sunday. He’s been solid in that role so far, allowing 11 catches for 139 yards and one touchdown to one interception in 100 coverage snaps while aligned over the slot. That gives him 1.39 yards allowed per coverage snap, which is about the middle of the pack for corners this year.
However, one of the biggest problems the third-year defensive back will have this weekend is limiting yards after the catch. Missed tackles have marred his career and this season has been no different as he’s up to seven whiffs on the year with five coming in the last four games.
Kirk may not be the most elusive wideout, but he currently ranks fourth among slot receivers with 147 yards after the catch. So, if Robertson’s tackling form isn’t up to snuff, Kirk has plenty of skills to take advantage and the breakaway speed to create explosive plays on short routes.
Jermaine Eluemunor/Thayer Munford
We’re eight weeks into the season and the Raiders are still using the committee approach at right tackle with Eluemunor and Munford splitting the reps. Last week, the former participated in 32 offensive snaps to the latter’s 27, and both held up pretty well in pass protection. The veteran earned a 75.1 pass-blocking grade from PFF and allowed one pressure while the rookie also surrendered just a single pressure and posted a 78.6 mark.
It’s hard to ask for much more than that especially since they were facing a well-known pass rusher in Cam Jordan, but Eluemunor and Munford will be tested again this weekend.
Josh Allen may only have three sacks so far this season, but he’s been putting pressure on the quarterback all year. He’s racked up 32 pressures which are tied for eighth among edge defenders and two more than Maxx Crosby’s season total, and Crosby has rushed the passer 31 more times.
Perhaps even more impressively, Allen is tied for the most pressures at his position against true pass sets with 26. That means he’s lethal when offenses leave their tackle on an island and don’t give the tackle some help in pass protection with the play call.
So, for Carr and the Raiders’ passing game as a whole to get back on track this weekend, Eluemunor and Munford will need to be on top of their games.
We’ll stay within the trenches and the 2022 NFL Draft class with our next X-factor.
Parham has played well so far in year one and has stood out as a run blocker. He’s posted a 70.3 grade in that department, ranking 17th among all guards, and he’s had marks of 66.2 and 74.8 in two of the last three games. The latter figures are even more encouraging seeing as those have come at the third position the coaching staff has asked him to play this season.
Running the ball is the key to the Raiders’ offensive success this year and the rookie is obviously a big part of that. While he’ll have to deal with plenty of defensive linemen this weekend, he’ll also need to contend with an impressive run-stuffing linebacker and fellow rookie, Devin Lloyd.
Lloyd has been one of the best linebackers against the run in 2022, registering a 78.3 grade that ranks seventh at the position and his 13 defensive stops are tied for 18th. For comparison's sake, no other qualifying backer in the draft class has earned a grade above 60.4 or racked up double-digit stops, so the Utah product’s development is ahead of schedule.
Vegas needs to get a hat on a hat against Lloyd and it's imperative that Parham wins this rookie-rookie matchup for the offense to efficiently move the ball.
Between the missed tackles and struggles in coverage, it’s starting to feel like Deablo is running out of chances. He’s up to seven missed tackles on the year and has allowed an 86.5 completion percentage for 320 yards and three touchdowns to zero interceptions and no pass breakups in coverage.
The past three games have been especially bad as that’s where five of his misses have come along with 115 receiving yards and one of the three touchdowns he’s surrendered. Deablo looked overmatched against Alvin Kamara last week, and while Kamara is one of the best backs in the league, the Jaguars do have an up-and-comer in Travis Etienne.
Etienne’s emergence is the reason Jacksonville sent James Robinson to the Jets recently. In the last four weeks, the Clemson product has the second-most rushing yards in the league behind Derrick Henry with 427 and is also second with 7.4 yards per attempt.
Part of the reason the 2021 first-round pick has put up such impressive numbers in the last few contests is he’s forced 17 missed tackles, which is seventh-best and one fewer than Josh Jacobs during that same timeframe. Obviously, that poses a big test for Deablo’s tackling form.
As a receiver, Etienne hasn’t been as productive with 17 catches for 157 yards and no touchdowns. However, he has been efficient with 9.2 yards per catch — eighth among running backs — and 10.1 yards after the catch per reception — sixth at the position. In other words, he’s a threat to move the chains with every catch, and he ranks tied for ninth among backs with nine first downs as a receiver.
So, Sunday is another test for Deablo and one that he must pass or Las Vegas will be heavily invested in the linebacker market this offseason.