All eyes will be on Jarrett Stidham’s encore performance. Especially after he opened eyes with his play against the league’s best defense this past weekend.
Can the Las Vegas Raiders new starting quarterback put together back-to-back solid outings to make the front office think a little harder about the future of the position? Or will Stidham go off quietly into the afternoon as the Silver & Black’s 2022 season sunsets after Saturday’s clash with the AFC West champion Kansas City Chiefs?
Stidham went 23 of 34 for 365 yards, three touchdowns and two interceptions in his first career start. Doing it again is the focus for Stidham and the Raiders. Quarterback is the most glaring position on the offensive side of the ball and several decisions will likely be made before Las Vegas convenes for camp next offseason. It’ll be up to Stidham to put together two solid outings in his two first career starts to make head coach Josh McDaniels and general manager Dave Ziegler to even remotely view him as a potential QB1 in 2023. Even then, the Raiders power duo may have someone else in mind.
But it never hurts to have an in-house candidate that can be alpha in the quarterback room.
After all, with their postseason aspirations gone, the final game of the season is more evaluation period and potential spoiler for Las Vegas. Kansas City is the class of the division and will continue to be until another AFC West squad knocks it off the perch. And what better way to see exactly what you need than against the division’s resident dominator?
“I think if you take that approach and use the information properly, and you’re not, too proud to acknowledge where you need to improve, I think that’s the whole key here as we head into the offseason once the game is over,” McDaniels said during his Wednesday media session. “Our focus now is going to be on trying to do everything we can to win Saturday, and then once that’s done, we’ll have a chance to really take a deep breath and go back through everything. We know a lot more about everything now than we did obviously when we first got here. Hopefully, that can lend itself to making a bunch of good decisions and improving the team in every way that we can moving forward this offseason.”
First thing’s first: Beating the Chiefs. This is a tall task for the Raiders, however, the team did put up a spirited effort with Stidham at the helm of the offense in a 37-34 overtime loss to the San Francisco 49ers last Sunday. When the Chiefs and Raiders initially met this season in Arrowhead — way back in Week 5 on October 10 — Las Vegas jumped out to an impressive 20-10 advantage before halftime. Then, it was all downhill as the Chiefs offense came roaring back while the Raiders offense stumbled mightily in the 30-29 loss.
McDaniels drew up a sound game plan to exploit the 49ers’ weaknesses last Sunday and it’ll take another creative blueprint to best the Chiefs’ 20th-ranked scoring defense (356 points allowed) and 13th-ranked unit in yards yielded (5,300). Stidham provides McDaniels something he didn’t have with Derek Carr at the helm — mobility. Yet, that’s a trait the Chiefs are well aware of now there’s a complete film of Stidham’s first-career start.
Mixing up the formations and moving Stidham from the shotgun to under center is a must — something McDaniels did against San Francisco. As is establishing the run to support Stidham. Although, Jacobs availability wasn’t immediately clear early in the week.
“I don’t have any update physically on him. I think we’re going to just have to see how this week goes,” McDaniels said. A few more days before the game, so we’ll be smart with him obviously. Look, I’m not sure how many more words I can find to describe what he’s done - tough, dependable, prepared really hard every week, he’s been durable. He’s had the ball more than any other player on our team clearly, and he’s really done a great job of keeping himself healthy and available all season long even though he’s been banged up a number of different times.”
The two teams are different than the last time they squared off, but Josh Jacobs’ effectiveness hasn’t waned. Back in Week 5, Jacobs galloped for 154 yards and a touchdown on 21 carries. Against the 49ers stout defense, churned out 69 tough yards and a score on 17 carries. He’s availability would certainly boost Stidham’s effectiveness.
Aerial assault-wise, keeping Stidham upright allows him to spread the ball around as he hit six different targets last week. Davante Adams led the charge with seven catches for 153 yards and two scores while Waller hauled in three passes for 72 yards and a touchdown, too. Both are matchup nightmares against a Chiefs defense that can’t guard them one-on-one.