I’ve been writing about the Las Vegas Raiders for several years now and I don’t think I’ve ever seen Raider Nation so united on anything than how pissed off everyone seems to be with this year’s team and Josh McDaniels! That’s kind of the theme of the mailbag this week as most people have seemingly had it. I believe there was only one question about the upcoming Week 8 Monday Night Football matchup with the Detroit Lions.
That being said, I don’t blame anyone and I’m right there with you!
Q: I see just like last year targets are open (sometimes) and offense seems to work. So is it the system, QB or the lack of Tom Brady running it?
A: I’d put it on the quarterbacks more than anyone because, as you mentioned, targets have been open and just aren’t getting the ball frequently enough. That’s also a symptom of having three different starting quarterbacks in seven weeks as no one seems to be on the same page consistently. It’s literally a brand-new quarterback room and the constant turnover at the position makes it difficult to build chemistry.
That being said, I do think Josh McDaniels needs to do a better job of giving his quarterbacks layups/easy completions early in games to build some momentum. That’s what Kyle Shanahan was great at with Jimmy Garoppolo—and Brock Purdy currently—which allowed Garoppolo to build a rhythm. Instead, McDaniels has asked him to throw outside the numbers far too much, in my opinion.
And Brady is such an elite processor that I think he’d make just about any functional system work. So not having him certainly impacts how effective McDaniels’ offense is/can be.
Q: Who wins the line of scrimmage on MNF?
A: I think the Lions have a significant advantage in the trenches on both sides of the ball. The Raiders' defensive line has been getting better recently, minus last week, but the Lions have a really good offensive line pretty much across the board. Granted, they are a little banged up but when healthy, they’re one of the better units in the NFL. Even Maxx Crosby has a tough matchup with Penei Sewell, who is emerging as a great offensive tackle.
Defensively, Detroit has two guys who the Raiders really need to worry about; edge rusher Aidan Hutchinson and defensive tackle Alim McNeill. Hutchinson is going to be a problem for Jermaine Eluemunor and Thayer Munford as he’s been one of the most consistent pass-rushers in the league this year. He’s second behind Crosby in pressures this season.
McNeill is more of a run-stuffer who will give Las Vegas’ interior line trouble. I don’t like that matchup for the Raiders given how they’ve struggled to run the ball, and McNeill is no slouch as a pass-rusher either.
Q: What about trading for Jarrett Stidham? Sounds crazy but at least he knows the system and produced over 20 points in a game. Otherwise might as well let AOC develop.
A: I’d be shocked if the Broncos were willing to do an inter-division trade, and Stidham would be a $6 million cap hit next season so I don’t think it makes much sense to give up draft capital for an expensive backup quarterback.
I think you’re right in that he’d probably be more productive than the team’s current crop of quarterbacks if the Raiders traded for him, but I don't think Stidham would make enough of a difference to make the trade worth it.
Q: With the Bears not attempting long throws and running so successfully, I thought Patrick Graham was far too slow to bring extra defenders near the line of scrimmage. Do you agree?
A: I’m going to be honest, I’ve done everything I can to forget about that game as much as possible and didn’t bother re-watching the All-22 tape. From what I did see, the Raiders’ defensive line was getting pushed around so much that I don’t know if it would have mattered how many guys were in the box.
Also, they had 13 missed tackles, according to Pro Football Focus, which is impossible to scheme around. I don’t mean for this to be an excuse for Graham as everyone in the building is to blame after a beatdown like that. I just don’t think it would have mattered much if he made that change earlier.
Q: Jimmy G can’t or won’t throw the ball long (20-plus yards). Is it a question of him having a noodle arm, injuries, no confidence, or the play calling?
A: I touched on this a little earlier, but I don’t think it’s the play calling that’s leading to the lack of deep shots. As I mentioned before, I think McDaniels needs to do a better job of giving Garoppolo some easy throws early to help him build some confidence which, hopefully, leads to him letting it rip.
As for what Jimmy G is doing, in my opinion, I think the injuries and confidence are his biggest issues and they kind of go hand in hand. Garoppolo’s happy feet in the pocket when his first read isn’t there have gotten worse than when he was in San Francisco, and I think his injury history has hurt his confidence, leading to more check-downs. He’s never been someone who stands in the pocket, takes a shot in the chops and still delivers the ball down the field, but he’s panicking more than I remember from his 49ers days.
A: Michael Mayer’s lack of production stems from not getting the ball early in the season. He was open but only received two targets in the team’s first four games. Since then, he’s seen 13 passes come his way and has come down with nine catches for 127 yards in three games which comes out to 42 yards per game and is in line with Dalton Kincaid’s average. So, I think Mayer’s stock is pointing up, but it certainly has been frustrating that he hasn’t been getting the ball more frequently as a rookie.
With Aidan O’Connell, he undoubtedly should have been in the game last week much sooner than when McDaniels threw him in there. However, I do think we need to take a step back and remember that O’Connell is still a fourth-round pick. Comparing his production and usage to first-round picks C.J. Stroud and Anthony Richardson isn’t a fair assessment. Those guys were drafted to be immediate starters and entered the league ahead of where O’Connell is skill-wise.
Also, Richardson is out for the year and only had two productive starts out of four due to injuries. Yes, Tyson Bagent had a good game last week and got the win, but the Bears only started him because Justin Fields was out and Bagent was more of a game manager with 162 yards on the afternoon.
I get it, this season has been frustrating and hopefully, we’ll see more from the rookie class the rest of the way out.
A: Quarterback play and the offensive line’s blocking in the running game. The former won’t get better until the offseason and the latter can improve marginally this season. I think Thayer Munford getting more reps will help create lanes for Josh Jacobs, but Andre James and Greg Van Roten are weak links in the rushing attack that I don’t think will get better anytime soon. To me, those two spots need to be addressed in the offseason as well.
A: Honestly, my gut says they don’t get a trade done by Tuesday’s deadline and end up reaching an agreement to cut Hunter Renfrow while reducing the amount of money they have to pay him. Earlier this week, Bleacher Report’s Jordan Schultz said the relationship between Renfrow and McDaniels is “fractured” and that both parties want to move on.
So, I think Renfrow would be willing to eat some money to get a fresh start somewhere else. His contract makes it difficult to trade him because another team doesn’t want to give up draft capital for an eight-figure receiver who hasn’t been productive over the last season and a half.
A: Here are my thoughts on the defense. They’re an okay unit that is exceeding expectations based on how few resources or how little capital has been invested in them. They’ll take advantage of bad offenses like the Packers and Patriots but don’t have enough talent to compete with the better teams in the league. I don’t know if that means I’m “buying” or “selling” the Raiders defense, but I will say they’re better than I thought they’d be.
Q: WHEN WILL THE SUFFERING END?!?!?!?!?
A: I had a similar question that asked if Raiders fans are insane for coming back every season and expecting a different result, only to watch a lot of losing again.
My response is, yes we’re insane (that’s what makes the fanbase great!) and no the suffering will never end, but we're in this together!!!!!
That’ll do it for this week’s mailbag. Thank you all for submitting questions and, as your weekly reminder, if you’d like to have your questions answered in a future column, tweet them at me, @MHolder95, email them to SBPQuestions1@gmail.com or look for our weekly call for questions on the site. The latter will publish on Thursdays throughout the season.