At 1-3, there’s no doubt that the Las Vegas Raiders’ 2023 season is quickly spiraling out of control. It doesn’t help that the Raiders are heading into Week 5 as a home underdog, per DraftKings Sportsbook, on Monday Night Football against the Green Bay Packers.
Bouncing back will be the theme of the week for Las Vegas — and the three key matchups below — as it’s put-up or shut-up time with the football world watching on the national stage.
1) Jakorian Bennett vs. Romeo Doubs
While many expected Christian Watson to emerge as the Packers’ No. 1 receiver this year, he has been injured to start the campaign, and fellow second-year wideout Romeo Doubs has stepped up in Watson’s absence.
Through four games, Doubs has hauled in 20 catches for 224 yards and three touchdowns, and he has gained Jordan Love’s trust with 24 targets over the last two weeks. The Nevada product has also earned a top 25 receiving grade (75.8) from Pro Football Focus and has cut down on the drops that plagued him in college with none on the season so far.
While Doubs has lined up at a few different spots in 2023, about 50 percent of his total snaps have come as the left outside receiver, according to Pro Football Focus. I’d expect that number to be even higher seeing as rookie Jakorian Bennett is the Raiders’ primary right cornerback.
Bennett has had his moments this season with a couple of pass breakups and a few defensive stops, but he has struggled to be consistent in coverage. He’s been targeted 16 times and has allowed 12 receptions for 206 yards and has been prone to giving up a big play lately. Over the last three games, he’s given up catches of 40, 32 and 51 yards.
The former Terrapin’s missed tackles have started to mount as well with three whiffs over the past two weeks. That caused the coaching staff to bench him last Sunday, so David Long Jr. could factor into this matchup as well.
Long Jr. is coming off of an impressive game against the Chargers where he logged a season-high 38 snaps and allowed just one reception on three targets for seven yards with a pass breakup thrown in the mix. Right now, he gives Las Vegas the better chance to win, but who ends up getting more snaps between him and Bennett will depend on how the coaching staff views the outlook for the rest of the year.
If they’re still holding onto slim playoff hopes, rolling with the veteran is the clear choice. However, letting the rookie work through his struggles might be better for the bigger, more long-term plan.
2) Jermaine Eluemunor vs. Rashan Gary
Jermaine Eluemunor has quickly gone from one of the most productive pass protectors in the league to one of the worst.
In Weeks 1 and 2, he was the only offensive tackle to play in both of his team’s games and not allow a pressure while earning a perfect 100.0 PFF pass-blocking efficiency rating. However, over the last two weeks, only one tackle has given up more pressures than the 11 he has yielded, no one has been responsible for more sacks (five) and his 91.1 efficiency rating ranks in the bottom five for this position.
While yes, Eluemunor has lined up across from a couple of elite pass-rushers in T.J. Watt and Khalil Mack, things aren’t going to get much easier on Monday night as Rashan Gary has been one of the NFL’s top edge-rushers so far this season.
Gary has racked up 17 pressures over the last month and that’s tied for 13th at his position. But what makes that figure more impressive is he’s only rushed the passer 59 times—tied for the fewest opportunities of anyone in the top 50—and ranks first with a 33.3 percent pass-rush win rate, per PFF. The latter figure is ahead of big names like Myles Garrett, Nick Bosa and Micah Parsons.
So, regardless of who is playing quarterback for the Raiders on Monday, Eluemunor has to return to his Weeks 1 and 2 form or it could be another long night for the offense.
3) Raiders’ Interior OL vs. Kenny Clark
Kenny Clark has put together an eight-year career as a very good interior pass-rusher and this season has been no different. He’s tied for 11th among defensive tackles with 12 pressures through four games and has earned a 70.9 PFF pass-rush grade that’s in the top 30.
Part of what makes Clark so difficult to contain is he spends time on both sides of the center, logging 65 snaps at left defensive tackle and 56 on the right, according ot PFF. That means all three of Las Vegas’ interior offensive linemen are going to have to be on top of their games.
The good news for the Raiders is Dylan Parham, Andre James and Greg Van Roten have been stout in pass protection so far this season. Collectively, they’ve surrendered just 13 pressures with Parham being the biggest culprit by accounting for six of those, which isn’t bad by any means. Only 30 guards have surrendered fewer pressures than that and most of them have missed at least one week.
So, this will be a matchup of strength versus strength, especially since Devonte Wyatt has emerged as a quality interior rusher for Green Bay too with 14 pressures on 77 opportunities.