For nearly the entire season, the Las Vegas Raiders’ defense has carried the team and given them a chance to win games only to be let down by the offense. Week 14 against the Minnesota Vikings was the best example of that as the Raiders played in one of the lowest-scoring games in NFL history with their 3-0 loss.
So, for this week’s winners and losers, one side of the ball will get some love while it’s time for some tough love for the other...
WINNER: Maxx Crosby
Like clockwork, Maxx Crosby had another great game. He tied for the team lead with 10 total tackles and logged two sacks, bringing his total up to a career-best 13.5 sacks and he has a chance to break Derrick Burgess’ single-season franchise record of 16. Crosby also became just the fifth Raider to reach 50 or more career sacks and is the 31st defender in league history to cross that threshold in five seasons.
Madd Maxx logged eight pressures, according to Pro Football Focus, which is currently tied for the most among edge defenders for the week. That also brings him up to 72 pressures on the year, the fourth-most at the position, and puts him on pace for about 94 pressures this season. The latter would be the second-most of his career as Crosby continues to play like a legitimate Defensive Player of the Year candidate.
LOSER: Bo Hardegree
This one probably doesn’t much explanation as the scoreboard pretty much told the story. Getting shut out is, obviously, a bad look for an offensive coordinator and it’s even worse when that happens after a bye week. Not that Bo Hardegree’s chances at keeping the full-time job were good heading into Sunday, but the offense’s performance should have sealed his fate and removed any sliver of hope that he’ll be retained.
WINNER: Tyree Wilson
Somewhat lost in the Raiders’ performance this weekend is that Tyree Wilson had arguably his best game of the season. The rookie logged four pressures—including a sack for 2.5 on the campaign—which is the most he’s had in a game. Wilson certainly has a long way to go before he lives up to the draft hype, but Sunday was a step in the right direction.
LOSER: Aidan O’Connell
Consistency has been one of Aidan O’Connell’s biggest issues since taking over as the starter. He’s bounced back and forth between good and bad performance game by game, and he was off this weekend, missing several throws and tossing an interception on the team’s final drive of the afternoon. He also didn’t make many plays to move the ball down the field with just five of his 21 completions going for first downs.
After the game, head coach Antonio Pierce was asked if Jimmy Garoppolo will be the team’s starting quarterback to finish out the season, and Pierce replied; “We will evaluate everything moving forward.” So, O’Connell’s job appears to be up for grabs, and the argument that the Raiders should trade up for a quarterback in the draft got stronger with the rookie’s lackluster performance.
WINNER: Amik Robertson
With Las Vegas releasing Marcus Peters ahead of the bye week, Amik Robertson became the team’s top outside cornerback. That brings some added pressure and Sunday was Robertson’s first opportunity to prove he’s deserving of that role and he certainly answered the call.
The four-year pro was the team’s highest-graded player (87.6) by PFF and ranks fourth among cornerbacks for the week with an 86.9 mark in coverage. He was targeted seven times and only allowed two completions for 15 yards with two pass breakups to earn those figures, which is a great outing for a guy whose contract expires at the end of the year.
LOSER: Hunter Renfrow
Listing Hunter Renforw as a loser was a tough decision as he did have his most productive game of the season with 46 receiving yards and gave the team a chance to put points on the board with a 38-yard grab. However, Renfrow also took that opportunity off the table with a fumble just a few plays later.
At the end of the day, that’s a mistake that just can’t happen in close games where the offense is struggling, especially for a guy who has been competing for targets and playing time all season.
WINNER: Malcolm Koonce
Similar to Wilson, Malcolm Koonce is another pass-rusher whose good performance was overshadowed by the result of the game. Koonce continued his run of racking up pressures with four on Sunday and that pushes his total up to 17 in the last four games.
He also got more opportunities to prove himself as a run defender with 13 snaps against the run and managed to turn in a 71.6 PFF grade in that department. That should help the former third-round pick get some more playing time over the last month of the campaign.
LOSER: Thayer Munford Jr.
With Kolton Miller out and Jermaine Eluemunor lining up at left tackle, Thayer Munford Jr. had an opportunity to prove he’s worthy of being a starter moving forward. However, Munford Jr. continued to struggle in pass protection with five pressures surrendered, and that brings him up to 19 in his last four outings. He also earned a sub-par PFF run-blocking grade (54.2) which casts even more doubt on his ability to take over as a first-stringer beyond this season.