The Las Vegas Raiders knew what they were getting when they signed quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo this offseason. Head coach Josh McDaniels worked with him while serving as the offensive coordinator for the New England Patriots, and it’s no secret that Garoppolo doesn’t have the strongest arm in the world.
FTN’s Aaron Schatz recently released his annual preseason Football Almanac for the 2023 campaign and added some context to that statement by sharing some numbers on Jimmy G. [If you’re interested in purchasing a copy of the Almanac, follow this hyperlink.]
“In the past three years, Garoppolo has attempted 26 passes of 30 air yards or more,” Schatz wrote. “Seven quarterbacks had more than that in 2022 alone, including [Derek] Carr. Since Garoppolo joined the 49ers, he has an average depth of target (aDOT) of 7.0 yards. That’s 50th out of 53 qualified passers, only ahead of Alex Smith, Drew Brees, and Nick Mullens. Garoppolo has never had an aDOT higher than 8.9 yards in any season. Neither Davante Adams nor Jakobi Meyers have ever had an aDOT that low.”
While Kyle Shanahan’s—San Francisco’s head coach and offensive play-caller—West Coast-style offense plays a factor in those numbers, both Trey Lance and Brock Purdy recorded an aDOT of 7.8 yards in 2022, according to Pro Football Focus. Meanwhile, Garoppolo ranked 34th among quarterbacks who had at least 167 dropbacks with a 7.3-yard aDOT, half a yard shorter than his teammates.
Given that, the Raiders’ new signal-caller is reliant on his pass-catchers’ ability to create yards after the catch (YAC) to move the ball down the field. That’s where roughly 68.4 percent of his passing yards came from last season, and he led all quarterbacks with 7.0 YAC per completion, via Pro Football Reference.
Before signing Jimmy G, Las Vegas already had a couple of wideouts who can make plays with the ball in their hands in Davante Adams and Hunter Renfrow. However, their offseason additions of wide receiver Jakobi Meyers and tight ends Michael Mayer and Austin Hooper don’t exactly fit the profile of weapons that Garoppolo has had success with in the past.
“Meyers has a career -1.2 YAC+. He’s not a catch-and-run guy, which is what Garoppolo has had when he has been successful,” Schatz continued. “Adams and Renfrow are a little better, but both are just at +0.3.
“Garoppolo’s top five targets in San Francisco were all at +1.2 or higher; those are the kinds of players who help boost Garoppolo’s stat profile. He would prefer having guys like Darren Waller (+0.6) or Foster Moreau (+1.7), but both are gone. Instead, his tight ends will be Austin Hooper (-1.5 career YAC+) and rookie Michael Mayer, who is more of a big-bodied target than a catch-and-run guy. It’s just not the perfect fit.”
For context, Mayer averaged 4.9 YAC per reception last year which was tied for 87th among 145 qualifying tight ends and tied for 26th out of the 45 draft-eligible players at the position, per PFF. That was pretty consistent throughout his time at Notre Dame as he posted the same figure in 2021 and left school with a career average of 4.9 yards after the catch.
Obviously, that’s less than ideal especially since Garoppolo is used to throwing to tight end George Kittle, who averages 7.3 YAC per reception during his NFL career.
However, the Almanac does have a silver lining for the Silver and Black’s offense. Schatz notes that Garoppolo is still a better fit than Carr in McDaniels’ offense and that the Raiders have one of the better wide receiver trios in the league.
Also, while there has been some worry about how Renfrow and Meyers will coincide together in Las Vegas’ offense seeing as they both like to line up in the slot, Schatz points out that, statistically, the latter was more effective on the outside.
“While Meyers played more in the slot in New England, he had a slightly higher DVOA operating out wide, 16.5% to 4.4%. McDaniels has also used multiple slot receivers in the past—think Julian Edelman teaming with Danny Amendola in New England—so while Meyers may not have been the made-to-order receiver for Las Vegas, there should be plenty of room to fit him in.”
That, combined with several other factors, suggests the Raiders’ offense could improve from 2022 to 2023.
“Our projections have Las Vegas with an above-average offense, slightly improved over last season,” the Almanac reads. “There’s a lot of skill position talent, assuming [Josh] Jacobs signs his tender. We didn’t even get into the depth Vegas has at receiver with Phillip Dorsett and Cam Sims.
“It just feels like there are a lot of awkward fits, and a lot of pieces that don’t quite line up properly. It’s hard to shake the feeling that Garoppolo and Meyers were signed not because they were the right players for the 2023 Raiders offense, but because they were the right players for Josh McDaniels’ offense in a vacuum.
“We expect the Raiders offense to be fine, but it’s not hard to envision the ways in which this could collapse, even if everyone stays healthy.”
Las Vegas ranked 12th in scoring last season so a jump into the top 10 would be a welcomed sight this year, especially since the defense is expected to struggle. However, as Schatz points out, that improvement is contingent on a lot of additional factors like the newcomers' fit with Garoppolo, the quarterback’s health and Jacobs returning to the team.