The new year didn’t exactly begin on a high note for the Las Vegas Raiders as the 23-20 Week 17 loss to the Indianapolis Colts officially eliminates the Raiders from the playoffs. With just one week remaining in the season, Las Vegas has one more opportunity to evaluate its roster heading into the offseason where several major decisions will be made, including at running back...
WINNER: Zamir White
Zamir White has capitalized on Josh Jacobs’ absence over the last three weeks, and White had another strong performance on Sunday. The 2022 fourth-round pick logged over 100 yards from scrimmage for the second game in a row, proving himself as both a rusher and a pass-catcher.
He needed to work on the latter coming out of college, and five catches for 35 yards against the Colts was a good sign of how much growth he’s made. Also, White showed some shiftiness with five missed tackles forced—two rushing and three receiving—per Pro Football Focus.
The Georgia product has strung together an excellent stretch that should help him earn the role as the Raiders’ lead back next season.
LOSER: Josh Jacobs
Obviously, Jacobs didn’t play on Sunday, but he lands on the losers list because White’s performance now makes the 2022 rushing champ expendable. After dealing with a contract dispute all offseason, the last few months have been disappointing for Jacobs as he’ll likely finish the campaign with career-lows in rushing yards (805) and yards per attempt (3.5).
He’s an impending free agent and with the current market for running backs, it’s hard to argue that he’s worth a lucrative second contract now that White has emerged as a potential starter moving forward.
WINNER: John Jenkins
John Jenkins has been a bit of an unheralded player for the Silver and Black this season, but he has done a solid job being a clog against the run in the middle of the team’s defense. Sunday was perhaps the best example of that as he made several impact tackles, logging four defensive stops which are tied for the most among interior defensive linemen in Week 17, per PFF.
More impressively, Jenkins did that on just 20 snaps as a run defender and that amounted to a 21.1 percent run-stop rate, seventh-best at his position. It’s hard to say what the future looks like for the 34-year-old impending free agent, but he’s at least given the front office something to think about as he’s been one of the team’s best run defenders on the campaign.
LOSER: Amik Robertson
While Cover 0 is a tough play call for a cornerback, Amik Robertson giving up a 58-yard touchdown to Alec Pierce was a huge momentum swing in the game. Plus, Patrick Graham essentially called Robertson’s number and the corner failed to deliver.
Robertson ended up getting targeted five times and surrendered four completions for 75 yards and a perfect 158.3 passer rating on the afternoon. He ended up losing snaps to Brandon Facyson toward the end of the game, which isn’t ideal for a player whose contract is about to expire.
WINNER: Thayer Munford
Thayer Munford made his fourth start in a row at left tackle in Indianapolis and had arguably the best performance of his career. He earned the highest single-game PFF grade of his career (81.9) due in large part to his elite 90.0 mark as a run blocker. The latter is the fifth-best among offensive tackles for the week and should help him build momentum heading into next season.
However, Munford did suffer an injury and left the contest early. Hopefully, it isn’t serious and he’ll be able to finish the year with another strong performance next Sunday.
LOSER: Aidan O’Connell
Since taking over as the starter, Aidan O’Connell has been up and down seemingly week by week. However, this past game was the second tough one in a row as the rookie missed several throws that held the team’s offense back.
O’Connell had a chance to show the organization that he’s capable of being the franchise quarterback and they don’t need to target someone else in the offseason/the draft. Instead, he’s struggled and provided more reasons why the Raiders should explore other options.
LOSER: Bo Hardegree
Calling a trick play—that didn’t work—on third and about half a yard might have been the nail in the coffin that will prevent interim offensive coordinator Bo Hardegree from getting the full-time job. It was a questionable decision, to say the least, and potentially took a scoring opportunity away from Las Vegas as the offense was in Indianapolis’ territory.
The Raiders are averaging a little more the 22 points per game since Hardegree took over, and that’s including several defensive touchdowns against the Chargers and Chiefs. So, no matter who the head coach is next season, it feels like a foregone conclusion that the team will be looking for a new offensive coordinator in the offseason.