As the 2023 NFL Season is slowly approaching, Raider Nation continues to speculate on what to expect from this year’s edition of the Las Vegas Raiders. There seems to be an opinion amongst a large amount of the fanbase that the Raiders are in a rebuilding phase and that the Raiders will struggle this season because of it. While this may be partially true, a partial rebuild project does not necessarily equate to losing. In saying this, here are the five bold, yet realistic, predictions Raiders fans should expect to occur in the 2023 season. After all, a little optimism never hurt anyone.
Jimmy Garoppolo Will Play All 17 Games And Lead The League In Completion Percentage
This off-season, the Raiders brass replaced one polarizing quarterback with another polarizing quarterback, continuing the new-age tradition of Raider Nation division (but I digress). Nonetheless, Jimmy Garoppolo is entering this season with a lot to prove, not only to Raider Nation naysayers, but to Raiders brass who agreed to contract terms that contains a trap door to escape from in 2024 if expectations aren’t met on the field. Considering what’s at stake, and considering the reunion with Coach McDaniels possibly being advantageous to Garoppolo, don’t be surprised to see the 10-year veteran have a career year, while staying upright and healthy all season with a fringe top-10 offensive line protecting him. In turn, Garoppolo will then earn a 2nd year as a starter for the Silver and Black. Furthermore, if this comes to fruition, expect an already highly accurate passer in Garoppolo to flex his strengths in a familiar offense and lead the league in completion percentage, throwing lots of short to intermediate passes which will lead to an abundance of YAC yards.
Prediction: 341/488 (69.8% Comp.) 4024 yds., 28TDs, 11INTs
Kolton Miller and Dylan Parham Receive Pro-Bowl Nods
Raiders Offensive Tackle Kolton Miller is entering virtually a contract year in 2023, considering that the Raiders can move on from him before the 2024 season with only a $6.75M cap hit, according to Spotrac. In saying this, Miller has shown consistent progression throughout his career, highlighted by an exceptional 2022 season PFF overall grade of 84.1, so a Pro-Bowl campaign seems to be on the horizon. Additionally, this season may be the defining moment for Raiders brass to justify giving Miller a contract extension, on the condition that Miller decides to hit the negotiation table at season’s end, as he is due a bargain total of $12.25M in 2024. A Pro-Bowl season would definitely justify an extension, and you can bet that Kolton Miller will put his best foot forward to seize the day.
Adjacent to Kolton Miller, 2nd-year Guard Dylan Parham is coming off a solid rookie campaign, as he was a mainstay of a fringe top-10 offensive line corps. In his rookie campaign, Parham earned a PFF overall grade of 61.9, with an overall run blocking grade of 66.9, which isn’t great, but considering that Parham had reps at all three interior offensive line positions, the grade is nothing to scoff at. In addition, considering that Parham earned overall PFF grades of 82.3, 77.2, 77.3, and 85.3 in four games, the potential to be a Pro-Bowl player is realistic. A 2nd-year Parham campaign under the same system and tutelage of Offensive Line Coach Carmen Bricillo will undoubtedly lay the building blocks onto a solid foundation. A Pro-Bowl is undoubtedly on the horizon.
Nate Hobbs Has Breakout Season With 5+ Interceptions
In 2022, Nate Hobbs, to no fault of his own, took a step back from his 2021 rookie campaign, as he dealt with a nagging injury for a large majority of the season. In 2022, Hobbs earned a PFF overall grade of 60.9 with a disappointing coverage grade of 57.1, down from his rookie campaign, where he earned an overall grade of 79.1 with a coverage grade of 76.1. Look for Nate Hobbs, with a 2nd-year under the system of Defensive Coordinator Patrick Graham, to have a chip on his shoulder and prove that the 2021 season was not a fluke by having a breakout season where he has a career-high in interceptions and a possible Pro-Bowl nod.
Moreover, this season is a pivotal one for Hobbs regarding earning a payday in the future. According to Spotrac, In 2022, Hobbs is entering year three of his four-year rookie deal, where he is due only $940K, so a breakout season for Hobbs would undoubtedly catch the attention of Raiders brass and force their hand in inking a future long-term deal for him. Hobbs definitely has this scenario on his radar, so it is safe to say that a career year is in the 2023 forecast.
Maxx Crosby Has 15+ Sacks and One Touchdown This Season
Maxx Crosby has a Las Vegas-sized chip on his shoulder from how the season went down in 2022. As the undisputed leader of the team and defense, a redemption story will be the forced agenda at training camp by Crosby, which will be shown by how he prepares off the field and by how practice will be approached throughout the season. As a result, Crosby will unleash a Defensive Player of the Year campaign where he will record at least 15 sacks in consecutive years, as well as record his first scoring opportunity with a scoop and score. This in turn may just be enough to earn Defensive Player of the Year honors.
Moreover, if Chandler Jones remains healthy and Tyree Wilson gets quickly acclimated to his role, Crosby will find himself in positions where teams must make a tough choice in terms of blocking strategy, giving him more opportunities to make the most out of one on one matchups on passing downs. Stay tuned.
Raiders Are Top-5 In The League In Turnover Differential
The 2022 Raiders, in terms of giveaways and takeaways, can be summarized by saying that they were adequate, with room for improvement when it comes to protecting the ball, yet, abhorrent when it came to making turnovers on defense. The Raiders finished last season 10th in the league in giveaways, but dead last in the league in overall takeaways, giving the Raiders an overall Turnover Differential of -8, which ranked 30th in the league.
Historically, teams who finish at the bottom of the league in Turnover Differential tend to have a losing season. Conversely, teams who finish in the Top-5 of the league have winning seasons. When taking a deep dive into the numbers, in the previous five seasons, teams who finish in the top-5 in the league in Turnover Differential have an average of 11.24 wins, with the lowest win total being 8 wins in those five years (2022 Patriots, 2021 Vikings). This further solidifies the idea of Turnover Differential as being the best indicator of determining whether or not a team is any good.
Coach Josh McDaniels has made an emphasis in playing sound, disciplined football– particularly on the offensive side of the ball. In saying this, expect the 2023 Raiders offense to be sharper than last year when it comes to turning over the football, likely placing them in the top-5 when it comes to giveaways.
On the defensive side, Patrick Graham must emphasize the philosophy of being opportunistic and forcing more turnovers, or else he will be given his shipping papers. Expect a higher sense of urgency coming from Graham, as he enters his 2nd year with most of his starting nucleus returning from last season, giving him the advantage and upside of continuity.
Doubling the turnover production defensively will all but ensure the Raiders to be amongst the best in Turnover Differential, considering that the offense will undoubtedly be firing on all cylinders this season. This, in turn, will virtually guarantee that the Raiders will win at least 8 games, according to the statistics mentioned.