As we stare at close range in the mouth of the beast that is the 2023 season, discussion amongst Raider Nation is heating to a boiling point regarding how the season will unfold. There should be no dispute that the Raiders’ rabid fanbase have grown divided this offseason due to the bargain-basement (yet cost efficient) acquisitions who will lead the charge this season, however, the fanbase can all certainly see eye to eye around this statement: There are key pieces at many positions who will make or break this season for the Las Vegas Raiders.
With most of the starters returning on both sides of the ball under the same coaching staff, the Raiders have a golden opportunity to be one of the biggest surprises in the NFL this season. However, there is a caveat: the Raiders must have multiple breakout players emerge. Listed below are the highlighted Raiders who must step up in order for the Raiders to achieve success in 2023.
We have spoken ad nauseum about Jacobs’ contract dispute with the Raiders, particularly when it involves justifying whether or not running backs deserve a big payday after their rookie contract is fulfilled. What many fail to acknowledge regarding Josh Jacobs and his league market value is that his value drastically differs in his favor when it comes to the Raiders offense in comparison to most running backs on their respective teams. To clarify, under Head Coach Josh McDaniels, Josh Jacobs was accountable for 80.2% of the team’s total rushing yards and 34.2% of the team’s total offense in 2022, meaning that the offense went as far as wherever Jacobs went. Because of this, Jacobs’ value to the Raiders offense must be considered as second to none and should be paid as such– but I digress.
Point of all of this is that there is no doubt that the Raiders’ offensive identity will be to feed the bell cow back to set up the pass, and if there is no bell cow in the backfield this season, the offense will struggle. If you compound this possibility with a young defense that may have some growing pains early, this sets up a recipe for a long 2023 season. Making Josh Jacobs happy is a must.
There is a long list of guys in the Raiders locker room who will be entering the 2023 season with a large chip on their shoulder, and Jermaine Eluemunor is probably on the top of his list. Eluemunor seems to be hell-bent on righting his wrongs from last season and has been vocal about it all over social media this off-season, particularly regarding untimely penalties.
Despite the penalties, the Raiders brass smartly re-signed Eluemunor to a cost-friendly one-year, $3M deal this off-season, which may be the best contract on the books in terms of player efficiency.
In addition, last season, Eluemunor earned a 75.3 overall PFF grade, with a 76.1 pass blocking grade and a 75.7 run blocking grade, while giving up only three sacks in 940 snaps played. Furthermore, Eluemunor gave up an impressive one sack in the final 15 games of the season, which is among the best amongst all Right Tackles in the league.
Eluemunor will absolutely play a huge role in whether this offense will thrive or sputter this season. To double down, Eluemunor’s success or failure will likely be a direct correlation to how the 2023 season will ensue.
“Heavy is the head that wears the green dot”… or however the saying goes. During mandatory minicamp, the 3rd-year versatile linebacker, Divine Deablo, was once again given the title of the “quarterback” of the defense when Defensive Coordinator Patrick Graham assigned him the green dot.
Just like many at this time of the year, he is in the best shape of his life, as it has been reported that he currently weighs over 230 lbs, an ideal weight for today’s linebacker. In addition, word coming from camp is that Deablo is primed for a breakout season in 2023.
The Raiders defense could take a big step forward if linebacker play is formidable. With Deablo at the helm, not only his play will be under a microscope, but also his leadership and understanding of the defense will be heavily scrutinized by many, due to the status of being the green-dot wearer. As it stands today, the defense goes where Deablo goes.
In the previous two seasons, statistical production coming from the free safety position and interceptions, in general, have been non-existent. It is at the point where we have to be reminded that it is actually allowed that the free safety can make plays on defense. Frankly speaking, Trevon Moehrig has been a ghost on this defense– so much to where it seems like there are only 10 men on the field at times.
Moehrig is entering this season with a lot to prove, and it is quite evident by his demeanor. During the presser, Moehrig emphasized how he focused on studying the intricate details of the Patrick Graham-led defense by watching film and learning from his mistakes from last season. This is a promising sign, considering that Moehrig will be entering his 2nd-year under the same system for the first time in his young career.
If the Raiders look to improve in the turnover department, it starts with solid secondary play, and Moehrig will be looked at to step up and make a giant step forward in his 3rd season.