With OTA’s and Training camps officially over and the regular season upon us, we are finally beginning to gain clarity on where some players will be lining up and making an impact for their respective teams. I’d like to specifically look at the teams that we play twice a year in KC, DEN and LA (chargers). As they carry the most weight in our W/L totals and chances at playoffs, I think it’s best to analyze the new additions and how they impact our team for the upcoming season and beyond.
Kansas City – We’ll start with the head of the snake here..
OT Jawaan Taylor – FA (4yr $80m)
Well, that didn’t last long. Watching Orlando Brown burn the Cheifs by pairing up with Joe Burrow in Cincinnati was one of the best parts of FA. However as KC always seems to do, they replaced him with a younger option, albeit more expensive. None the less, this was a good pick up for them I have to admit. Allowing the fewest sacks in his 4-year career thus far (5) as well as the lowest pressures (21) for the 2022 season, it was an easy option for an ever-contending team.
Will our DL struggle to contain/get to Mahomes this year?..
While the career numbers for Jawaan are nice, he will potentially be asked to move to the opposite side on the line at LT in KC, given their other option Donovan Smith regressed in his season without Brady in TB (6 sacks allowed). Taylor may provide stability, but I feel the lack of experience/chemistry will allow our front seven to make a larger impact than in the 2022 season. Look for us to make more noise in the pocket this year, especially with Crosby on a mission.
LB Drue Tranquill – FA (1yr $3m)
A player that many in the nation were banging on the table for, unfortunately went to our heated rival with a contract that allows them to compete now and for the future. Tranquill had been a staple for another AFC West foe in the LA Chargers. Coming off of a missed 2020 season in which he broke his ankle in Week 1, Tranquill has steadily progressed with career numbers in 2022 146 tackles (95 solo), 5 sacks and an INT.
How he matches up with our front 5 run game..
Having a nose for the football and being relatively durable, it’s apparent that Tranquill will give us fits for the foreseeable future. Having already studied our roster/scheme, he would be ahead of the curve when game day arrives. From closing gaps for Jacobs to run through, to baiting on delayed blitzes or simply challenging our QB’s in coverage, there are many ways that he can hurt you. Not to mention he’ll have one of the best DT’s up front making his life easier, something he didn’t have at his previous employer.
Denver – Redemption or further Regression..
LB Drew Sanders – 2023 Draft Rd 3 Pick 67
A name I heard a lot leading up to the draft, Sanders is a highly versatile LB with more instincts than athletic gifts. Falling further in the draft than many expected, Denver gets a steal here in my opinion. While many in their circle suggest this as a wasted pick, given the need across the defensive line, Bronco fans fail to acknowledge this kid can line up anywhere and make an impact, evident from the 9.5 sacks, 13.5 TFL and 6 PBU’s at the collegiate level (i.e. a poor mans Micah Parsons).
Where will we see him most against us..
While I did mention the lack of athleticism, it doesn’t stop Sanders from making plays off the ball. First week in OTA’s he returned a pick 6, although against the back up QB. Still, this shows his ability to make an impact at all levels on the defense. I see him with his hand in the dirt on occasion as well, given the lack of pass rush in Denver (also added Frank Clark). Time will tell, but I feel this guy will be a thorn in our side for years to come.
QB Jarrett Stidham – FA (2yr 10m)
So much for that! Stidham was thought to be our insurance policy in the event that we couldn’t find a QB, and someone who knew our system in depth. Now he will be on the sidelines for the enemy this season. Stepping in for us last season, Stidham was solid but didn’t move the needle enough for us to retain him, especially given his large contract as a backup. Coach Payton apparently saw enough to reward him, or maybe it was a chess move for something bigger.
How Jarrett can hurt us from the other side.
While many were surprised by the move, I can see the logic here. For one, there was no way our regime was going to pay that much money for a guy we did not see as the long term option. Second, I feel Stidham knew of the Raiders plans to pursue Garoppolo, and it obviously didn’t sit well with him that history may repeat itself. Lastly, and more importantly, Sean Payton is known to troll. Picking the brain of the only guy besides Tom Brady who knows this offense from a QB perspective is advantageous. If Russ can’t cook this year, and Stidham gets his chance, we could see one of the biggest backfires in Raider history.
LA Chargers – Playoff blunders continued?..
WR Quentin Johnston – 2023 Draft Rd 1 Pick 21
LA decided to load up on offensive weapons while their QB is still on his rookie contract. A move that could prove to be bold enough to turn around their habit of early exits in the playoffs (Raider in 2021 & Jacksonville 2022). Johnston has all the physical tools you could want in a receiver, what with size, speed and body control. One area for concern however, would be the ability to find the “soft spot” in zone coverage and using his route running to set up his defender.
Will this receiving core challenge our new look secondary?..
The trio of Johnston, Allen and Williams is certainty daunting… on paper. But we have to keep in mind both of LA’s starters have had a long list of nagging injuries in recent memory. If healthy, this core could chew us up as it would essentially allow 1 on 1 coverage for Johnston, giving him a better opportunity to do damage. I see Hobbs or Webb as our best match up physically, and they will be tasked with guarding him on the outside as Allen lives in the slot. I like those odds.
LB Eric Kendricks – FA (2yr $13.25m)
A player I personally wanted to be a part of the nation, Kendricks has been as solid as they come in his 8yr career (all with MIN). Averaging 100+ combined tackles per yr, outside of his rookie yr (92), it’s obvious to see why he didn’t last on the market long. Providing consistency and experience, Eric was a solid addition for the charger hopeful.
How he can become a problem..
Most likely the green dot going into the season, Kendricks will provide a run stopping machine with a non stop motor. Not only will he remain productive statistically, he has an opportunity to help mentor rookie LB Daiyan Henley, whom raider nation is very familiar with (LA native and attended Nevada 2017-2021). With a wealth of knowledge and a breath of fresh air in a different scenery, Kendricks could be a missing piece for the LA defense this season.
Conclusion For the Raiders
Being realistic about expectations, I don’t see why this Raiders roster cannot churn out 9-10 wins behind consistent and efficient offensive play, and a revamped defense with lots of players having something to prove. Every year provides new possibilities, not seeing a lot from our division in regards to additions have to encourage the nation that we are indeed bridging the gap between us and the current champs.