JACKSONVILLE – Senior writer John Oehser each week during the 2022 regular season will speak with a writer or media member covering the Jaguars' opponent.
Up this week:
The Athletic Las Vegas Raiders writer Vic Tafur on the Raiders as they enter Sunday's 2022 Week 9 game against the Jaguars at TIAA Bank Field in Jacksonville.
Q: The Raiders had high expectations after an offseason in which they acquired high-profile veterans wide receiver Davante Adams and defensive end Chandler Jones – and hired Josh McDaniels as the head coach. They're 2-5 with a 24-0 road loss this past Sunday to the New Orleans Saints. What's the state of the Raiders entering Sunday?
A: I guess they weren't prepared [against the Saints]. I guess they came out flat. They got dominated by a pretty mediocre Saints team. Everyone thought they would be a great offense. They have been making strides, but to have no points with the kinds of weapons they have was kind of shocking. They're kind of reeling. They're spending the week in Sarasota to save the trip back home. We'll see how they can regroup for the Jags.
Q: Has it been one issue so far this season? What has happened?
A: There have been a lot of things. Offensively, they had some trouble out of the gate. They kind of blamed the system and an adjustment period with Josh McDaniels. The other problem has been that the defense has been bad throughout the year. They pretty much have [defensive end] Maxx Crosby and that's about it. He's an elite pass rusher, but Chandler Jones has been kind of a bust on their front line. Their defensive backs have been hurt and not very good. [Saints quarterback] Andy Dalton had a lot of time to pick them apart last week. They definitely have a lot of issues right now.
Q: Assess quarterback Derek Carr through seven games.
A: He had a rough start. He threw three picks in the opener. He kind of bounced back and it seemed he was hitting his stride. They had 30 points three week in a row and he was getting in sync with Davante Adams and they were running the ball well. Last week he had no time and the offensive line kind of got pushed back. Carr's history is if you don't give him a lot of protection he gets a little flustered and some of the balls may sail. He didn't play very well last week. He missed some throws. He didn't have a lot of time to do much anyway, so just a bad game for him also.
Q: Adams may have been the biggest transaction in the NFL last offseason. Assess him after being acquired in a trade with the Green Bay Packers.
A: He's really good, obviously. He gives them a chance in every game. That's what was so shocking last week because it seemed as they had kind of hit their stride, but last week he had one catch on five targets. The Saints did a good job and mixed coverages and had some young guys who played him pretty hard. Usually, he can't be covered one-on-one, so he gives them a huge edge offensively. I think they have to get back to the drawing board and get him more involved early on this Sunday.
Q: When the Raiders are good offensively this season, what's their identity?
A: It has been [running back] Josh Jacobs, strangely enough. All the talk about the passing game with Adams, [tight end] Darren Waller and Carr … but Jacobs had three career games in a row and kind of carried the team on his back. He's a guy who didn't get his extension in the offseason, lost a little weight, was motivated and he's playing really, really well. He has been a key to the offense thus far.
Q: Can they ride that?
A: I think they have to because their offensive line is kind of a patchwork bunch of guys. They're definitely better at run-blocking than pass-blocking. They have to go back to that and try to hammer that home on Sunday against the Jags, because obviously the passing game … if you know they're going to pass, you can kind of get in Carr's face. They need the running game to get going to get the defense on its heels a little bit.
Q: You mentioned that the defense is pretty much Crosby only …
A: They thought they would be better. They gave Chandler Jones a nice contract and I guess you can see why the [Arizona] Cardinals didn't bring him back. He definitely has not been a factor. The linebackers … Denzel Perryman made the Pro Bowl last year, but he hasn't really been a factor this year. One of the better players is [cornerback] Nate Hobbs, who got hurt. Nate Hobbs being out is a big deal for them.
Q: You're around the Raiders as much as anyone. Surprised at this season so far?
A: I definitely understood the enthusiasm. You look at Waller, [wide receiver] Hunter Renfro and Adams … that's a pretty elite group. The question mark was the offensive line. They had some guys who had battled injuries in the preseason. They lost some guys and didn't really replace them. They took a we'll-make-it-work approach. That group overachieved in the first couple of games, but they were definitely a liability last week.
Q: You've done this a long time and have a feel for teams. Is this a team that can turn this around?
A: This week is big. You have a new coach and I think there are now some question marks about whether he's the guy. I'm sure the players are wondering what the heck happened last week. They're going to be together all week and this game against the Jags is big. They're 2-5 (Raiders) and 2-6 (Jaguars), so the loser's done and the winner can still hold on to some illusions of making a playoff run. The Raiders made the playoffs last year and got rid of the coaching staff, which was a bold move. Right now it hasn't really paid off. The thinking was they were ready to take a step up, but they're 2-5 so it's going to be tough.