<
>

Better, worse, same? How the Raiders' offense has changed this offseason

play
Will the move to Las Vegas affect the Raiders negatively? (2:05)

Doug Kezirian, Joe Fortenbaugh and Preston Johnson are betting under the Raiders' win total of seven because of their new circumstances in Las Vegas. (2:05)

LAS VEGAS -- The object of every NFL offseason is to improve, yes? And when you're a team that is, say, three plays away from being 10-6 and in the heart of the playoff race, rather than the 7-9 the Raiders actually finished, adding pieces through free agency and the draft is especially tantalizing (yes, we know the Raiders were also three plays away from finishing 4-12, too).

As such, and in the midst of their move to Sin City, is the Las Vegas Raiders' roster better, worse or the same?

It depends upon your point of view, obviously, and the still-to-come game results. But in terms of how general manager Mike Mayock and coach Jon Gruden have addressed their personnel, things look on the upswing. Here's a look at each group on offense, which was particularly targeted in the draft, with three of Las Vegas' first four picks being on that side of the ball.

Quarterbacks

Additions: Marcus Mariota (Tennessee Titans)

Losses: Mike Glennon (Jacksonville Jaguars), DeShone Kizer (unsigned)

Returners: Derek Carr, Nathan Peterman

Better, worse or the same? Better

Look, Carr is, for the first time in his seven-year NFL career, preparing to play in the same offensive system for a third straight season. And he is coming off career highs in passing yards (4,054) and completion percentage (70.4). So, with better weapons around him, excuses for not taking another leap forward are few and far between. Then there's Mariota, the No. 2 overall pick of the 2015 draft who was a career-long starter until last season and whose skill set is actually (checks notes) closer to what Gruden wants on offense.

Now, that's not to suggest Mariota will unseat Carr anytime soon, but he will push Carr more than any other backup has thus far. When Mariota was drafted by Tennessee, Gruden -- then working for ESPN -- advised the Titans to rebuild their offense around him. And Mike Mayock, then at the NFL Network, said Mariota's game was reminiscent of Colin Kaepernick's, so there's that. Peterman? Gruden sees something he likes. A lot.

Running backs

Additions: Lynn Bowden Jr. (third-round draft pick), Devontae Booker (Denver Broncos), William Stanback (CFL-Montreal)

Losses: DeAndre Washington (Kansas City Chiefs), Isaiah Crowell (unsigned)

Returners: Josh Jacobs, Jalen Richard, Alec Ingold, Rod Smith

Better, worse or the same? Same

Jacobs would have been the runaway offensive rookie of the year had he not missed three of the last four games because of a shoulder fracture he originally suffered Oct. 20. Yes, he played with the injury until it became unbearable. Still, he finished with a franchise rookie record 1,150 rushing yards, a mere 145 yards shy of being the second most in franchise history. And he and fullback Ingold were selected as alternates for the Pro Bowl.

The return of Richard gives the Raiders that pass-catching threat out of the backfield, but they still lack that prototypical big back. Perhaps they see Smith or Booker filling that role, along with Ingold on occasion, with Bowden, the nation's most versatile player at Kentucky as a QB and WR, being eased into the NFL as an RB.

Tight ends

Additions: Jason Witten (Dallas Cowboys), Nick Bowers (rookie free agent)

Losses: Eric Tomlinson (New York Giants), Nick O'Leary (reserve/non-football illness)

Returners: Darren Waller, Foster Moreau, Derek Carrier, Paul Butler

Better, worse or the same? Better

Waller, thanks to a breakout 90-catch, 1,145-yard season, was a Pro Bowl alternate. Moreau, a fourth-round draft pick, caught five TD passes before going down because of a knee injury in Week 14. And now, the Raiders add a calming veteran influence not only for their tight end room, but the entire young-and-impressionable locker room in Witten, a future Hall of Famer. Sure, Witten might not be what he once was -- Mayock hastily put him on the NFL's Mt. Rushmore of tight ends -- but his contributions will be more widely felt as a team leader. At least, that's the hope. Anything else will be gravy.

Receivers

play
1:55

How will Ruggs addition to the Raiders affect Carr's fantasy value?

Matthew Berry breaks down how the addition of Henry Ruggs III to the Las Vegas Raiders will affect Derek Carr's fantasy season.

Additions: Henry Ruggs III (first-round draft pick), Bryan Edwards (third-round draft pick), Nelson Agholor (Philadelphia Eagles), Siaosi Mariner (undrafted rookie)

Losses: Dwayne Harris (unsigned),

Returners: Tyrell Williams, Hunter Renfrow, Marcell Ateman, Keelan Doss, Rico Gafford, Zay Jones, De'Mornay Pierson-El, Anthony Ratliff-Williams

Better, worse or the same? Better

It couldn't get worse, could it? Consider: combined, the Raiders had the third-fewest catches (145) and fourth-fewest receiving yards (1,858) by wide receivers in 2019, per ESPN Stats & Information research, and Carr averaged a league-low 6.2 yards per attempt. Yes, Antonio Brown's preseason meltdown and release was still being felt in December and the Raiders addressed their need for a game-breaker by summoning their inner old-school Al Davis and drafting the fastest guy in the draft in Ruggs, who was the third-ranked wideout in the eyes of many draftniks.

Still, Ruggs, who ran a 4.27-second 40 at the combine, took three of the four slot passes he caught last fall at Alabama to the house, averaging 31.8 yards after catch on each reception, and 13 of his 40 receptions came behind the line of scrimmage. Add that to a healthy Williams, who suffered from plantar fasciitis in both feet last year, slot guy Renfrow's sure hands, a veteran presence in Agholor and a red zone threat in draft pick Edwards, and Carr suddenly has a reimagined and much more dangerous WR room.

Offensive Line

Additions: John Simpson (fourth-round draft pick), Kamaal Seymour (rookie free agent), Sam Young (San Francisco 49ers), Eric Kush (Cleveland Browns)

Losses: Cameron Hunt (unsigned),

Returners: Kolton Miller, Richie Incognito, Rodney Hudson, Gabe Jackson, Trent Brown, Lester Cotton Sr., Andre James, Denzelle Good, David Sharpe, Brandon Parker, Jordan Devey, Erik Magnuson,

Better, worse or the same? Better

Hold on, in returning all five starters, shouldn't the O-line be ranked as being the same? Maybe, but with a healthy and right side in guard Jackson, who missed the first six weeks because of a training camp injury, and tackle Brown -- who missed the last four games because of a chest issue but was still voted to the Pro Bowl -- this should be an upgrade. Especially with Hudson -- who went to his third Pro Bowl in four years after giving up zero sacks in 527 pass-blocking snaps and was ranked by PFF the No. 1 center in the league in pass-blocking situations -- showing no signs of slowing down, left guard Incognito a Pro Bowl alternate and left tackle Miller growing into his role as Carr's blindside protector.

Injuries always play a factor, though. While James, Good, Sharpe and Parker acquitted themselves quite well at times last season, fourth-round pick Simpson is a road grader in the mold of Jackson. As a unit, the Raiders' O-line surrendered 29 sacks in 2019, the eighth fewest in the NFL, and was one of only five lines in the league to shut out four different opponents in terms of sacks.

Next week: Defense