The Las Vegas Raiders added a slew of offseason additions prior to the start of Week 1. With four weeks of play in the books, how is each player stacking up thus far?
The Raiders are off to a 2-2 start with the offense pulling the bulk of their weight. With star running back Josh Jacobs lining up in the backfield and depth at the wide receiver position stepping up, quarterback Derek Carr has the offense clicking. The Raiders’ offseason additions — especially on defense — were touted acquisitions that suggest the unit would improve over the lacking results they delivered in 2019.
However, the defense still remains with specific limitations and has underperformed so far this season, yielding an average of 30 points per game. That’s the biggest concern, given the Raiders’ front office spent noteworthy money to fix their exposable areas on defense.
With four weeks of play in the books, we’ll hand out grades to each of the Raiders’ offseason additions.
After selecting Lynn Bowden Jr. on day two of the 2020 NFL Draft, the assumption occurred that he would be the final piece to the Raiders’ backfield. Not so fast. After taking just two carries in 2019, the Raiders took a chance on running back Devontae Booker midway through training camp. He was brought in to compete for the final running back spot and he did just that, beating out the third-round rookie, Bowden. Booker hasn’t received an abundance of opportunities as he sits behind Josh Jacobs and Jalen Richard, but he’s been extremely effective when getting his number called upon. On 10 carries, Booker has averaged 5.9 yards per attempt and as a pass-catcher, has averaged 7.3 yards per catch on four receptions. Booker is no longer the volume rusher he was during his early years with the Denver Broncos, but he provides a powerful punch to the Raiders’ ground-attack. Grade: B
When the Raiders added Nelson Agholor to their wide receiver group, he was viewed as a depth piece that could bring a speed dimension to the passing game. Since his arrival, injuries have become a common theme to the top half of the receiving depth chart, providing Agholor with more opportunities than expected. He’s played in all four games thus far, including the Week 4 contest, where he served as the team’s starter in place of the injured Henry Ruggs III while he battled back from an injured knee and hamstring. Agholor has been responsible for eight catches while hauling in 118 yards and two touchdowns. When targeted, he’s caught passes at an 88.9% clip — the highest of his six-year NFL career. Grade: B+
The signing of Jason Witten caught most people by surprise after the Raiders received top-five tight end production from Darren Waller in 2019. Meanwhile, they also gathered quality play from Foster Moreau as he recorded five touchdowns in his inaugural season in the NFL. Not many tight ends can touch the accolades of Witten’s Hall of Fame career, but as he puts his best foot forward in his age 38-season, his role includes being a mentor for the tight end room. Witten still has some of the most “sure-hands” the position has ever seen, but his involvement on offense has been infrequent. He still has a knack to find the soft spots in coverage, detailing his Week 4 touchdown against the Buffalo Bills. Grade: C
Initially, Sam Young felt like a camp body, who could apply pressure to Brandon Parker and David Sharpe as the Raiders’ swing tackles. Young not only surpassed the two depth options at tackle, but he held down the starting right tackle spot in Week 4 and did so at a high level. If Trent Brown still needs additional time to recover from his lingering calf injury, Young will remain the guy holding down the fort on the right side. Young hasn’t been at fault very much thus far, so we’ll see how he holds up as the season progresses. Grade: B
After following defensive line coach Rod Marinelli to the city of Las Vegas, Maliek Collins was supposed to be one of the exclusive additions to the defense. Coach Jon Gruden and general manager Mike Mayock even went as far to say, “he’s the key to our defense.” Collins hasn’t panned out through the first month of play, recording just three tackles, three pressures and one quarterback hit. Each week his defensive snap count has declined, with Maurice Hurst playing inspiring football behind him. Gruden mentioned last week that he had a “private talk” with Collins but after the first four games, he hasn’t been the game-changing interior defender that the coaching staff had hoped of. Grade: D
After signing a three-year, $25.2 million contract this offseason, Carl Nassib has recorded 0.5 sacks and two pressures — not the ideal start to one of the Raiders’ top free-agent singings. He’s primarily been used as a situational defensive end, mixing in behind Maxx Crosby and Clelin Ferrell. Nassib has yet to see more than 40% of the team’s defensive snaps. After posting back-to-back 2018 and 2019 seasons with six-plus sacks, it’s too early to write off the former third-round pick. However, things don’t currently point in the positive direction in year one of his newly signed contract that demands better production than what he’s delivered so far. Grade: D+
The Raiders desperately needed linebacker help entering the 2020 season, and more specifically, a linebacker who can cover in space. Littleton was the top-rated linebacker on the free-agent market and a playmaker who posed the ability to cover running backs and tight ends at an elite level. He’s been slightly hit and miss since his arrival in Las Vegas. However, in fairness to him, the Raiders have faced teams that possess mismatch problems in coverage. Littleton saw Christian McCaffrey and Alvin Kamara in weeks one and two — a daunting task for any defender. But in weeks three and four, his man coverage duties didn’t improve all that much. Littleton is allowing opponents to complete passes at a 70% rate when targeting his man in coverage. Receivers also average 10.4 yards per completion when targeting Littleton. Grade: C
To join Littleton in patrolling the middle of the defense, Nick Kwiatkoski was brought aboard to wear the green dot. In the previous two years, he served as a starting linebacker just nine times. Having taken upon a more significant role with the Raiders, Kwiatkoski has been a standout on defense during the games he’s been healthy. In four games, he’s only played in two of them due to an injured pectoral muscle. Injuries aside, it’s evident that Kwiatkoski is the leader of the defense, assisting other defenders to fill their proper assignments. Not only has Kwiatkoski been the quarterback of the defense, but he’s been superior in defending the pass. When targeting Kwiatkoski, opposing quarterbacks are completing passes at a 33% rate — marking one of the few bright spots on defense for the Raiders. Grade: A-
In a surprising trade, the Raiders acquired linebacker Raekwon McMillian from the Miami Dolphins just before the start of Week 1. McMillian marks the third linebacker added, but one that will see most of his playing time on running situations. The book on McMillian includes him being stout against the run and a liability against the pass. His play with the Raiders has been few and far between, playing just 12% of the defensive snaps and 38% on special teams. McMillian hasn’t changed the Raiders’ defense for better or worse, but as time goes on, he’ll be an interesting player to track as he’s due to hit free agency after this season. Grade: C
The Marinelli player-coach connection is a strong one. After serving as the Dallas Cowboys starting strong safety the past three seasons, Heath was added to the Raiders’ secondary to fill a depth need. He hasn’t played much with Jonathan Abram and Erik Harris filling the two starting spots over the first four weeks, but he could see an uptick in snaps given the secondary struggles of late. However, one thing to monitor with Heath is the pondering question of whether he’s been surpassed by Isaiah Johnson on the totem pole. Last week, Johnson saw snaps over Heath at safety, despite his veteran presence being a much-needed quality on the back-end. At this point in Heath’s career, he’s properly suited as a rotational player, rather than someone who sees an abundance of snaps in a starting role. He’s a difficult one to grade given his opportunities have been so sparse. Grade: C-