The Las Vegas Raiders have come a long way this off-season. They have found their new head coach, new general manager, next elite wide receiver, and made many more franchise-changing moves. Now, it’s been one week since the 2022 NFL Draft, and training camp is just around the corner. Las Vegas has made some big moves since February, but the Raiders concerns are becoming increasingly more clear ahead of off-season programs.
Front office stability
More than an improved defense or red-zone offense, the 2022 Raiders need stability. They pushed through the most unpredictable NFL season ever in 2021, dealing with challenges in every sense of the word. And while the playoff loss was disappointing, it also served as a reminder that stability and personnel improvement were finally on their way.
The hiring of Josh McDaniels, Dave Ziegler, and Champ Kelly was a massive step in the right direction. They brought on primarily their own staff and now have executed extensive change in the scouting department as well. All seemed to be looking brighter in Sin City, until this week when it was announced that the Raiders have parted ways with both their vice president of human resources and their team president. It is unclear what lead to the departure of both parties, but new information suggests it may be due to a hostile work environment.
In a newly released statement former president, Dan Vantrelle, suggests he was met with hostility when he brought up concerns regarding the female staff. Vantrelle made clear he stands by his actions and intends to get legal representation regarding his termination.
The Raiders have been involved in many lawsuits over the last year, which makes the latest even more disappointing.
The Raiders added a lot of talent in free agency and the draft this year, but one group they hardly addressed was the secondary. Outside of trading for cornerback Rock Ya-Sin, Las Vegas only signed three other players to their secondary, and none of them are known to be game-changing players. For the most part, Josh McDaniels and Dave Ziegler have hung on the pieces that were already there for them.
While some of the pieces they have in place are solid, like Nate Hobbs, most of the pieces could use an upgrade. Starting cornerback Trayvon Mullen and safety Jonathan Abram are both coming off season-ending injuries and surgeries, making their play in 2022 relatively unpredictable.
Despite these injuries and questions, the new front office tandem decided against drafting a rookie cornerback or safety, in hopes that defensive coordinator Patrick Graham can upgrade the players he has on the payroll already, or they can find a steal in the remaining free agents.
That free agent steal may come in the form of Giants’ cornerback James Bradberry, who is rumored to be released from New York in the coming weeks. The former Pro-Bowler is coming off a season with four interceptions, more than any one player had for the Raiders in 2021. If Mullen is out for the beginning of the season, Bradberry gives the Silver and Black a fighting chance and will be a wildly dependable piece of the puzzle upon Mullen’s return.
The offensive line
Unlike the secondary, the Raiders did choose to address the offensive line during the draft. With their first pick, they took Memphis offensive guard, Dylan Parham. Parham’s skill set is unique because he brings the ability to play both center and guard. Prior to the draft, the widespread assumption was that Andre James would remain at center this season, thanks to a somewhat convincing campaign in 2021. Now, it’s less clear than ever what the starting five will look like in September.
Second-year veteran Alex Leatherwood brings his own set of questions, as he was incredibly undependable his rookie season. After playing at both right tackle and right guard, he came away without much success in either. Head coach Josh McDaniels told the media he is unsure where Leatherwood will play next season, but sees him as a “contributor”.
The questions at center come with equal questions at both guard and tackle. The only solidified position on the front line seems to be left tackle, Kolton Miller. Thankfully, with a new offensive line coach comes new hope for an improved line.
The Raiders live in the hardest division in football, inside the hardest conference in football. Their successes and downfalls next season will come at the hands of the problems still unsolved. If they can choose to make smart decisions and do the right thing, these Raiders’ concerns should be mitigated by September.