Raiders ready for season debut in Las Vegas

Raiders

LAS VEGAS, NEVADA – FEBRUARY 13: (L-R) Las Vegas Raiders head coach Jon Gruden, Pro Football Hall of Fame member and former Raider Marcus Allen and Raiders owner and managing general partner Mark Davis attend a game between the St. Louis Blues and the Vegas Golden Knights at T-Mobile Arena on February 13, 2020 in Las Vegas, Nevada. The Golden Knights defeated the Blues 6-5 in overtime. (Photo by Ethan Miller/Getty Images)

LAS VEGAS RAIDERS (7-9)

New faces: WR Henry Ruggs III, LB Cory Littleton, DT Maliek Collins, CB Damon Arnette, LB Nick Kwiatkoski, WR Bryan Edwards, TE Jason Witten, QB Marcus Mariota, DE Carl Nassib, LB Raekwon McMillan, WR Nelson Agholor, S Jeff Heath.

Key losses: LB Tahir Whitehead, CB Daryl Worley, S Karl Joseph, DE Benson Mayowa, RB DeAndre Washington, S Curtis Riley.

Strengths: Raiders invested heavily in offensive line with team spending most money in NFL at position. Rodney Hudson has been league’s best pass-blocking center for years, RT Trent Brown excels when healthy, LG Richie Incognito was pleasant surprise after sitting out 2018. With more improvement from LT Kolton Miller and healthy season from RG Gabe Jackson, QB Derek Carr should have plenty of time to throw.

Weaknesses: Secondary has been issue for years for Raiders. Team has some intriguing young pieces but no proven commodities. CB Trayvon Mullen had solid second half as rookie but remains untested. First-round pick Arnette won the other spot after an impressive camp. LaMarcus Joyner struggled in slot last season. Johnathan Abram returns at string safety after going down with season-ending shoulder injury in opener last season, with Erik Harris the only veteran at free safety.

Pandemic Development: Excitement for debut season in Las Vegas dealt major blow when coronavirus led to decision to ban fans from games all season. Players will get to enjoy fancy new environment, but home-field advantage may have to wait another year.

Fantasy Player To Watch: TE Darren Waller. Last year’s breakout star ranked second among TEs with 1,145 yards receiving, 90 catches last season. Upgraded receivers could take away some of Waller’s volume. But he should improve on last year’s TD total of three.

Vegas Says: Win Super BowlL 66-1. Over/under wins: 7 1/2.

Expectations: After tearing down team in first year under coach Jon Gruden, Raiders showed improvement last season. Anything less than playoff berth would be disappointment in third year, especially with extra wild-card team this season. Raiders one of three teams to score less than 20 points per game each of past three seasons. Offense should be improved by addition of speedy Ruggs on outside and healthy season from RB Josh Jacobs. Season-ending injury to Tyrell WIlliams was blow but third-rounder Edwards gets nod as starter across from fellow rookie Ruggs. Now team needs Carr to be willing to throw deep more than in past. Defense allowed 27.7 points per game last two years but should be much stronger in middle with Collins providing interior rush. Littleton, Kwiatkoski provide best pair of LBs for Raiders in years.

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