Raiders offense looking for answers after listless start

ByPaul Gutierrez ESPN logo
Friday, October 27, 2023

"It's a mystery wrapped in a riddle inside an enigma." -- Joe Pesci, as David Ferrie, in the 1991 movie "JFK"

HENDERSON, Nev. -- The Las Vegas Raiders offense was supposed to be the team's strength. They had a returning All-Pro at receiver in Davante Adams. Another All-Pro in running back Josh Jacobs, the first Raiders player to lead the NFL in rushing since Marcus Allen in 1985. Four of five starters were returning on the offensive line and a quarterback more versed in coach Josh McDaniels' offensive system than the previous guy was in the building in Jimmy Garoppolo.

The Raiders also returned a former Pro Bowl slot receiver in Hunter Renfrow, who caught 103 passes two years ago. But he's been a forgotten man in this offense (eight receptions for 73 yards), which has scuffled despite the additions of receiver Jakobi Meyers, who has shown himself to be a more than capable No. 2 receiver (37 catches for 385 yards and a team-high five touchdowns), and draft picks Michael Mayer--a top tight end prospect with soft hands -- and speedy receiver Tre Tucker.

But after seven games and a 3-4 record, there has been more than a cavalcade of fits and starts and backfires for the Raiders' purported high-octane offense.

Consider: Las Vegas has the NFL's No. 27-ranked total offense (out of 32 teams) in terms of yards per game, averaging 284.1. The Raiders are 18th in passing yards per game (215.6) and dead last in rushing yards per game (68.6).

Again, last in rushing for a team that boasted last season's rushing champion in Jacobs, who sat out all of the offseason program, exhibition season and training camp in a contract squabble. He's averaging 2.9 yards per carry (347 yards on 118 attempts) after averaging 4.9 yards per rush en route to a 1,653-yard season in 2022.

In fact, only two teams are averaging fewer points per game than the Raiders' 16.0. They have yet to score more than 21 in a game.


"Football is a mystery sometimes," offered McDaniels, perhaps harkening Pesci from a three-plus decades old movie.

The Raiders offense, though, is not going back and to the left ... it's simply going backwards, and poring over game video like it was the Zapruder Film hasn't provided many answers yet.

And with the amount of star power on that side of the ball, it's unfathomable.

"I mean, that never makes it easy, going through what you just said," said Garoppolo. "But it's our job to fix it and get it right. So, what will happen this week, next week? I don't know. I don't have an exact answer for you. But I mean, we're trying everything we can.

"We have a group in there that's willing to do it, go through the hard stuff, go through the growing pains together and that's what it takes. It's not going to come easy to us, but we know what we've signed up for."

The oft-injured Garoppolo having already missed two-and-half games due to a concussion and a back injury and the Raiders having started two other quarterbacks in rookie Aidan O'Connell and 15th-year veteran Brian Hoyer does not help with continuity or familiarity. Especially since none of those three quarterbacks were on the Raiders' roster last season.

"It's always tough when you have multiple different guys in the huddle, calling the play, handling the offense, and all the rest of it," McDaniels said. "That doesn't aid in it. Again, we can't control those circumstances, so we do what we've got to do based on injuries and health of the team.

"Obviously, we prefer to have just Jimmy in there and just stay in there the whole time ... but again, regardless of who's playing, I just know that there's a higher level for us, and we've got to get to it."

Maybe this is what Adams was referring to when he said the Raiders could win and still look "s---ty" while doing it, that it was all fool's gold which the offense could not sustain. Adams has 46 receptions for 528 yards and three touchdowns but his target share has been inconsistent, getting 20 targets in Week 3 but only nine combined in Weeks 5 and 6.

If last weekend's listless showing at the woeful Chicago Bears -- a 30-12 loss that featured Hoyer's 37.1 passer rating, the fifth-worst such rating by a Raiders QB in the last 15 seasons -- does not serve as a wake-up call heading into Monday night's affair at the 5-2 Detroit Lions (8:15 p.m. ET, Ford Field, ABC/ESPN), well ...

"That's why I'm frustrated every week, and that's why you see the frustration after games," Adams said. "It wouldn't be the same if we [did not have] a good staff and we didn't have a good roster, but we have that. So, we've just got to figure out what to run that best suits what we're doing, and anytime whatever is called, we've got to go out there and find a way to make it work.

"That's what we did last year, and we didn't win every game, but we were much more efficient on offense than what we are now. [If] more people can lock in on ways to fix it and fix their part, the whole thing will come together."

And that's no mystery.

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