“The best ability is availability.” — Without a name
Henderson, Nev. — Go ahead, then, add another maxim, albeit a cautious one, to the entire wall of slogans and affirmations the Las Vegas Raiders already have. Slip into somewhere in between Commitment to Excellence, Pride and Poise and Just win, baby!
Because when the headliner season arrived that was the Raiders’ 2022 campaign – three first-team All-Pro picks on a team that was just 6-11? — it was a big story that a few Pro Bowl pass catchers couldn’t stay available, as it were.
Consider: a year after catching 103 passes for 1,038 yards and nine touchdowns in 17 games, wide receiver Hunter Renfrow played in 10 games, finishing with 36 catches for 330 yards, two TDs and a costly Week 2 fumble.
Tight end Darren Waller? He played in just nine games last season and had 28 catches for 388 yards and three TDs, two years after setting a franchise record with 107 catches, for 1,196 yards and nine scores.
Sure, they missed a combined 15 games due to a malady of injuries, ranging from concussions to strained hamstrings, but that’s a precipitous drop in production from a pair of Pro Bowlers that is rarely seen. A drop that even receiver Davante Adams (a Raiders first-team All-Pro thanks to his NFL-leading 14 touchdown receptions), running back Josh Jacobs (another All-Pro who was a key the league leader with 1,653 yards) or even placekicker Daniel Carlson (the third Las Vegas ‘All-Pro, who kicked an NFL-record 11 field goals from 50 yards or farther) could help the Raiders overcome.
It brings back memories of the 2016 New York Jets and the 2013 Atlanta Falcons for such collapses.
According to ESPN Stats & Information, Brandon Marshall went from 1,502 receiving yards, a Pro Bowl nod and a second-team All-Pro selection for the Jets in 2015 to 788 receiving yards the following year, while Eric Decker went from 1,027 receiving yards in 2015. to 194 yards (in three games) for the 2016 Jets.
And Roddy White went from 1,351 receiving yards for Atlanta in 2012 to 711 in 2013, with Julio Jones going from 1,198 yards in 2012 to 580 in 2013.
Perhaps the hardest part for two of the Raiders to digest was that they each signed contract extensions during the offseason — Renfrow taking a two-year, $32 million deal and Waller getting a three-year, $51 million deal to his team with Adams, Jacobs. and quarterback Derek Carr to create an impossible-to-stop offense under first-year coach Josh McDaniels.
“When the offense as a whole does just the best details, it’s a really impressive group,” Waller said with four games to go in the season. “Football is different, you know, because there’s 10 guys doing the right thing and if one misses a detail, it could be a 2-yard play instead of a 20-yard play.”
Renfrow, meanwhile, said it was “fun” to watch the Raiders go on a three-game winning streak when he and Waller were on injured reserve together (Waller from Weeks 6-14 and Renfrow from Weeks 10- 14), and it was expected. contribute to more success on their return.
Sorry… it didn’t matter. The Raiders were losing four of their last five and Carr was benched for the final two games, leaving the team and setting up shop on the trade market, unless he receives his full release before February 15th.
However, Waller and Renfrow provided a glimpse of what the offense could look like when they are available and, therefore, contributing.
Fifteen of Renfrow’s 36 catches came in the final four weeks (he set season highs with seven receptions for 63 yards and his lone TD in the season finale, with Jarrett Stidham at quarterback).
And Waller had 12 catches and two MPs – including wave of mockery for the “haters”who questioned why the previous rapper would “fall record” during the season, after his score – in the last four games.
In comparison, Adams had a combined 18 catches and two TDs in the last two games.
Who is the Raiders quarterback next season should have a comprehensive set of targets at his disposal.
“I think we still believe in each other and we still believe, obviously, the coaches and everybody,” Renfrow said with two games to go. “It’s just about going out and getting better and better every day.”
And be available.