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AFC West Preview: Raiders Bolster Offense with Rookie Wide Receivers


The Athletic's Tashan Reed joined Wednesday's episode of “Chargers Weekly” to break down the Las Vegas Raiders' offseason.

It's the second of three installments breaking down the Bolts' AFC West rivals. On Monday, it was the Kansas City Chiefs. Next week, it's the Denver Broncos.

Highlights from the conversation with Reed are below:

Notable moves made by the Raiders this offseason

"The biggest news is just the investment in defense. The biggest name is Corey Littleton coming over from the Rams and then … Nick Kwiatkowski coming over from the Bears. It's something that Raiders fans have long been complaining about is their linebackers corps, and they finally invested in the position and they seem to have their starting tandem for the future. They also made Carl Nassib, a defensive end, they gave him a big deal. And so, free agency was mostly focused on the defense. The defense was pretty bad last year and so, it made sense that they would invest on that side of the ball.

"Their offense, even though they didn't score that many points, … you have a really good offensive line, you have your quarterback in Derek Carr, [and] you have the running back in Josh Jacobs. They needed some more wide receivers. Obviously, everybody knows what happened with Antonio Brown last season, so going into the draft obviously it's a position of need and you saw with their first pick they go out and get Henry Ruggs III, the fastest wide receiver in the draft – a very Raiders pick. But he's somebody who's not just a speedster, he's an all-around wide receiver. He can run routes, he can catch the ball, [and] he's tough. And then they get Bryan Edwards, who's a big-bodied target on the outside. And so, I think that was kind of the way you saw it segmented: Free agency was defense – not to say they didn't sign offensive players but that was the focus – and then in the draft it was offense."

Raiders safety Johnathan Abram and defensive end Clelin Ferrell

"Coaches and fans alike, it's pretty much assumed that Abram is going to be a stud even though he only played in one game, which is pretty shocking. You don't really see that with too many guys. He's obviously an athletic freak. He's a big hitter. I think there's some questions about maybe his coverage on the back end. That's something you would hope that he improved on over the offseason – his first offseason in the NFL – and being back fully healthy. He should be, he's expected to be, fine at this point.

"I think Clelin Ferrell, given where he was drafted [at] No. 4 overall, most people would say his rookie season he could have done better especially when you have Maxx Crosby on the other end as fourth-round pick come out and get 10 sacks. He [Ferrell] already had high expectations, but when you have somebody that was picked lower than you 'outperform' you, it only shines the light a little bit brighter. ... He's worked to reshape his body going into this offseason, and so they're expecting for him to take another uptick, and him along with Crosby kind of be that defensive end duo for the [foreseeable] future to handle that front end. And then on the back end, with Abram and then some of the young cornerbacks they have like Trayvon Mullen and Damon Arnette that they just drafted, and Amik Robertson later on in the future, and then like I said earlier, [they] invested in the middle of the defense at the linebacker position. They feel like they have the pieces at all three levels to have a pretty good defense this year."

Quarterbacks Derek Carr and Marcus Mariota

"Derek Carr is the starter. ... The pandemic, I think, has eliminated some of the room for you to make a switch at quarterback before the season given the lack of opportunity just with practices and camps not happening as they normally would. There's even on the side of maybe Carr getting hurt not as much opportunity for that to happen either. And so, I think assuming health he's going to be the starter day one. Obviously, if they have a rough start and he's not playing well, you're making Marcus Mariota the highest-paid backup quarterback in the league for a reason. They didn't just sign him to sit on the bench. If they're going to use him if Carr struggles, I don't know what the threshold is for that specifically. I don't know if it's four games, six games, eight games, we'll just have to see. But I don't think that Carr, at least going into the season, I don't see his starting job being in jeopardy."

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