Many Raiders newcomers are not making early grade

Las Vegas Raiders quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo throws during the first half of an NFL football...
Las Vegas Raiders quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo throws during the first half of an NFL football game against the Pittsburgh Steelers Sunday, Sept. 24, 2023, in Las Vegas. (AP Photo/David Becker)(David Becker | AP)
Published: Sep. 28, 2023 at 10:52 AM PDT
Email This Link
Share on Pinterest
Share on LinkedIn

HENDERSON, Nev. (AP) — In trying to respond to last season’s 6-11 record, the Raiders’ front office made some notable changes.

Las Vegas is still trying to reap the benefits of all these changes, beginning the season 1-2 with a trip Sunday to face the AFC West rival Los Angeles Chargers.

Pro Football Focus’ evaluations haven’t been exactly kind, with many free agents or draft picks in the bottom half of the website’s positional rankings. Much, however, can change with 14 games left in the season.

“We’ve gotten some guys that just came here that became captains quickly, which is I think a tribute to them and what they’ve done,” coach Josh McDaniels said. “They’ve invested themselves in our program and our culture, and really made an impact on other people. Our young players that we’ve drafted are coming along and they learn every day.

“We’re still in September and we want to just keep plugging along here. I think we have a long way to go and a lot of things to go through and a lot of improvements to make.”

A breakdown of the key newcomers:


Quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo: He was brought in to be an upgrade over Derek Carr, the Raiders’ starter for nine years. Garoppolo led the San Francisco 49ers to two NFC championship games and a Super Bowl. But Jimmy G didn’t take the practice field until training camp just before training camp opened because of a broken foot, and he has thrown an NFL-high six interceptions. PFF ranking: 16th of 34.

Wide receiver Jakobi Meyers: He has 16 catches for 166 yards and two touchdowns, missing one game because of a concussion, the dependable No. 2 receiver the Raiders wanted. PFF ranking: 22nd of 111.

Linebacker Robert Spillane: After serving as a part-time starter for four years in Pittsburgh, Spillane has taken on a much larger role. He leads the team with 28 tackles and has one of the team’s five sacks. PFF ranking: 30th of 77.

Cornerback Marcus Peters: A nine-year veteran with 32 career interceptions, Peters is trying to find his way and was at the center of two negative plays against the Steelers. Peters dropped a sure interception return for a touchdown and he was beaten on a 72-yard TD pass to Calvin Austin. PFF ranking: 64th of 105.

Safety Marcus Epps: Epps, who played in last season’s Super Bowl for the Philadelphia Eagles, has been one of the better defensive players with 15 tackles. PFF ranking: 34th of 85.


Defensive end Tyree Wilson: The Raiders knew when they selected him No. 7 overall that Wilson would need time after he suffered a foot injury at Texas Tech last season. He didn’t practice until mid-August, and perhaps that accounts for a slow start in which Wilson has played sparingly. PFF ranking: No. 111 of 112.

“For him, it’s about being intentional with every single rep,” defensive end Maxx Crosby said. “You’ve got to do it a million times right in practice to do it right once in a game. You don’t realize that when you’re coming from college. Everyone’s good in the NFL.”

Tight end Michael Mayer: Las Vegas traded up to take Mayer high in the second round out of Notre Dame. Mayer has one catch for 2 yards, but his heavy playing time indicates the Raiders’ belief in him. PFF ranking: 55th of 69.

“You’ve got to keep your head on straight,” Mayer said. “You’ve got to study as much as you can. You’ve got to learn as much as you can. You’ve got to absorb as much information as you can from really anybody. I’m getting blocking tips from the O-linemen. I’m getting receiving tips from people like (Davante Adams) and (Meyers) and people like that. I’m getting running tips from Josh (Jacobs). There’s a bunch of stuff that I’ve got to absorb.”

Defensive tackle Byron Young: The third-round pick from Alabama is a reserve who has made two tackles. PFF ranking: 116th of 128.

Wide receiver Tre Tucker: Another third-rounder, the Cincinnati product was drafted to stretch the field. He doesn’t have a catch. PFF ranking: Not ranked.

Cornerback Jakorian Bennett: He opened eyes in training camp by making several big plays, earning the fourth-rounder from Maryland a starting spot. He has 17 tackles and a pass breakup. PFF ranking: 95th of 105.

“I think he’s really been trying to soak in some of the education from guys like Marcus Peters and Epps and those guys that have played a lot of football and understand what it takes,” McDaniels said. “JB has been up to the challenge. ... I trust his process, I trust his maturity and I trust his desire to improve and get better as we go through the course of the season.”