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Tampa Bay Buccaneers

2024 Opponent Preview: Las Vegas Raiders, Week 14

The Raiders went 5-4 under then-interim Head Coach Antonio Pierce last season, and with Pierce now getting the full-time job and edge rusher Maxx Crosby elevating his game year after year, the Raiders hope to be playoff contenders in 2024


Players and coaches for the Tampa Bay Buccaneers have begun their final break before the start of training camp, in which they are presumably getting their minds off football for a short stretch. That is not our approach, however. As we wait for those men and women to return to the playing field, we are taking an opportunity to look at each team Tampa Bay is going to face during the regular season. From how those teams fared last year, to what they've done with the roster since, to some as-yet-unanswered questions – we want to get a better feel for what the Bucs will be up against this fall. Today we look at a team the Bucs won't cross paths with until December despite being NFC South rivals: the Carolina Panthers.

2023 Results

After finishing 6-11 in Josh McDaniels' first year as head coach in 2022, the Raiders improved by two games in 2023 to 9-8, but McDaniels wasn't there to see the second half of it. Both McDaniels and General Manager David Ziegler were fired on November 1 after the team's 3-5 start, and Antonio Pierce took over the team on an interim basis.

Las Vegas actually opened the season with a win, nipping the Broncos in Denver, 17-16, thanks to a fourth-quarter touchdown pass from Jimmy Garoppolo to Jakobi Meyers. However, Week Two brought a 38-10 thumping in Buffalo, with Garoppolo throwing two picks and the Bills' Josh Allen tossing three touchdown passes during a 450-yard outing for his offense. In Week Three, Garoppolo played every offensive snap in a 23-18 home loss to Pittsburgh but was diagnosed with a concussion after the game and had to miss a Week Four trip to Los Angeles to play the Chargers. Rookie fourth-rounder Aidan O'Connell got his first career start but the Chargers got the win, 24-17, and O'Connell had one pick and no touchdowns.

Garoppolo returned the following week and the Raiders got back to .500 with consecutive wins over Green Bay and New England. The Raiders smothered Packers quarterback Jordan Love, holding him to 182 yards and no touchdowns while picking him off twice in a 17-13 decision in Las Vegas. The Raiders put the finishing touches on a 21-17 win over the Patriots by sacking Mac Jones in the end zone for a fourth-quarter safety. However, Garoppolo was knocked out of the game with a back injury and he would miss a 30-12 loss in Chicago the following weekend.

Garoppolo again returned to start the next game, but he completed just 10 of 21 passes for 126 yards and an interception in Detroit, amid a 26-14 loss, and was benched in favor of O'Connell for the remainder of the season. The Raiders won their next two games over the New York teams, largely on the strength of their defense. Maxx Crosby had three of the Raiders' eight sacks in a 30-6 thrashing of the Giants and Zach Wilson's Jets were held to four field goals in a 16-12 final. The Raiders followed with losses to eventual playoff squads Miami and Kansas City before finally enjoying their Week 13 bye.

After a 3-0 home loss to the Vikings in which the Raiders offense generated just 202 yards and eight first downs, Las Vegas did finish the season strong, winning three of its last four. O'Connell also looked good in that stretch, throwing eight touchdown passes and no interceptions in the final four weeks. The only game in which he did not notch a scoring pass was a 21-9 upset of the Chiefs in Kansas City in Week 16. Defensive end Malcolm Koonce sacked Patrick Mahomes four times in that one and cornerback Jack Jones picked him off.

The Las Vegas offense finished 27th in yards per game (289.5) and 23rd in points per game (19.4) and was in the bottom quarter of the rankings in both rushing and passing. O'Connell's encouraging final month allowed him to finish his debut season with 2,218 yards, 12 touchdowns and seven interceptions for a passer rating of 84.0. In his last season in Las Vegas, running back Josh Jacobs had 1,101 yards from scrimmage, while Meyers led the team with 10 touchdowns. Former Packers star Davante Adams had another big season, catching 103 passes for 1,144 yards and eight touchdowns.

The Raiders' defense fared better, ranking 15th in yards allowed per game (330.9) and sixth in points allowed per game (19.5). Crosby finished sixth in the NFL with 14.5 sacks and was the lone Raider invited to the Pro Bowl. Linebacker Robert Spillane had a team-high 148 tackles and added 3.5 sacks and three interceptions to tie safety Tre'von Moehrig for the team lead.

2024 Arrivals

The Raiders fired one of the first big salvos at the start of free agency in March, taking star defensive tackle Christian Wilkins off the Dolphins' fins at the price of $110 million over four years. Wilkins posted career highs in 2023 with 9.0 sacks and 61 quarterback pressures.

Otherwise, the Raiders' moves in free agency were mostly on the offensive side of the line, and mostly smaller deals. After a fine season filling in for the injured Anthony Richardson in Indianapolis, quarterback Gardner Minshew got two years and $25 million to join presumptive starter O'Connell in the Raiders' QB room. Alexander Mattison took a one-year deal to come over from Minnesota and join Zamir White at the top of the Raiders' RB depth chart. Las Vegas also added two guards on one-year deals in former Saint Andrus Peat and former Bear Cody Whitehair. Either could be a candidate to start at right guard, though the Raiders would probably like to see second-round draft pick Jackson Powers-Johnson seize that job.

The tight end room got a bit of a makeover, too, as the Raiders signed former Brown Harrison Bryant and then used the 13th overall pick in the raft on Georgia's ultra-productive Brock Bowers. Wideouts Michael Gallup (Cowboys) and Jalen Guyton (Chargers) were added as depth pieces on one-year deals.

The Raiders used their third-round pick on Maryland offensive tackle DJ Glaze, who could have at replacing 2022 seventh-round pick Thayer Munford at right tackle. Las Vegas also got potential defensive starters in Mississippi State cornerback Decamerion Richardson in the fourth round and linebacker Tommy Eichenberg in the fifth. Richardson should battle 2023 fourth-round pick Jakorian Bennett to start opposite Jack Jones.

2024 Departures

After keeping 2019 first-round pick Josh Jacobs on the franchise tag in 2023, the Raiders let the two-time Pro Bowl running back hit free agency this spring and he quickly jumped to Green Bay on a four-year, $48 million deal.

The Raiders' primary right tackles of the past two seasons – Brandon Parker in 2022 and Jermaine Eluemunor – also found new NFL homes, with the former getting one year from the 49ers and the latter landing a two-year pact with the Giants. Garoppolo and fellow veteran passer Brian Hoyer were both released, and Garoppolo subsequently signed with the Rams. Tight end Austin Hooper moved on to the Patriots.

The Raiders didn't lose much in free agency on defense, though they released defensive tackle Jerry Tillery and he signed with the Vikings. Defensive lineman Bilal Nichols signed a three-year pact in Arizona. Those two combined for 3.5 sacks for the Raiders in 2023. Cornerback Amik Robertson, who started 12 games and picked off two passes last season, landed a two-year deal in Detroit in the Lions' latest attempt to rebuild their secondary.

Other Noteworthy Developments

After the Raiders went 5-4 under interim Head Coach Antonio Pierce, several players – headlined by Crosby – lobbied for him to get the full-time gig. Mark Davis agreed and the Raiders removed Pierce's interim tag on January 19. Early the next week, they also hired former Chargers General Manager Tom Telesco for the same position.

In the draft, the Raiders were rumored to be seeking a trade up in order to get a shot at one of the top quarterback prospects but eventually stayed put and landed Georgia tight end Brock Bowers at pick number 13. The last of a record six quarterbacks selected among the top dozen picks, Oregon's Bo Nix, went to the division-rival Denver Broncos at number 12. The Raiders will apparently let O'Connell and Minshew battle it out for the job in 2024.

The Raiders re-signed a few of their own potential free agents, including defensive tackles John Jenkins and Adam Butler, safety Isaiah Pola-Mao, running back Ameer Abdullah and center Andre James. James started 48 games at center over the past three seasons, and he also logged a start at tackle in his 2019 rookie season. The Raiders have not re-signed guard Greg Van Roten, who started 17 games last year but is currently a free agent.

Pressing Questions

Do the Raiders have what they need in the quarterback room to compete for a playoff berth?

After parting ways with long-time starter Derek Carr after the 2022 season, the Raiders took a swing at the position in free agency, signing Garoppolo to a three-year deal with $45 million guaranteed. When it became clear that Garoppolo would not see the last two years on that deal, the Raiders kept him off the field for the second half of the season and then released him with a post-June 1 designation in March.

O'Connell thus got an extended audition as a rookie and the former Purdue starter finished the season strong, as detailed above. The Raiders weren't motivated enough to throw out an offer a trade partner couldn't refuse during the draft, but they did add one of the NFL's high-end quarterback backups in Minshew. Minshew, who had previous NFL stops in Jacksonville and Philadelphia, started 13 games for the Colts last year and threw for 3,305 yards, 15 touchdowns, nine interceptions and an 84.6 passer rating. He has 37 career NFL starts and an overall passer rating of 90.2.

Do the Raiders see long-term potential as a starter for O'Connell, who will presumably get the first crack at the job? How short will their leash with the young passer be now that a viable option like Minshew is in town? And will either quarterback provide enough protection to make a Raiders team that finished 8-9 last year a viable playoff candidate?

Will the addition of Christian Wilkins to a front that already boasts premier sack man Maxx Crosby boost the Raiders' pass rush into one of the league's best?

A fourth-round steal in the 2019 draft, Crosby just keeps getting better. He has had at least 7.0 sacks in each of his five seasons with the Raiders, and after setting a career high with 12.5 in 2022 he did it again with 14.5 last season. He has topped 30 quarterback hits in each of the last three seasons, and his total of 97 since 2021 is second only to the 115 posted by 2022 NFL Defensive Player of the Year Nick Bosa.

Now he's joined on the Raiders' front by Wilkins, who had a career-high nine sacks in 2023. On paper, the two provide the sort of inside-outside pass-rushing combination duo that is the envy of every defensive coordinator in the NFL. Wilkins should demand more O-Line hands on him, potentially giving Crosby even more opportunities to win one-on-ones.

The Raiders' edge rush rotation also includes 2021 third-rounder Malcolm Koonce, who got his first chance to start last season and broke out with 8.0 sacks. Las Vegas might be expecting big things as well from second-year defensive lineman Tyree Wilson, who they drafted with the seventh-overall pick in 2023. He had 3.5 sacks as a rookie, serving in a rotational role.

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