The Raiders suffered another underwhelming loss on Christmas Eve, which essentially ended any hope the team had of making a late push into the playoffs. Their defense is also set to be shorthanded for the final two weeks of the campaign.
Pass rusher Chandler Jones and linebacker Denzel Perryman each exited Vegas’ loss to Pittsburgh on Saturday. Ian Rapoport of NFL Network reports that the former suffered an elbow injury, while the latter has a dislocated shoulder (Twitter link). As a result, it would come as little surprise if both players were to be shut down until the 2023 season.
Head coach Josh McDaniels suggested as much when speaking to the media (Twitter link via The Athletic’s Tashan Reed). The news, in all likelihood, marks a disappointing end to a season in which nothing has gone according to plan for a Raiders team which had significant expectations after their eventful offseason. The team sits at 6-9 thanks in large part to a number of blown double-digit leads and their below-average ranking in several major defensive categories.
Jones was a key reason the Raiders’ pass rush was predicted to take a step forward. The four-time Pro Bowler was a free agent target of the Bills before they ultimately landed Von Miller. Jones signed in Vegas on a three-year, $52.5MM contract in March, allowing the team to pair him Maxx Crosby – who himself signed a massive extension days earlier. Even in the latter stages of his career, Jones, 32, was tapped for a productive stint with his new team operating as a compliment to the latter.
Instead, Jones has not lived up to the expectations brought on by his pedigree and new deal. With the exception of a three-sack performance against the Chargers in Week 13, the former Patriot and Cardinal has been ineffective in rushing the passer. Jones sits at 4.5 sacks and 19 QB pressures on the year, figures which fall well short of what he produced last season in Arizona.
Perryman has, on the other hand, remained a consistent presence in the middle of the Raiders’ defense in 2022, his second season with the team. He put himself on the radar for a new deal last year when he totaled 154 tackles en route to earning Pro Bowl honors for the first time in his career. His 83 stops in 2022 (including a career-high 14 for loss) lead the team, whose run defense has fared better than their play against the pass.
A very narrow path to the postseason still remains for the Raiders to make the playoffs; it includes winning the team’s final two contests against the 49ers and Chiefs. Doing so will require improved play on offense relative to their last outing, but also on defense with an undermanned unit.