Youmans: Raiders on right track with Carr-McDaniels duo

August 3, 2022 08:58 PM
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It’s rare when a new head coach in the NFL inherits a winning team with a reliable veteran quarterback, so Josh McDaniels is already lucky in Las Vegas. The Raiders do not require a rebuilding job, which puts McDaniels in an enviable position.

More than a decade after he was fired by the Broncos, McDaniels is back in the AFC West and in a much better situation for his second chance.

“McDaniels will do a good job,” said VSiN’s Michael Lombardi, a former NFL executive who worked with McDaniels in New England. “I think he learned from the last time, plus he’s a really good offensive coach.”

The last time McDaniels was a head coach, from 2009 to 2010 in Denver, he lacked a stable quarterback and lost 17 of his 28 games. This time, he takes over a team off a 10-win season and is happy to inherit Derek Carr, arguably one of the league’s top 10 quarterbacks.

When the NFL preseason kicks off Thursday, Carr is likely to be parked on the sideline as the Raiders face the Jaguars in the Hall of Fame Game in Canton, Ohio. In what is expected to be a battle of backup quarterbacks, Las Vegas is a 1.5-point favorite and the total is 32.5.

The curtain-raiser in Canton is typically a boring, coin-flip game that’s only worth an entertainment bet, but there will be wagering action and a lot of it simply because football is back and the team in silver and black is a public favorite.

“It’s the Raiders and it’s a Thursday night, and some of our biggest preseason games are going to be the Raiders’ games,” Red Rock sportsbook director Chuck Esposito said. “Once these games start rolling around, our NFL preseason handle just dominates what is bet on baseball on those days.”

The preseason is a different world for handicappers because angles matter, analytics do not and information means almost everything. The backup quarterbacks are far more important than Tom Brady, Patrick Mahomes and Aaron Rodgers.

Carr might not play much in August, and the same goes for his top two targets — wide receiver Davante Adams and tight end Darren Waller — but McDaniels is implementing a new offense and could play his starters a little more than anticipated. New coaches will be a primary angle because there are an NFL-record 10 of them this season.

“I’m sure the new coaches do not want to lose all the preseason games,” Esposito said.

The new coach in the best situation is Todd Bowles, who was promoted from defensive coordinator and takes over a Tampa Bay team with a seven-time Super Bowl winner at quarterback. But Brady will play little, if at all, in the preseason, and Bowles is unlikely to be a bet-on coach this month.

The coaches charged with the task of turning around losing teams — Brian Daboll (Giants), Matt Eberflus (Bears), Doug Pederson (Jaguars) and Lovie Smith (Texans) — seem more inclined to put an emphasis on winning in the preseason.

Dennis Allen (Saints), Kevin O’Connell (Vikings), Mike McDaniel (Dolphins) and Nathaniel Hackett (Broncos) each take over teams that are expected to contend in their respective divisions and have established starting quarterbacks. New Orleans has a promising preseason outlook with starter Jameis Winston backed up by Andy Dalton and Ian Book. Denver’s outlook is different because there’s a massive dropoff from Russell Wilson, who’s not going to play much, to backups Josh Johnson and Brett Rypien.

“It would not stun me if Russell Wilson played a series and that’s it,” Esposito said. “With the three preseason games, you’re not going to see Wilson, Brady and Rodgers. If they do play, it’s only a series. The No. 1 key is the quarterback rotations. Look at the young quarterbacks who are battling for jobs or starting jobs.”

Five quarterbacks were drafted in the first round in 2021, and it would make sense for a few who started as rookies — Justin Fields (Bears), Trevor Lawrence (Jaguars) and Zach Wilson (Jets) — to get more preseason work. The 49ers will want to get a longer look at Trey Lance, who’s the new starter in his second year. Patriots coach Bill Belichick probably feels less urgency to play Mac Jones.

The Raiders’ backups to Carr — Jarrett Stidham, Nick Mullens and Chase Garbers — are capable quarterbacks in a competitive atmosphere. McDaniels was Stidham’s offensive coordinator in New England then traded for him in Las Vegas and likely wants him to win the No. 2 job.

McDaniels might be motivated to win Thursday’s game for personal reasons — he grew up in Canton and played high school football in the same stadium. Still, that’s not necessarily an angle to take the bank.

The bigger picture for McDaniels will be what develops when Carr, Adams and Waller line up together in September. The pieces are in place for the Raiders to unveil one of the league’s highest-scoring offenses.

Lombardi said Las Vegas’ offensive line is a potential problem, but he has no concerns with Carr, who ranked fifth in the NFL with 4,804 passing yards last season. The Raiders ranked only 18th in scoring at 22 points per game. Lombardi said McDaniels’ play-calling acumen should take the offense to a higher level.

“Carr is smart, and if you give Josh a really smart quarterback, it will be really impressive,” said Lombardi, who ranks Carr the 10th-best quarterback in the league.

The AFC West’s other three quarterbacks — Mahomes, Wilson and Justin Herbert — rank higher in Lombardi’s top 10. DraftKings lists the Chiefs as the division favorites at + 175, followed by the Chargers (+ 220), Broncos (+ 260) and Raiders (+ 650). Las Vegas has the lowest regular-season win total (8.5) of the four teams.

The Raiders cashed in on close-game luck last season, going 4-0 in overtime games, and made the playoffs despite losing coach Jon Gruden in October and trailing in 15 of 17 games. Carr’s leadership was a key factor during the team’s chaotic season.

McDaniels has a lot working in his favor, aside from stepping into what appears to be the league’s toughest division top to bottom.

NFL preseason QB depth charts

Arizona: Kyler Murray, Colt McCoy, Trace McSorley, Jarrett Guarantano

Atlanta: Marcus Mariota, Desmond Ritter, Feleipe Franks

Baltimore: Lamar Jackson, Tyler Huntley, Brett Hundley, Anthony Brown

Buffalo: Josh Allen, Case Keenum, Matt Barkley

Carolina: Baker Mayfield, Sam Darnold, Matt Corral, P.J. Walker

Chicago: Justin Fields, Trevor Siemian, Nathan Peterman

Cincinnati: Joe Burrow, Brandon Allen, Jake Browning

Cleveland: Jacoby Brissett, Josh Dobbs, Josh Rosen, Deshaun Watson (eligible to play in preseason games)

Dallas: Dak Prescott, Cooper Rush, Will Grier, Ben DiNucci

Denver: Russell Wilson, Josh Johnson, Brett Rypien

Detroit: Jared Goff, Tim Boyle, David Blough

Green Bay: Aaron Rodgers, Jordan Love, Danny Etling

Houston: Davis Mills, Kyle Allen, Jeff Driskel, Kevin Hogan

Indianapolis: Matt Ryan, Nick Foles, Sam Ehlinger, Jack Coan

Jacksonville: Trevor Lawrence, C.J. Beathard, Jake Luton, Kyle Sloter

Kansas City: Patrick Mahomes, Chad Henne, Shane Buechele, Dustin Crum

Las Vegas: Derek Carr, Jarrett Stidham, Nick Mullens, Chase Garbers

L.A. Chargers: Justin Herbert, Chase Daniel, Easton Stick, Brandon Peters

L.A. Rams: Matthew Stafford, John Wolford, Bryce Perkins

Miami: Tua Tagovailoa, Teddy Bridgewater, Skylar Thompson

Minnesota: Kirk Cousins, Kellen Mond, Sean Mannion

New England: Mac Jones, Brian Hoyer, Bailey Zappe

New Orleans: Jameis Winston, Andy Dalton, Ian Book, Taysom Hill

N.Y. Giants: Daniel Jones, Tyrod Taylor, Davis Webb

N.Y. Jets: Zach Wilson, Joe Flacco, Mike White, Chris Streveler

Philadelphia: Jalen Hurts, Gardner Minshew, Carson Strong, Reid Sinnett

Pittsburgh: Mitchell Trubisky, Mason Rudolph, Kenny Pickett, Chris Oladokun

San Francisco: Trey Lance, Nate Sudfeld, Brock Purdy

Seattle: Drew Lock, Geno Smith, Jacob Eason

Tampa Bay: Tom Brady, Blaine Gabbert, Kyle Trask, Ryan Griffin

Tennessee: Ryan Tannehill, Malik Willis, Logan Woodside

Washington: Carson Wentz, Taylor Heinicke, Sam Howell, Cole Kelley

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