Updated September 6, 2022 - 1:35 pm
In talking their reunion into existence, Fresno State friends and teammates Derek Carr and Davante Adams didn’t just make sure a mutual dream came true. They changed the trajectory of the Raiders franchise.
By welcoming the incomparable Adams to the already formidable pass-catching duo of Darren Waller and Hunter Renfrow — along with reeling in pass-rush extraordinaire Chandler Jones to team with Pro Bowl edge rusher Maxx Crosby — the Raiders finally are a team that can look opponents in the eye confident that they can compete on a talent-for-talent basis.
Nowhere more than at the skill positions. It’s something Adams picked up on immediately.
“Just the fact that everybody’s a threat out there,” Adams said. “Obviously, pretty much every pass you have a No. 1 read or whatever, but you can get the ball from anywhere. You can be a guy that’s setting up another guy, but the coverage can dictate that you get the ball. So it … keeps you alive within every route.”
It has been a long time since the Raiders could legitimately say that. But for the first time in years, when they take the field, it won’t be a personnel issue that determines the outcome but simply the normal dynamics that decide football games.
Like penalties. Red zone efficiency. Turnovers.
To that end, the arrival of new coach Josh McDaniels not only means a fresh spin on the offensive operation, but an attention to detail that for far too long eluded the Raiders and, frankly, cost them over the years.
“We’re trying to learn how to win,” McDaniels said.
It was a point he drove home throughout the offseason and training camp and across four preseason victories in which the Raiders amassed their fewest preseason penalty yards in 22 years and became the first NFL team since 2011 to complete their exhibition schedule without committing a turnover.
“The first thing you have to do if you want to win is not lose the game,” McDaniels said.
His players immediately picked up on that from their new coach.
“He’s all about the details,” Carr said. “He makes it as hard as he can out there so when the games come, you’re used to the situation, and it may hopefully be easier in that moment.”
If that attention to detail carries over to the regular season — and a reworked offensive line comes together over time — Carr and the Raiders offense has a chance to be prolific.
The trio of Adams, Waller and Renfrow shapes up as a defensive coordinator’s nightmare. Imagine having to defend all three, knowing full well the player who gets the minimum focus is liable to have a monster game.
That is the hard decision facing every team the Raiders play this season.
Combined with a defense that should get a big push off the edge from Crosby and Jones and features young playmakers in cornerback Nate Hobbs, safety Tre’von Moehrig and linebacker Divine Deablo, the Raiders have every right to believe they will be in the thick of the AFC West chase.
Where that ultimately lands them is far from known given how powerful their division became after an offseason in which the Chargers and Broncos made big upgrades and the Chiefs still feature quarterback Patrick Mahomes and tight end Travis Kelce.
But for the first time in decades, the Raiders can look their opponent straight in the eyes from a talent perspective. And that will make for a potentially blockbuster season.