On paper, the 2-3 Las Vegas Raiders do not look like a powerhouse. Make no mistake, however: they have talent sprinkled all over their roster, headlined by some players Bill Belichick named among the best in the NFL at what they do.
“I’d say the Raiders have probably five — at least five — of the top players in the league at their position,” the New England Patriots’ head coach told reporters on Wednesday.
He went on to identify them as wide receiver Davante Adams, running back Josh Jacobs, edge Maxx Crosby, kicker Daniel Carlson, and punter A.J. Cole.
“The two specialists are really outstanding — Carlson, maybe behind [Justin] Tucker, but that’s about it. This guy’s a tremendous kicker,” he said. “Cole, a tremendous punter. So, two specialists that are as good as anybody we’ll see.”
Despite Belichick’s praise, Carlson has had some ups and downs this year. While he made all five of his field goals up to 49 yards, and all eight of his extra points, his two kicks from more than 50 out sailed wide.
Cole, on the other hand, has impressed indeed: he ranks sixth in the NFL with a gross punting average of 51.0 yards, and second with a net of 48.5.
While the Raiders’ kicking game operation has had success, the big names on the roster reside elsewhere.
“Crosby, a very, very disruptive guy, causes a lot of problems in the running game and the passing game, led the league in TFLs last year,” Belichick said about the Pro Bowl defender. “Just a very disruptive guy.”
Now in his fifth season with the Raiders, Crosby has developed into a highly-productive pass rusher. The former fourth-round draft pick currently stands at five sacks and 34 total quarterback pressures, the second-highest such number in the NFL behind only Detroit’s Aidan Hutchinson (35).
“Offensively, Adams is certainly a Hall of Fame receiver,” Belichick continued. “He’s ready for it. This guy’s had tremendous production — touchdowns, receiving yards, catches, you name it. Jacobs, 2,000 yards from scrimmage last year, leads the league in receiving this year with running backs. So, he’s had a little more production in the passing game this year than in the running game, but he’s been very productive, hard guy to handle.”
Adams developed into a superstar during his time in Green Bay, but was traded to Las Vegas last offseason. Despite playing with lesser quarterbacks than Aaron Rodgers, he still managed to keep his production high. This season, he ranks top-10 in receptions (37), yards (442) and touchdowns (3) among pass catchers.
Jacobs has also produced well this season, but as Belichick pointed out has had more success as a pass catcher than a runner so far: he has gained 193 yards on 23 receptions, compared to 235 and a pair of touchdowns on 82 carries — resulting in an average gain of only 2.9 yards per carry.
Nonetheless, Jacobs’ potential is apparent and he has proven himself a productive player in Josh McDaniels’ system. He is not alone in that regard, as Belichick made sure to note.
“They have a lot of good complementary players to go with them,” he said, “but those five guys are really dynamic players that show up in every game and you have to have a way to deal with them.”