What the Raiders’ performances in their last two embarrassing losses didn’t say, this week certainly did. That statement could be that their season is over.
In just the past few days the Raiders have sent leading tackler Divine Deablo to injured reserve, cut 2019 first found pick Johnathan Abram, sent 2021 leading receiver Hunter Renfrow to IR, sent 020 leading receiver Darren Waller to IR, and saw veteran linebacker Blake Martinez abruptly announce his retirement.
The loss to the Jaguars saw the team blow their third 17-point lead of the season. It dropped the team to 2-6 on the season and it came on the heels of a 24-0 stomping at the hands of the New Orleans Saints.
Where there was still optimism a few weeks ago, there is little left now. And the flurry of moves is indicative of that.
When you are clinging to playoff hopes, you typically try to see if your stars can get healthy and thus keep them on the active roster if even to get them back in a little bit shorter timeline than the four-week minimum for injured reserve.
Case in point; Darren Waller, who hasn’t played in the past three games with a hamstring injury, but who had for the past couple weeks looked like he was close to returning. Likewise, Hunter Renfrow was practicing despite being listed with a hamstring and rib injury. Now he’s shelved for four weeks too.
We’ve seen when teams pack it up for the current season and shift their focus to next season. And it always involves making roster moves that get young players playing time to see what kind of talent they have in them.
When Abram was cut, head coach Josh McDaniels announced the team was signing undrafted rookie safety Isaiah Pola-Mao from the practice squad.
When Deablo left early in the game last Sunday, it was Martinez who stepped in and had a season-high 63 snaps and finished with a team-leading 11 tackles. You’d think that would have him in line to start this week against the Colts. That is unless he was given an indication that the team was going in another direction. Perhaps with a young player they want to get a look at. That would certainly be reason to say peace out for the seven-year veteran.
The Raiders have two undrafted rookie linebackers on the squad in Luke Masterson and Darien Butler who have seen limited snaps, but who could get a long look with Diablo and Martinez not in the lineup.
With Renfrow down, the team could get a good look at former undrafted receiver DJ Turner in the slot. The first year player stood out in the preseason, earning him a roster spot.
The team had already been getting a look at undrafted tight end Jesper Horsted with Waller missing the past few weeks.
Just as a team pulls the starters late in a blowout in favor of the reserves, the Raiders are in the midst of doing this with their young players as they start thinking 2023.
While this may or may not be what they like to call ‘tanking’ it’s a close relation. And, honestly, it’s probably the smart move right now as the prospects for this season are bleak.