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Who is earning their pay and who isn’t among Raiders’ stars

Updated January 27, 2023 - 9:28 am

The Raiders made significant investments in their roster after a first-round playoff loss last season.

Impatient fans — after all of two games — are waiting to see the dividends. They hope their team cashes in Sunday when it plays the also-winless Titans at Nissan Stadium in Nashville, Tennessee.

Plenty can be done by every player on the roster to turn around the season, the team’s most significant offseason addition said.

“It’s on everybody to think that it’s your job to do your job,” receiver Davante Adams said. “I think any team in the league will win any game against whoever they play if every single person buys into that, especially if you have a lot of talent and you have a really good team on paper like we do.”

That kind of cohesion among all 53 players is the target for every NFL team. But the reality is the salary structure suggests what is asked of certain players is going to be greater than what is asked of others.

The vocal team leaders — and in particular the seven players who are making more than $15 million per season — will be counted on even more now after the 0-2 start.

“Our team in general has had a really good outlook on handling situations like this,” coach Josh McDaniels said. “We’ve had a bad few practices during the course of the spring or training camp, and they present opportunities for you to do the same thing. Our captains have done a phenomenal job of trying to set an example of the way that they want things done.

“I think that’s probably a little too much to say it falls on a handful of guys, though.”

But the high-profile players get most of the credit when the team wins and most of the blame when it loses. They just can’t be seen as saviors, Adams said.

“It’s not going to be on Davante Adams to go and save the season or save the game or whatever,” said Adams, whom the Raiders gave up a first- and second-round pick to acquire from the Packers before signing him to a massive contract extension. “It’s not going to be on Derek Carr. It’s on everybody. Everybody has a role.”

Adams is correct, but if the Raiders continue to lose, their highest-paid players will have to answer the critics, not the backups on the low end of the pay scale.

Here’s a look at what the players with the largest contracts have done and what they can do to help the Raiders achieve their goals, with average annual salary according to Spotrac.com.

Derek Carr, QB $40,500,000

NFL quarterbacks are always going to get most of the credit or the blame. It’s the nature of the business.

Carr has been a particularly polarizing player throughout his career, and that hasn’t changed during the 0-2 start.

Those who believe he is unquestionably one of the NFL’s top 10 quarterbacks argue he still doesn’t have an elite offensive line. Those who will never see him as more than an average quarterback say the excuses have run their course because of the exceptional skill players surrounding him.

The answer probably is somewhere in the middle. Carr needs more time to throw, but there have been missed opportunities.

Three interceptions in the opener against the Chargers were unacceptable, and at least a couple of the five sacks probably could have been avoided. He was tremendous in the first half against the Cardinals, but made few key plays after halftime.

Carr needs to play at that first-half level more consistently, but more important, he needs to take control of this team as a veteran leader.

Davante Adams, WR, $28,000,000

The Chargers game showed why the Raiders were willing to make Adams one of the league’s highest-paid receivers and the cornerstone of the franchise.

He had 17 targets, 10 catches and 141 yards. Then came the two catches on seven targets last week.

The Raiders are going to take what defenses give them, and the Cardinals rolled coverages toward Adams to take away the No. 1 option. That’s fine. There are plenty of other playmakers in the offense.

But Adams is as good as it gets at getting open and still needs to be heavily involved even when the defense tries to take him out of the game.

One of the difficulties for wide receivers is how much of the game is out of their control. On one play in the fourth quarter against the Cardinals, Adams was wide open and appeared headed for a big play when Carr got hit just as he started his motion to throw him the ball.

Those big plays will come, but the Raiders need them sooner rather than later.

Maxx Crosby, DE, $23,500,000

The challenge for Crosby is to maintain his level of play for the entire season.

It won’t be easy because he is off to a great start.

He has the sixth-highest grade among all edge defenders in the league, according to Pro Football Focus.

Crosby is known as one of the league’s elite pass rushers. But he also has shined against the run after dedicating himself to improving, ranking third at his position against it.

That hasn’t detracted from his speciality. He’s tied for third in the league with eight quarterback pressures. He has one sack.

Kolton Miller, OT, $18,000,000

The lackluster play of the offensive line has been a concern since training camp, but Miller never has been the problem.

He’s a steady performer and a stalwart as Carr’s blind-side protector on the left side.

It’s why his Week 1 effort was so inexplicable. Miller struggled against one of the NFL’s best groups of edge defenders, and it was a major contributing factor in the offense’s inability to build momentum.

As expected, he bounced back last week with a much better performance. With the uncertainty of the rest of the line, he must continue that level of play.

Chandler Jones, Edge, $17,000,000

The veteran has yet to record a sack for the Raiders, who have just one as a team.

This marks the first time in Jones’ career that he has been held without a sack through the first two games.

He has just 5.5 sacks in his past 16 games since recording five in the 2021 season opener for the Cardinals. That game was at Tennessee, so perhaps a repeat performance is on the horizon.

It’s important to note Jones wasn’t asked to put his head down and chase Arizona quarterback Kyler Murray last week. The Raiders’ plan was to try to keep him in the pocket, so there was a more cautious approach to the pass rush.

Still, Jones knows his role and needs to make impactful plays.

Darren Waller, TE, $17,000,000

Waller was the last of the Raiders to get paid, signing a massive extension before the opener.

He has done nothing to indicate he’s unworthy of the investment. He has caught 10 of his 14 targets and scored a touchdown last week.

Waller is one of the league’s best receiving tight ends, for sure. There is room for growth as a blocker, but that’s not why he got paid.

Hunter Renfrow, WR, $16,164,500

The sure-handed slot receiver has fumbled three times this season. Two of them were recovered by the Raiders; the third one was returned for a touchdown in overtime of the Cardinals game.

Renfrow will miss Sunday’s game with a concussion, but will be counted on to help alleviate the pressure on Adams when he returns.

Renfrow is a tremendous route runner and should exploit coverages more designed to focus on Adams. The fumbling can’t become a long-term problem, though.

Contact Adam Hill at ahill@reviewjournal.com. Follow @AdamHillLVRJ on Twitter.

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