Why the Silver and Black might just beat your team this year.
It’s common knowledge that they had the most cap space of any NFL team this offseason. So much indeed that they were forced to spend in order to avoid being penalized for staying below the minimum.
Because of that, it would have made sense for the Front Office to go out and blow up the Free Agency Market in a historic way, signing every big name player available. However, unless you payed very close attention, you probably wouldn’t even know they made a single move.
The truth is, for once, the Raiders went about their business in a smooth and calculated manner, filling the majority of their needs, with low dollar players who have a ton of potential. However, the players who should have the biggest impact this year are already on their roster.
The Team, led by Rookies (Derek Carr, QB and Khalil Mack, LB) on both sides of the ball, struggled through most of last season, before winning 3 of their last 6 games.
No one seemed to notice because he plays for the Raiders, but Carr set the record for most touchdowns (8) in the first five games as a rookie, one ahead of the record held by Andrew Luck, Cam Newton, and Geno Smith. He also is second all-time behind only Luck, with 21 touchdowns in his rookie season.
On the other side of the ball, Mack made a name for himself as a devastating run stopper at the outside linebacker position. He also established a strong case as defensive rookie of the year. Even after just one season, he seems to had found his place as the face of the Raiders defense.
As the year progressed, the team moved away from their struggling veteran running backs, and gave Latavius Murray a chance to prove himself. He came through with shinning colors, showing consistency and flashing big play ability, in helping the team finish the season strong.
The Raiders added competition at the position, by bringing in veterans Trent Richardson and Roy Helu.
Richardson who impressed in his rookie season, has struggled over the last few years and may be getting his last chance to prove himself.
Helu holds the Redskins rookie record with 108 rushing yards in a game, and their all-time receiving record with 14 catches in a game. He earned the full time starting job until succumbing to an injury, and losing the spot to Alfred Morris. He has since established himself as a decent third-down back, after hauling in 42 catches, for 477 yards, and 3 TD’s.
Their receiving core stays steady after resigning Andre Holmes and Rod Streater, and with James Jones who led the team with 73 receptions and 6 touchdowns, and was second to Holmes with 666 yards.
The offensive skill positions are rounded out by Mychal Rivera, who showed flashes of brilliance at times during the season, but will probably have to earn the role until he can become more consistent.
The Wild Card for Oakland on offense this year, may be the o-line. They did a terrific job of protecting their rookie passer year, but lost a very key piece in LT Jerad Veldheer. The club replaced him with 6’7, 333 J’Marcus Webb who has shown some promise, but has bounced around quite a bit in his career.
The Raiders offense seems just one player away from being complete, and doing some major damage. Many think they will try to fill that hole by drafting a WR with the 4th overall pick in the Draft. Although it seems to be a deep class of receivers, so they might be able to find value later on.
The other glaring weakness for the Raiders is the lack of a pass rush. If Leonard Williams should fall to them at #4 it might just make it too hard for them to resist.
Head Coach Jack Del Rio, in his first year with the Raiders, has the privilege, and challenge of improving a team who was last in both scoring, and points scored against.
With a squad ripe with young, and proven veterans, it wouldn’t surprise me if the defense takes great leaps under Del Rio’s tutelage
Yeah, they may be a few years away from knocking on the door of a championship, but this Raiders team should be very fun to watch. We may be used to them dwelling in the cellar, but this year prepare for them to get the last laugh.