The Raiders went through another terrible season going 4-12. They ended up fourth in a strong AFC West where three of the four teams made it to the playoffs. Darren McFadden had another injury plagued year, and the defense lost arguably their best player in Tyvon Branch during the second game of the season. Their defense started hot, and then fizzled out. Their offense showed flashes of big play making ability until Terrelle Pryor’s injury sidelined him. Coach Dennis Allen blew it again for the 2nd season, and had nothing but excuses and tons of blame for everyone but himself. He miraculously kept his job. He hasn’t shown he can lead the team. On the good side, players really like Defensive coordinator Jason Tarver and offensive coordinator Greg Olsen.
Free Agency and Offseason Acquisitions
The Raiders had the most cap space in the NFL when free agency started. In the early hours of free agency the Raiders really botched trying to re-sign their top offensive and defensive players. DE Lamar Houston chose to go to Chicago instead of re-sign with Oakland, then Jared Valdeer was reportedly low balled during the whole process so he went to sign with the Arizona Cardinals. They didn’t sign one single big game changer, but lots of veterans who have had a lot of success in their career. In a surprising move they re-signed Darren McFadden when most thought they would let him go. Due to his loyalty to the Raiders and Raider Nation, he came back for less money than what other teams were offering. Here are all their top offensive and defensive offseason acquisitions:
-RB Darren McFadden (re-signed) and Maurice Jones-Drew Combo– They are one because they will create a great one-two punch. McFadden wanted to return to the Raiders. Jones-Drew grew up a Raider fan and always wanted to play for them. These two sharing snaps will keep each other healthy. If they stay healthy then they could be the best backfield in the NFL.
-QB Matt Schaub (via trade)– Matt Schaub brings a proven QB in for the Raiders that they haven’t had in a long time. He had a don year, but coaches and fans are hoping he is the next Rich Gannon. The problem with that is Schaub has Dennis Allen to coach him up, not John Gruden. He will help the Raiders offense and make them noticeable again.
-WR James Jones– The Raiders have good young receivers, but none of them have seen the personal and team success like James Jones has. It looks as though Rod Streater will keep the #1 spot, but James Jones is a very productive #2 with tons of success.
-OT Donald Penn– It was big news that the Raiders couldn’t re-sign Jarred Veldheer. He was the top offensive tackle in the league and he didn’t want to return to the Raiders. Or the Raiders didn’t want him. Depending on whether you believe Reggie McKensie or Veldheer’s mom. Donald Penn was signed and will fill the role as LT. He was great as a Buccaneer, and will do great as a Raider. He was what the Raiders needed and though he isn’t an upgrade, he isn’t a downgrade.
-DE Justin Tuck– The two time super bowl winning defensive end is unhappy the Giants let him go and is out to prove he still has some left in the tank. Offenses will still have to look out for him and move extra blocking to. He will open up a lot of sacks for others on the team. A ten sack season is very reachable for him.
-DE LaMarr Woodley– After a couple injury plagued seasons the Steelers let Woodley go. He just like Tuck has a lot to prove and a lot left. He will be opposite Tuck and they will form one of the better DE attacks in the legue.
-CB Carlos Rodgers– Rodgers has had success at corner plaing on the outside and the slot. Last year the Raiders didn’t have that kind of versatility. He might start the season as the third corner, but will handle the slot great and provide depth at corner.
-FS Charles Woodson (re-signed)– The 17 year vet showed he could still make plays last year. He had a great year and re-signed for what it looks like his last season. He is a leader of men and one not just the secondary, but whole defense and team look up to. The Raiders are only better with him on the field. He will break the most TDs by a defender this year also.
The Raiders held the 5th overall pick and selected DE Khalil Mack. Some said he is the top defender to come out of college. With the 2nd pick the Raiders feel lucky that Derek Carr fell to them in the second round. They also drafted a mountain of a man in OG Gabe Jacksonwho comes in at 6’3”, 360 lbs. He is possibly the best guard in the draft and the Raiders needed a lot of help there. He was a two time All American. They never addressed their need at wide receiver, but seemed to have had a solid draft, with a few potential starters for next season.
Sadly Raider Nation is stuck with Dennis Allen for one more year. Coach Jason Tarver has shown creativity and great knowledge on defense despite lackluster talent. When Allen is released, Tarver could be a top candidate for the Head Coaching job. Greg Olsen will return. Hopefully the offense can take the next step under Olsen’s second year.
The Raiders have possibly the best and most loyal fan base. They stick it out during the tough times, and the last decade has been tough. They deserve a good team and a good product put out on the field. The Raider Nation will be behind the team and deserve players like Woodson and McFadden who also bleed Silver and Black. Nothing is more fun than being a Raider fan sitting in O. Co. Coliseum on game day. And nothing more scary than rooting for the other team in O. Co. Coliseum.
The Raiders will have a good running game with a beefed up O-Line, and a healthy one two punch at running back with McFadden and Jones-Drew. WR Rod Streater showed signs of being a great receiver and James Jones will hold down the other WR spot. Matt Schaub is the wild card. Coming off his worst season where he threw an NFL record four straight games with a pick six. Donald Penn said the Raiders offense will “run the ball, then run it again.” With MJD and Run DMC why wouldn’t you run? And when it’s time to pass, Schaub will be up for it. Their offense will rank in the top half of the NFL.
The secondary will be pretty solid with the pairing of CB Carlos Rodgers with last year’s first round pick DJ Hayden. Woodson is returning and so is a healthy Tyvon Branch. The most improved area of the defense is the pass rush. Though LaMarr Woodley and Justin Tuck are no longer in their prime, they still know how to rush the passer. With them and Khalil Mack getting after the QB they will make the secondary better and put them in position to make plays on the ball. Most tend to forget the middle linebacker Nick Roach led all Middle LB’s in the NFL with 5.5 sacks. The Raiders will get to the QB and create turnovers. Last year it was fun to see the types of defenses Tarver would run. The problem was he didn’t have the athletes to execute it. There will be lots and lots of blitzes. Interceptions and sacks will be their strong point. They will be a top ten defense.
It is tough to tell, but if all these new pieces can work together they could be very successful. A lot will depend on Matt Schaub and what he brings to the table. If the Raiders had a coach people believed in then everyone might be giving them more of a chance. In the Competitive AFC West they won’t beat out the Denver Broncos, but they have a chance to be second in the AFC West ahead of the Chargers and the Chiefs. Their defense can be a top five defense, and if their offense clicks they could be in the top half of offenses in the NFL.
Prediction: 10-6, Second in the AFC West, possible wild card team.