The Oakland Raiders have many new veterans on the team, but they are no longer in their primes and will not carry the Raiders over the playoff hump.
2013 Season Recap
The Raiders had a promising start to their 2013 season as they started 3-4 in what was expected to be yet another rebuilding year, but the quality of their play plummeted as they limped to a 4-12 record. This marks the 11th consecutive season that the Raiders have missed the playoffs, and the leash is short for head coach Dennis Allen and general manager Reggie McKenzie.
The Raiders struggled mightily on defense and even allowed the Chiefs to score 56 points in a game, and they also allowed at least 30 points in five of their other games. Having no reliable quarterback didn’t help matters either as Matt McGloin was their best option.
2014 Offseason Recap
The Raiders are all-in to contend for the playoffs. They splurged in free agency and signed someone at many different positions.
Quarterback Matt Schaub was acquired in a trade. The team also signed running back Maurice Jones-Drew, wide receiver James Jones, defensive end/linebacker LaMarr Woodley, defensive end Justin Tuck and cornerback Carlos Rogers.
Despite their numerous additions, there are a few key losses such as running back Rashad Jennings, defensive end Lamarr Houston and offensive tackle Jared Veldheer.
The Raiders have had a promising offseason, and their draft gives fans a glimmer of hope too. Outside linebacker Khalil Mack was selected in the first round, and the Raiders also selected their potential quarterback of the future in Derek Carr.
Position of strength
At this point, running back is the strongest position for the Raiders. They now have Maurice Jones-Drew and Darren McFadden at the position. Four years ago, this would have been a dream duo. Now, they are both injury-prone, but they have the potential to form a threatening rushing attack.
McFadden has reportedly changed his conditioning habits to keep himself healthier, and Jones-Drew is looking like he can still be productive. The two will split carries and be backed up by fullback Marcel Reece, who is a capable spot starter.
Position of weakness
The Raiders upgraded at wide receiver, but it remains their weakest position. Quarterback barely avoided this title, but the position is relatively deep. When James Jones is being counted on to be the No. 1 receiver, that is a recipe for failure. He was the No. 3 in an offense led by Aaron Rodgers, so being the No. 1 in an offense led by Matt Schaub will be difficult.
There is also very little depth at the position with only Rod Streater and Denarius Moore being the only experienced receivers on the Raiders roster. Neither of them are reliable No. 1 receivers, and they wouldn’t even start on some NFL teams.
When your leading receiver(Streater) only finishes with 888 yards and four touchdowns, you know you have a problem. Plus, he was the only Raiders receiver to have at least 700 receiving yards.
Best case scenario
The Raiders have an extremely high ceiling. If Schaub can at least improve his play from last season and be a serviceable quarterback, the Raiders will be better right off the bat. McFadden and Jones-Drew both staying healthy would give the Raiders one of the most dangerous running games in the NFL.
The offensive line lost Veldheer to the Arizona Cardinals, but the Raiders signed two tackles in Donald Penn and Austin Howard. They already have a solid center in Stefen Wisniewski. The defensive line will be a position of strength if it can live up to its potential. LaMarr Woodley and Justin Tuck were premier pass rushers in their primes, and the Raiders will hope to see them churn out more solid performances. Antonio Smith at defensive tackle doesn’t hurt either.
The rest of the defense has great potential as well with veteran leaders such as Charles Woodson and Tyvon Branch. Plus, Mack has the potential to win Defensive Rookie of the Year. If the whole team can gel, the Raiders will be looking at a third-place finish in a tough AFC West and possibly a seven or eight-win season.
Worst case scenario
If Schaub continues to struggle, the team will suffer since the NFL is a quarterback-driven league. McFadden or Jones-Drew going down with an injury is a possibility as well. If the receiving corps continues to struggle, the offense will sputter.
Although the Raiders signed many big-name free agents, most of them are aging and on the decline. If they turn out to be shells of their former selves, the Raiders will continue to be a losing team.
Their schedule does not help matters either. It has even been considered the most difficult in the NFL. They have to play the Broncos and Chargers twice plus the Patriots and the entire NFC West.
This may very well be Dennis Allen’s last season assuming the Raiders have another losing season. Although Reggie McKenzie is slowly building a contender, the Raiders are still years away, and he may not get to see the future happen either.
Prediction: Last place in AFC West, no playoffs