Oakland Raiders… So Hot Right Now

Last Year:
7-9 3rd in AFC West.

The difference between the 2014 and 2015 versions of the Oakland Raiders is like night and day. Last year’s team exuded a confidence and competitive edge not seen since Chucky left 15 years ago.
Last year was the first time in those Fifteen seasons that a Raiders team didn’t have the stench of mediocrity hanging over them and even as a Broncos fan I got very excited, very quickly about what was happening in Oakland. Games that you expected to be crushing defeats for them were suddenly games that were competitive and entertaining and close. Also other moments where you were expecting them to crumple like a paper cup were suddenly moments where the team made big plays to stay competitive. Even in losing efforts they didn’t look like losers. Games like the shootout they lost against the Steelers were proof that the team was resilient and competitive to the final snap, and even more portentous was their defeat of Denver last year where essentially, their pass rush beat the entire Denver team.
Derek Carr is probably the most exciting young QB in the league at this point and the passing duo of Carr and Cooper looks like it will be clocking up yards and points for years to come. Latavius Murray whilst not being the 300 carry bell-cow back we all dream of, is explosive and exciting and if he can be matched with a decent 3rd down back, he could be incredibly effective.
Defensively there were glaring holes but also a sense that their pass rush, gave me them a nucleus that could be built on. With the sense that the secondary should be the very first thing they fix.


Are they better? , Should I really believe?

Errr…..I think so….I mean….well…probably….
Anyway, after finishing typing the above review I did admittedly still have somewhere in the back of my mind, the fear that Reggie McKenzie would blow free agency, revert to his default settings and spend huge money on short term guys that didn’t deserve it. But no, Reggie played a blinder. Admittedly McKenzie had over 70 million in available cap to spend but he spent wisely and addressed needs with an eye on value for money and well-structured contracts that aren’t going to cripple the franchise for years to come ( Giants, Dolphins, I am looking at you with disdain and a pair of spectacles perched at the end of my nose).
He scored Guard Keleche Osemele on day one, scoring one half of the best Guard duo in the league from the Ravens for a good price and immediately upgrading that unit, re-signing Donald Penn and ensuring that the foundation of their offense is built on solid bedrock instead of the playdoh they previously had laid down.
McKenzie kept Marquette King in the building also, King was arguably the best punter in the NFL last year and we all know that a good punter is a developing defences best friend, lengthening the field they have to defend.
Acquiring Sean Smith for the secondary and Bruce Irvin in the Line backing corps gives them some quality and muscle in the middle and in the defensive backfield which meant that Moving into the draft everybody agreed that Oakland deserved at least a Silver Medal for their free agency activity. It was at this point that I closed my eyes, and braced myself, hoping that Reggie didn’t blow the draft completely.
I needn’t have worried.

A good young defence needs a few big characters, “tough guys” if you will, who set the tone for a defence. Guys like Mack and Irvin can do that but secondaries often need their own bruiser, in Denver its Talib, in Seattle its Chancellor and in the first round the Raiders went for a guy who could give them a similar competitive shot in the arm and some enthusiasm. Karl Joseph does that, and has the potential to excel in that team and system. DE’s Jihad Ward and Shilique Calhoun add depth and power in sub packages and then in grabbing QB Connor Cook and Guard Vadal Alexander in rounds 4 and 7 respectively they may have gotten a couple of steals that give potential for some quality depth.

So all in all an excellent offseason that has addressed many areas of immediate need. All this means that expectations are high, but how high should they be? It’s important to temper the enthusiasm a little because all these new pieces have to gel and become parts of a system so there may yet be a period of transition where we wonder if they are any better at all? We also need to bear in mind that the Chiefs and Broncos are two of the best teams in the AFC so division wins will be hard to come by.
Nonetheless I am willing to bet that by October they will be a real force in the league and that by late December they are definitely in the mix for a postseason place. They are probably going to be the best 9-7 or 10-6 team in the league. I am very excited here! and I genuinely look forward to watching this team this season.