Oakland Raiders Preview for 2014-15 NFL Season

BlackHoleFans

Oakland Raiders 2014-15 Season Preview

Last years prediction: 4-12

Last years record: 4-12

Overview:

Last year saw the last of the salary cap purging by GM Reggie McKenzie.  The mess that was created from years of overspending for average talent had ended.  What was left was a team with a lot of heart but little depth or talent.  Even playing the 3rd easiest schedule in the NFL, the Raiders could only get 4 wins.

There is hope in Oakland though with a solid draft.  Derek Carr has played well and shows a lot of potential and I love guard Gabe Jackson.  He will be a solid guard for years to come.  I was one of the very few that still isn’t sold on Khalil Mack.  So many predicting greatness for him never saw him play.  So far in pre season his reviews are mixed.  I’m hopeful that he evolves into the special player the Raiders need.

Unfortunately just like in the last 10 years, I’ve been pretty right on about the Raiders.  I’ve predicted their seasons within 1 game each year.  I’ve also been right on a lot about their draft picks including Jamarcus Russell, Darrius Heyward-Bey, and all of the fast DB’s that can’t guard anyone.  (DJ Hayden will soon add to that mix.)  I’m still in shock over not drafting Star Lotulelei. 

Quarterback

There are too few great QB’s anymore in the NFL.  Even with the ridiculous new rules the last 3 years that make breathing next to a WR a penalty, the quarterback play in the NFL is at times just bad.  I don’t blame Reggie McKenzie for the Flynn and Schaub experiments; he took chances and they just didn’t work out; but Matt Schaub in my mind isn’t a starter anymore.  He’s never had a great arm but he’s now lost arm strength.  Watching him throw an out pattern is as nerve wracking as parents watching their kid walk for the first time.

I like Derek Carr.  He’s got a good arm and is accurate on the run.  Like his brother David, he sometimes looks uncomfortable in the pocket and can lack accuracy from there at times.  He has to learn how to handle a rush better.  I think the Raiders made a solid pick.  Another coachable player with a good attitude.  Look for Carr to start very soon if not immediately.  Matt McGloin is a solid NFL backup with a lot of heart.

Grade:  C+ 

Carr will start sooner than later and with any rookie QB there will be growing pains.  He’ll look great at times and really bad at others.  The Raiders have a brutal schedule so look for the manic ups and downs on social media from Raider fans this year.

 

Running back

Maurice Jones-Drew was a great signing.  Many experts said he was done and he took it very personally.  He’s lost a lot of weight and is in the best shape of his life.  Look for a really good year from MJD.  Darren McFadden is a really good running back when healthy, and limiting his touches will help keep him healthy.

Last year the Raiders just couldn’t throw downfield and it hurt the running game.  Teams would almost dare the Raiders to pass and the running backs could find rushing yards hard to find.  Latavius Murray is finally healthy and is a solid backup that will have his moments.  Marcel Reese is only 28 and is a stud at full back and needs to be utilized more in the offense.

        Grade:  B+ 

Jones-Drew and McFadden are a solid 1-2 punch with Murray adding to the mix.  I still want to see more Marcel Reese.

 

Wide receiver

The Raiders have some nice WR this year, but the problem is they really don’t have a #1 WR.  If your QB is Tom Brady you can get away with that.  The Raiders don’t have Tom Brady.  James Jones was signed from Green Bay and he’s a solid player.  Rod Streater is a nice number 3 option but he still will drop an easy pass or two.  Denarius Moore is a good #3.  Look for Andre Holmes and Brice Butler to have their moments.  Greg Little is an enigma and looks like a rookie playing in a hall of fame WR body.  He may be the odd man out.

        Grade:  C +  

The Raiders just don’t have that #1 talent or big deep threat that they need.  Next year they have to get one.

 

Tight end

The Raiders need more production from their tight ends.  Mychal Rivera was a pleasant surprise but getting only 38 catches out of your best tight end isn’t enough.  David Ausberry will back him up.

          Grade:  C – 

Rivera would be a nice safety valve for when the Raiders QB needs a clutch catch.  Greg Olson needs to utilize the tight end more in his offense.

 

Offensive line

The offensive line just got better with the addition of rookie Gabe Jackson.  He’s as solid a player as you get and he should be a staple at Guard.  Menelik Watson has struggled at times and he will be a backup with Khalif Barnes taking over for him at tackle.  The Raiders seem to do well in the running game but they have a lot of problems protecting the quarterback.

        Grade:  C+

The Raiders offensive line has to step up if Carr is going to be effective.  I’m sure they will roll out Carr at times to protect him and give him time. 

 

Defensive line

The Raiders defensive line was abysmal at times last year.  Teams found out if you double team Lamarr Houston, the Raiders really didn’t have much after that.  To make problems worse, instead of drafting DT Star Lotulelei who fell into their lap, they draft DJ Hayden. Another DB with a great 40 time who played on a team in a bad conference with a bad defense that once gave up 70 points.  Star helped transform Carolina’s defense and they now are an elite defensive team. 

Justin Tuck looks to still have gas in the tank and I look for him to have a good year.  Lamarr Woodley comes from the Steelers and his best football may be behind him but the Raiders are hoping a change of scenery is what he needed.  Pat Sims and Antonio Smith have got to step up their games.  Khalil Mack will also play at end sometimes.

        Grade:  C+

I said it then, not drafting Lotulelei was a HUGE mistake.  With Tuck and Woodley, the hopes are that they will now have a consistent outside pass rush.

 

Linebacker

This group has to live up to their potential.  Sio Moore is starting to come into his own.  Nick Roach has had a horrible pre season; especially in the Green Bay game; so hopefully he’ll be back in form for the regular season.  Khalil Mack struggled mightily in his first two games but he had a nice game against Green Bay.  He still has more of a ways to go than the Raiders would like to admit.  I like the depth at LB as well.  Hopefully this will be a position of strength for the Raiders.

 

Grade:  B-

I really like the potential of this group but as the great Woody Hayes said, potential means you ain’t no damn good yet.  For now they are the strength of the defense but their time is now.  The defensive front 7 makes or breaks your defense.

 

Secondary

The secondary struggled last year and has really struggled in pre season.  For that matter the Raiders starting defense has really struggled.  Starting offenses have found the going good against the Raiders starters.  Charles Woodsen has come out a couple of times saying that they have to get better.  The Raiders could do worse than Woodsen and Tyvon Branch at safety but the cornerback position looks wide open.  DJ Hayden can’t stay healthy and even when he is he was burned a lot last year and looked overwhelmed.  He also was not very good against the run.  Carlos Rogers was let go by the 49ers who felt his best football was behind him.  The Raiders pass rush better be in great form this year.

 

        Grade:  C-

There are more questions than answers for the Raiders secondary.  This group needs a lot of work and there isn’t much depth as well.

 

Special teams:

Sebastian Janikowski will be solid at kicker, and Marquette King shined as a punter last year. The Return game will be upgraded with Denarius Moore or TJ Carrie looking to return punts, and Latavius Murray and Kory Sheets being looked at for kick returns.

        Grade:  B

The Raiders should have a solid group on special teams.

 

Coaching Staff:

Dennis Allen needs results now.  A lack of talent has hurt him but many of the Raiders issues that have plagued them have not changed.  What bothers me about Allen though is that EVERY time he’s asked a question his answer is,” I’m not worried”.  When a man says I’m not worried so many times, that means one thing; he’s worried!  I just don’t see how Allen is back next year.  The Raiders still have issues with dumb penalties as well.  He just doesn’t look like he is in control out there at times.  It remains to be seen if Greg Olson is the answer at OC but Jason Tarver at defensive coordinator seems to be on the right track.  The Raiders lack of talent showed up more as the season wore on though.  Bob Saunders did a good job with the LB’s as linebacker coach.

        Grade:  C

I’m not sold on Greg Olson or Dennis Allen and the more time goes by I just don’t think Dennis Allen is the answer.  Dreams sometimes do come true and if the 49ers don’t win the Superbowl and Jim Harbaugh moves on, he sure would look good in a silver and black shirt.

 

Prediction:

The Raiders are now 53-123 in their last 176 games.  That is the worst stretch of football in the history of the sport; and that includes the decades before the NFL.  Benjamin Harrison was president when pro football started so that’s a long time.  As one Raider fan said on a local sports talk show, the time for positive energy and rah rah’s are over.  It’s time to win on the field.

In reality though there are few fan bases in sports that are as much fun and who are as passionate as Raider fans.  There is definitely a split in the fan base though.  Old school fans remember a magical time when the Raiders were the most winning team in SPORTS; not just the NFL.  Their standards are high and their patience is thin. In a 4 year stretch during the glory days, the Raiders were 47-9! 

When a team loses for so long though, a losing atmosphere comes and people grasp for straws to see anything positive.  No one likes constant negativity but some only want to hear the positive and bristle at any negative talk thinking that they are a better fan than others for doing so.  It reminds me of people that are vegans constantly telling everyone they are vegan acting like they are better than other eaters.  The problem is that isn’t reality, and people like that magnify the negative they hear.

I can’t write as a fan; I write as a writer and I have to tell the truth, good or bad.  Jack Nicholson said in the movie a Few Good Men, “you cant handle the truth”.  Unfortunately some can’t.  Even with so much losing, the Raiders have made some good moves in the right direction though.  Life in the NFL isn’t all gumdrops and puppy dogs.  It’s about winning.

Reggie McKenzie had an impossible job, and I like what he’s done with it.  He’s made some mistakes along the way but he seems like a good fit.  McKenzie is trying to get the standards back to a high level and bring about responsibility to this losing franchise.  The salary cap killed the Raiders so there was much work to do and he got it done.  If the Raiders had last years schedule, I could see a .500 season.  Unfortunately they have the #3 hardest schedule and that is too much to overcome.

I see the Raiders winning 6-7 games this year.  I see Derek Carr being the starter and even through growing pains, he gives hope for the future of the Raiders.  I don’t see Dennis Allen back after this year but I’m hopeful that Reggie McKenzie lasts.  There will be some good days in Oakland this year.  The Raiders are a year away from realistically talking playoffs.  They still need a #1 WR and a nip and tuck here and there on defense and offense before they get to the next level.

 

Predicted Record:

Last years’ prediction 4-12; actual record 4-12

2013-14 prediction: 6-10

There will be better days ahead for the Raiders.  They still are looking for a stadium, and aren’t in a hurry to pay for it themselves, so that will continue to be a mess.  Hopefully by next year, on and off the field the Raiders will get stability and bring back a winner to the great fans of the Raiders.

 

 

 

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