One of the biggest stories of the NFL offseason was the hiring (re-hiring?) of Jon Gruden as head coach of the Oakland (Las Vegas?) Raiders.
Gruden has been away from coaching for a long time, but still close to the game as the color man on Monday Night Football and hosting Gruden’s QB Camp for ESPN the last several seasons.
Gruden has a Super Bowl win on his resume and has been pursued by numerous pro and top college teams in recent years. So the Raiders are going to be great immediately, right?
To quote Lee Corso – “not so fast, my friend.”
The Raiders WILL be better than last year when they were 6-10 under Jack Del Rio. Derek Carr is now further removed from his 2016 injury and – provided he doesn’t get swallowed up by Chucky – he should be closer to the pre-injury numbers:
2015: 16 games, 3,987 yards, 32 touchdown passes, 13 interceptions
2016: 15 games, 3,937 yards, 28 touchdown passes, six interceptions
2017: 15 games, 3,496 yards, 22 touchdown passes, 13 interceptions
Carr will have a slightly different receiving group as Michael Crabtree is gone and Jordy Nelson arrives from Green Bay. On draft day, the Raiders acquired Martavis Bryant from Pittsburgh. He has a nose for the end zone and could easily be an 8-10 touchdown guy in the silver and black.
The ageless Marshawn Lynch is back and the Raiders added a second former Buccaneer (Gruden was the first addition) when they signed The Muscle Hamster, Doug Martin.
Martin is 29 years old and really only has two solid seasons among his six in the league.
The Raiders offensive line is among the best in the league. The additions of tackles Kolton Miller from UCLA (1st round, 15th overall) and Brandon Parker (3rd round) will help with depth. Miller will likely start from Day One.
Khalil Mack is an elite talent, but there are lots of open spots elsewhere on the defense. This will be the key for the Raiders, getting the best talent on the field. Gareon Conley (former Buckeye) looks to make a big contribution this season.
We’ll be able to get a read on the Raiders very early in the season. They open up on Monday night at home against the Los Angeles Rams and then travel on a short week to Denver for an always-tough AFC West showdown with the Broncos.
If they’re 2-0 or 1-1 after those opening games, that’s a good sign. An 0-2 start isn’t impossible to overcome, because the next two games are at Miami and hosting Cleveland.
The Raiders will be better than the 6-10 season of 2017, but they won’t be as good as the 12-4 team of 2016. I’ll split the difference: Raiders to go 9-7.