Why the Oakland Raiders Could Sneak In As Sleepers Come Fall
The Oakland Raiders really have all the necessary tools on their roster to not only be competitive, but to really make a stir in the AFC West this coming fall. Some may think I am a bit nuts, but seriously think about it; take your bias away and listen.
The restructuring plan are leaps and bounds ahead of where the team was at this point last season. There is no denying what General Manager Reggie McKenzie inherited was a complete mess. He worked magic this offseason from both ends—free agency and the draft. Looking ahead, it will be a far better team than the complete wreck it was before.
The Raiders' offense was led in 2012 by offensive coordinator Greg Knapp and his inept offense, whose schemes were never successful in the NFL. The offense looked anemic, completely one-dimensional and this was shown by the inability of the players to play 60 minutes of dependable football, making it hard for the Silver and Black to stay competitive throughout the season.
The new team has arrived.
An inexperienced quarterback will take over the reins come fall, making the offensive unit the biggest question mark for the Raiders. Of course, the offensive line will look stronger as they drafted offensive tackle, Menelik Watson in the second round and along with Jared Veldheer and Stefen Wisniewski they have a very promising, young and talented line, which could be among the team's strengths, as soon as this year. This is still the side of the ball where many questions come up and maybe it’s all for the best, because of the deep competition.
Looking at the quarterback position, Matt Flynn is set to become the starter this season and it’s his spot to lose, according to coach Dennis Allen. However, will another player on the roster develop into the quarterback of the future? Will Tyler Wilson be the second rookie to step in and snatch the job from Flynn, as Russell Wilson did in Seattle last season? There are two others that are also battling for a spot on the roster, Terrell Pryor and Matt McGloin. Pryor has grown into a Raiders' fan favorite, but has simply never grown into a actual option at quarterback, despite the fact that he is a great athlete. McGloin is shinning at OTA’s and has shown a lot of promise.
Greg Olsen comes in as the new offensive coordinator, bringing back the power blocking scheme to the Raiders. This is especially important for their star running back, Darren McFadden who never really got into his own groove and struggled in Knapp’s zone blocking scheme. If McFadden can finally stay healthy, the return of the downhill running game will be dominant against other teams when he has the ball in his hands.
Last season it really wasn’t fair to make an assessment of the young receiving core, because, due to injuries, they never really seemed to get into any kind of grove and while at the same time, were plagued by dropping passes. The new look offense in Oakland, makes it certain that there is nowhere to go but up.
On defense, McKenzie took command of his ship and began cleaning out and building up. Oakland's pass defense was the worst in the NFL in 2012 and the rest of the defense looked even worse at times, letting ball carriers float through the middle of the defensive line.
They should go from worst to ___________ hold that word, as they have had a complete overhaul of the defensive secondary coming into this season, with the return of fan-favorite Charles Woodson, as well as the acquisitions of Tracy Porter and rookie D.J. Hayden, which should make them an improved unit.
Oakland may have lost a few solid defenders like Philip Wheeler at linebacker who led the team in tackles, but they also built a rock-solid core of linebackers beginning with the return of Miles Burris, along with rookie Sio Moore, who has looked excellent in OTAs, and Kevin Burnett who brings his 110 tackles from last season to a linebacker corps that looks completely different.
Other additions made include Kaluka Maiava and Mike Jenkins, who should also add needed depth to a vastly improved defense.
In recent years the defensive line wriggled through the season and suffered , and with Desmond Bryant and Matt Schannessy no longer in the trenches, it will be up to Lamarr Houston, the surprising Christo Bilukidi and solid veterans, Pat Sims and Vance Walker, that McKenzie brought in to make this line relevant .
Either way, this defense will be significantly better than last year.
On special teams, they will have a new punter for the first time in 12 years, as Shane Lecher, arguably the best punter in the league has left the team. Either the veteran Chris Kluwe will make the punts for the Silver and Black or the young Marquette King.
Another recent acquisition made this offseason was the addition of Josh Cribbs, the return specialist who will add the necessary spark the Raiders may need on special teams.
Luckily they still have Mr. Reliable, Sebastian Janikowski as their kicker.
A completely revamped Raiders team, built up by their commander, Reggie McKenzie, has put the big contracts in shreds, saving the team millions and providing Raider Nation with lots of promise for years to come.
It comes as no joke this season to McKenzie as Sports Illustrated's, Peter King believes that Raiders' GM, Reggie McKenzie "will be in trouble" next offseason unless the team's 2013 season is "significantly brighter," than 2012's.
The improvements could maybe end the playoff drought, but lets not get ahead of ourselves on that yet.….Now is the time to experience something better from the Oakland Raiders. This the NFL, every one from the coaching staff to the players on the field, will prove that this team is no joke come opening kickoff in September.