It’s that time of the year when there is optimism for every team. Every fan believes that their team is going to be better than they were last year. As bad as the Raiders have been since 2002, fans have always held on to hope that this would be the year the silver and black would turn it around. This year it seems as if that hope has a chance to materialize. Expectations are sky high, but that doesn’t mean anything if the team can’t deliver in the Fall. The Raiders goal this year should be at least to make the playoffs. Here are three reasons why the Raiders might not make it to the playoffs and three reasons why they could. We’ll start with the bad news first.
Three Reasons why the Raiders might not make the Playoffs:
- Lack of Depth.
There is still a lack of depth in some key position groups, notably the offensive line. The Raiders offensive line is being hyped as one of the top units in league, but the lack of depth is concerning. If Donald Penn goes down, it would cause some shuffling as Kelechi Osemele is expected to take his place while someone else fills in at guard. There are also some major question marks at the RT position. Manelik Watson is coming back from an achilles injury, which is never easy to come back from. Although some believed Austin Howard played at a high level last year, I thought he was he average at best and the AFC West, you need two premiere tackles to handle the tandems of Miller/ Ware and Houston/ Hali. The back-up guard situation isn’t much better. Jon Felliciano showed some signs of being a capable back-up but will have to get progress if he is pressed into action like he was last year. Sixth-round draft pick, Vandal Alexandar, might be servicable but until we see him perform in the pre-season, he is also a question mark.
RT Austin Howard being athletically overmatched by Von Miller
2. Derek Carr does not improve.
I seriously doubt Carr will regress because he is too talented and works too hard, but if he doesn’t play better than how he did at the end of the season there is no way that the Raiders make the playoffs. In addition to the untimely turnovers, there were times when Carr looked liked he was unwilling to throw the ball with receivers breaking open. After his three interception game against the Chiefs, it seemed as if Carr was thinking too much taking care of the ball and not playing loose and aggressively like he does when he is at his best. For him to take the next step, he has to play loose but know when to reign it in and be conservative. Great quarterbacks know how to balance both styles of play and the Raiders are gong to need a great quarterback to lead them to into the playoffs.
3. The run game does not improve.
The running game does not have to be spectacular, but it has to be a threat. Last year, the Raiders were too reliant on throwing the ball without the threat of the run or play action passes. Teams were consistently lining up in a 4-2-5 with their nickel and dime packages and the offense still couldn’t get a running game going. A lot of this had to do with the right side of the offensive line with J’marcus Webb and Austin Howard but there is plenty of blame to go around for the entire unit. Mike Tice did an amazing job of getting the line to pass block well, but this year they are going to have to come to together and pound opponents in the running game. The addition of mauler Kelechi Osemele should help get a strong interior push. Asking Derek Carr to do it all by himself is unfair to the third year quarterback, he needs some help from the run game for the offense to avoid taking a slump.
Three Reasons why the Raiders might make the Playoffs:
- They’ve proven that they belong in the conversation.
Raiders have proved they belong in the conversation by competing in every game. They can match up with every team in the league including the Super Bowl Champions/ Division Rivals Broncos.The Raiders split the series by losing a close game to them at home and winning one in Denver. The Raiders competed in and had a chance to win every game except for week 1 in which they were without Carr for most of the game. The next step for them is to play more poised in tight situations, so that they could pull out of some of these close games. Poise comes with maturity, and with a lot of the Raiders core talent coming into their third year there’s no reason to believe they won’t progress in skill and maturity.
2. Addressed every weakness.
Last years roster had talent but had a lot of holes and question marks. This offseason GM Reggie Mckenzie addressed all of their weaknesses with proven talent. The interior of the offensive line was fortified with the signing of Kelechi Osemele. Mckenzie found a complimentary pass rusher to Mack by getting Bruce Irvin. Most importantly, the Raiders seemingly fixed the weakest position group on the team by adding corner Sean Smith and free safety Reggie Nelson to the secondary. Again, these aren’t just solid signings all of these players have played at a pro bowl level before. The Raiders also drafted safety Karl Joseph in the first round who is expected to start right away. Mckenzie not only addressed the team’s weaknesses, he turned them into strengths.
Continuity is such a vital part of playing well. The entire Raiders coaching staff is returning which means that the players don’t have to spend time learning another system. Carr isn’t going to have to try to memorize another playbook. The wide receivers don’t have to run their routes differently. The offensive line don’t have to block a new scheme. The defense doesn’t have to install brand new coverages. Instead they could build on they learned last year and get more comfortable with it. In a game of inches, when split second decisions could be the difference between winning and losing playing without over thinking is key.