The Oakland Raiders are coming off an atrocious 4-12 season that forced general manager Reggie McKenzie to make some major moves and adjustments to this organization.
There hasn’t been anything great about this franchise since 2002, the last time Oakland had a winning season. Since then, the Raiders have been through a series of players, coaches and general managers and even an ownership change, yet they still wind up at or near the bottom of the AFC West. It is inevitable that the Raiders will get their organization in the right place and begin to win games, but it’s just a matter of when.
Under McKenzie, with all the moves he has made so far this offseason, the Oakland Raiders have success waiting for them right around the corner. However, there are certain areas in particular that need dramatic improvement.
Defense wins championships, as the old saying is still relevant to date.
The Raiders defense last season was incredibly poor in every aspect. Coming into last season, the concern was in the secondary, if Ron Bartell and Shawntae Spencer could be two legitimate starting corners. Unfortunately, injuries prevented that from happening, however their defensive line was giving up significant yardage which would have consistently opened up the pass game with or without their two announced starters.
A defensive line that is unable to shed blocks and tackle the runner opens up the pass game for the opponent, particularly the play action pass which can swiftly eat up a defense. Oakland ranked 18th in rush defense allowing 118.6 yards per game which then lead to their secondary allowing 235.9 yards per game, ranking 20th.
Now, the defensive line is not the only reason the secondary was unable to stop the pass. It certainly had a major affect, although the secondary seemed to constantly be lost and confused in where they were supposed to be. I look forward to watching the newly-acquired defensive backs to see how they perform next season. Defense is an essential area that the Raiders need to find an answer to.
It is extremely difficult to pass the ball without a solid run game. Star running back Darren McFadden is an outstanding, versatile back who can hurt a defense in numerous ways. Last season, under new offensive coordinator Greg Knapp (who is not with the team anymore), brought in a new scheme for the run game: the zone blocking system.
The Raiders have been one of the top rushing teams since McFadden joined, however this system seemed to slow down the run game significantly. The Raiders ranked 28th in rushing with an average of 88.8 yards per game. McFadden had his worst season of his career with an average of 3.3 yards per carry – 4.3 is his career average.
Hopefully for the Raiders, new offensive coordinator Greg Olson puts McFadden back in a power scheme system and gets the young superstar on a roll again. The run game would allow Oakland’s quick, speedy wide receivers to get more involved, ultimately leading to a more dynamic offense.
Lastly, the quarterback position. With the departure of Carson Palmer, McKenzie decided to bring in Matt Flynn who is best known for his breakout performance in Green Bay a couple years back when he completed 31 of 44 passes for a team-record 480 yards and a club-record six touchdowns.
McKenzie then decided to bring in rookie quarterback Tyler Wilson out of Arkansas to compete for the starting job alongside Flynn and Terrelle Pryor. The starting job seems to be up in the air right now with anyone’s chance to reach up and grab the opportunity. A solid quarterback is vital in this league, and I hope whoever gets the job will prosper at the position.