Don’t look now, but the Oakland Raiders in 2013 are 1-1.
You read it right. Not 0-2, or 0-1-1.
Is this reality?
Thankfully yes. The same Raiders that purged their roster in the offseason and lost Jared Veldheer in the preseason nearly beat the Indianapolis Colts in Week 1 and dismantled the Jacksonville Jaguars in Week 2. The team predicted by many to be an NFL doormat (by “experts” like myself) may now be a legitimate gridiron obstacle.
No chemistry? No problem apparently. The Raiders opened 2013 with nine new starters on defense, but you couldn’t tell by performance. Oakland is fifth in the league in total yards allowed (261 per contest, helped by their 32:18 time of possession) and is tied for the NFL lead in sacks (9). But they aren’t doing it alone.
Head coach Dennis Allen and his staff have done a marvelous job of late putting players in a position to exploit their skills. Defensive coordinator Jason Tarver has installed exotic and agressive blitz calls absent a year ago, and his offensive counterpart Greg Olsen has reestablished the running gameplan.
Speaking of which, Oakland is tops in the NFL in rushing yards! The Raiders sit at 198.5 per game, which is 17 more than the second-place Philadelphia Eagles. Darren McFadden seems to have juice left, and credit goes to Terrelle Pryor, who has defenses on edge with his speed and throwing arm. The quarterback has breathed life into his franchise.
A month ago, the Raiders’ season hopes were on a feeding tube. Now we ask, can they sustain this competitiveness?
That’s primarily up to Pryor’s development and the health of the defense, which recently lost Tyvon Branch for possibly the year. But it’s fair to say this Silver and Black squad is better than the 3-13 team we (or just I) imagined.