2012 is a year that will explore a lot of uncharted territory for the Oakland Raiders and the Raider Nation. This will be the first full year without Al Davis at the helm and the first year with General Manager Reggie McKenzie at the reins. This will also be the first year for new Head Coach Dennis Allen, his staff and few veteran players expected to contribute early as starters. There will be be some schematic changes, a slight culture shift, and hopefully a continuance of the progress the Raiders experienced last season.
A new day however doesn't always mean instant success, and there could be some issues that take longer than a year to turn around. But in what is shaping up to be one of the most competitive divisions in Pro Football, Reggie McKenzie and Dennis Allen have their work cut out for them; expectations are high in Raider Nation.
My first Expectation is...
Offensive Dominanation- To the outside spectator this might seem like a lofty and unrealistic goal, but to many Raider fans who know the untapped potential of this offense they can understand the promise I see. Firing on all cylinders the Raiders have the potential to be an incredibly dynamic offense that can beat teams in a variety of ways in the air and on the ground. Guys like Darren McFadden, Marcel Reece, and Jacoby Ford are explosive threats who can make a short play into a 70 yard feat of athleticism. Meanwhile big play downfield receivers DHB and Denarius Moore can also produce home run type plays. But lets not only focus on the big play, the Raiders need to move the chains and make consistent yardage, a facet of the offense that was missing last year.
The newly installed zone blocking system (and addition of Mike Brisel who blocked for the Texans vaunted run game the last two years), will try to get Darren McFadden similar success to Arian Foster and Chris Johnson-- both of whom recently have racked up significant yardage in a zone scheme. But there is always the issue of Run DMC's injury bug, but don't get too worked up Raider Nation. Many NFL teams have produced with a combination of below average RB's and I see enough promise in the passing game that losing Run DMC even for the season might not dampen playoff hopes.
Speaking of the passing game, lets have an intense look at where we stand. Already mentioned are big play specialists Darrius Heyward-Bey and Denarius Moore. These two guys showed promising play last year especially in clutch moments. What these guys do best is run deep routes and put stress on the defense to account for them with safety help. DHB uses his speed to simply run away from most corners, and Moore shows his will and desire by out leaping and out grabbing hapless defensive backs. Underneath the Raiders also have Jacoby Ford and new arrival Juron Criner. Both these guys have a different skill set and therefore will be productive where the other struggles to get open. Ford can use his speed and quickness to cut through underneath zones similar to how Wes Welker (NE) or Lance Moore (NO) rack up tones of catches. Criner on the other hand will be a size matchup problem for smaller DB's due to his size (6'3'' 230) and a coverage problem for LB's due to his deviously smooth route running ability (theres a youtube video of him saucing Cliff Harris in college if you're interested).
David Ausberry at TE is also a size speed matchup problem for most defenses, and while be might be more of a bargain Vernon Davis, he provides the Raiders with what has been a new trend in the NFL, the TE threat. Ausberry isn't as big as Jimmy Graham, or Rob Gronkowski but he's twice the athlete and I'm not under appreciating the athleticism of Graham or Gronk, I just see an exceptionally fluid player in Ausberry who has more than just size in his arsenal.
In all I see the Raiders finishing one way or another in the top 10 in offense this next year, however if there aren't injuries, and we see a quick maturity in younger players, a top 3 finish wouldn't even slightly surprise me. Think of a combination of last years Houston Texans run game, with a better RB and the dynamic passing game of New Orleans.
Now nothing is perfect and someone is bound to get injured and lessen the potency of the offensive attack. But the Raiders have a variety of offensive weapons that can hurt defenses in multiple ways. Gone are the days when the Raiders only chance to score was a long ball complimented by a stumbling ground game. NFL defenses will have a lot to account for when game-planning, and the Raiders will be able to exploit even the best defenses.
#2 in NFL in total yards. 5th in NFL in rushing yards. 5th in NFL in passing yards. Palmer 4800yds 34tds. McFadden 1800yds 12tds . Moore 1100yds 9tds. DHB 1000yds 7tds. Ford 800yds 4tds. Criner 700yds 6tds. Ausberry 800yds 6tds.
#10 in NFL in total yards. 12th in NFL in rushing yards. 9th in NFL in passing yards. Palmer 4100yds 25tds. McFadden 900yds 6tds (only plays half a year). Moore 1000yds 8tds. DHB 900yds 3tds. Ford 700yds 4tds. Criner 600yds 4tds. Ausberry 700yds 5tds.