I feel compelled to write up a Fanpost in address to Raiders fans with high expectations of this upcoming season in order to deliver one simple message: lower your expectations of this season.
Raiders fans are a notoriously passionate and rambunctious bunch of optimists. Probably every single season since 2003, I've bragged to my friends and coworkers about the up-and-coming Raiders squad with lines such as "yeah but this year we signed Javon Walker and Deangelo Hall," "yeah but Jamarcus is finally going to produce in his third year," and "yeah but McFadden is due for a healthy season." I won't do it anymore. I have to set aside my homerism and look at this team for what it is...a massive question mark. Now when I talk football with my friends, my line is "it's anyone's guess." You know what? I'm right. We have absolutely no idea how this team will perform. I can't remember a more renovated Raiders team in the 15 years I've been following them. It's not all bad, though. Our offense might be an embarrassing, sucking chest wound of a unit, but our defense and special teams have surely both improved.
I will pick a fight with anyone who challenges me on whether or not our defense has improved this year. I look at our defense and I see improvement at every single one of those eight turned-over starting positions except defensive tackle. At FS, we go from the one-step-slow but generally all around good guy Matt Giordano to future HoF Charles Woodson. You can debate about how much Charles has left in the tank, how injury prone he is, or how many snaps he'll play on Sundays, but you cannot argue that he isn't a MAJOR upgrade over Giordano. Even if Woodson doesn't play a single snap of football, even his backup Usama Young would be a major upgrade over Giodano. Fuhgettabouddit. I don't even need to address our CB unit because last season's arguable best CB (Huff had some moments), Philip Adams, is now our distant fourth best. Opposing QB's will not torch us this year like they did last year. What was perhaps the weakest single unit in the entire NFL is likely to be above average this upcoming season. Look out! Dennis Allen, formerly highly touted secondary coach now has a talented group to work with. I like where this defense is headed on the whole and our secondary is a big reason for that.
So our defense will be better (and I don't think there is even an argument to be had), but our offense could legitimately vie for one of the bottom five in the league. Matt Flynn is wholly unproven as an NFL QB. His detractors might say that he was pathetically beaten our by an undersized third round rookie after a disappointing training camp, and his defendants, that Wilson was no ordinary rookie who would've beaten out even much better QB's than Flynn. Maybe we should just take the word of a Seahawk blogger who clearly tracked last offseason's developments with great attention:
"What we do know is that Flynn was this close to starting for Seattle. He did not lay an egg in training camp. He was not outclassed by a rookie. A coaching staff and front office that knew their legacy would be defined by the decision they made at quarterback chose to put their weight behind the player they had targeted for more than a year. They chose the player whose tireless work ethic gave them confidence he would overcome the challenges he was certain to face.
The simple story that will be told is that a high-priced free agent was beaten out by an upstart rookie. There is certainly some truth to that simplicity. I see a hard luck player that partially misread the situation he was entering, and was partially misled about what he was being brought in to do. He was the guy the front office expected to win the starting job, but was never the guy they wanted to win it. He was a player that handled devastating professional news privately, and without incident."
While you could consider this is a somewhat uplifting summary of the Seahawks camp decision to start Wilson over Flynn, it is far from a glowing endorsement of the guy. When you consider the ridiculously young supporting cast around Flynn, what kind of production would it be fair to expect of him? 15-20 touchdowns and 10-15 interceptions? 3,250 yards? I'm sorry, but if you're expecting anything too different from that, you're just setting yourself up for a major disappointment. View Flynn as a rookie. View him as the inexperienced, youth-surrounded QB he is. The statistical trends are crystal clear; the NFL offense is increasingly becoming pass-heavy and we have a player who is likely to be very mediocre under center.
Maybe you're more optimistic on Flynn than I am. After all, he did put up some gridiron-crumbling numbers in his last and just second start in Green Bay, but Flynn is simply not complimented by the offensive weapons necessary to launch an impressive passing attack. In a league where a lot of teams pay good money and spend high draft picks (see Bengals and Cowboys this draft) on even second Tight Ends, the Raiders will most likely make do with a pair of sixth round draft picks and a completely unproven recently converted Wide Receiver, David Ausberry. To most of our opponents and the national media, the Raiders might as well not have any Tight Ends. Maybe we're planning to go against the grain and seldom integrate a TE into our passing game - I can't see any way around it because the Raiders have a total dearth of talent at that position. Where our secondary was a massive liability last season, our Tight End position will be a massive liability this season, much to Flynn's detriment.
So take the position you want. "This team needs to win 10 games!" or "Eh, 4 is fine as long as we all have fun." Those who claim that the Raiders have an easy schedule forget that their schedule could look a hell of a lot harder halfway through the season after you see how teams have remade themselves in the offseason. I will, personally, set my sights on slight, incremental improvement over last season and consider 6 or 7 wins about right. Next season, all bets are off!