It is time for the Oakland Raiders to find themselves again. This franchise has been down for entirely too long, it is time to reclaim their rightful position at the top of the league again. What do they need to do to get there?
First and foremost they need Matt Schaub to be the legitimate QB option that they have been searching for. The team isn't going to go anywhere without having a signal caller worth a damn, not in today's NFL. However even a talented QB isn't going to be enough to bring this team back to greatness, proven by them still going 4-12 in 2012 with Carson Palmer at the helm.
After QB, the Raiders also have to GET AFTER the QB. Oakland has been absolutely terrible at getting to the QB. They need to get sacks, but they also need to just get pressure in general. This is an aspect of the game that Reggie McKenzie made a conscious effort to improve through free agency bringing in veterans Justin Tuck and Lamarr Woodley who both have had double digit sacks at times in their career. Woodley's, last year of double digit sacks was in 2010 but Tuck had 10.5 sacks last year. Hopefully they will bring the added pressure the Raiders need to have a chance at being successful.
Quarterback, maybe check. Pass rushers, probably check. Ok, what else? How about a secondary that can actually force some turnovers. The addition of Tarell Brown and Carlos Rodgers is an excellent start, but who the Raiders really need to come through is second year player DJ Hayden. Hayden was the number 12 overall pick in last year's draft but he struggled to adjust to the NFL.
DJ had some very nice moments his rookie year but overall it was lackluster. However, he plays a position where a poor rookie year is definitely the norm. His sophomore year needs to be substantially better. He is going to be one of the big keys to how good the Oakland defense can be, and in turn that will be the biggest obstacle on how good this Raiders team can be overall.
The next major thing this team needs to be successful in 2014 is for the run game to be strong. Rashad Jennings had the run game going well for the 2nd half of the season but the Raiders had already found themselves in a hole by that time. This year they need to be able to rush the ball from Week 1. They have Maurice Jones-Drew now instead of Jennings, and he needs to show what he is worth all over again despite his impressive career.
The duo of MJD and Darren McFadden would have given the league nightmares just a couple of years ago but right now they are both afterthoughts. They need to get back to the forefront of the league and regain their once elite statuses. Even if just one can play like they did a few years ago this team is going to have a very good weapon. If both of them up their games then the Raiders could have the best running back duo in the league, though expecting that to happen should be severely warned against.
Last but definitely not least, they need their coaching staff to step up. Dennis Allen needs to put his plan together and get it executed on the field. Jason Tarver needs to get his defense to be swarming all season like they were at the end of last year and Greg Olson's offense needs to move the ball. It all starts with these three, without them planning the game well it wont matter what the players are able to do.
Besides just planning the beginning of the game well the coaches need to be able to make the right half time adjustments. There were too many games thrown away due to a lack of changes at half time, it is time for Dennis Allen to show what he has learned. Losing hurts, but it can be one of the best teachers. For the Raiders to be successful they need this coaching staff to put their new found knowledge to work.
With the draft coming up there are still some key contributors to be added, but the Raiders have started to build a nice foundation for the 2014 season. They need to hit big with their picks in the draft, but if they do they could turn the entire path of the franchise around. The work has already begun with the veteran additions to this team, it will be up to them to come through and show their worth along with the rookies that are to be added.
Right now there are still a lot of if's with this team, but IF things work out in the Raiders favor they could be a surprise turnaround team in the NFL. There is at least one surprise team every year in the NFL, it is possible this year's team could be the Raiders. They have spent their time in football purgatory, hopefully this will be the year they manage to put it all together again and climb out of the hole. If they are going to do so they need each of these aspects mentioned to be accounted for.