The concept of the Raiders being a favorite to make a playoff push has been rather foreign for some time. And it feels pretty good, both for the fans and the team, but we've all seen team ‘win the offseason' and then take a nosedive once real games are played.
"It's cool," Said Carr of the offseason buzz about the Raiders. "It's a great thing that people are talking about us, because when I first got here, they weren't. So, it's a credit to where we've come from. And that's about it."
"On paper it looks great right now. You know, ‘paper champs' all those types of things, everyone's picking us to do this. None of that matters unless we put the work in. And everyone knows that and no matter what, if it's football or whatever you're doing, any kind of job. Everything can look good on paper and sometimes people fall apart and you question ‘did they really put the work in?'."
What the national media sees that has them excited about what the can do this season is a combination of things. They see a young team whose 7-9 record was their best in three years and added some key pieces in free agency this year such as Kelechie Osemele, Bruce Irvin, and Sean Smith among others.
Having a potential franchise quarterback in place in Carr is key as is having a player like Khalil Mack who was named All Pro at both linebacker and defensive end after a season which saw him put up 15.5 sacks.
Last offseason, Mack had a lot to prove after putting up a somewhat disappointing 4.0 sacks as a rookie. He proved that and now has Bruce Irvin across from him to take pressure off of him. But with every bit of positivity he hears, he placed greater and greater emphasis on "at the same time", the team must be extra cautious about buying into that hype.
"That's the thing, it's easy to get caught in that trap and that's not what we're about," said Mack. "We're about the grind, we're about working hard, and committing ourselves to excellence then going out and winning. That's what it's really all about. Can't really focus on those outside things. Gotta bring it all tight together and keep it all close and then the winning starts."
Working toward meeting or exceeding the lofty expectations the sports world has been placing upon the Raiders is a process that has been ongoing throughout the offseason. Mack said after his recovery time from last season, he took a grand total of 2-3 days of vacation in which he laid on a beach and relaxed before getting back to work.
That's the theme around the Raiders facility today. He who would have the fruit must climb the tree.
It's about remembering, this team may be on the doorstep, but it's important to remember, they have done nothing yet. They had a losing record last season and were not strong down the stretch. Outside of not being a cellar dweller, they have only accomplished the potential to take another step forward. And that's not enough to rest any laurels on.
"Last year in the field was improvement," Carr continued. "It was better than my rookie year, obviously. As a team we were better. And that's the same kind of thing that we want this year. We need to be better than 7-9. 7-9 is not gonna cut it, obviously. That felt really good last year because that's the best I've experienced, but now that I've got a taste of it, it's like ‘man, we were so close to winning ten games, why can't we win 10, 12, 13...' you know those are the kind of things that just go through my head and I'm just like ‘seven wins just isn't good enough.' So, just continue to push ourselves to make sure that we can do better than that."