The holiday season is in full swing and the Raiders’ playoff hopes are officially dashed as Oakland has lost their last two games in the most depressing fashion imaginable. In true holiday spirit the Silver & Black has several offseason wishes.
No. 5: Running back
After watching last night’s game against the Eagles, I am slightly more hesitant on replacing Marshawn Lynch. He had 95 yards rushing on Monday night and makes me believe that he could be effective in 2018 if he decides to come back.
The 31-year-old is running with authority and doing everything that we thought he would when he was signed in April. He isn’t as explosive but runs tough and will always fall forward for extra yardage.
That being said, Oakland should still be looking for a new running back. Either to be the more explosive part of a 1-2 punch with Lynch or to become the running back of the future when Lynch officially retires. And we know Jalen Richard is a major question mark to become an explosive counterpart since he has EIGHT fumbles this season!
No. 4: Future left tackle
Donald Penn may have had a Pro Bowl season in 2017 despite being the No. 22 ranked tackle in the NFL, according to Pro Football Focus.
Penn has seen a decline in his play this season, especially in the passing game, and is 34 years old fresh off a season-ending injury.
Even if health was out of the equation, the Raiders would need to search for their future left tackle to take over. Maybe not in 2018, but definitely in 2019.
Now with Penn’s injury and 2017 campaign, it might be 2018 when Oakland needs a viable back up option in case another injury strikes or Penn just isn’t the same player.
On a positive note, replacement David Sharpe has looked impressive in his limited time.
No. 3: One more pass rusher
Recently, Bruce Irvin has stepped up his game with five sacks in the last five games. But with his price tag of over $8 million, there is no guarantee that he will be wearing the Silver & Black in 2018. In any case, Oakland needs to find a true threat to pair up with Khalil Mack.
Mack has spent too much time this season getting doubled and triple-teamed, lowering his production. Even if Irvin is on the team, Oakland needs someone who can take advantage of one-on-one situations consistently to free up Mack to be the dominant Hall of Fame caliber player he can be.
Whether the help comes in the form of another edge rusher or big man in the middle who can push the pocket, it doesn’t matter. But Reggie McKenzie will need to find one if the Raiders ever want to take a major step as a defense.
Maybe Roger Goodell will make it easy for us and let Aldon Smith come back from banishment. But if that miracle doesn’t happen, McKenzie must turn to the draft/free agency to find another threat.
No. 2: Cornerbacks
Another NFL season has gone by with Oakland underperforming in the secondary. David Amerson has missed the majority of the season along with first round selection Gareon Conley.
Sean Smith has improved considerably under John Pagano, but his contract lends himself to being cut at the conclusion of the 2017 season. McKenzie can move on from Smith without any dead money and would save the team at least $17 million over the next two years, per Spotrac.
TJ Carrie, who has been the bright spot of the cornerback corps, is not under contract for next season and will be a hot target for teams in free agency if he is not re-signed.
As such, next year’s secondary room could look completely different. But that might not be a bad thing as Oakland should look to bring in fresh talent to compete along side a hopefully re-signed Carrie and Conley.
No. 1: Innovative coaching
At this point, it is obvious; the Raiders have lacked innovation from the coaching staff to help the players perform at their talent level.
Just look at when Oakland has had just an experienced coach at a coordinator position. We saw Bill Musgrave turn Derek Carr and company into an elite and dangerous offense in 2016. Under Pagano, the defense has started getting to the quarterback and forcing turnovers.
Irvin and Mack are getting the production of late that everyone assumed they would from Day 1. Even the cornerbacks are outplaying their expectations like Smith and Dexter McDonald recently.
No one claims that Musgrave and Pagano are elite coordinators yet their impacts have been easily noticeable on this football team.
If the Raiders ever got elite coaching (which might not be attainable), who knows what the ceiling would be in Oakland.