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Five Raiders who need to step up in 2018

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NFL: Oakland Raiders at Buffalo Bills Rich Barnes-USA TODAY Sports

It’s no secret the Raiders had an abysmal 2017 after making the playoffs in 2016. There were plenty of Raiders whose performances dropped off or were simply nonexistent due to various circumstances. There are other players who simply need to live up to the expectations the current coaching staff has for them if the Raiders look to return to the playoffs this season. Here are just a few.

Donald Penn

Penn is coming off an injury and hasn’t been involved in offseason team activities, but if there’s any player who needs to return to dominant form, it’s him. Left tackle is an important position to any team, but especially to the Raiders whose quarterback, Derek Carr, tends to get flustered under pressure.

Penn has a pair of rookie tackles nipping at his heels and he knows his days in Silver and Black are numbered. He should do us all a favor and go out on top, proving he is still the daddy of all the young pass rushers in the AFC West.

Amari Cooper

Often, the second season for a wide receiver is their breakout year. That didn’t happen for Cooper, who dealt with injuries and inconsistent hands. Cooper is an excellent route runner with terrific speed, but he hasn’t shown the sort of consistency you want to see from an elite receiver. He needs to eliminate the drops this year and let his athleticism and talent shine under new coach Jon Gruden. Cooper won’t face as much attention from opposing defenses with threats like Jordy Nelson and Martavis Bryant on the team as well.

Bruce Irvin

Irvin had a fine year last year, especially after John Pagano took over as the defensive coordinator. This year under Paul Guenther, Irvin simply needs to continue that momentum and reach the double-digit sack total that the coaches have as their goal for him. Hopefully dropping into coverage less will enable him to wreak more havoc in opposing backfields, taking pressure off Khalil Mack and Oakland’s pair of rookie defensive tackles.

Reggie Nelson

I don’t necessarily mean on the field here with Nelson. He was brought back because he knows Paul Guenther’s system and he can teach it to the young defensive backs on the Raiders team. That’s a valuable resource to have, and we simply ask that when Nelson is on the field that he does not make the ludicrous mistakes he made last year.

Gareon Conley

For the one game Conley was on the field last year against the Jets, he was absolutely electric, showing Raider Nation that they had a real one at corner. But the injury bug hit, and Conley sat out almost the entire season.

This year, he is preparing as normal for the season and all indications are that he is fully healthy. Coaches are raving about him and the fanbase is excited to see what he can bring. Rashaan Melvin in the other corner spot is an established star, but having Conley fulfill his potential would be an even greater boon to the defense.

What do you think? Who else needs to step up this year for the Raiders to reach their potential?