It is a good thing that the quality of the head coach and the quarterback has such a big effect on the team’s performance from their supporting cast around them. A great coach or QB can bring the play up of those surrounding them, though bad performances from either of those spots can be extremely debilitating as well.
According to Pro Football Focus the Raiders are going to need coach Jon Gruden and QB Derek Carr to be great because they do not currently like the supporting cast around them. The training camp preview series that PFF runs each year is out, and they provide grades of between Tier 1 (highest) to Tier 4 (lowest) for each team’s supporting cast. Unfortunately for the Raiders, PFF has graded the Pass Game Supporting Cast as a Tier 4 and the Overall Team Supporting Cast as Tier 3.
On the outside this seems like a pretty low grade for a team that just added receivers Jordy Nelson and Martavis Bryant alongside Amari Cooper and tight end Jared Cook. The Overall Team Supporting Cast grade is better at Tier 3, that seems a little more accurate considering the high risk/high reward roster that Gruden and Company have put together.
There is reason to the madness though, the low grades are because of how strict PFF is at following their no nonsense grading structure. They don’t care about reasoning for performances or outside factors like coaching, they base the following year’s preview grades based solely on the previous year’s execution from each player.
With the down year last season for the Raiders, and the sub par year for Jordy Nelson while playing with a back up QB in Green Bay, it’s not really that surprising to get the dreaded Tier 4 status for the supporting cast in the passing game. The Raiders best receiver Amari Cooper’s injury plagued poor season didn’t help and Martavis Bryant was only graded as average as the Steelers 3rd receiver last season.
The reality of the Raiders could easily out produce these grades just by playing at the previously known talent levels of those three receivers. Plus Jared Cook is capable of playing better than he did last year too and utilizing the shifty scatbacks in the passing game more is likely in Gruden’s West Coast inspired offense. Oakland shouldn’t have a problem getting better grades from next year’s PFF preview for the passing game’s supporting cast.
The overall supporting cast for the Raiders right now is a total crapshoot, it’s incredibly difficult to know what to expect. They have a good offensive line for sure though, that’s the biggest reason they got to the Tier 3 status. They also have an impressive looking defensive line developing but the linebackers and secondary are major question marks. If newly signed FA Rashaan Melvin continues improving after his impressive 85.7 overall PFF grade last year it would go a long way to improving the overall supporting cast grade as well.
Still, it’s certainly unnerving to see the Raiders at the bottom of the league according to PFF despite their active off-season of moves. Luckily coaching matters and that was the biggest off-season move for Oakland. The offensive minded Jon Gruden should have a drastic impact on the level of performance of his players improving from last year to this year.
Thankfully Derek Carr likes to be the underdog too, because that’s where the Raiders are with this preview from Pro Football Focus. If they don’t go above this projection then it will have been yet another very long year for Oakland.