Preparations for the Raiders 2018 season opener against the Rams are officially underway today. Opinions seem to be fairly wide ranging with regard to this year’s team, so we decided our season preview will be a team effort here at Silver & Black Pride. Here are the takes of the staff on what they expect from the Raiders this season.
Tyler J Smith
The Raiders have had a ton of roster turnover from last season, but for the most part (with one obvious exception) it’s been positive. The Raiders have added a big weapon on offense in the form of Jordy Nelson as well as Kolton Miller, who could develop into a quality tackle. But it’s on defense that the Raiders have drastically improved.
Khalil Mack is gone. Added are rookies PJ Hall, Maurice Hurst and Arden Key and free agent Tank Carradine. Together, those guys will hopefully be able to match or exceed Mack’s sack totals. The secondary is vastly improved with a healthy Gareon Conley, Rashaan Melvin, Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie, and Marcus Gilchrist.
The Raiders’ schedule this year isn’t as difficult as in recent seasons, and new coaches Jon Gruden and Paul Guenther are vastly more competent at coaching than their predecessors. Gruden’s competence in the general manager role isn’t off to a promising start, but the Raiders should be able to get it done and contend for the playoffs.
There is no doubt that the Raiders are worse off without Khalil Mack, as he is arguably the best defender in the NFL. That being said, this is still a team that has some talent (Bruce Irvin, Derek Carr, Amari Cooper, Kelechi Osemele, Rodney Hudson, Gabe Jackson) and should be much improved from a coaching standpoint. If the three rookie defensive linemen play well, the Raiders could end up with a winning season with what should be one of the easiest schedules the team has seen in years.
I was much more optimistic two weeks ago when I thought a 10-6 record was possible. After the trade of Khalil Mack, release of Martavis Bryant, and listening to Jon Gruden talk about how this roster has “many holes” to fill I no longer feel as confident. If Jon Gruden doesn’t believe this team is ready to win right now, then why should I?
The Raiders will be earning plenty of frequent flyer miles this season, topping the NFL with 31,716 miles traveled. The Raiders also have the NFL’s oldest roster, which includes (at the moment) 29 new faces on the 53-man roster.
Even with the loss of Khalil Mack, the Raiders will go as far as the right arm of Derek Carr will take them. I believe the Raiders might be a year or two away before being ready to be a major player in the AFC playoff picture.
They say you lose a game for every rookie starter. The Raiders have 5 or 6 players destined for big roles who have never played an NFL season before. But then how many games do you lose after trading Khalil Mack?
Gruden has vastly improved the coaching staff and for that reason the Raiders have a shot at a winning record. But the amount of new faces also means this team will take time to mesh. The margin for victory in the NFL is so narrow, Gruden only made it harder on himself after dealing Mack.
Playoffs is too high of an expectation, especially when all AFC West teams are a threat. That being said, fans should notice that the Raiders are fighting harder and in more games during the 4th quarter than last season.
Going through the schedule I came up with nine wins for the Oakland Raiders. However, that seems a little high to me. Not sure if that is because of the atrocity that was trading Khalil Mack this past week, but I still see Oakland improving in 2018.
The defense should be improved from last year, even without Mack, just because of the coaching that Paul Guenther brings. On offense, it is the same idea. There is no Downing, but instead Jon Gruden. As such, I think Carr is going to have a very good year. This team should be dominant on offense, like what we saw in 2016, it just depends if the defense can keep up and force turnovers to help win close games. But I think this team hovers around 8/9 wins. A few lucky bounces and maybe they get to double digits. But a few unlucky bounces and it could be a six or seven win season.
Marcus Allen Krause
Though I don’t see the Raiders quite making the playoffs this year, I do still believe that they will be a competitive team. They absolutely need to handle business at home where they have one of the more favorable home schedules in the league.
They also have games against San Francisco and the LA Chargers that could easily have an equal number or better of Raiders fans in attendance despite being away games. With what should be an impressive offense under Jon Gruden with QB Derek Carr, they have a chance to win a fair amount of games this year as long as Gruden and Carr’s chemistry is as good as advertised.
I worry about a slow start in the aftermath of the big trade but I still feel confident that the Raiders will have an above .500 record at 9-7.
This offense has been closely guarded under Jon Gruden’s lock and key. What will it look like, will they be stout at both tackle positions? The offense will have to win most games, clearly by trading Khalil Mack, Gruden signified he expects to score a lot of points. Why else would he forsake the defense? DC Paul Guenther and Defensive Backs coach Darryl Ansley should vastly improve a secondary which went nearly 11 weeks without an interception. The AFC West is wide open, 10-6 should challenge for the playoffs, if it doesn’t win the division outright.
I could break this down more, but for the sake of brevity let’s do this like an equation. I had the Raiders at 9-7 this offseason. Mainly because I expected them to be better than before based on the coaching changes, but I wasn’t going to aim too high because Derek Carr had by far his best season the only time he had the same coordinator two seasons in a row. He has another new coordinator (Gruden, not Greg Olson) so I expect it will take a season for him to really get clicking.
Since then a few things have happened. The tackle situation got real scary, Martavis Bryant — who was supposed to upgrade the receiving corps — is gone, and, of course Khalil Mack was traded. The tackles are going to lose this team a game (hopefully not getting Derek Carr injured in the process), Bryant would have been the hero on at least one big game-winning TD pass, and Mack’s ability to be the closer is worth two games. That’s 5-11. But I figure Gruden will pull out a secret he’s been hiding to win one back. And there you have it, 6-10.