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The Monday morning reflection

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Oakland Raiders v Denver Broncos Photo by Dustin Bradford/Getty Images

When I look back on the 2019 season, I think the first thing that comes to mind is “what if.” What if Antonio Brown didn’t act like a complete fool and sabotage his opportunity to be a Raider. What if the team didn’t sustain so many injuries to key players on the team such as Johnathan Abram, Arden Key, Karl Joseph, Tyrell Williams, Josh Jacobs, Trent Brown, and Foster Moreau. What if the team didn’t finish the year 1-5 after a 6-4 start to the season.

Despite many of those misfortunes, they were still playing a meaningful game in Week 17. There are still many positives to take away from the season; the number one thing being the rookie class. You can’t say enough about the impact the 2019 rookie class made throughout the year.

It starts with Jacobs. Although he was unable to finish the year healthy, he has the looks of a budding star. In 13 games the rookie amassed 1,150 yards and seven touchdowns. He will be the centerpiece of the offense for years to come.

Fourth round pick Maxx Crosby had an outstanding rookie season. When he was drafted, the word on Crosby was that he would need some time to fill out his frame and develop. That hasn’t been the case, however, as Crosby immediately became a difference maker, and by seasons end grew to be one of the top players on the defense. In the season finale, he finished with another stellar game, recording 1.5 sacks, 5 tackles, 1 pass deflection, and 1 tackle for loss. His season totals sit at 47 tackles, 10 sacks, 16 tackles for loss, 3 forced fumbles, and 4r pass deflections. Expect Crosby only to get better as he continues to get stronger and build on his arsenal of pass rush moves.

Another player from the rookie class who looks like he will have a long, productive career in the league is Hunter Renfrow. Don’t let his childish appearance fool you, this kid is a baller. With the injuries that the receivers suffered, Renfrow stepped up and took on a larger role, becoming Carr’s most reliable target not named Darren Waller along the way. Renfrow showed his toughness when he sustained broken ribs and a punctured lung in w\Week 12 versus the Jets. e finished the game and would miss the next three games only to return for the last two.

All he did in the final two games was catch 13 passes for 209 yards and a pair of touchdowns. The 100-yard games were his first since high school. In 13 games, Renfrow ended the year with 49 receptions, 610 yards, and 4 scores.

Throw in big time contributions from Clelin Ferrell, Trayvon Mullen, Moreau, and undrafted rookie Alec Ingold, and there is a very good foundation in place. And don’t forget one of the three first round picks, Abram, was lost for the season in week one.

The future is bright with these youngsters, and Mike Mayock has five picks in the top 100 in April’s 2020 draft (No. 12 and No. 19 in round one).

There are also some question marks surrounding the team as they transition to the Las Vegas Raiders moniker.

The lingering questions about Derek Carr and his future will most likely continue, although he did finish the season on a positive note, posting a season high 391 yards in a losing effort. For the second consecutive season, he threw for over 4,000 yards (4,054). His 70.3 percent completion rate is top three in the league, and yet still many are not satisfied with his performance, especially in the season’s most important games. I don’t see Gruden interested in grooming a young quarterback, and unless there is a better option out there in free agency, I expect to see Carr under center in Vegas.

Could there be some changes made to the coaching staff? Paul Guenther’s defense was a major liability in 2019, even after a three game stretch to end the season where the defense gave up 20, 17, and 16 points. He could be on the hot seat certainly, but I am of the belief that it is a personnel issue. The defense needs help at all three levels, especially at linebacker, cornerback and safety. I’m not sold on the interior part of the defensive line also. They still lack a guy who pushes the pocket from the inside.

Even after a 7-9 record to end the season, the team made strides in their second year under Gruden. Keep in mind last season they finished 4-12 and were in complete rebuild mode. There were definitely some ugly moments, but overall things are moving in the right direction. This offseason will be a big one with two more first round picks and $70 million available to spend in free agency.

Keep your head up Raider Nation, big things are on the horizon.