Well, you’ll love this.
As we head to free agency, there is, at least, one national media figure who believes the Raiders are going to have a big first season in Las Vegas.
Peter Schrager of the NFL Network said he believes the Raiders are on the rise. The Raiders themselves naturally concur, and the team went as far as retweeted a tweet with Schrager’s comments, which you can listen to here:
Exciting stuff, to be sure.
Of course, the foundation of this community is our opinion. So, in my mind, this is what needs to be done to enable the Raiders to be a true playoff contender in 2020:
First, I believe a lot of the puzzle revolves around what happens in the next seven weeks of free agency (which starts March 18) and the NFL draft (April 23-25).
The Raiders need to add a receiver who can step in and help ASAP and they need two to three impact pieces on defense, especially at linebacker.
If (when) those needs are filled, here other things Raiders also need to happen:
Josh Jacobs’ health: He is the sauce of this offense. Yes, it’s a passing league. But Jacobs made the Raiders go last year with his bang-bang running style. Jacobs won games in the fourth quarter — he is a weapon, he will only get better. In a season when he got robbed for the NFL Rookie of the Year (Kyler Murray? Please) when he had 1,150 rushing yards, Jacobs missed three of the final four games of the year with a shoulder injury he gutted out for most of the season. If Jacobs can stay healthy, he should get 300-plus caries next season. That will give the Raiders’ offense a huge boost.
Health on Offensive line: Tackle Trent Brown and guard Gabe Jackson both missed time last year. This is a veteran group with center Rodney Hudson and guard Richie Incognito also being vets. These guys are all getting to the age where health can be a concern, so they need some good injury luck on the line.
2019 draft class growth: This is one of the reasons why Schrager is so high on the Raiders being a sleeper team in 2020. It was a great start for this class. If defensive ends Maxx Crosby and Clelin Ferrell, Jacobs, a healthy Johnathan Abram, cornerback Trayvon Mullen (a real key), receiver Hunter Renfrow, tight end Foster Moreau (one of my favorites and who I expect to take a big step forward in 2020) and fullback Alec Ingold can all make strides, this team could be in great shape. They’re a potential foundation of a long-term playoff run.
Tyrell Williams’ health: Williams had a nasty foot injury that kept him out of two games and bothered him for much of the season. He ended up with 42 catches, and his 15.5 yard per catch average is the range of his career average of 16.1 yards per catch. Williams was supposed to be the No. 2 receiver last year because of That One Guy, but he became the No. 1 receiver. The Raiders need Williams to be a No. 2 option for him to be most effective. But, most importantly, the Raiders need Williams to be healthy.
Maurice Hurst growth: In this premise, the Raiders should be a sleeper contender because of impact defensive additions and the growth of the rookie class. Those elements should help Hurst became even better at defensive tackle. He is a good player, who makes some plays. With growth, he will make a lot of plays. And it will help the Raiders became a true playoff contender.