2016-2017 Oakland Raiders Preview
Key Additions: G/OT Kelechi Osemele, OLB Bruce Irvin, CB Sean Smith, S Reggie Nelson, S Karl Joseph, DT Jihad Ward, DE/OLB Shilique Calhoun
Key Subtractions: WR Rod Streater, OT J’Marcus Webb, DE Justin Tuck, ILB Curtis Lofton, CB Charles Woodson, S Larry Asante
This season, that unit could be even better. Not only did they manage to re-sign Penn, they also replaced the big weak link along that line – J’Marcus Webb – with arguably one of the best guards in the game, Kelechi Osemele.
Carr should be pretty happy with the upgrade. Carr made some major strides behind that improved line last season. He threw for nearly 4,000 yards and 32 touchdowns (tied for 7th in the NFL). He will be in a strong position to take another big leap this year along with stud second-year wideout Amari Cooper.
The Raiders made some very savvy moves on the other side of the ball as well. They improved their pass rush depth by bringing in free agent Bruce Irvin and drafting Shilique Calhoun to help out budding superstar Khalil Mack (15.0 sacks last season, 2nd in NFL).
Meanwhile, they made up for the loss of Charles Woodson in the secondary by adding safeties Reggie Nelson and first-round pick Karl Joseph, as well as signing corner Sean Smith away from division rival Kansas City.
It’s hard to pick too many holes with the job Raiders general manger Reggie McKenzie did during the offseason. All his moves made sense, and addressed most of the team’s glaring needs.
He didn’t address all of them, though. Middle linebacker is still a bit of a question mark, with last year’s 5th-round pick Ben Heeney expected to start in Week 1. The depth along the interior of the defensive line also isn’t the best despite drafting Jihad Ward in the second round.
The running game was a big issue last season. Despite Latavius Murray finishing sixth in the league in rushing, the Raiders as a team were just 28th (91.1 yards per game). The addition of Osemele on the O-line should help, though.
Apart from that, though, it’s hard to see too many more significant issues on this roster. On paper, the Raiders’ price of +195 to win the AFC West this season looks like it has a very good chance of paying out.
Key Player – Amari Cooper
Amari Cooper had a very good rookie season last year. He finished with 72 catches for 1,070 yards and six touchdowns. However, those numbers could’ve been a lot better had he managed to keep one big number – his drops – down.
Highest drop rates for WRs in 2015 (min. 99 targets):
1. Amari Cooper, OAK (20.00%)
2. Mike Evans, TB (16.85%)
3. Randall Cobb, GB (11.24%)
— Pro Football Focus (@PFF) June 9, 2016
Pro Football Focus notes that Cooper had the highest drop rate of any receiver last season. Obviously, that’s far from No. 1-type receiver production, which is what Cooper is expected to be in Oakland. For the Raiders to make the leap they’re projected to make this season, their young receiver has to grow more into that role as a No. 1, and it begins by doing a much better job holding onto the football.
Key Game – vs. Denver (Nov. 7)
The Raiders have three primetime games this year. The first of those three will be a big one – at home against the Denver Broncos in Week 9. Von Miller and that ferocious Broncos pass rush should pose quite a test for the Raiders’ potentially elite pass protection.
If Oakland really does fancy itself as a top contender in the division this season, taking down the champ will send that message loud and clear to the rest of the AFC West – and to the NFL as a whole.
|Points per game||22.4 (#17)|
|Passing yards per game||242.4 (#16)|
|Rushing yards per game||91.1 (#28)|
|Scoring defense||24.9 (#22)|
Carr and Cooper take another step up, as does the defense. The Raiders finally have their first winning season since 2002 by finishing 9-7, just getting over 8.5 regular season wins.
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