2017 Oakland Raiders Team Preview
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Key Additions: QB EJ Manuel, WR Cordarrelle Patterson, TE Jared Cook, OT Marshall Newhouse, LB Jelani Jenkins
Key Subtractions: RB Latavius Murray, WR Andre Holmes, TE Mychal Rivera, OT Menelik Watson, DT Stacy McGee, LB Malcolm Smith, LB Perry Riley, CB DJ Hayden, S Nate Allen, S Brynden Trawick
We should see the offense remain as the team’s front runners, which could also be twice as good this 2017. Derek Carr, who now appears to be healed from his broken leg injury that kept him out of last year’s playoffs, will be a man on a mission, with weapons all around him.
The receiving corp’s dynamic duo of Amari Cooper and Michael Crabtree is again poised to produce good yardage – both had over 1,000 yards and 80 catches last season – with speedster and ex-Minnesota Viking Cordarelle Patterson also joining the fold. The tight ends can be as interesting, as the two men on the rotation possess varying skills – the returning Lee Smith (leg) is more of a blocker, while new acquisition Jared Cook is a pass-catcher with good quickness.
As for their renowned offensive line, whose 18 sacks allowed last season was the fewest in the league, it’s also expected to be intact. Donald Penn, Kelechi Osmele, Rodney Hudson, and Gabe Jackson (as alternate) all made the Pro Bowl last year, and should be looking for a similar campaign.
We’re not ready to put Marshawn Lynch as part of the team’s strengths since it’s still up in air, but should he play like the beast that he was in Seattle – even for a little bit – he’s an automatic upgrade over Latavius Murray.
DEFENSE. It’s the classic weakness of a team with a high-powered offense.
The Raiders do have an ace defender in Khalil Mack – last year’s Defensive Player of the Year – as he posted 11 sacks, five forced fumbles, and one interception that was returned for a TD. Veteran Bruce Irvin is obviously an asset as well; his 7.5 sacks were notable too. Beyond that, though, the Silver and Black are mostly quiet on rushing the QB and stopping the run, as evidenced in ranking dead-last in sacks (25), 23rd rushing yards allowed (117.5 per game), and 27th in rushing TDs allowed.
The secondary, likewise, has the playmaking stats (16 INTs, tied for third). However, in terms of giving up yardage, they’re also like their teammates on the front seven, as the 257.5 aerial yards they give up per contest ranks Oakland 24th overall in pass defense.
Key Players – Khalil Mack
Derek Carr is undoubtedly the franchise, but the offense should be fine – and it’s never really in question (at least for now).
So, the spotlight should belong to Khalil Mack. He’s an explosive, talented, upside-filled pass-rusher, playing on a defensively-challenged team – it’s a simple fact that he is the driving force of the group and him playing subpar – not even awful – can collapse the entire defense.
Simply put, if he can progress more to lead the D the way Carr has on offense, there’s no telling how good the Raiders will be.
Key Game – November 19th (New England Patriots)
All contenders, especially ones that are as up-and-coming as the Raiders, will have to go through the Patriots first before being “knighted.” It’s an opponent that Carr, Mack, and company will learn a lot from, particularly maturity in decision-making, while also helping them measure how developed they really are.
Win or lose, as long as everyone comes out healthy, we can expect Oakland to come out of this clash a better team.
2016 Team Stats
|Points per game||26.0 (#7)
|Passing yards per game||253.1 (#13)
|Rushing yards per game||120.1 (#6)|
|Scoring defense||24.1 (#20)
The Raiders (+1,200) go 12-4.
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