This hasn’t been a perfect off-season for the Raiders. From an 0-4 preseason record to a seemingly never-ending list of minor problems to distract the team, this isn’t the best way to prepare for the regular season. Despite this, the sheer power and speed of Oakland’s offense should see them through. Bluntly, the Raiders offense is too good to fail.
Despite Distractions, Raiders Offense Is Too Good To Fail
It started with the drafting of Gareon Conley. One of Ohio State’s supremely talented defensive backs, Conley was predicted to go way before the Raider’s 24th overall pick. Then he was hit with a police charge for rape, which caused his slide down the board.
Conley of course was cleared, which should make this a steal of a pick for Reggie McKenzie. However, by making the pick, McKenzie invited in the theatre – constant questions from media, debates on sports radio, it brought a new focus onto the team. Then Conley was injured and so to date, Raider fans are still waiting to see him in action. Was he worth the added attention? Right now, no-one knows.
Injuries Plague Preseason
Injuries have also become a story. The Raiders strength and conditioning has been a strength under Jack Del Rio, but early round draft picks seem to have a problem staying healthy. Last year, first round pick Karl Joseph missed most of the pre-season due to injury. He has already spoken this year about the benefits of a full off-season healthy, and we should see a much-improved Joseph. However, as well as Conley, Obi Melifonwu is also injured. Currently on IR, the first time Raiders fans can now expect to see their match-up hybrid DB is sometime in the second half of the season.
This means our day one corners are still Amerson and Smith, and it means we’re still reliant on our linebacking corps to cover tight ends and running backs. Bluntly, so far, so 2016.
Hold Outs and Pay Cuts
Then Donald Penn held out. This turned out to be nothing major, and he was back with the team before the end of the preseason. Whilst it was no Aaron Donald, it was another example of a distraction. More questions for Coach Del Rio and Mike Tice to answer. More conversation around the locker room to distract players from the task at hand.
Then Sebastian Janikowski refuses to take a pay cut. Whilst it’s harsh on Oakland’s longest tenured player, McKenzie was never going to pay a 39 year old kicker $4 million. Of course, in the end Seabass relented. And then promptly injured himself and was shipped off to IR. Giorgio Tavecchio will start his first season game against Tennessee.
Lack of Linebacker Support
Amid all of this, it seems like the one thing that didn’t happen was the thing most fans wanted – support at the linebacker position. Starting a fifth round rookie at MLB isn’t going to appease Raider Nation. It is going to have Travis Kelce, Rob Gronkowski and Delanie Walker licking their collective lips.
Our Offense Can Explode
As loved as Latavius Murray was, he left far too many yards on the field. Bad decisions and, often, a lack of power after contact. Lynch – if still explosive enough – changes all of that.
Clive Walford’s promise is great. The problem last year was that the promise was greater than the product that made the field. Walford can still be a playmaker at this level, but clearly he needs more time. Welcome Jared Cook, whose playmaking ability was demonstrated many times in Green Bay last year. He’s not the second coming of the Gronk, but he’s an upgrade on what we had.
And Patterson improves special teams immediately, as well as giving the Raiders a true deep threat and trick play playmaker. I would put Cooper, Crabtree, Roberts and Patterson up against any receiving quartet in the league.
The offensive line is still intact, and still has its secret superpower – Mike Tice. Coach Tice is simply the best offensive line coach in the league. If he can make Marshall Newhouse look competent at left tackle, he can do anything. With Lee Smith back as the best pass-catching offensive lineman in the league, this unit is going to dominate.
A Versatile Offense is Key to Success
Pick any formation you like, and look at the players you’ll see on the field. Two tight end? That’s Cook and Smith, with Cooper and Crabtree on the outside with Lynch in the backfield. Four wide outs? You’ve got Cooper and Crabtree with Roberts and Patterson, and maybe Washington coming out of the backfield. Eleven personnel? How does Cooper, Crabtree, Roberts, Cook and Lynch sound? The Raiders will be able to operate the most versatile offense in the league, able to attack defenses in any way they please.
And so, despite distractions, despite a defense that hasn’t shown any evidence of improving from a year ago, Oakland will be just fine in 2017. The Raiders offense is too good to fail.
Hope Springs Eternal
Most importantly, remember when we all convinced ourselves that Andrew Walter was the saviour of the franchise? Remember when hope was that low that a statue drafted in the 3rd round was all we had? Mark Davis, Reggie McKenzie and Jack Del Rio have changed all that. So, Raider fans, let’s enjoy the feeling that is legitimate hope. It’s not all going to go to plan, but if just some of it does, we’re going to do well. Just Win, Baby.