What Happened Raider Nation? – Let’s call it what it is, a disaster of a season. It all started Sunday September 24th 5:30pm in Washington vs the Redskins Sunday night, The Oakland Raiders got punched in their mouth. Some will say it was the National Anthem? Some players standing, some players deciding not to stand. Maybe having an all black offensive line sit before the anthem while their QB, (that is a white player) decides to stand, was that the problem? Lets not get too political. At the end of the day, the Oakland Raiders got whacked on Sunday Night Football and it was not pretty. The line did not block and the QB along with the offense could not get into sync, not to mention the defense was already piss poor coming into the season. Things fell apart from there. The Oakland Raiders would then lose the next 3 games in a row and losing their QB for a game with a transverse process fracture. An injury that a couple QBs in the past have suffered such as Tony Romo and Cam Newton and were able to come back within two weeks. Derek Carr, being the warrior that he is, only missed one game and came back ready for the Chargers but we would still go on to lose that game by one point because the defense could not get on the same page and allowed the Chargers to drive down the field to kick a last min field goal. A field goal that Raider Nation was praying that the Chargers missed and choked at the end as they normally do, but the football gods would not allow that. As the Raiders would then lose their 4th game in a row to the LA Chargers by 1 point 16-15.
The Raiders never did get back on track. Carr did not seem the same after the injury, the offensive play calling was terrible, too many zone plays to try and fit Marshawn Lynch. It Just did not work for lineman such as Gabe Jackson and Kelechi Osemele. As good as they are, they’re not fit to run side to side, they’re just not that fast. Honestly, I always felt like Lynch had the type of running style where he could run through the power scheme but its obvious that he could not and that they wanted to cater to his style. So although Raider Nation was excited to get Lynch on board. The Lynch Project did not turn out to be what we wanted. He did have solid numbers and ran better towards the end, but I do not think it was worth switching up everything because the end results turned out disappointing.
The head coaching decisions of letting Bill Musgrave go for a young guy, (that let me say might one day turn out to be a solid OC in this league) but this past year he was horrendous. He was just not ready. I’m speaking of Todd Downing. I originally thought that maybe he would bring in the same calls as Bill and since he has a great relationship with Carr everything should work, right?. Nope, failed and we fell flat on our face. If Raider Nation learned anything it is friendships are not needed in the NFL. The NFL is a business. Jack Del Rio should have known, even worse if he didn’t know. Keeping the elephant in the room (Ken Norton) as the defense coordinator was clearly another bad move that I think ultimately ruined the season and cost Del Rio his job, contract extension or not.
Another issue was the players seemed to have given up as the season went on. Players seemed to look like they lost confidence. Even with the season on the line there were three other teams in the division at 6-6. The Raiders would go on to lose to Kansas City 26-15 not putting up a single point in the first half and finishing off the season 6-10 (not winning another game).
Is Gruden the Answer? – Time will tell for sure. I tell you what, my honest opinion is I believe he is. Listening to this man during his press conference tells me that he still has the passion to coach and he does not seem like he lost a beat. It has been a very long time since Jon Gruden has coached. It has been 9 years, but during those 9 years he has studied the game even more. He still gets up early in the morning to study tape on college players, different offenses and defenses. He has been to every team’s practices and facilities during the offseason. The knowledge that Jon has gained might just make him a scarier coach. The respect that other coaches have for him, coaches that are leaving good situations to come be a part of this man’s staff should tell you. If they did not think he had it anymore would they leave their current situation? It just tells me that they feel the same way. Everything tells me that this is going to work and it was meant to be. The city of Oakland and Raider Nation should be proud that they were able to get their guy back on the sidelines. If Mark Davis could do anything to help heal the Raider fans from this abysmal season it was bringing back Jon Gruden.
Will Jon Blow up the Roster – As Gruden puts his impressive staff together let’s take a look at what kind of roster moves the Raiders need to make to get back to their previous season from a year ago. I believe that this team is closer to 12-4, then 6-10. I believe the Raiders have what they need already on the roster. Depending on who can deal with the intense style that Jon brings and will be back with the team. Truthfully I feel like just about everybody on the team can handle an older Jon. There might be a couple players that may want out for different reasons anyway. We will get into that a little later. Let’s start with the offense since that’s Jon’s expertise. Wide Receiver: I feel like the WR’s depth needs to get stronger. They need to look at bringing in a couple more players to that position whether its through the draft or free agency. Then there have been rumors about Michael Crabtree possibly having his final game against the LA Chargers. Jon will need to sit down with him (like he needs to do with probably every player) and see if he is willing to be a part of something special and if they can deal with his style. I believe Crabtree will be one of those guys first to meet with him. Crabtree did not play well down the stretch and seemed to have checked out, or was that the OC (Todd Downing at the time) that pulled him? We will find out soon and I know Jon likes vets so he may want to add a vet to that WR position if he does decide to let Crabtree go.
Then they need to figure out who their feature back is. Is Marshawn coming back? Can Jon work with Deondre Washington or Jalen Richard and make them a feature back? Then we need to see about the health of our Left Tackle Donald Penn. Penn had a run of 170 consecutive regular season starts, which is the longest active streak in the NFL, but Penn is 34 going on 35. I would probably say that he returns and have a strong season, but i would not put money on it. You just never know with older NFL players that start to develop injuries late in their career. So they may look towards the draft. Outside of those particular players and positions I believe the offense is fine.
The defense is still the main concern. The only one that is worth mentioning and arguably the best player on the team is Khalil Mack. Bruce Irvin was not as consistent as everybody thought he would be and as J.T The Brick reported Marshawn may possibly not be coming back. He believes that Irvin could possibly be on his way out and if that’s the case look out for him possibly joining Ken Norton back in Seattle. Irvin was not happy with how things were done with Norton. The pass rush up the middle is still considered below average and there are still holes at the Linebacker position and the secondary is still a mess. However, I believe Gareon Conley will be very good in this league. He just needs to stay healthy. I believe Karl Joseph can be a stud but he just needs to be put in a better position and needs better coaching, Paul Guenther will provide that. T.J Carrie is a free agent, hopefully we can bring him back. I believe he played the best out of all the corners we had. He will have to be paid a reasonable price though. David Amerson did miss a hand full of games because of a injured foot but even he did not look good when he did play and he is suppose to be the Raiders best corner. Sean Smith played better down the stretch which makes me believe his time could be gone because John Pagno got the best out of him and John is no longer going to be with the team. He ran a 3-4 base defense and Paul runs a 4-3 base which is what Sean struggled with when we had Ken Norton, but well see.
Offseason Moves – Look for Jon and Reggie to sign their best player Khalil Mack to a long term contract. That is hands down the biggest priority. Most of the players are locked into contracts so we do not have any real big time free agents. There are players that may be cap casualties unfortunately, but it’s a process that every team goes through in the offseason and that might be good for this team anyway. Tj Carrie will be a free agent. I look forward to Jon and Reggie trying to sign him but they will not over pay for him. He may get better offers elsewhere. Same with Justin Ellis. He was a good run stuffer for us, but did not live up to the pass rushing ability we thought he had coming out of Louisiana Tech. Denico Autry is somebody I would like to see come back. I feel that with more playing time he could turn out to be a stud, just like Tj Carrie. There might be another team willing to pay him more and I’m not expecting the team to out bid anybody for him.
Free agent possibilities – There are free agents that come to mind that the Raiders need to really consider. One of them is Sheldon Richardson. There was a lot of talk a couple years ago about possible trades that could have happened and that Reggie was considering him when he was still with the Jets. Well now he will be a free agent and we will have enough cap room to sign him to a respectable contract. I also think he will fit right into Paul Guenther’s 4-3 scheme. The other player that they need to consider is a vet corner. Two players that might be cap casualties are David Amerson and Sean Smith. If either one or both are cut, there are a few corners out there they should consider. The first on my list would be Trumaine Johnson from the Rams. His aggressive style and ability to play in almost any scheme will fit in our new defense. I will keep a tracker on here once the free agency hits to update what is currently going on with the Raiders but those are two players I think the Raiders need to consider signing. Especially if we lose out on bringing back our own free agents.
Draft – As the draft gets closer I will set up a mock draft and update it once a week. The way Reggie has been drafting has been best player available. That might change slightly with Jon. First round I would look towards defense and the top players are Roquan Smith LB, DaRon Payne DT, Denzel Ward CB. Those players would make an immediate impact on the Raiders roster and two out of the three should be there when we pick. They would be Day 1 starters if everything checks out.
If we do happen to go offense, Mike McGlinchey (Offensive Tackle out of Norte Dame) would be first on my list for a few reasons. One I do not think Saquon Barkley will fall to the Raiders at 9 or 10 (depending on the coin flip) and secondly, although Donald Penn signed an extension, he has played more games as a starter then any LT since 2008. He has suffered two big injuries these last two years. The recent one he just had surgery for. I think it would only be smart to be prepared if he happens to go down. As freakish and athletic as Mike is, he could hold down the right side for a season or two (depending on how Penn’s body holds up) and then move to the left side. Derek Carr plays average when pressured. He needs to be kept on his feet and I believe Reggie has done a great job so far while he’s been GM. Lets keep that up.