2018 NFL Season Preview: Oakland Raiders
A year after being considered an AFC title contender, the Raiders crashed back to mediocrity in 2017.
Player Notes: Offense
- Quarterback Derek Carr regressed from the previous two seasons coming off a broken leg and dealing with broken bones in his back.
- Running back Marshawn Lynch led the team with 891 rushing yards after sitting out the 2016 season.
- Tight end Jared Cook was disappointing down the stretch and never developed into the red zone target the team had hoped.
- Lee Smith was just used as a blocker, and Clive Walford was buried on the depth chart until late in the season.
- Wide receiver Michael Crabtree was supposed to be one of the leaders of the offense, but he was prone to drops and whined about not getting playing time late in the season.
- Amari Cooper had his worst season as a pro and was primarily used in the slot.
- The offensive line didn't live up to their billing as the highest paid line in the NFL but was still above average.
Player Notes: Defense
The defense struggled mightily under defensive coordinator Ken Norton Jr., having no interceptions under Norton. After Norton was fired in Week 11, the team brought in John Pagano to replace him. Outside side of defensive end Khalil Mack, the defensive line was injury-prone and underperformed.
- Linebacker Cory James was on the verge of becoming an every down player before landing on injured reserve with a knee injury.
- Linebacker NaVorro Bowman led the team in tackles in nine out of his 10 games played but did struggle in coverage.
- Bruce Irvin came alive when Pagano was put in charge of the defense to finish with career highs in 58 tackles and eight sacks.
- Cornerback T.J. Carrie didn't intercept a pass all year but was clearly the team's best corner.
- Safety Karl Joseph has failed to validate his first round status, and Reggie Nelson played exactly how you'd expect from a 34-year-old player.
- Sean Smith started the year off horribly and was charged with a felony prior to the regular season.
Player Notes: Special Teams
- Kicker Sebastian Janikowski was lost with a back injury during training camp, and his replacement, Giorgio Tavecchio, missed some big kicks.
- Punter Marquette King has developed into one of the league's best punters and is excellent at downing the ball inside the 10.
- Cordarrelle Patterson is still one of the most dangerous return men in the NFL and developed into a great gunner.
Pro Bowlers and All-Pro
Despite the rough season, Oakland produced five Pro Bowlers:
- Quarterback Derek Carr
- Left tackle Donald Penn
- Left guard Kelechi Osemele
- Center Rodney Hudson
- Defensive end Khalil Mack
Carr made his third consecutive Pro Bowl despite a drop in his stats. Penn, Osemele, and Hudson made their second Pro Bowl together and remain one of the strongest left side in the league. Mack finished with 10.5 sacks while being named to his second All-Pro team and could soon be the highest paid defensive player in the NFL.
The Rookie Class
The rookie class was a big disappointment.
- Cornerback Gareon Conley played in just two games due to a mysterious shin injury.
- Safety Obi Melifonwu spent the first half of the season on injured reserve and played in just five games.
- Defensive tackle Eddie Vanderdoes was named the day one starter but made very few plays.
Opponent Passing YPG
Opponent Rushing YPG
Raiders 2017 Highlights
Coaching Staff Changes
Shortly after the final game of the 2017 season, head coach Jack Del Rio was informed that he was fired after three seasons and a 25-23 record in that time. Shortly afterwards, the Raiders announced they hired their former head coach, Jon Gruden, who returned to the Raiders and coaching from Monday Night Football.
Gruden received a record 10-year, $100-million contract to return to the Raiders. Gruden last coached in the NFL in 2008 with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers and last coached the Raiders in 2001. In what will be one of their last seasons in Oakland before the team relocates to Las Vegas, it would be nice for the Raiders to end their tenure in Oakland on a positive note.
At his introductory press conference, Gruden announced that Los Angeles Rams quarterbacks coach Greg Olsen had been hired as offensive coordinator, though Gruden would call plays, while former Cincinnati Bengals defensive coordintor Paul Guenther was hired as the new defensive coordinator.
Notable Additions: RB Doug Martin, FB Keith Smith, WR Martavis Bryant, WR Dwayne Harris, WR Jordy Nelson, DE Tank Carradine, DE Frostee Rucker, LB Derrick Johnson, LB Tahir Whitehead, LB Kyle Wilbur, CB Daryl Worley, CB Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie, FS Marcus Gilchrest
Notable Departures: WR Michael Crabtree, WR Cordarrelle Patterson, TE Clive Walford, OT Marshall Newhouse, DE Khalil Mack, LB Cory James, LB Alden Smith, CB T.J. Carrie, CB Sean Smith, S Obi Melifonwu, K Sebastian Janikowski, P Marquette King
2018 NFL Draft
What the Raiders Needed
Having the 10th overall pick in the draft, the Raiders had an opportunity to get key talent. Most notably at defensive tackle, cornerback, and kicker.
- Defensive Tackle: The defense has been looking for an interior pass rusher for the last three years. The Raiders could use someone who can push the pocket up the middle.
- Cornerback: The Raiders only intercepted five passes all year, and Sean Smith was the only cornerback to intercept a pass. With Smith now in prison, the secondary needs a playmaker.
- Kicker: Sebastian Janikowski's value showed last season as Giorgio Tavecchio struggled. With Janikowski now in Seattle, it would be wise to bring in another kicker to compete with Tavecchio.
What Happened on Draft Day
On draft day, Oakland traded back to the 15th overall pick with Arizona so that the Cardinals could draft UCLA quarterback Josh Rosen. When it came time to pick, Oakland selected UCLA offensive tackle Kolton Miller with the 15th pick. Miller is built like the ideal left tackle, but he struggled to maintain his feet into contact.
Oakland also notably drafted LSU defensive end Arden Key in the third round, Michigan defensive tackle Maurice Hurst in the fifth, and Oklahoma State wide receiver Marcell Ateman in the seventh. Key was viewed as the top pass rushing defensive end in the draft but comes with some durability concerns and has to answer for his four-month absence from LSU due to "personal issues."
Hurst was vied as the top pass rushing defensive lineman in this class, but his draft stock fell after he was diagnosed with a heart condition. Ateman used his skills as a former basketball player to become a great college receiver, but he lacks great acceleration to gain separation from defensive backs.
Arden Key Highlights
What to Expect
Looking at the roster of this team alone, they look to be back on the right track to the postseason.
Just seeing what Jon Gruden was able to due with quarterbacks like Rich Gannon and Brad Johnson, I can only imagine how he can help Derek Carr. If he can stay healthy, Carr should rebound nicely from his below-average 2017. Marshawn Lynch is 32, and Doug Martin has had more good than bad in his career, so it might be a running back by committee in this offense.
The Raiders acquired four wide receivers in free agency. I see Jordy Nelson and Martavis Bryant on the outside and Amari Cooper slotted with Seth Roberts and Dwayne Harris, offering key value in various ways. Kolton Miller will likely start his pro career at right tackle but could eventually take over for Donald Penn on the left side.
If Arden Key can keep his head on straight and Maurice Hurst can manage his heart condition, the rookies can pair with Bruce Irvin to have a dangerous and deep group of pass rushers. The team signed three linebackers in free agency, and they should pair well with each other. Derrick Johnson has been a productive Pro Bowler for years, and Tahir Whitehead and Kyle Wilbur are solid players.
The main concern remains in the secondary. Gareon Conley and Obi Meilfonwu have to prove they can shake off their injuries and make plays.
We all know what Jon Gruden was able to do in his first tenure with be Raiders, so hopefully he can do the same with this group. However, given the fact that the team traded its best defensive player in Khalil Mack, the Raiders look to have a tough road ahead of them.
Best Record They Can Hope For: 6-10