The Raiders Have One of the Best Triplets in the League.
Throughout the league, there are several offensive “triplets” that have established themselves as the best, but the Oakland Raiders have a solid case for being included in that conversation. Let’s take a look at some of the top trios and how the Raiders fit in.
Steelers – Ben Roethlisberger, Antonio Brown, LeVeon Bell
If you ask anyone who follows football, this will be one of the first answers you’ll get 90% of the time. Not only are these three separately great, but add them together and you have a deadly combination. Big Ben has consistently been one of the top performers year to year since he entered the league, posting league-leading yards per game in 2014 and 2015, and is a consistent 4,000-yard perennial QB. Antonio Brown is widely considered to be the best at his position right now, with 1,284 yards last year and 0 fumbles. When healthy, LeVeon Bell is that special running back that no one can deny, with patience that you can’t teach. Each one of them regularly falls in the top ten in their position, and more often than not, top five. All of that equals greatness.
Atlanta Falcons – Matt Ryan, Julio Jones, Devonta Freeman
Reigning NFC champs Atlanta Falcons made it to the big game for a reason. That reason was largely due to the offensive trio of MVP Matt Ryan, super star receiver Julio Jones, and newly minted, highest paid running back Devonta Freeman.
Matt Ryan, as mentioned, was the league MVP in 2016. Nothing more needs to be said about that. Julio Jones often rivals Antonio Brown for the best receiver in the game today, and consistently exhibits skills that seem to transcend normal human abilities. Jones finished the year with 1,409 yards, 6 TDs and league-leading 100.6 yards per game. Devonta Freeman just earned himself the largest contract ever inked with a running back, and for good reason. He finished 2016 with 1,079 yards and 11 touchdowns. Simple conclusion: a trio of the best in the NFL.
Green Bay Packers – Aaron Rodgers, Jordy Nelson, Ty Montgomery
Say what you will, but Aaron Rodgers is one of the best in the game today, perhaps of all time. His talent transcends the field, and who he chooses to bring with him makes him an even better player. He spent his 2016 season showing everyone else how good he is, throwing 40 touchdowns and only 7 interceptions. He and Jordy Nelson have spent Nelson’s entire career together. That kind of longevity comes with a certain amount of trust and fluidity. Things come naturally to those two and throw a solid receiving back in the mix like Ty Montgomery, that is truly a recipe for success.
L.A. Chargers – Philip Rivers, Antonio Gates, Melvin Gordon
Go ahead and sleep on the Chargers. It’ll cost you. The team has spent several years rebuilding their roster to be a competitor again for the first time since 2009.
Philip Rivers has thrown for less than 4,000 yards once since 2008 and only three times in his career as a starter. While Antonio Gates has been plagued by injury the last couple of seasons, he is arguably one of the top receiving tight ends in the league. Melvin Gordon has also battled injury in his two years in the league, but he’s a talented receiving back, and raw talent puts him at the forefront of the conversation. If Keenan Allen is healthy this year, you can swap him out with either of these two and still have a nasty triple-threat.
New England Patriots – Tom Brady, Rob Gronkowski, and?
The Patriots would easily make this list if Julian Edelman hadn’t incurred a season-ending injury this preseason. Even so, it seems like an easy jump to Brandin Cooks, who joined the Pats this offseason. But Cooks isn’t yet the receiver for Tom Brady that Edelman has been. Cooks had amazing chemistry with Drew Brees but seeing how much he will have with the great TB12 will have to wait until Thursday night. We could make the case just based on raw talent, as it stands to reason that Cooks will fit into Belichick’s system just as well as anyone. For now, they’re not the top of the heap but with their next-man-up mentality, any given man can fit into the third spot.
Oakland Raiders – More than one combo can win this race
The Raiders have spent tremendous time and effort building a stellar offensive unit, and that can’t be achieved without putting together an outstanding trio. The greatest thing about the Oakland roster is that there is more than one way to skin this cat. With a quarterback like Derek Carr and threats all around, the possibilities seem endless.
Derek Carr, Amari Cooper, Michael Crabtree, Jalen Richard, and of course, Marshawn Lynch
The perfect trio starts with an unmatched quarterback. Believe it or not, Derek Carr is that quarterback. Even putting aside his numbers on paper, watching him gives an even better glimpse into the man’s raw talent and innate abilities. Pair him up with a receiver like Amari Cooper for that AC/DC connection and it’s trouble. The combo of Carr to Crabtree doesn’t change the story much, except for getting more consistency, just not quite the speed. That’s an acceptable trade-off.
Now to add the perfect running back. Everyone knows the name of the running back that’s expected to complete the triad of greatness. But let’s assume that Marshawn Lynch doesn’t have the year that everyone hopes he will. Do they have someone who can stand in that spot and take the ball downfield? They do. Watching tape of undrafted free agent Jalen Richard should answer that question, at least to some degree.
Richard came to training camp last year with one goal in mind: make the team. He did just that. He impressed so much that he was able to go into game 1 and show some very promising skills. He even ran for a touchdown and set up the go-ahead score that won the Raiders the game.
Throughout the season, the young back continued to impress, racking up 685 yards and 3 TDs. That may not seem like a lot in the grand scheme of things, but for an undersized undrafted rookie running back, the numbers are a picture of what could be the beginning of a great career. If he can be used as a three-down back this season and kick up the stats, he will solidify his spot as a threat.
If all the stars align and Marshawn Lynch is the Beast Mode of old, then there’s no question that you can plug him and Carr in with either Cooper or Crabtree and have one of the most dynamic combinations in the league this year. There’s no question that he elevates a trio to the top of its game, and with a quarterback like Carr and two elite receivers in Crabtree and Cooper, behind the offensive line that the Raiders have amassed, who can stop that? We’ll have to wait and see.