The Oakland Raiders ended the 2017 season on a four-game losing streak. Granted, the last two games didn’t mean anything as far as the playoff race. But, with all of the chaos that is free agency, were some players looking to win to keep their jobs?
Oakland had already changed defensive coordinators, and the rumor mill is churning at full speed about whether or not Jon Gruden is coming back.
However, one major component is the roster. Yes, there are some locks going into next season, but with individual performances now out of the way, there could be a little extra work to do to determine exactly what the Raiders have in 2018.
After a big contract, Derek Carr took a step back from his consecutive Pro Bowl seasons of ’15 and ’16, but it wasn’t all him. Between injuries along the offensive line and his own scrapes, it was expected. A healthy Donald Penn will fix one problem. However, the two primary receivers, Amari Cooper and Michael Crabtree, really fell off the map.
Yes, even though his numbers were cut just about in half (48/680/7 in ’17 vs. 83/1153/5 in ’16), those numbers came from only 3/4 of the targets (96 vs. 132). Cooper did disappear after a big 11/210 performance in Week 7, but that also aligned with all the injuries up front and Carr facing pressure for the bulk of the season. Not to mention, he’s still only 23… and reasonably cheap when it comes to the cap. However, he may just have another season to prove himself before he comes on the trading block.
Miracle catch against Kansas City aside, Crabtree’s older (30) and didn’t have a single game with 90 yards. In a similar situation to Cooper (58/618/8 on 101 targets in ’17 vs. 89/1003/8 on 145 targets in ’16), he’s under a little bigger competition from Cordarelle Patterson, who still has enough in the tank to slide in as a #2 WR going forward. The two-score game against Dallas could save him, but depending on the new regime, he’s a likely casualty.
Beast Mode took a while to get to his old self, but he finished with a 100-yard game, and two in the final five weeks. Although his cap more than doubles in ’18, a healthy line could lead to another 800-900 yard season, which would be enough to keep pressure off Carr and help create a more balanced offense.
Defensive line? Check. (Khalil Mack finished with 10.5 sacks, Bruce Irvin followed behind with 8.0). Front seven? Formidable. NaVorro Bowman finished 4th on the Raiders with 58 tackles to go along with 1.5 sacks, so he and Irvin can anchor that linebacking core.
However, the glaring issue is the secondary. Yes, Karl Joseph and Reggie Nelson do well at safety, but what do you do when as a team you allow 24 touchdown passes and become the first team in NFL history to not have an interception in your first ten games? Upgrade at corner. Sean Smith seems to be safe thanks to two of the team’s five picks, but he definitely needs some help. Finding another corner could at least provide a band-aid.
The good news is the front office is looking for a coach in plenty of time for the draft to figure out how to fill the gaps and with whom. The potentially bad news is, whoever the new coach is… it could somehow still go wrong.