Amari Cooper – Total number of receptions +/-: 90
Stop reading if you’ve heard this before, this year Cooper is expected to take a significant jump. With the return of Jon Gruden and his own admission of his plans for number 89, the spotlight is once again on the Raiders young receiver. However, unlike last season, the coaching staff seems to already have a plan for how they want to use him to attack offenses.
Additionally, with a big-bodied threat like Marcell Ateman, Cooper will likely spend more time in the slot which only bodes well for him. In spite of all of this, expect him to be more efficient rather than seeing a sharp increase in volume. He will be the primary target but likely won’t be a 100 reception kind of receiver this season.
Maurice Hurst/PJ Hall/Arden Key – Combined number of sacks +/-: 10.5
It is safe to say that the Raiders are absolutely in love with their young defensive linemen. So much so that they are pushing out incumbents on the interior and pushing for more reps on the edge. Individually they are not expected to produce significant numbers, but the sum of their parts could potentially be a hidden valley of riches in the Bay Area. Good production from pass rushers usually amounts to around 40 sacks for an entire team. Even minus Khalil Mack, the Raiders expect their line to produce. 10.5 sacks out of defensive leader Bruce Irvin may allow for the Paul Guenther to get creative with his defensive pressure schemes.
Derek Carr – MVP Voting +/-: 10
Jon Gruden will have his work cut out for him in spite of all of the talent Carr brings to the table. Talented as he was, Carr could do nothing in Todd Downing’s elementary offense and if Gruden doesn’t bring his schemes with him it will be more of the same.
However, with Bill Musgrave calling the plays, Carr finished 5th overall in MVP voting just two seasons ago and may have even won if not for the injury. The Raiders undoubtedly prefer to have a more tame season than the one that featured several broken bones and a few more last-minute victories. Yet even if they constantly find themselves running out clocks Carr will receive, and likely earn, the lion’s share of the credit for absorbing and executing Gruden’s scheme. Known as a QB grinder if Gruden can help Carr pilot the team to a playoff berth, or even division title, the optics should put Carr squarely in the MVP conversation.