Finishing 7-9 last year after a 4-12 campaign in 2018 is marked improvement, but the Raiders lapsing from 6-4 with a relatively favorable schedule the rest of the way was a meek way of going into the night. “Rage, rage against the dying of the light” this was not.
The 1-5 sputtering finish was indicative of all the Raiders failures of the past and, while the team was decimated by injury, the team’s overachieving ways finally caught up to head coach Jon Gruden’s bunch. It was a deflating end to the final season — ever — in Oakland with the team slated to play in an ultra-modern stadium in Las Vegas. Before they head to their new HQ in Henderson, Nevada, the Raiders will spend camp in the comfortable confines of wine country in Napa. There, the team can begin in earnest of bettering the 7-9 record.
Here are five integral Raiders and what they need to become in 2020:
Darren Waller: Red zone Nightmare.
The 6-foot-6, 255-pound former wide receiver exploded onto the seen as a scintillating weapon at tight end, finishing with 90 catches and 1,145 yards. The area where Waller is lacking is touchdowns — only three. At his size, speed and jumping ability, the veteran should be a red zone nightmare matchup who boxes out defenders and hauls in touchdown passes on the regular.
Lamarcus Joyner: Full-time Safety.
The high-priced free agent defensive back was a flop in his inaugural year with the Raiders. Woeful in coverage, but an adequate tackler, Joyner maned the slot cornerback role and gave up near 70% of throws towards him to go for completions. While he may be of diminutive stature (5-foot-8, 185 pounds) his best years for the Rams came as safety. No more dabbling at corner, he needs to be a safety in Las Vegas.
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Rico Gafford: Return Specialist
No other Raiders player has the former cornerback turned wide receiver’s speed (4.26 40-yard dash) and it was curious why the coaching staff didn’t try and exploit said jets during the 1-5 downward spiral finish. Gruden waxes poetic in press conferences about the Raiders needing to add speed and stating the Kansas City Chiefs are loaded with it. Yet, the Raiders fastest man can’t get chances to return kicks?
Isaiah Johnson: Starting Corner
The fourth-round pick of the 2019 draft is big (6-foot-2, 210 pounds), physical and fast — all classic Al Davis cornerback traits fellow rookie Trayvon Mullen is of similar height and build. The Raiders need to develop Johnson to deploy two big, fast, long press-man corners to counter the heavy passing league the NFL has become.
Hunter Renfrow: No. 1 Wideout
A fifth-round pick blossoming into the top target? It’s happened before and Renfrow was Derek Carr’s go-to target — especially in the latter half of the season. The former Clemson receiver finished his rookie year with 49 catches, 605 yards and four touchdowns. He knows how to find the soft spots and get open. He’s the de facto No. 1 wide receiver.
Tahir Whitehead: Former Raiders player
If only he had to defend the run, Whitehead would be a good defender, but linebackers don’t just stop the run these days in the NFL. Pass defense was a chore for the veteran linebacker as he yielded 51 of 65 passes thrown his way. That’s a staggering 78.5% completion rate for 687 yards and six touchdowns. QBs sported a 141.5 rating when targeting Whitehead. That alone demands Whitehead be waxed from the Raiders.
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