The Las Vegas Raiders have been aggressively looking for ways to improve this offseason. If all their moves turn out to be successful, they could become a top 10 team as soon as this upcoming season.
After finishing with a subpar 7-9 record last year, the Raiders have taken the necessary steps to improve in 2020. They stopped patching up their defense and added a couple linebackers in free agency. Moreover, they selected a pair of wide receivers and a Swiss Army knife in the 2019 NFL Draft. On paper, the Raiders are in better shape than when they 2019 season finished. However, there’s nothing certain yet, and their hopes of returning to the playoffs will depend on many variables. Among many things, they have to stay healthy. Also, the rookies need to show their skill set translating well into the NFL before calling them the next big thing.
Raiders: The Pieces for a Contender Are There
One prominent writer thinks that based on all their offseason additions, the Raiders are a Top 10 NFL team. In his latest FMIA column, Peter King ranked the Raiders as the eighth-best team going into the season.
“This is going to be a fun floor show in the new Allegiant Stadium, in the first year ever for an NFL franchise in Nevada. A shame, really, that crowds may not be able to flock to see this team due to the pandemic. What fun it could be, with the speedy Henry Ruggs III paired with returning Tyrell Williams and Hunter Renfrow—and with twin, third-round picks Lynn Bowden and Bryan Edwards fighting for receiver snaps too. Tight end Darren Waller is an emerging star and could get a few snaps stolen by in-the-twilight Jason Witten with a strange stop, at 38, on his late-career tour.”
It’s Just Not the Offense
King then went on to talk about general manager Mike Mayock, quarterback Derek Carr and the Raiders defense.
“GM Mike Mayock paid so much attention to the offense because it was simply too inconsistent last year; the Raiders scored 24 points or less each week in the last six, going 1-5 down the stretch. That led to the Raiders kicking the tires on Tom Brady in March. Derek Carr knows, and doesn’t seem to care. I probably like the Raiders more than most because of the offensive improvement and because of four defensive additions: defensive end Carl Nassib, inside linebackers Cory Littleton and Nick Kwiatkowski, and cornerback Prince Amukamara (decent year in 2019 in Chicago, very good in 2018).”
Kings closes his analysis with a warning. “There’s a good chance that the significantly better AFC West will neuter the progress the Raiders, Chargers, and Broncos have made, because they’ll all unmistakably improved. But this first edition of an NFL team in Vegas is a fascinating one.”
They’re Not the Only Ones
The last paragraph is very important. Even though the Raiders should be better than their 2019 version, they aren’t the only ones that have improved. The division will run through the Chiefs until it doesn’t. Likewise, the rest of the AFC West didn’t stay put and looked for ways to solidify their rosters.
Injuries and lack of production from the rookies notwithstanding, the Raiders have the chance to become relevant again. How that plays out remains to be seen. For the moment, they look like a good bet to become a playoff team.
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Top Photo: Aric Crabb/Bay Area News Group