The Oakland Raiders have been widely inconsistent on offense since their Super Bowl loss following the 2002 season. The biggest reason for the sudden drop in offensive production was the injuries to QB Rich Gannon which resulted in his eventual retirement in 2004. The Raiders have not gotten any consistent QB play since. Add in the poor drafting, coaching carousel and the mismanagement of player contracts and you get a long, hard downward spiral that has lasted 11 seasons.
Enter GM Reggie McKenzie. He spent the last 2 seasons dismantling the organization so it could be rebuilt from the ground up. So, what will the offensive strategy be? The Raiders are not very vocal when it comes to what they are doing, but if we look at what has been done on the offensive side of the ball thus far, we can get a pretty good idea of what to expect from OC Greg Olsen’s unit.
So, let’s take a look at what McKenzie has done with the parts that make up the offense:
The offensive line was extensively re-worked to add bigger, faster and more versatile linemen. They also retained the services of one of the best OL coaches in the game. Tony Sprorano did an amazing job piecing together a rag-tag line full of injuries last season. Imagine what he can do this year with the tools he has been given. The Raiders have a lot of options with this unit, which is something that they haven’t had in quite a while. He must be salivating at the guys he will have to work with.
OT Austin Howard is a mammoth of a man at 6’7″ and 333 lbs. At age 27, he is young enough to be a fixture on this line for several years. He is listed as a tackle, but he can play at guard. A man that size with his speed can not only provide a wall of protection for the QB, he can also open up some lanes to run through.
OT Donald Penn is another very large man at 6’5″, 340 lbs. At age 31, he probably has fewer days ahead of him than he does behind, but he is a solid lineman. His 2 year deal is in line with the theory of veterans mentoring the younger players who will eventually replace them while providing solid, proven play at the same time. He is also capable of providing QB protection and opening some running lanes. Penn is also capable of playing at multiple positions along the line.
T Khalif Barnes is listed at 6’6″, 321 lbs. He is 32 years old, but he has proven to be fairly solid and versitile. He can provide some badly needed depth along the line. Resigning him was a good move.
G Kevin Boothe was brought back from the New York Giants. He brings Super Bowl experience to the Raiders along with his 6’5″, 325 lb. frame. With him next to the big, strong and fast tackles, there will be plenty of time for the QB to survey the field and pick apart defenses as well as plenty of room for the running backs to run. He is 30 years old, so in keeping with the same theory, this was another good pick-up.
2013 second round draft pick T Melenik Watson (6’5″, 315 lbs.) struggled with a nagging calf injury in his rookie season, but if he can put that behind him, he is primed to have a breakout sophomore season. At age 25, he has the build and speed to be a force on the line for a long time.
The Raiders drafted G Gabe Jackson, 6’3″, 336 lbs. with the 81st overall pick (R3) in the draft. This is a solid addition of a young, fast and strong lineman. He should prove to be a road grater.
This unit is anchored by 24 year old C Stefan Wisniewski at 6’3″, 307 lbs. Looking at the rest of the offensive lineman, there looks to be a pretty fierce competition in training camp among some beefy young players. Every one of them can’t make the team, but may the best of the group win:
BACKS AND RECEIVERS:
The Raiders have a young, but talented group of wide receivers. With the addition of WR James Jones from the Green Bay Packers, they have added a solid, veteran presence. Other than that, McKenzie has not addressed this position very heavily in the draft or in free agency, passing on several big name possibilities. The additions he has made, with the exception of Jones are all young players with potential and not much experience.
This group has the potential to be very solid, but they are still missing that one elite player that defenses have to specifically plan for. Rod Streater emerged as a solid option at WR. Andre Holmes has the big body that can get between the defender and the ball and make some good things happen in the passing game. Denarius Moore has shown a lot of potential, but he has been inconsistent.
The Raiders picked up 4th year WR Greg Little off of waivers from the Cleveland Browns. He has great potential, but he has shown some difficulty in catching the ball, and some minor off-field issues. Perhaps the change of scenery is what he needs to develop into the standout WR he is capable of becoming. McKenzie has added some guys to heat up the competition between these guys. Again, may the best players win:
The Tight End position has been an area of concern since the loss of Brandon Myers in 2012. The Raiders drafted Nick Kasa and Michal Rivera in 2013, but they have been average at best, and are still young. Kasa is better at blocking, while Rivera is the better receiver. Ausberry has been plagued by injury in his career, but he has a lot of potential. This is a position that will have to improve in order for the Raiders offensive to be effective. McKenzie has set up the camp competition for this position with some pretty beefy men:
The running backs will also have to earn their spot on the roster, but there are some very good choices. As far as FB’s go, Pro Bowler, Marcel Reece is a match-up nightmare. He is so versatile that teams have to plan for him. At 6’1″, 255, he is a battering ram, but he has quite a bit of speed to go with his power. He has great hands, can run after the catch and block. The Raiders have re-signed Jamize Olawale (6’1″, 240 lbs.) and picked up Carl Williams (6’0″, 244 lbs) to compete for the back-up role. All of these fullbacks have the ability to carve out running lanes for the RBs.
For the RBs, Darren McFadden was re-signed to a 1 year incentive laden deal. This means that he will have to perform to get paid. Adding Maurice Jones-Drew to the mix, despite his previous injuries, increases the pressure on McFadden in the eyes of some, but others think that the addition of Jones-Drew will take some of the burden off of both players and help them both stay healthy. Either way, that tandem could lead the NFL in rushing. Add in the competition between these two, along with second year RB Latavius Murray, Jeremy Stewart, former CFL star Kory Sheets and rookie UDFA George Atkinson III in camp and the result is a very versatile unit, capable of changing the pace of the game and keeping defenses on their heels.
This position is the key to figuring out what to expect from the Raiders Offense. Matt Schaub is a big QB at 6’5″, 235 lbs. He is well known for being a primarily a pocket passer. He does have some mobility, and can throw on the run fairly well much like Gannon did. He can also pick up some positive yards when his protection breaks down. Schaub does have the ability to throw the deep ball, but he has made his living with short crossing patterns, dump-off passes to his running backs and tight ends and safe passes to his wide receivers. His 2013 performance is not typical of what we have seen from Schaub in the past.
Take Derek Carr and you have a similar skill set with some added mobility. Carr has struggled with accuracy on deep patterns, but he is money on short to mid-range passes. Like Schaub, he can throw on the run fairly accurately. He can also break out of containment and gain positive yards with his legs. He has very good size for a QB at 6’3″, 214 lbs. He could very well develop into the future face of the franchise.
Matt McGloin can never be counted out. He has defied the odds more than once in his football career. He showed a lot of potential to be a Drew Brees type of QB, but he has quite a bit of work to do in order to reach that status. His role will likely be a back-up. Trent Edwards was brought in to add competition to the position, but will not likely make the roster. Anything is possible, however and he should not be discounted either.
If you add up all of the pieces to the offensive puzzle, you can see that the Raiders are looking to primarily run the ball. They will probably feature a running game to set up the play action passes that Matt Schaub and Derek Carr love to throw and excel at. They have the players up front, along with the backs and receivers to do just that. They will not have to throw the ball 50 or more times a game to keep the sticks moving. This will allow them to be methodical. It will also take a lot of pressure off of the QB and allow them to chew up the clock. With their defense, they will have the ability to keep the opposing offense on the sidelines.