In Focus: Weaknesses of the 2017 Oakland Raiders

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Raiders CB Sean Smith
Jan 7, 2017; Houston, TX, USA; Oakland Raiders cornerback Sean Smith (21) in action against the Houston Texans during the AFC Wild Card playoff football game at NRG Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Jerome Miron-USA TODAY Sports

What remains as the biggest weaknesses of the Oakland Raiders as training camp approaches at the end of the month? You will notice that some of these weaknesses have not changed much from last season, despite some additions and subtractions during the offseason. Here are Oakland’s biggest weaknesses ranked before training camp opens.

  1. Stadium

This isn’t another post bashing the baseball diamond, tarp or poor plumbing of the Alameda County Coliseum. Any Raiders fan can tell you the stadium offers a unique experience for visitors and fans. It is one of the most intimidating places to play.

Nonetheless, the Raiders quest for a new stadium has put a divide between fans. Some are accepting the approved relocation to Las Vegas. Meanwhile, others are fighting it with public comments, law suits and slander towards the team, ownership and Vegas supporters.

Either way, we can’t act like this lingering distraction isn’t a weakness. The Raiders will have to deal with Las Vegas questions for the next few years despite how good they are.

  1. Linebacker

If you believe NFL.com this is one of the best LB groups in the league. But Raiders fans know better. We’ve watched this group torched in coverage too many times.

Even if you include Khalil Mack into this group, the linebackers are too soft in the middle. Perry Riley Jr. Isn’t yet under contract, Malcolm Smith is with the 49ers and Aldon Smith is still suspended. Therefore, this group did not get much better.

They will hope late round selections from the past few drafts will develop into something special. Backers Marquel Lee, Ben Heeney, Neiron Ball and Corey James all have their own strengths and weaknesses but the team believed in them to draft them. Veteran LB Jelani Jenkins is also in the mix if he can stay healthy. Jenkins has the most experience and success of the group. Hopefully, one player can stay healthy and rise above the rest as a starter.

Otherwise, this might be one of the Raiders weakest positions. Bruce Irvin’s personality, instincts and skills won’t save the entire linebackers positions from being weak. Still, there are too many former linebackers in this organization for them to not develop a full time starter at the inside backer position.

  1. Defensive Line

Dan Williams is gone and the Raiders will once again lean on a committee of unproven defensive linemen. Williams declined last season but the Raiders don’t necessarily have anyone better on the roster.

Oakland will need Justin Ellis and Darius Latham to become more consistent on the inside. Some undrafted rookies also got reps on the inside during OTAs and minicamps.

On the outside, Oakland needs Mario Edwards Jr. and Jihad Ward to make strides. Both players combine injury question marks with inconsistency. The Silver and Black need both athletic ends to be consistent starters.

Otherwise, Denico Autry is a good depth piece. Unfortunately, the Raiders have leaned on him as a starter too much over the last few seasons. Rookie Eddie Vanderdoes could also develop into a solid run stopper. All these question marks upfront make the defensive line the weakest position on the team, but the quality depth makes it far from the weakest link on the roster. This group also impacts the rest of the defense, so the Silver and Black need these young players to take the next step.

Either way, the Raiders best defensive lineman is a converted linebacker named Khalil Mack. This group was among the worst at sacking the opposing quarterback. That will need to improve next season. Maybe Shilique Calhoun can help by rushing the passer like he did in college instead of being used as a linebacker in run and cover support.

  1. Secondary

On paper, this should’ve been one of the Raiders biggest strengths last season. However, they gave up too many big plays.

Now, DB coach Marcus Robertson is no longer with the team and they invested their top two picks into the secondary. Rookie CB Gareon Conley and S Obi Melifonwu should immediately complete for starting time.

Safety Reggie Nelson is off his second consecutive Pro Bowl season. Corners David Amerson and Sean Smith had down years but improved safety and defensive line play can only make them better next year.

Moreover, T.J. Carrie and Keith McGill bring some versatility and starting experience for both the corner and safety positions. Oakland has some other athletes who could compete for a roster spot too.

Therefore, this secondary group should be one of the Raiders strongest position groups. Unfortunately, they haven’t played up to those expectations. Hence the secondary is a weakness until they improve as a whole.

That’s right; most of the Raiders weaknesses are on the defensive side of the ball. The team can only go as far as their defense allows them. If Oakland can develop some of their young players, this unit can be sneaky good and turn into a strength for future seasons. Unfortunately, we won’t know how strong or weak the defense is until they play actual games in the fall.

 

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  • Archangel

    The biggest problem with our defense is Ken Norton Jr.!! I expected him to have been the first coach to get fired after last season was over. Each year with him as DC, our defense regresses instead of improving. Hiring him was just as bad as hiring Dennis Allen as our HC when Reggie McKenzie was hired as the GM.