2010 Record: 8-8
2011 Record: 8-8
2012 Record: 4-12 (Wins vs. PITT, JAC, @KC, KC)
2013 Wins Over/Under: 5.5
Super Bowl Odds: 200/1 (Tied 32nd w/JAC)
Conference Title Odds: 100/1 (Tied 32nd w/JAC)
The questions facing the Oakland Raiders heading into camp are broad and wide ranging.
Coming off a 4-12 season featuring two winning margins of field goals, the Raiders continue to search for an identity, consistency, intelligence and maturity.
With the Broncos nearly a lock as AFC West Champions and the two AFC Wild Card’s almost certain to come out of the North and South, the questions facing the organization should be fair and modest.
Given an early over/under mark of 5.5 wins this season, I can barely find four on their schedule. Here are five realistic questions for the 2013 Raiders.
5 Charles Woodson’s Impact – Bringing Charles Woodson back to the team he spent eight seasons playing for while building his Hall of Fame resume is undoubtedly one of Oakland’s top free-agent signings in recent history.
His leadership in a locker room void of any cohesiveness or stability will surely prove to be invaluable, but will he be able to take a vulnerable secondary under his wing and tutelage? The Raiders are high on their first round, 12th overall pick D.J. Hayden, but let’s not forget their team defense ranking 28 out of 32 in 2012.
They’ll have to face Peyton Manning and Philip Rivers twice, Eli Manning, Andrew Luck and RGIII. Even lining up against ex-49er Alex Smith, now with Kansas City, will present a challenge since he’ll be operating with a massive chip on his shoulder.
4 Coach Allen – Coming off his first season as head coach of the Raiders, Dennis Allen will be looking to improve on his 4-12 inaugural campaign last year. Looking at the Raiders’ schedule, it might be easier said than done.
He’s a defensive-minded coach, as he served as defensive assistant with the Atlanta Falcons and New Orleans Saints before being named defensive coordinator of the Denver Broncos in 2011. Will he be able to lead a young group of players without an overwhelming veteran presence on the field?
What the Raiders gain in terms of leadership in Woodson, they’ve lost with the departure of Richard Seymour. If Oakland is ever able to string together a couple of wins, it has to begin with a steady coach anticipating rookie mistakes and lapses in judgment.
3 Defense – With an undefined and untested aerial attack and a constantly questioned running game, the Raiders will be looking to their defense to bend but not break when they need them the most. Oakland finished last season 20th against the pass and 18th against the rush.
General manager Reggie McKenzie has done much to address the Raiders’ defensive deficiencies as only defensive end Lamarr Houston, cornerback Joselio Hanson and strong safety Tyvon Branch remain as 2012 holdovers.
The arrival of Pat Sims from Cincinnati and Vance Walker from Atlanta provide the front four with two versatile options at defensive tackle, as well as the addition of journeyman Jason Hunter at defensive end. Veterans Nick Roach, Kevin Burnett and Kaluka Maiava serve as three tested additions at linebacker.
Throw in Woodson and Hayden at free safety and cornerback respectively, and you’ve got yourself a completely revamped defensive look for the 2013 Raiders. Let’s see if that translates to red-zone stops this season in the Bay Area.
2 Darren McFadden – Will Darren McFadden ever rush for 1,000 yards again? Most McFadden sympathizers are quick to say when he’s healthy, he’s great. I wouldn’t even go that far. McFadden’s most productive season came back in 2010 when he rushed for 1,157 yards and 7 touchdowns in 13 games.
This past season he managed to start 12 games, with his production dropping to 707 yards rushed and just 2 rushing touchdowns. Quarterbacks Robert Griffin III and Cam Newton even out-rushed him. With the Raiders unlikely to produce monster passing yards between Matt Flynn and Terrelle Pryor, they’ll be looking for their 1st round, 4th overall pick in the 2008 draft to carry the brunt of the work for their offense.
Sixteen running backs rushed for over a thousand yards last season. Will McFadden even crack the top 20? If he doesn’t, this season might be even more painful for Raiders fans than 2012.
1 Matt Flynn – With the polarizing Carson Palmer now primed to alienate the Arizona Cardinals’ fan base, the once proud position of quarterback of the Oakland Raiders remains much less of a quarterback battle than many initially envisioned in camp this preseason.
Although Flynn has only started two career games, playing backup to Aaron Rodgers for four seasons in Green Bay before moving to Seattle last year, where he lost out on the starting job to the emerging Russell Wilson, he has shown moments of brilliance.
Who can forget Flynn’s second and last career start, featuring a 480-yard, 6 touchdown drubbing of the Detroit Lions in week 17 of the 2011 season? Terrelle Pryor is younger, has one career start and hasn’t been exposed to the quality of mentors Flynn has worked with.
Coach Allen has stated that although he continues to show great athletic ability, Pryor simply is “not there yet.” All signs would point to Flynn leading the Raiders this season, but with a total of three starts between the two, it might be more trial and error this August in Oakland.