The Oakland Raiders could be a vastly better football team in 2014 and the team’s record could show little improvement. That is the way the NFL works sometimes. In Year 3 of the rebuilding process for general manager Reggie McKenzie and head coach Dennis Allen, the idea is to take the new toys they have signed to play with and let them recreate Raider Nation.
Somehow, someway, Ken Stabler, Cliff Branch and Mark van Eeghen must have missed the invite.
These Raiders have a new quarterback in Matt Schaub and a better running game in Darren McFadden and Maurice Jones-Drew. The receivers got a boost with the signing of James Jones and the offensive line will be better.
But so will the rest of the NFL. And a better defense this season with better pass rushers and a secondary that could be disruptive this coming season. While there aren’t many who think team can finish with a .500 season, there are a few who have high hopes for the team that helped perfect the vertical passing game.
Here are five questions this team needs to answer as the team approaches training camp.
CAN DENNIS ALLEN KEEP HIS JOB?
He wasn’t fired after last season’s 4-12 campaign, but he is on the hot seat firmly this year. Allen and Reggie McKenzie are squarely linked together and after two cash-strapped seasons, they finally sent some green on free agents. It will be up to Allen to prove he can be a solid head coach and not just a solid coordinator.
DOES DARREN MCFADDEN STAY HEALTHY?
He signed a one year contract extension for $4 million which is a bargain for his services. When he is healthy, which is not often, McFadden can be one of the best versatile runners in this league. The Raiders signed Maurice Jones-Drew as a viable option to back McFadden and start should injuries arise. MJD can still move the chains and I expect him to start at least six games this season.
HOW GOOD WILL KHALIL MACK BE?
In terms of smack talk, he is already off to a good start. Mack has a “hit list” of quarterbacks he wants to sack in the NFL. Maybe he should first concentrate on being a solid pass rusher and run stuffer in the Oakland defensive scheme. I personally think it may take a few weeks for him to adjust to the speed of the NFL, but he will be a stud by the end of the season.
WHAT DOES MATT SCHAUB MEAN TO THIS TEAM?
First off, he is not Ken Stabler and he is not Dan Pastorini. He is better than Jim Plunkett and Rich Gannon. Schaub give the Raiders some stability they have not had in a number of years. His ability to throw the intermediate pass and use the long ball to spread the defense will help the receivers gel. I think he could be the comeback player of the year.
A FAST START?
The Raiders could get off to a 3-1 start before their bye. That is a prediction – not a reality. This is a veteran-laden team now that needs to show it can work forward not backward. A better offense and more consistent defense means this team may not make the playoffs, but it could make things interesting in the AFC West.