Raiders Preview Capsule
OAKLAND RAIDERS (6-10)
New faces: Coach Jon Gruden, defensive coordinator Paul Guenther, WR Jordy Nelson, RB Doug Martin, CB Rashaan Melvin, CB Daryl Worley, CB Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie, LB Derrick Johnson, S Marcus Gilchrist, LB Emmanuel Lamur, LB Tahir Whitehead, FB Keith Smith, DL Tank Carradine, QB AJ McCarron, OL Kolton Miller, DT Maurice Hurst, DE Arden Key, DT P.J. Hall.
Key losses: Coach Jack Del Rio, DE Khalil Mack, WR Michael Crabtree, RT Marshall Newhouse, LB NaVorro Bowman, CB TJ Carrie, CB Sean Smith, CB David Amerson, P Marquette King, S Obi Melifonwu, DT Mario Edwards Jr., QB E.J. Manuel.
Strengths: Few teams invested more in interior of offensive line than Raiders with center Rodney Hudson, guards Kelechi Osemele and Gabe Jackson. Gruden seeks power-running offense with Marshawn Lynch behind trio. Successful run game could open up play-action passing game for QB Derek Carr. Carr seeks bounce back from down season plagued by back injury, unimaginative offense.
Weaknesses: Secondary full of questions for coordinator Guenther. CB Gareon Conley struggled to stay healthy since being drafted in first round in 2017. Melvin had strong season with Indianapolis last year but only got one-year, prove-it contract. Safeties have mix of unproven young players and aging ones. 2016 first-round pick Karl Joseph yet to develop into playmaker. Reggie Nelson brought back at age 34 but seemed to be step slow last year. Marcus Gilchrist provides versatility with ability to cover slot.
Fantasy Players To Watch: WR Amari Cooper. Considered top receiver heading into last year. Cooper had career lows with 48 catches for 680 yards in 2017. Raiders believe he can get back to 1,000-yard level from first two seasons. Red-zone favorite Crabtree let go this offseason, possibly creating more TD chances for Cooper.
Vegas Says: Super Bowl 35-1. Over/under wins 8.
Expectations: Return of Gruden brings optimism to Raiders fans who have had just two winning seasons since he left following 2001 and seeking success before move to Las Vegas in 2020. That changed when team traded best player in Mack before start of season following contract holdout. Questions remain about how Gruden will fare after nine seasons away from sideline. He seeks return to power football and old-school styles successful in first stint. Gruden likely adding new modern wrinkles to offense as well. Best move might be hiring of Guenther, which gives Raiders first proven DC in years. Defense needs better schemes with Mack gone following trade to Chicago. Pressure on rookies Hurst, Hall, Key to make up for pass rush missing with Mack’s trade.
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