The Las Vegas Raiders made headlines as the first team to open camp. And there were no holdouts. Now, it’s zero week in the preseason and the Raiders will look to showcase young talent versus the Jaguars.
Ghosts of seasons past make us feel hesitant go get our hopes up. However, this is the highest expectations the Silver and Black has earned in a minute.
Don’t expect them to win tonight’s game. Josh McDaniels is from the Bill Belichick coaching tree which means he could care less about exhibitions.
Regardless, this is the first year in recent memory, you can look across the roster and not find a glaring need. At the very least, there appears to be a plan in place for each player slated to make the 53-man roster.
From top to bottom, there is not a player that jumps out as not being ready to contribute in some way. Even on the two playoff teams we have seen in the last decade, there were tragic needs overlooked and underperforming picks on scholarship. This is a credit to the front office overhaul, bringing in Josh McDaniels and GM Dave Ziegler from the New England Patriots.
Don’t forget the front office overhaul also includes the appointment of the first ever Black Woman team president in NFL history. Sandra Douglass Morgan is a staple in Vegas Sports and is saying all the right things. I can’t wait to see what the on-field product looks like with front office operations finally moving into this decade.
Some credit also goes to Derek Carr. The Raiders elected for consistency at the quarterback by keeping Carr this offseason. This roster showed their support for the quarterback through offseason workouts and showing up for camp on time and ready to go.
Great Power and Great Responsibility
All the national media is finally noticing the Raiders again. That’s great for Raiders fans finally hearing talk on their favorite national programming.
However, the team has to deliver. They will not get overlooked. Teams will take them seriously.
Still, increased expecations are not surprising since the Raiders got better after coming a few plays short of beating the AFC Championships in the Wild Card game. The Raiders have two elite pass rushers, a solid backfield, plenty of starting experience on both sides of the line of scrimmage and athletic veterans across the skill positions. We have not seen this much hype since the year after Carr’s leg injury or Gruden’s second season. Neither times resulted the way fans hope but this is a different team and regime.
Missing Johnathan Hankins, Denzelle Good and others early in camp hurt. However, that’s more reps for younger players like Malcolm Butler, Johnathan Simpson and rookie guard Dylan Parnham. Cotton Lester has been one surprising team gettkng first team reps. That could be a blessing in disguise, whether or not they get the vets back.
The Big Bad West
Of course, the Raiders’ biggest challenge will come from the AFC West. The Raiders can answer those questions right away with an opening game at the Chargers aka another home game. They will face a familiar for with Khalil Mack now with the Bolts. The last time the Raiders saw Mack he literally beat them and put the Bears on his back.
The Broncos are going through their own renaissance by acquieing Russell Wilson and changing ownership. Kansas City won the division the last seven years. They appear ready for a stepback but you can’t discount them as long as they have QB Patrick Mahomes and HC Andy Reid.
Don’t Outrun the Marathon
If the Raiders can stay healthy and come out the West with a winning record, there is no reason Vegas can’t make a serious run. This does not depend on development or fools gold. Granted, depth and young players competing never hurt a contender.
Yes, the Raiders will still need serious development from John Abrams, Trayvon Mullen, Alex Leatherwood and Clelin Ferrell. However, they will all compete for more limited roles on a much better and well constructed roster.
Carr, Josh Jacobs, Darren Waller, Kolton Miller and Hunter Renfrow are proven assests. Sprinkle in the best receiver in the game, Davontae Adams. Plus, all that chemistry reuniting Adams and Carr. It is no secret why this team is again becoming everyone’s favorite dark horse.
On Defense, the Raiders add Chandler Jones, Jayvon Brown and Duron Harmon to better compliment the scheme. They added Rock Ya-Sin and Anthony Averrett to compete with starters like Nate Hobbs and Trayvon Mullen. That’s as close to an A as you can get in the offseason.
Champions Aren’t Made in The Offseason
The Rams proved you can win championships taking risks on trades and free agency acquisitions. Of course, that means getting the right mix of veteran leadership and competing young players across the board.
Vegas made some moves that have many people crowning them the winners of the offseason. Not only did the Raiders attack the offseason ready to build on playoff success, but they executed and made it happen.
Sure, you can nitpick and say the Raiders could afford some help on o-line, d-line or receiver. These are the spots to watch during the preseason.
Either way, there are guys out there who can help at that position. However, that kind of feels like a luxury.
Not to mention, the Raiders have the bulk of their draft picks and cap space to leverage for another Superstar acquisition. This is why you have seen them connected to safety Jessie Bates III. Maybe the Raiders get greedy and add one of those receivers dealing with contract issues. Who knows?
The Future is Limitless
Again, credit the organization for putting together a competitve roster without leveraging the future. Add in the fact the Raiders hired a well qualified Black woman as their new President. When was the last time things felt this well and under control?
Onward and upward from past blunders on and off the field. Vegas must be ready to deliver. Carr has no excuses left with the best receiver in the game. The defense can’t go weeks without sacks with those edges. However, this is a totally different conversation than previous offseasons.
For the first time in a while, the Raiders Nation has real reason for excitement. We are not reaching when talking about the postseason. It’s a new feeling for Raiders fans who watched the team struggle for most of the two decades. All the momentum to that point starts today. Just Win Baby!