Most pundits already have the Oakland Raiders selecting Jadeveon Clowney with the first pick in the 2014 NFL draft. Everywhere you look, the Raiders are last in NFL power rankings and some are even saying that the Raiders have one of the least talented rosters in NFL history. For die-hard fans of East Bay sports teams this is nothing new. We will casually brush our shoulders off and continue to believe in our teams.
Last season, NBA pundits gave the Golden State Warriors a 0% chance of making the playoffs. Two years ago, the Oakland Athletics were called a AAA team that would lose 100 games. Both east bay franchises shocked the sports world and made playoff runs. While I don’t believe the Raiders will immediately become barnburners this year, they will become a much improved football team.
Recently ESPN’s Ron Jaworski rated Matt Flynn as the worst starting quarterback in the NFL. Jaworski cited Flynn’s lack of arm strength as the reason for his ranking. The Raiders best quarterback since moving back to Oakland, Rich Gannon, also had poor arm strength, and he also had multiple playoff runs with the Raiders. If we were to judge quarterbacks just on arm strength, the Raider nation would be looking at their JaMarcus Russell jersey every time they go to the closet. What the Raiders need is a quarterback with the right intangibles. If Flynn can keep a drive alive by dinking and dunking the ball around the field without throwing interceptions, he is the perfect player for the Raiders offense.
If Darren McFadden were to stay healthy all season, it would not surprise me to see the Raiders finish in second place in the AFC West. A healthy Darren McFadden is easily one of the top 5 running backs in the NFL and would put fear into any NFL defense. Like parking lot mate Stephen Curry, McFadden could lead the Raiders back to relevance if healthy.
Many NFL experts are saying that the Raiders defense is the worst in the league. While they might not have the most talented defense, they will definitely be better than last year’s atrocious squad. There are some question marks on the defensive line but I would rather have raw, unproven and hungry defensive players like Cristo Bilukdi, Stacey McGee, and Jack Crawford than older players who have given up like Richard Seymour and Tommy Kelly. The Raiders now have enough depth at linebacker to line up in both the 4-3 and 3-4. Also with the addition of Nick Roach they will finally have a middle linebacker who can be the quarterback of the defense. The most improved unit of the team has to be the defensive backs. With the additions of DJ Hayden, Mike Jenkins, Tracy Porter, Usuma Young, and Charles Woodson, they are a forced to be reckoned with. Any pundit calling the Raiders defense worse than last year’s, doesn’t know what they are talking about or has some animosity towards the Raiders (cough Chris Berman).
Not only have the Raiders improved this off-season, they have done it by cutting the fat. Next off-season the Raiders will have up to 70 million dollars in cap space. General Manager Reggie McKenzie has been playing money ball with the Raiders this year. In a couple of years I would not be surprised if the Raiders are in the same league as the Green Bay Packers, as the smartest run team in the NFL. So keep up the anti-Raiders talk national media, because it will feel that much better when you jump on the bandwagon when they show improvement. East bay fans still remember the sea of quotes calling Stephen Curry soft, injury prone and not a real point guard. Hell, even tonight not one commentator predicted Yoenis Cespedes would win the home run derby. Like their parking lot mates proved over the last couple of years, all that matters is what happens on the field (or court).
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