Right now, the Oakland Raiders have been labeled as the perennial worst team in the NFL at this point in time, ranking dead last in Pro Football Talks Preseason Power Rankings. While I believe the Raiders do deserve a low ranking, #32 out of 32 I find myself disagreeing with.
The team looks nearly entirely different with a number of players from 2012 being let go, as stated numerous times. Though it is apparent that a massive rebuild is in progress, the team actually looks better than it did last season — on paper at least.
The obvious strength for the team is running back Darren McFadden, though his health has lacked stability going into his sixth season, he has all the tools to be a premier back in the NFL. In the final year of his contract makes McFadden an obvious player to watch in the 2013 season.
Oakland also possesses building blocks on the offensive lineman with Jared Veldheer and Stefen Wisniewski. Veldheer, who is also in a contract year, seems poised to have a dominant performance in 2013. If the two continue to progress and rookie RT Menelik Watson can exceed expectations, the Raiders could have a very formidable offensive line.
Contrary to PFT’s beliefs, I view the Silver-and-Black’s defense as their primary strength heading into training camp. I know mini-camp entails little regarding to Regular Season prognostications, but according to camp notes, the secondary and linebackers were very impressive. Despite having a struggling secondary in 2012, the team still ranked 20th in pass defense. With the additions of D.J. Hayden, Mike Jenkins, Tracy Porter and Charles Woodson, I see more reason for optimism than skepticism.
Now, I’m not trying to pump sunshine at you. There are a lot of glaring weaknesses and questions left to be answered heading into training camp.
How will the guards in Mike Brisiel and Tony Bergstrom perform? Mini-camp notes read that Oakland’s QB was consistently on the run and having to rush passes.
Can Watson perform up to par and emerge as the teams starting right tackle? If he doesn’t, that means another season of Khalif Barnes at RT. There are too many “if’s” on the O-line to find any form of comfort there.
Also, who is the tight end, and how good will the starter be?
No question bigger, though, than the QB position. Really, we shouldn’t even expect and answer for who the starter will be until the Preseason. As to the skill level maintained here, training camp should help give some insight. Any speculation after that at this point in time, is irrelevant.
The Raiders aren’t going to be spectacular; fans in the Nation know that. However, ranking them below the Jacksonville Jaguars or even the New York Jets seems a little unfair given all the progress being made.