By Kevin Saito @Kevin_Saito on June 26, 2014
After posting consecutive 4-12 seasons – and struggling through more than a decade of futility overall – perhaps understandably many people don't think much of the Oakland Raiders or their chances entering the 2014 season.
But after the most successful offseason the Raiders have had in quite a while, there is a sense of hope and optimism surrounding the team once again.
Here then, are a few wild predictions that might not be that crazy.
And they don't need one. What the Raiders will have, though, are two RBs in Maurice Jones-Drew and Darren McFadden who will provide the team with outstanding production on the ground, and each will return to form, show their explosiveness and average more than four yards a carry. With a talented stable of RBs – and a solid line to block for them – Oakland will have one of the more potent rushing attacks in the league.
Oakland hasn't had a 1,000-yard receiver since Randy Moss squeaked over the mark back in 2005. But Rod Streater collected almost 900 yards last season with Terrelle Pryor and Matt McGloin throwing to him. With a savvy veteran like Matt Schaub who has a track record of high productivity under center for the Raiders, Streater looks poised for much bigger things.
Veteran leaders like Justin Tuck, LaMarr Woodley and Tarell Brown – players with plenty left in the tank and something to prove – deftly combined with the youthful energy and passion of players like Khalil Mack, Sio Moore, DJ Hayden and Miles Burris will yield big rewards for Oakland. Unthinkable a year ago, when the defense was giving up yards and points at a record clip, the Raider D will rebound and give opposing offenses fits.
It will be Mack, not Jadeveon Clowney, who provides the biggest impact for his team, and he will collect the ROY award for it. Mack is already impressing the Raiders' coaches as well as his new teammates with his work ethic, talent and high football IQ. He looks well positioned to be every bit as dominant in the NFL as he was in college.
Sometimes a change of scenery and scheme is all it takes to revitalize a career. Schaub was terrible in 2013 – though he was just a symptom of Houston's overall disease. Now in Oakland, and the presumptive starting QB, Schaub is fitting into OC Greg Olson's system and impressing the coaches with his control, accuracy and leadership. With more freedom in the offense, Schaub will rediscover the form that led him to be a top-10 QB in the league.
They likely don't have enough to overtake the Denver Broncos for the AFC West crown -- yet -- but after an offseason in which they've vastly upgraded the talent on their roster, the Raiders have more than enough to compete with other teams in the AFC for a Wild Card spot. Veteran leaders and youthful playmakers will combine to battle week in and week out, shocking the world by ultimately leading Oakland back to the postseason.
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