Mike Wilkening of Pro Football Talk kicked a bit of a hornet’s nest with his recent Preseason Power Rankings article. It seems that Wilkening doesn’t think too highly of the Oakland Raiders‘ efforts as he slotted them in the 32nd position – which, if you’re scoring at home, would make them the worst team in the NFL.
Based on what he states in his article, Wilkening believes that in 2014, the Raiders are going to finish behind teams like the Cleveland Browns, Jacksonville Jaguars, Houston Texans, Washington Redskins, Tampa Bay Buccaneers, and other teams who finished with the same – or worse – records than Oakland did in 2013.
Needless to say, the Raider Nation was not amused.
While it might not be “lazy journalism,” as some have suggested, picking the Raiders to be the worst team in all of the NFL this season seems to be lacking something in the way of vision – or perhaps just common sense. It doesn’t help Wilkening’s case that his own analysis – such as it is – is riddled with inconsistencies, if not outright contradictions.
In his article, Wilkening goes on at length about the advanced age of Oakland’s free agent class, specifically calling out RB Maurice Jones-Drew, among others. Yet when discussing the strengths of the 2014 Raiders team, Wilkening lists their running attack led by the same Jones-Drew he’d all but called geriatric and washed up just a few sentences before.
Wilkening also calls Oakland’s projected defensive front seven “solid” and says that new additions Justin Tuck, LaMarr Woodley, Antonio Smith, C.J. Wilson, along with rookie Khalil Mack and second year man Sio Moore, will be one of the team’s greatest strengths – but then dismisses those same free agents, suggesting that they are well past their prime and too old to be effective.
The only area Wilkening didn’t seem to waffle or backtrack was in regard to the Raiders’ secondary. And he’s right, the defensive backfield is still an area of concern – though CBs Tarrell Brown and Carlos Rogers are arguably, very significant upgrades over last season’s starting pair, Mike Jenkins and Tracy Porter, who were burned more often than Southern California during wildfire season last year.
But if second year man D.J. Hayden and rookies T.J. Carrie and Keith McGill can stay healthy and perform as well as they did during OTAs and minicamp, that area of concern could turn into an area of strength for the team.
The 2014 Raiders are vastly improved over the 2013 edition. GM Reggie McKenzie, by bringing in veteran leadership and talent that have been glaringly absent the last few years in Oakland, has significantly upgraded every area where the team fell short last season, which was a Herculean task that he accomplished admirably.
Given the improvements up and down the roster, trying to comprehend Wilkening’s reasoning for slotting the Raiders at No. 32 is truly mind-boggling. Especially when there were worse teams last year, and there will be worse teams this year. It’s made even more mind-boggling when there are so many inconsistencies and contradictions contained in his own “analysis” of the situation.
The Raiders were bad in 2013, but they weren’t the worst team in the NFL. They certainly won’t be the worst team in 2014 either.