Oakland’s own, and new Raider, Marshawn Lynch is home. Stud quarterback Derek Carr has a new deal in place and looks terrific under center. Khalil Mack is Khalil Mack, a defensive nightmare. Amari Cooper is bulked up and more physical. Michael Crabtree is still a touchdown machine. Karl Joseph is proving to be a valuable asset on defense, and Jared Cook is the tight end addition that rounds out the offense along with running backs Jalen Richard and DeAndre Washington. Additionally, Seth Roberts is a sneaky good red zone target, while Cordarrelle Patterson is a nice special teams / wildcat option. Oh, and the offensive line is pretty darn good too!
That being said, are the Oakland Raiders as good as advertised? The short answer is yes.
Given the depth of weaponry at quarterback Derek Carr’s disposal, the Raiders have more explosive offensive pieces and chemistry than most teams. More than the Patriots, Packers and Cowboys. At the same time, Tom Brady and Aaron Rodgers each possess enough firepower as stand alone players. Young Dak Prescott, not so much. The Atlanta Falcons and Pittsburgh Steelers may be the only other teams that boast more weaponry than the Raiders, and even that’s debatable.
However, there are weaknesses that plague the Oakland Raiders. Most notably, depth at the quarterback position. Last year, after Derek Carr went down with a broken leg, the Raiders not only limped into the playoffs but also looked like a misguided battalion with Connor Cook at the helm. For all intents and purposes, Carr is the emotional leader of this team (with Marshawn Lynch now a great second voice in the locker room). Behind Derek Carr, both quarterbacks E.J. Manuel and Connor Cook are incapable of manning the position for more than two quarters of any given game. Signing Colin Kapernick seems a better option, but remember he and Crabtree were rarely on good terms. At some point, the backup quarterback position will need to be addressed.
Even the Raiders kicking game is head and shoulders above that of the rest of the league. Punter Marquette King has become somewhat of a specialist at pinning back returns to within the 10-yard line, while place kicker Giorgio Tavecchio is the second coming of injured Sebastian Janikowski. Talk about a guy that’s been around forever!
Marshawn Lynch also brings another element to this team. What Khalil Mack does for the defense, Lynch does for the offense. He brings a long-time-absent grit and toughness that reminds us of the legendary Raiders of yesteryear. Lynch provides the thunder that Latavius Murray lacked, while Jalen Richard and DeAndre Washington spell him as lightning rods. Even as Lynch approaches 32, players know better than to step into his path when he’s running downhill. Those who do are likely to end up on the sideline in the blue tent sniffing smelly sauce.
Two games into the season, the Oakland Raiders certainly look ready to make a run for the ultimate sports prize. However, the NFL season is a marathon and not a sprint. It’ll be up to the coaches and training staff to implement a Steve Kerr-like system where players rotate minutes and rest accordingly. While the Tom Brady and Aaron Rodgerses of the world have few weapons at their disposal, they are also skilled in enduring a long season and pacing themselves for the expected playoff journey.
The Oakland Raiders have what it takes to get to the big dance. They’ve dressed the part and have practiced all the right moves. Now, it’ll be up to the coaching staff to make sure that the team arrives groomed and ready. Save the date: February 4, 2018.