Oakland Raiders: Post-Free Agency, Pre-Draft Team Assessment

Roster

Offense:

Offensive Line: Donald Penn(LT) – Gabe Jackson(LG) – Rodney Hudson(C) – Kevin Boothe(RG) – Austin Howard(RT), Khalif Barnes(Depth), Menelik Watson(Depth), Matt McCants(Depth)

Quarterback: Derek Carr, Matt McGloin(Depth), Christian Ponder(Depth)

Runningback: Latavius Murray, Roy Helu Jr, Trent Richardson, Marcel Reece

Wide Receiver: James Jones, Rod Streater, Andre Holmes, Kenbrell Thompkins, Vincent Brown, Brice Butler

Tight-End: Mychal Rivera, Lee Smith, Scott Simonson(Depth)

Defense:

Defensive Line: Benson Mayowa(RDE), Justin Ellis(DT), Dan Williams(DT), Justin Tuck(LDE), Antonio Smith (3rd down DT), Stacy McGee(Depth), Shelby Harris(Depth), Ricky Lumpkin(Depth)

Linebackers: Khalil Mack(S), Curtis Lofton(M), Sio Moore(W), Malcom Smith(Anywhere), Miles Burris(Depth), Ray Ray Armstrong(Depth)

Cornerbacks: DJ Hayden, TJ Carrie, Keith McGill(Depth), James Dockery(Depth), Neiko Thorpe(Depth)

Safety: Charles Woodson(FS), Nate Allen(SS), Brandian Ross(Depth), Johnathan Dowling(Depth)

Assessment

Running Game: On offense, its pretty clear that we will be running the ball alot, knowing Del Rio and Musgrave. At RB we have high risk high reward. Murray is moderately injury prone and we don’t know how he can handle the full load. If anything happens to Murray, we don’t know how Helu will perform either with a full load. And literally no one knows how Richardson will do. So we can potentially have a great backfield or we could have a poor one. At the end of the day we still have Reece as the ultimate backup plan which is a pretty decent option. At this point its a waste of resources to go for any more RBs however I would be okay with a Peterson trade. If we have an oppertunity to grab an elite talent…like the greatest RB of our generation who will be playing like he’s got something to prove, I’m all for it. But realistically we need to upgrade our RG spot. Personally I think RG is as important as pass-rusher and WR1 in terms of needs. I would be all for trading down and grabbing Scherff or getting Cann in round 2. But RG MUST be addressed in the draft. I’d be more comfortable heading into the season without a WR1 as opposed to without a quality RG.

Passing Game: Our passing offense will involve alot more no huddle and be more tailored to fit Carr’s strengths. Thats the theme of the offense as of now. I’m sure Musgrave learned alot of things about offensive creativity being with Chip Kelly last year. Musgrave has been able to get QBs to play to their potential, with almost every QB he’s worked with. One thing we forget about assistant coaches is that they learn things as well under every new coach they play for. Musgrave has been around the block. Same reason I’m confident that Del Rio will be a better coach now than he was with Jacksonville. Our pass protection will definitely be improved with Howard playing his more natural position, Gabe having a year under his belt, and of course Hudson in the middle. I like our current WR corps even though its a bunch of WR2s and 3s. Thats what NE and Seattle had this year. So I’m okay with heading into the season with this current corp and maybe a 2nd or late round WR. But I’m also not opposed to taking a 1st round receiver. I think if anything it’ll help take pressure off the other receivers and the running game. Bottom line is we have to be balanced so that the defense can’t cheat by loading the box or not having to blitz because the 4 man rush is effective.

Rush defense: I think our rush defense is the strength of our D. Mack is one of the premier run stoppers in the league, as is Dan Williams. Williams and Ellis will make it impossible to run in the middle, Mack will make it impossible to run to his side and Lofton obviously has a nose for the ball. Mayowa and Tuck are also both decent against the run. This is the one aspect of our team where we can say with the most confidence that we’ll be good at. We’re going to see alot of rotation on our front-7. I think we only have 2 guys who are truly 3-down players, Mack and Moore. I think everyone else will be in and out. As far as the draft goes: Its imperative that IF we draft a D-lineman, he has to be able to set the edge and stop the run.

Pass-Rush: This was our single biggest need to address this off-season and we haven’t addressed it. I think theres alot of room for discussion here in terms of which players fit best where and in what situations. I think alot of us are penciling in Antonio Smith to play 5-technique but we don’t even know what our defense will look like. We don’t know how much JDR influence there will be and how much Seattle influence there will be. I think our 3rd down, nickle-formation, defensive line will be: Mack, Smith, Williams/Ellis, Tuck/Mayowa. Thats as much as I can predict. I would love to hear your guys’ ideas of how this will shape up. But I would give our defensive end grade a C in terms of talent. One question I’ve had on the back of my mind is are we going to blitz more? Neither Seattle nor Denver particularly blitz much. And are we going to use Sio moore in pass-rush situations. Is he going to have his hand in the dirt? blitz? Will he be in coverage more?

Pass-Coverage: We definitely need to bring in more cornerback depth. Cornerbacks go down left and right. I think alot is riding on how Hayden and Carrie improve their games. I don’t think they’ll suddenly ascend to being lockdown corners and I can see some ups and downs. But we’ll see, I don’t want to underestimate their work ethics. I’m confident in Woodsons ability but Nate Allen will be interesting to me. If we can play well, I think our pass coverage gets significantly better. They can both make up for alot of mistakes by our young corners. Just don’t let em get beat deep and we’ll be okay. SS seems to be a position we’ve talked minimally about. We’ve been stretched thin in past years. If we can have a playmaker here, it’ll make a big difference.

Draft Focus:

Needs in descending order:

  1. 3-down DE (Passrusher/Run stopper)
  2. Multi-dimensional Right-Guard(Pass Protector and Run Blocker)
  3. Cornerback (We need 3 solid corners for nickle and even more for depth, we are thin here. If either of our guys go down, which is likely, we are going to be very desperate, more desperate than our WR situation)
  4. WR (I’m okay with either a WR1 or a quick speedy slot)
  5. Pure 3-technique DT who can rush (I think this is a position where you can find hidden gems in late rounds. We have too many run stoppers, we need a passrusher in the middle)

Future Outlook:

We have to be mindful that we have alot of young guys who have probably gotten shit training up to now with Dennis Allen. Theres a big difference when you have Jason Tarver coaching your defense, no offense to him but a guy who has never really played at a high level, versus two former first-team all-pro NFL linebackers who have both coached first-team all-pro linebackers. I feel like every position got upgraded coaches. Our strength and conditioning should be alot better. Our training facility should be better. Everything from the very foundation upwards.

The key is draft well and develop. You need both and both take time. There is ALOT of uncertainty. We don’t know how Carry, Hayden and Allen will perform. We don’t know how Lofton will perform or how Sio will come back from injury. We don’t know how much wear Tuck, Woodson, and Smith will have going into next season. We have no idea where Carr will be at. We don’t know how much better Gabe will be or how Howard will fare at RT. We don’t know how Murray will handle the load or how T-Rich will play to his potential. I guess thats what makes this so exciting. Finally with quality coaching and some stability, I think we can assess our own players more critically this season. I wanted to keep this to myself because it opens me up to alot of critique but I almost see this year as Year 1 in rebuilding. I feel like our best coaches last year were the veteran players…and thats a problem. The veterans can focus on their own play now.