The Oakland Raiders did not have a very good opening campaign to new franchise quarterback Derek Carr’s career. In the hopes that Carr will not take a step back in his sophomore season the Raiders have gotten a new coaching staff and hopefully some nice shiny offensive toys for him to play with. Jack Del Rio is the new head man in Oakland Bill Musgrave is the new offensive coordinator and Ken Norton Jr. who gets his first defensive coordinator job. Musgrave has a nice track record of getting good things out of the quarterbacks he has worked with including Matt Ryan, so this should help Carr with his development.
The Raiders have signed ex-49ers WR Michael Crabtree who is entering his 7th season in the league to a 1 year deal. Crabtree last season picked up 68 receptions on 108 targets for a 63.0 RR a full 2.3 points better than his career average. Alongside James Jones who last season led the team in receptions with 73 on 111 targets for a 65.7 RR they should be as dangerous a duo as anyone else in the league. This should also in turn allow Andre Holmes who will slip into the #3 receiver slot to develop into a more reliable target for Derek Carr this season.
The Raiders replace Darren McFadden who signed with the Cowboys and Maurice Jones-Drew who retired with ex-Redskin Roy Helu and ex-Colt Trent Richardson. While Helu was primarily a 3rd down back in Washington I expect he will be splitting the snaps with Latavius Murray, while Trent Richardson will become a short yardage back. I don’t have any stats that back it up but I believe that the Raiders runningback depth chart will be Helu, Murray, Richardson.
The Raiders have also signed ex-Viking Christian Ponder to backup Derek Carr as last season’s backup Matt Schaub was a cap casualty. I think the younger Ponder is better than Schaub for one reason, Schaub still hasn’t recovered from the meltdown of two years ago and being beaten out of the starting job by a rookie a year after that meltdown has done little for Schaub’s confidence. While Ponder was effectively replaced by Matt Cassel and then Teddy Bridgewater in Minnesota, he is more mobile than Schaub and should allow the Raiders to continue running their offense without having to adapt it to an immobile quarterback.
The Raiders have also signed ex-Saints linebacker Curtis Lofton. Lofton entering his 8th season in the league should provide a more stable presence on the field than Nick Roach and Usama Young did. Lofton has not missed a game yet in 7 full seasons in the league. Last year he had 145 tackles, 100 of them solo. Lofton should help younger linebackers like Sio Moore and Khalil Mack step up their game. The Raiders have also added ex-Seahawks and former Super Bowl MVP Malcom Smith, with Lofton, Mack, and Smith the Raiders will be putting one of the better starting trios in the league on the field.
The Raiders have been aggressive this off-season and have made moves that look like the Raiders are trying to take that step from laughingstocks to respectable.
Final Grade: A+