Biggest Team Need Heading Into Offseason: Where do we begin? With the regime chance in Oakland there has been a complete shift in philosophies specifically in spending habits. Reggie McKenzie’s first order of business was to overhaul the entire coaching staff. He then worked his way through the front office before finally getting to the actual roster. The defense was by far the worst performing unit in Oakland last season and it starts with the corners and linebackers.
Key Free Agents Retained: SS Tyvon Branch, FB Marcel Reece, OG Cooper Carlisle, DT Desmond Bryant
Key Player Additions: OG Mike Brisiel, CB Ron Bartell, CB Shawntae Spencer, OLB Philip Wheeler, DE Dave Tollefson, RB Mike Goodson
Key Players Leaving: RB Michael Bush, CB Stanford Routt, OLB Kamerion Wimbley, QB Jason Campbell
Quick Thoughts on Draft: Were it not for compensatory picks the Raiders would have had no draft at all to talk about. Overall you’d have to say McKenzie and the scouting department did a good enough job finding value and addressing needs. But as we all know the only way to evaluate a draft class is by how they perform on the field. Time will tell but considering the circumstances it was a solid draft.
Quick Thoughts on 2012 schedule: It’s an impossible task to talk schedule before the season begins in this ever-changing NFL. At first glance you’d have to say the Raiders are going to have a real uphill battle based on how their opponents played last season.
Most Interesting Roster Battle: There are plenty of camp battles to keep an eye on. I’d have to say the wide receiver position is the most intriguing because you’ve got nothing but young talent looking to define their roles. Darrius Heyward-Bey, Denarius Moore and Jacoby Ford look like the top three but after that there is a real scrum between Louis Murphy, rookie Juron Criner and college QB turned NFL receiver Eddie McGee.
Biggest Strength Heading Into 2012: The running game. When healthy Darren McFadden is an MVP caliber playmaker. Behind him are Mike Goodson and Taiwan Jones who can both be valuable weapons, especially Jones. I’m looking for him to make plays this year. He’s got a Darren Sproles type of game and can be a real asset in certain situations.
Biggest Weakness Heading Into 2012: The defense. No doubt about it. With an average defense the Raiders would have walked away with the AFC West crown last season. The D-line is talented but highly inconsistent. The secondary was shredded last year and the linebackers are a mess. No telling what the future holds for Rolando McClain, Aaron Curry showed some potential last season but is still a far cry from his draft status and without Wimbley the Raiders are missing their pass rushing specialist.
Biggest Question Still To Be Answered: Is Carson Palmer still an elite level QB? He had moments of brilliance and madness last season. Because of the circumstances he gets the benefit of the doubt but all best are off this year. It’s put up or shut up time. So far Palmer has been a great leader as he’s been preparing for this season the second last year ended. Now we need to see that translate to the field.
2012 Prediction: I’ve got to be honest. I really have no idea what to expect from this team. There is an entirely new coaching staff with a completely new scheme and philosophy. There is enough talent to win the division considering how soft the AFC West has been. I’m going to stick my neck out and call a 9-7 season for Oakland. But I won’t lie, a 4-12 season would hardly be shocking.
I think Raider fans are going to be disappointed this year. Any success this season is going have to come at the hands of Carson Palmer, and I believe it’s finally going to become apparent that Palmer was never an elite QB. Sure, he put up big numbers for a couple seasons with the Bangles, but that was the same offense that John Kitna put up huge numbers in. His play over the past few season has been pretty average, and I think that’s what the Raiders are going to get out of him. It’s really a shame they gave up so much to get him.