By Hailee Miguel
on Wednesday, February 20th
The 2012 season was a nightmare for the Raider Nation, but 2013 is a clean slate and a chance for the team to impress and improve. The Raiders have been deemed with the fourth easiest schedule however I beg to differ. In order for the Raiders to contend next season, they will need significant improvement on the defensive side as well as improvement from coaching and receivers.
When you look at the AFC West, the only team in good standing is the Denver Broncos who are led by Peyton Manning. The San Diego Chargers finished 2012 with a 7-9 record, the Kansas City Chiefs finished 2-14, and the Oakland Raiders finished 4-12. The Raiders are a rebuilding franchise at this point, and they have a lot of work to do, but that doesn’t mean they can’t contend in 2013.
The Chargers will be welcoming a new head coach after firing Norv Turner and the Chiefs will do the same after firing Romeo Crennel. The Raiders went 2-4 against the AFC West last season with their only two wins coming against the Chiefs. Once again, Manning and the Broncos will be the Raiders toughest challenge within the division.
So what went wrong in 2012 and how can they compete in 2013? Offensively, the Raiders just couldn’t get anything going in 2012. A major part of the offensive woes was offensive coordinator Greg Knapp who, to no one’s surprise, was released this offseason and replaced with long time NFL head coaching assistant, Greg Olson. The departure of Knapp will significantly improve the offense due to the fact that Olson has already stated he plans to make plays based on the strengths of his players, something Knapp didn’t do last season. The offense had their moments in 2012 and the young receivers are looking good for 2013 and beyond.
One of the most impressive receivers from last season is Rod Streater. The rookie had 39 receptions with 584 yards with three touchdowns. Denarius Moore also had a decent year as he had 51 receptions with 741 yards and seven touchdowns. After his breakout season in 2011, Darrius Heyward-Bey only had 41 receptions for 606 yards and five touchdowns. Let’s not forget about clutch tight end Brandon Myers who had 79 receptions with 806 yards and four touchdowns. Running back Darren McFadden played in 12 games in 2012 and had a decent yet disappointing season with 707 yards rushing and two touchdowns. His 2012 stats are disappointing to Raiders' fans because the type of numbers he is able to put up, however due to Knapp’s play calling, Run DMC was held back and wasn’t able to play to his full potential. The Raiders offense will also be seeing a familiar face in Jacoby Ford next season after being forced to sit out the entire 2012 season due to foot surgery.
The offense, despite mediocre play towards the end of the season, has talent to succeed; however, execution was a problem last year. Quarterback Carson Palmer had an impressive year putting up 4,018 yards for 22 touchdowns. When the offense couldn’t get the ball in the end zone, kicker Sebastian Janikowski was there to give the team at least three points. At least Raider Nation can always rely on Seabass to get it through the uprights. The biggest problem with the Raiders offense last season was the predictability of Greg Knapp’s play calling. With Olson taking over, the offense will put up even better numbers making them contenders week to week and allowing players to play to their maximum potential.
The catalyst of the 2012 season was the defense that just played horribly. The defense is the biggest concern for general manager Reggie McKenzie as he prepares for 2013. They had a new defensive coordinator last season in Jason Tarver who still has the job, so far, for 2013 despite the poor play of his defense. The Raiders defense gave up an average of 27.7 points per game. It was because of the defense the offense couldn’t get anything going. Every time the Raiders would score, defense would return the favor by letting the opposition score ultimately ruining any momentum the offense had. Richard Seymour was sidelined for most of the season as he only played in eight games.
Linebacker Rolando McClain also had a bad year as his off field decisions effected his play on the field resulting in a suspension by head coach Dennis Allen. McClain has yet to be released by the Raiders which wouldn’t only clear some salary cap space but rid the team of drama. The Raiders had a lot of problems in the secondary as well. The corners were extremely weak in 2012 therefore improvements are needed there as well. The Raiders need to also consider picking up a pass rusher as they only had a team total of 25 sacks (31st in the league). The good news is, most of the Raiders defense is now free agents, but that leaves McKenzie with a lot of jobs to fill. In this year’s draft, the Raiders top priority has to be defensive players as the defense is where the team needs the most work.
McKenzie will fill the positions that need to be filled and replace them with better players who can actually tackle, stay healthy, etc. If the defense is able to make minor improvements the silver and black will be contenders and have a chance at winning next season.
Owner Mark Davis and Reggie McKenzie continue to share Al Davis’ commitment to excellence. They are making decisions to turn the team around back to their winning ways, but that could take time.
Will it be difficult for Oakland to make the playoffs in 2013? Yes, absolutely, but no team is ever a shoe in for the postseason. It’s the National Football League, anything can happen. Raider Nation just has to believe and the men in silver and black just have to remember three simple words, Just Win Baby.