Carson Palmer: A return to Pro Bowl form in 2012?
Quick Review of 2011
Offense—No. 11 passing, No. 7 rushing, No. 9 total
Defense—No. 27 passing, No. 27 rushing, No. 29 total
Perhaps, no regular season in Oakland Raiders history was as heart-breaking and frustrating as 2011 was.
After posting an 8-8 season in 2010, breaking seven years of losing at least 11 games, and sweeping the AFC West that year, the Raiders were hoping to be contenders last season.
With new coach Hue Jackson, the team started 4-2. During that good start, the Raiders lost iconic owner Al Davis. Davis, who held virtually absolute power and had been with the Raiders since 1963, died on October 8.
The Raiders' heartaches continues as they lost quarterback Jason Campbell for the season. He went down with a broken collarbone against the Cleveland Browns.
The Raiders then made a trade with Cincinnati for quarterback Carson Palmer. Palmer, who had "retired" in Cincinnati, led the Raiders into December with a 7-4 record.
How many games will the Raiders win in 2012?
They lost a three-way tie for the division against Denver and San Diego, and Hue Jackson was fired after only one season.
CB Ron Bartell, G Mike Brisiel, WR Duke Calhoun, DE Hall Davis, RB Mike Goodson, OT Kevin Haslam, G Nick Howell, TE Troy Humphrey, G Zach Hurd, RB Rashawn Jackson, CB Terrail Lambert, CB Pat Lee, QB Matt Lienart, WR Eddie McGee, C Colin Miller, RB Lonyae Miller, FB Owen Schmitt, CB Shawntae Spencer, S Curtis Taylor, DE Dave Tollefson, CB Brandon Underwood, OT Ed Wang, LB Philip Wheeler
G Tony Bergstrom, LB Miles Burris, DE Jack Crawford, WR Juron Criner, DT Chris Bilukidi, LB Nathan Stupar
Undrafted Free Agents
CB Conroy Black, LB Kaelin Burnett, K Eddy Carmona, WR Derek Carrier, WR Brandon Carswell, DE Wayne Dorsey, TE Kyle Efaw, DT Dominique Hamilton, S Aaron Henry, LB Chad Kilgore, P Marqette King, OT Dan Knapp, LB Mario Kurn, WR Thomas Mayo, WR DeAundre Muhammad, QB Kyle Newhall-Caballero, G Lucas Nix, S Chaz Powell, WR Travionte Session, WR Rod Streater
LB Darryl Blackstock, QB Kyle Boller, TE Kevin Boss, LB Ricky Brown, RB Michael Bush, QB Jason Campbell, RB Rock Cartwright, LB Quentin Groves, DT John Henderson, OT Stephon Heyer, WR T.J. Houshmandzadeh, DE Jarvis Moss, WR Louis Murphy, CB Stanford Routt, C Samson Satele, WR Chaz Schilens, DE Trevor Scott, CB Lito Sheppard, LB Kamerion Wimbley
Outlook for 2012
For the first time in 50 years, Al Davis will not be running things in Oakland.
Reggie McKenzie, a former Raiders linebacker, who has spent the past 18 seasons working for the Green Bay Packers is the Raiders new general manager.
He brought in a new coach, Dennis Allen, and has not only changed the coaching staff and some players, but the scouting department has been re-staffed also.
Carson Palmer will be working with new offensive coordinator Greg Knapp. With a full offseason of work with the Raiders receivers, Palmer could return to Pro Bowl form.
If running back Darren McFadden can stay healthy and play all year, the Raiders' running game—a respectable No. 7 ranking last year—could be among the NFL leaders this year. The ground game could be Carson Palmer's best friend in 2012.
It's the defense though that really must improve. Both the run and pass defense need shoring up.
The Raiders signed free-agent cornerbacks Ron Bartell, Pat Lee and Shawntae Spencer, who along with 2011 draftee DeMarcus Van Dyke should improve the secondary. The Raiders also used four of six draft picks on defense.
Sep. 10 San Diego
Sep. 16 at Miami
Sep. 23 Pittsburgh
Sep. 30 at Denver
Oct. 14 at Atlanta
Oct. 21 Jacksonville
Oct. 28 at Kansas City
Nov. 4 Tampa Bay
Nov. 11 at Baltimore
Nov. 18 New Orleans
Nov. 25 at Cincinnati
Dec. 2 Cleveland
Dec. 6 Denver
Dec. 16 Kansas City
Dec. 23 at Carolina
Dec. 30 at San Diego
There are two prime-time games at home against division rivals—Week 1 against San Diego and December 6 against Denver.
Five games in the Eastern Time Zone could be the roughest part of the schedule. Included in those five games will be Carson Palmer's return to Cincinnati on November 25.
Though they play seven teams that were in the playoffs last year, there are some favorable stretches.
A three-game stretch of Jacksonville, Kansas City and Tampa Bay, plus a three-game December home-stand—all games the Raiders can win—will have this team in contention all season.
How far will the Raiders go in 2012?
The Raiders have made lots of changes throughout the organization.
What the final product will look like on the field is still unknown.
The offense should be fine, but will the defense be improved enough to make a difference in the win column?
I liked this team last year, and I believe they will be better this year, achieving a winning record for the first time in a decade.
The Raiders will go 9-7, but it may not be enough for a playoff spot.