As the Oakland Raiders close their first full season under the new ownership of Mark Davis (son of the late Al Davis) and general manager Reggie McKenzie, there is little time to reflect on the pain and hardship of this past 2012 season.
Reggie McKenzie and head coach Dennis Allen will have their hands full trying to fix an underachieving offense under offensive coordinator Greg Knapp, a defense ranked 27th against the pass and a team filled with Al Davis- and former Raiders head coach Hue Jackson-selected players that have never truly lived up to their potential.
As we wrap up the 2012 season, let’s look at three reasons why the Raiders will rebound in 2013.
While many Raider fans are clamoring for the firing of offensive coordinator Greg Knapp, I believe general manager Reggie McKenzie will recognize this offense for what it is: Holdover players from the Al Davis and Hue Jackson era.
Players such as running back Darren McFadden, offensive linemen Khalif Barnes and Jared Veldheer are not the type of players that fit well into a zone blocking, West Coast style offense.
We did see players such as fullback Marcel Reece, quarterback Carson Palmer and tight end Brandon Myers adapt and succeed under Knapp’s leadership. Look for Oakland to continue to use this trio as the foundation for the Oakland Raiders' 2013 offense.
With that foundation, look for Oakland to aggressively scour the free-agent market to find a veteran presence to add to its wide receiver corps.
On the offensive line, Miami’s Jake Long will certainly deserve a long (no pun intended!) look by coach Dennis Allen. The Raiders will also consider offensive tackles Kyle Long from Oregon or Oday Aboushi from Virginia on draft day to add additional youth to the offensive line.
Oakland’s defense is filled with under-performing players. Take your pick from defensive tackle Richard Seymour, nose tackle Tommy Kelly or free safety Matt Giordano.
The position of cornerback has been injury laden and mistake prone, surrendering an average of 7.6 yards per pass play. This is a team in dire need of the veteran presence of a true cornerback. Fortunately for Oakland, there are quite a few talented cornerbacks hitting the free-agent market this offseason.
Atlanta’s Brent Grimes, Denver’s Tracy Porter and Miami’s Sean Smith will require top dollar. If Reggie McKenzie does not want to break the bank, look for him to target San Diego’s Quentin Jammer or Philadelphia’s Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie. Any of these cornerbacks would be light years better than current Raiders cornerbacks Philip Adams, Brandian Ross or Joselio Hanson.
But as bad as the defense secondary is, look for Reggie McKenzie to target nose tackle Star Lotulelei from Utah with the third overall pick in the 2013 NFL draft.
Reggie McKenzie will continue to shape and build this team in his image. And while he will be constrained by salary cap issues in 2013, McKenzie will continue to scour the draft and league for football players (not athletes, as late owner Al Davis was so fond of signing) to fill his roster.
A great example of this is the signing of linebacker Philip Wheeler, who joined the team last offseason. Wheeler leads the team with 104 total tackles, 75 of which were solo. Wheeler was a lone bright spot in a dark and gloomy Raiders defense.
McKenzie will continue to build this team around young talent, while at the same time negotiating a tricky salary cap and limited draft picks due to the late 2011 Carson Palmer trade (the Cincinnati Bengals own Oakland's second-round pick in the 2013 draft).
Will the Oakland Raiders win the division and head to the Super Bowl next season? Probably not.
However, this team will continue to gradually get better as Reggie McKenzie leads this organization and continues to shed the ghosts of Raiders past as he builds towards the future.
Agree or disagree? Leave YOUR top three reasons why the Oakland Raiders will be better in 2013 in the comment section below!