Oakland Raiders: 5 Things Fans Are Counting on in 2012
The reaction is an undoubtedly bittersweet one. While Davis led Oakland to its greatest periods of prosperity and success, his string of questionable front-office decisions towards the end of his career helped keep the Raiders in the cellar of the NFL for the past decade.
With Davis now gone and coming off back-to-back .500 seasons, the Silver and Black could be poised for a breakout year in 2012.
To do so, Oakland and its fans will have to count on these five things to happen...
Darren McFadden Will Have a Big Year
If the Raiders hope to have any success in 2012, Darren McFadden and the running game will be an integral part of that success.
McFadden showed flashes of excellence in his brief 2011 campaign, leading the league in rushing through week six before being sidelined with injuries. With Michael Bush's departure in the offseason, the Raiders lost their main producer of yards outside of McFadden, meaning the pressure will be on Run DMC to stay healthy and shoulder much of the running game in Oakland.
Raider faithful hope McFadden is up to the challenge. Possessing a rare mixture of size and explosiveness, McFadden has shined when he's healthy. If he is able to avoid injuries, 2012 could be the year McFadden proves he is one of the top young backs in the league.
Carson Palmer Will Succeed in His New Offense
One of the bigger questions going into the 2012 season is how Carson Palmer will respond in his first full season as a Raider.
Brought out of purgatory by the Raiders after Jason Campbell's season-ending injury last year, Palmer's arrival was a controversial one for fans. After spending most of 2010-11 in a dispute with Bengals management, the Raiders gave away a first-round pick in this year's draft to bring in Palmer, a decision derided by fans and some in the media.
Palmer's performance last year was adequate but disappointing, going 4-5 as a starter while the Raiders narrowly missed a playoff birth.
However, Oakland fans have a reason to be optimistic. Palmer has responded nicely to the new organization, and is apparently very pleased with and adjusting well to his new playbook. He will also have the added advantage of being flanked by McFadden in the backfield.
If Palmer can find success in Oakland similar to his peak in Cincinnati, the Oakland offense could become surprisingly potent next season.
Reggie McKenzie Will Change the Culture of the Organization
In the past decade, the Raiders have been known as much for their questionable front-office decisions as their lackluster play.
However, with Davis gone and new GM Reggie McKenzie calling the shots, the management culture of the Raiders should see a major face-lift. McKenzie has already set about trimming down Oakland's roster, removing some of the more troublesome contracts and personnel decisions remaining from the previous era.
Forced to make numerous tough decisions due to budgeting concerns, McKenzie has shown he will not shy away from doing what's best for the organization in the long run, a mentality that has been sorely missing from Oakland's front office for some time.
McKenzie will have his work cut out for him. He inherited a roster with several spots that need improving, and will need to attend to these spots without the luxury of early-round draft picks, as the Raiders are without a pick in the first two rounds of this year's draft.
However, the promising young talent on the Raiders and McKenzie's willingness to make the tough but necessary calls for the organization bode well for the team's future.
2012 Will Be a Breakout Year for the Receiving Corps
Oakland's receiving corps is one of the youngest in the NFL and if they can continue to develop, could become one of the most dangerous in the league.
Denarius Moore (age 23), Darius Heyward-Bey (25) and Jacoby Ford (24) may not have much experience in the league, but certainly have the talent to make Carson Palmer's job much easier this season.
Moore struggled to stay consistent, but showed occasional flashes of excellence in his first year with the team, bringing 100+ yards in three different games last season.Heyward-Bey showed much improvement with his second year with the Raiders, catching for almost 1000 yards and 4 touchdowns.
Ford made only a marginal impact in the passing game last year, but contributed all over the field, setting franchise records for kickoff return TDs in a season and career and impressing fans and coaches with absolutely blistering speed.
If all 3 youngsters can continue to impress and improve their skill set, they could add yet another dimension to the offense, and provide Carson Palmer with the support necessary for a big year.
The New Offensive System Will Work
If the Raiders are going to succeed in to building a contender for the years to come, stability will be a must-have for the organization, starting with a successful offensive system.
The high turnover in coaches for the Raiders in previous seasons means that many of the younger players in the organization have yet to play in a stable offensive system for more than a year or two. If Oakland hopes to change their fortunes as an organization, establishing these systems successfully will be imperative.
Carson Palmer and the offense have already shown their excitement with the new system, implemented by former Texans QB coach and new offensive coordinator Greg Knapp. The new offense will emphasize play action passes and encourage a fluid and mobile pocket, meaning Palmer will have to prove he is still mobile enough to handle the demands of the system.
However, Palmer's confidence in the new system, along with the talent that surrounds him at other positions, should make the transition to the new offense much easier. If Oakland can succeed in implementing it, the Raiders could become a very dangerous team in 2012.