Jan 1, 2012, Oakland, CA, USA; Fisheye view of NFL referee Clete Blakeman conducts the coin toss before the NFL game between the San Diego Chargers and the Oakland Raiders at the O.co Coliseum. Chargers captains are safety Eric Weddle (32) quarterback Philip Rivers (17, linebacker Takeo Spikes (51) center Nick Hardwick (61) and fullback Jacob Hester (22). Raiders captains are punter Shane Lechler (9) running back Rock Cartwight (25) and defensive tackle Richard Seymour (92). Mandatory Credit: Kirby Lee/Image of Sport-US PRESSWIRE

Why The Raiders Will Exceed Expectations In 2012

Sorry for the broadness of this title but Raiders fans everywhere were insulted when the team was given a over/under prediction of seven wins. Experts believe that with a new staff and regime that the Raiders will be less successful than they were last year under Hue Jackson. That’s a knee slapper if I’ve ever heard one. It’s okay though, the Raiders are used to having to rise above expectations. Last year they had the same prediction and were still a final game win away from making the playoffs…under Hue Jackson.

The Raiders are now under coach Dennis Allen, the first defensive minded coach since John Madden. Under Hue Jackson and Chuck Bresnahan they struggled with defense ranking 27th in passing defense, 27th in rushing defense and 29th in overall defense. With a new coaching staff and a handful of defensive signings, their defense has nowhere to go but up. Although the cornerback crew is lacking, Allen is a defensive back specialist having coached up defensive back squads for the Falcons and the Saints. Not to mention he also played safety for Texas A&M for four years.

Many people expected to see Oakland switching to a 3-4 in the coming year under Tarver and Allen. After hearing interviews with players post OTA’s it seems as if Oakland is not solely running a 3-4 but instead a very diverse defense, switching up formations for different situations. This will help every player get to have a chance at playing in whatever formation he best fits into. Too bad Kamerion Wimbley is gone, having never truly fit into the 4-3 defense that Raiders ran.

Oakland’s offense last year was an absolute standout. Although the team went only 8-8, this can only be attributed to the defense and the amount of penalties Hue Jackson let the undisciplined group get away with. Although Oakland’s offense was wounded the whole year it still managed to be 9th overall in the league. This stemmed from the squad’s 7th ranked rushing offense with a backup running back for the majority of the year and their 9th ranked passing offense with a quarterback off the couch who had no training camp or OTA’s to connect with the team. I know you can’t dwell on accolades when your team misses the playoffs but it’s so hard to ignore those rankings.

With McFadden out of his walking boot he can get back to his MVP-like performance that he had to leave behind last year. Had he stayed injury-free for the entire 2011 season, there is no doubt in my mind that the Raiders would have finished first in rushing offense considering their back up carried them to finish seventh. With a healthy receiving core that has had a chance to spend a lot of time with Carson Palmer I think their passing offense could jump a few spots from their previous ranked ninth. Also, Juron Criner’s value has increased through OTA’s and he should be a great 3rd down and redzone weapon come season time. Overall, the offense should be among the NFL’s elite in 2012.

The Raiders are under a much better coaching staff and have a healthy, young roster coming into the season. Their is also promising rookie talent in Criner, Bergstrom and Burris despite Oakland’s lacking number of draftees. Also, this year the Raiders should just have a decreased amount of penalties. Discipline, after all is Dennis Allen’s main focus. So you can keep your power rankings ESPN. We’ll see you on the opening of Monday Night Football in Oakland.

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