It is starting to be one of those offseasons where as a Raider fan you want to stay off the internet, turn off the NFL Network and ESPN, and burn every magazine you can find that has NFL Season Previews as the Oakland Raiders have been getting eaten alive by the pundits as everyone’s favorite NFL writer thinks the Raiders are a sexy pick to be the NFL’s worst team this season and ProFootballTalk is no exception.
Mike Wilkening of PFT began his Preseason Power Rankings on Tuesday morning, and he pulled no punches in telling it like it is on why he feels that the Raiders are going to be one of the NFL teams to struggle the most this season, citing the Raiders roster turnover and loss of key veterans as the primary reason Oakland falls in the #32 spot.
The 2013 Raiders face many challenges on the path to competitiveness. They have parted ways with some of their most proven and expensive talent, with quarterback Carson Palmer’s departure to Arizona the most notable move. Oakland lacks both starpower and depth, and its quarterback play is a big worry.
The 2013 Raiders are in throes of transition, and it’s impossible to project how the regular season will play out without looking ahead to next offseason. The looming question is whether the 2014 Raiders will be operating off the same blueprint they have now.
Palmer wasn’t the only notable name to depart Oakland. The club released wideout Darrius Heyward-Bey, safety Michael Huff, defensive tackle Tommy Kelly and linebacker Ronaldo McClain. Also, Lechler, defensive tackle Desmond Bryant, tight end Brandon Myers and linebacker Phillip Wheelerleft in free agency. The Raiders also appear to have moved on from defensive tackle Richard Seymour, who remains unsigned.
Wilkening also pointed out to the Raiders front line and their piss poor pass rush last season as another reason he feels Oakland will struggle, but it is pretty clear from this assessment of the Raiders that one of the driving factors for their low ranking is that they simply just don’t have a lot of “name” players that NFL experts are going to “ooh” and “ahh” over so it is understandable that they are an easy pick to slide into the dreaded #32 ranking without any games being played.
One silver lining Wilkening did mention was that the Chiefs and Chargers don’t look any better and that the Raiders could climb to the consolation prize of second in the AFC West if things go their way. Shocking for a team he feels to be the worst of the crop heading into training camp.
Still the more bad previews that get read, the harder and harder it is to stay positive. Oakland has added a ton of new (mostly cheap) blood into their roster and have gotten rid of what they felt were overpriced players holding their rebuilding back. Reggie McKenzie isn’t stupid and many in the league feel he is attempting to rebuild for 2014 which is a contributing factor to many writing them off early.
We would all be lying to ourselves if we sat here and kicked and screamed about how the Raiders are going to be a lock to make the playoffs and everyone is crazy, but there is no way that Oakland is the worst team in the NFL heading into training camp. A team that despite being stripped down of some weight with the roster, is still going to be young and competitive, plays in a weak division, and seems to be filled with fire and pride based on preseason interviews is not the type of make up of the worst team in the league.
I don’t think that Oakland is about to rattle off a 12-4 season, but the 6-10 to 9-7 mark is within reach, even a 5-11 season would likely avoid the Raiders finishing in last place. NFL analysts may think Reggie McKenzie is trying to tank to get the first pick in the 2014 Draft, but the fact of the matter is regardless on if the Raiders are rebuilding or not, analysts who think they are the worst team in the NFL without watching them play a single game are way off base.