Nov 8, 2015; Pittsburgh, PA, USA; Pittsburgh Steelers wide receiver Antonio Brown (84) is hit by Oakland Raiders cornerback DJ Hayden (25) during the second half at Heinz Field. The Steelers won the game, 38-35. Mandatory Credit: Jason Bridge-USA TODAY Sports
Through nine weeks of the 2015 regular season, the Oakland Raiders have bounced back from a 3-13 season in 2014 to one of the more surprising teams in the NFL with a second place spot in the AFC West at 4-4.
At an even .500 on the year, it’s safe to say Oakland’s season has had it’s ups and downs. After a blowout loss in Week 1 to the now 8-0 Cincinnati Bengals, the Raiders responded with back-to-back wins against the Baltimore Ravens and Cleveland Browns.
With hope for a strong season beginning to take shape, Oakland then regressed with two consecutive losses to a then struggling Chicago Bears team and the division-leading Denver Broncos. They went on to answer back after the bye week with two dominant victories over the San Diego Chargers and the New York Jets, in which the Raiders were again brought down to Earth with a 38-35 loss to the Pittsburgh Steelers in Week 9.
Given Oakland’s inability to string together more than two consecutive wins, it’s reasonable to believe that their success is unpredictable and somewhat lucky, but when looking beyond the standings the Raiders have made significant strides towards returning to relevance in the AFC.
Offensively, sophomore quarterback Derek Carr has made substantial improvements in comparison to his rookie campaign, and his rapid development over the last nine weeks has had a significant impact on Oakland’s ability to find the end zone. In the their last three performances, Oakland’s offense has been able to put up at least 34 points.
The Raiders’ stable offensive line (at least mostly) and lead back Latavius Murray have also had their impact within what is ranked as the NFL’s eighth-best offense in terms of both total points scored (213) and average yards of total offense per game (374.6).
Former Kansas City Chiefs center Rodney Hudson has performed admirably since being brought over as a free agent during the offseason, as Hudson is ranked as the No. 5 overall center in the business through nine weeks.
Even with allowing Steelers running back DeAngelo Williams run all over them for 170 yards and two touchdowns in Week 9, Oakland’s defense still considered the eighth-best run defense in the league. Khalil Mack and free agent addition Aldon Smith have done an outstanding job sealing the edge, while nose tackle Dan Williams has graded out as the No. 13 interior defensive linemen in stopping the run, via ProFootballFocus.com.
Of all of Oakland’s offseason additions, Williams, Smith, and Hudson have been the three most successful players on the roster. Several rookies have also made a considerable impact and some other free agent additions have flashed at times, but the Raiders’ offseason moves didn’t come without at least a few mistakes.
With that being said, let’s take a look at Oakland’s biggest needs as the team heads into the second half of their 2015 season. With a push for the postseason still a possibility, potential solutions to the Raiders’ lack of talent at certain positions have also been listed.
Next: Biggest Needs: Secondary