A disappointing season in 2017 left Raider Nation wanting more from their squad in 2018. Their off-season started with the hiring of Jon Gruden and from there, the Raiders have added a few key pieces to both the offensive and defensive side of the ball. Unfortunately, Reggie McKenzie and Gruden were unable to fill every gap in their system. Here is a breakdown of the most and least improved Oakland Raiders position groups for the upcoming 2018 season.
Most and Least Improved Oakland Raiders Position Groups
Most Improved Groups
The Raiders had two position groups get better this off-season, one on the defensive side of the ball and the other on the offensive side. This bodes well for the upcoming season as one of the worst units in football last year got a major overhaul.
The wide receiver group isn’t the first unit that comes to mind when seeking improvement, but with the loss of Michael Crabtree and Cordarrelle Patterson, and the addition of Jordy Nelson and Martavis Bryant, this group is vastly better than it was in 2017. Derek Carr had 38 passes dropped last season, according to Pro Football Focus, which was third worst in the league. Crabtree, who is usually a sure-handed receiver, contributed to five of those drops. More worrisome, he had reportedly become a nightmare in the locker room and his actions would eventually lead to his benching in the final game of the season.
Jordy Nelson is said to have already brought a veteran leadership to the receiver room. Jordy had an off year in 2017 but to be fair, he had Brett Hundley throwing to him for 9 games and Hundley certainly doesn’t have the skill set of Aaron Rodgers or Carr. Look for Jordy to have a bounce back year. Martavis Bryant is insanely talented with the ability to take the top off of any defense, but will his off the field issues follow him to Oakland? If he can stay clean, the Raiders have the potential to have the top receiving corp in the league with Amari Cooper, Nelson and Bryant.
The Raiders are known as one of the worst cornerback units in the league. In the 2017 NFL Draft the Raiders selected Gareon Conley in the first round. Unfortunately, he was unable to play in anything more than one game due to a lingering shin injury. At OTA’s he looked healthy and it was said he had the look of a true number 1 corner. With a healthy Conley and the additions of Rashaan Melvin, who had a very solid year in 2017, and Leon Hall, who is very familiar with Paul Guenther’s defense from his Cincinnati days, this unit looks nothing like it has in the past.
Least Improved Group
The middle linebacker group for the Raiders is in need of improvement. Many thought the Raiders would capitalize on a draft rich with linebacker talent. Given Mckenzie’s history with drafting linebackers in the later rounds, it’s not surprising he passed on the position early.NaVorro Bowman helped out immensely in the run game last year, but has lost a step in pass coverage. This has been an issue for the Raiders, especially when covering opposing tight ends.
With Bowman unsigned, the Raiders will roll with the 35 year old ex-Chief Derrick Johnson. Johnson was productive last year in a limited role. But for him to be a three down middle linebacker is a bit far fetched. Reggie did end up drafting Azeem Victor out of Washington in the sixth round. Victor had trouble staying on the field in college and until he can prove himself, he is still a project. This unit won’t work for the Raiders, it’s time they rip the band-aid off and patch things up properly.