The NFL pre-season is underway with the young prospects who have recently been drafting into the league from college starting their young careers. The first entry of our NFL team report series focuses on the Oakland Raiders.
Every season the NFL gives us an inside access into one of the 32 teams’ pre-season preparations. The popular series ‘Hard Knocks’, now in it’s 14th year, gives us an insight into the Oakland Raiders team. You know that one you see everyone wearing the caps out of JD Sports? (All because of the rap band NWA who are from Oakland is my guess)
In 2018’s pre-season the Raiders record three impressive victories before losing valiantly to Super Bowl Finalists the LA Rams. Despite a strong pre-season, their regular season form would drop in The Black Hole.
The Raiders would take on the Rams in the first game of the regular season looking for their revenge, but fell to a 33-13 defeat. This would become a common theme for them last year.
While the season began optimistically with a new Head Coach, new ideas fizzled quickly. Oakland won only four games during the season, going 4-12 leaving the Cali-side bottom of the NFC West. Their abysmal playoff exile continued….
Usually when a new Head-Coach comes in, they want to preserve and nourish their top talent. But not Mr Gruden!
Khalil Mack and Amari Cooper were traded to the Chicago Bears and Dallas Cowboys respectively. That’s like Liverpool moving on from Mane and Salah just to sign a 34-year old Ronaldo. (I know that would NEVER happen)
These two head-scratching deals were seen as idiotic by many around the league. Why would any team willingly ship out their best two players on both sides of the ball?
Many saw the appointment of Jon Gruden as an instant failure. While Gruden had a long history of coaching in the NFL, he had been a television broadcaster since 2008 after his Super Bowl victory with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.
In the spring of 2012 the series ‘Jon Gruden’s QB Camp’ was where Gruden really came into his own. This series was based on the NFL development process with prospective NFL Draftees at Quarterback of each year put through their paces.
An NFL play for which the series has been remembered for ‘Spider 2 Y-Banana’ brought about a comical side to Gruden, but many found it hard to take him seriously in the modern NFL game.
Signing a 10-year $100 million-dollar contract after over a decade out of the game seemed a bizarre risk for a franchise looking to reverse their declining fortunes.
Raiders Owner Mark Davis has set big plans for his franchise to re-locate to Las Vegas, and set up the first NFL team ever in Nevada.
With the attraction of the bright lights of Vegas to many players. The franchise have spent big to secure the signing of star WR Antonio Brown who is seen as one of the best players to ever play the game.
Brown left the Pittsburg Steelers after spending eight years with the organisation to sign a three-year, $50 million-dollar contact with the Raiders. This transaction has certainly elevated the status of the Raiders, with the brand of ‘AB84’ rolling into town.
Brown and QB Derek Carr are hoping to develop their playing relationship and get the Oakland support behind them this season in the push to end their playoff drought.
While their is a huge amount of optimism with the Raiders this year, the franchise sits in a tough AFC West division. The Kansas City Chiefs, Los Angeles Chargers and Denver Broncos will all be hot on their heels.
Improving a 4-12 record is a must-aiming for a positive 9-7 record and making the playoffs should be the target this season.
While an underdog status is something Coach Gruden and his team will welcome, I don’t hold much hope for the inexperienced roster who are in a tough division.
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