NFL preview 2014: Oakland Raiders

Oft-injured Raiders RB Darren McFadden (right) has never played more than 13 games in a season since being drafted in 2008. (Marcio Jose Sanchez/AP)

Sportsnet is breaking down everything you need to know about each of the 32 teams—including why you should or shouldn’t be rooting for them this season—in the month leading up to NFL kickoff on Sept. 4. Today, the Oakland Raiders.

Last year’s record: 4-12

Coach: Dennis Allen

2014 is about… Finding a quarterback. Finding an offence. Scoring points. Trying to instil some semblance of confidence among the fan base that there is an overall direction and plan that may one day come to fruition and result in the Raiders offence not resembling the Washington Generals only with more injuries. The defence is probably OK, though.

Core players: Derek Carr (QB), Khalil Mack (LB), Darren McFadden (RB), Sio Moore (LB)

But they lost… Rashad Jennings (RB), who filled in more than capably during McFadden’s annual injury recovery, is off to New York. Lamarr Houston (DE) left for big money in Chicago. Jacoby Ford (WR) and his perpetually hurt foot limped off to the Jets. The Raiders lost some other players, as well, but they were none of them very good at football and it’s probably not necessary to discuss them. Oh—Terrelle Pryor is in Seattle now, so he’ll probably get way better and make everyone who loves the silver and black very sad. Such is life as a Raiders fan.

Yeah, but they got… Lots and lots of help. Which is great, because they badly needed it. Maurice Jones-Drew (RB) will now carry the load once McFadden goes down. Matt Schaub has been brought in to “stabilize” the quarterback position (if that’s what we’re calling whatever Matt Schaub does as a quarterback these days) until Derek Carr is ready to play. James Jones (WR) comes over from Green Bay to give the Raiders the No. 1 target they’ve been missing, though he’s already being slotted with the second team in the pre-season (welcome to Oakland, James). Justin Tuck and LaMarr Woodley (both DEs) will hopefully replace everything that Houston brought to the table. Carlos Rogers and Tarell Brown (both CBs) come over from San Francisco to hopefully improve the secondary from “Why are you making poor Charles Woodson (S) finish his career in this mess?” all the way to “Wow, Charles Woodson doesn’t look like he wants to murder everyone he’s practising with.”

Growing from within: Please. We’re discussing the Oakland Raiders—masters of shrinking from within. Let’s see, their top draft choice from last season, D.J. Hayden (CB), was abysmal as a rookie, has already suffered an injury and may prove everyone who called him a risky pick right by vanishing from the league before his rookie contract is finished. The Raiders also drafted Sio Moore last season, and he showed some flashes of brilliance down the stretch–naturally he’s now running behind Kaelin Burnett and Nick Roach for the spot beside Mack—because why would you want to let your two young linebackers learn to play together early in their careers when you could stick two veterans in their way and maybe win five games instead of four? Oh, and Marcel Reece (FB) has shown himself to be an excellent all-around back, adept both at breaking runs and acting as a safety valve for a QB in a collapsing pocket. The Raiders have him blocking almost exclusively, and running with the third team. Quality.

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Why this team? Because they have cool uniforms, an insane fan base and a history of unruly behaviour that can make for great reading whenever you feel like buying an old football book at your local used bookstore.

Why not? Because the Raiders have been managed poorly forever and even some recent moves toward respectability seem to be overshadowed by dumb moves or bad luck. It’s going to hurt being a Raiders fan. It’s going to hurt a lot and your fellow fans are likely to have ruined your reputation as fan already, so you won’t even get the sympathy that, say, a Browns fan enjoys.

Perfect for fans of… Yankees fans who like the being-hated-by-other-fans aspect of their team but aren’t down with that whole consistently competing part of the deal.

How much hope? 2/10. There are a few good young pieces here, especially on defence—but there’s no precedent that says those pieces will be used properly or coached well or kept on sensible contracts. Oh, and the third-place team in this division last season—the San Diego Chargers—made the playoffs. There’s a mountain to climb here, and the Raiders have proven themselves unable to secure even the least precarious of footholds.

Will you be mocked for front-running? No. No you will not be mocked for front-running. You will definitely be mocked. Just not for that.

A Meme To Remember: This is technically a compilation of memes, not a lone meme. But you can find artful examples of how bad the Raiders are just about anywhere—even on Pinterest.


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