The Pioneer

Raiders offseason off to great start

Matthew Carrera,
Contributor

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The Oakland Raiders had a disappointing season last season and failed to make the playoffs. Now that we are in the offseason, the Raiders have their chance to gain some ground in the AFC West.

So far, the Raiders are having a very successful offseason. It all started by rehiring Jon Gruden. Jon Gruden, who coached the Raiders from 1998-2001, won a Super Bowl in 2002 while coaching the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. He has spent nine years away from coaching. In his first season back as head coach, Jon Gruden is making a name for himself again by making some very good moves.

They signed some very good free agent players this offseason, including veteran wide receiver Jordy Nelson, 13-year veteran linebacker Derrick Johnson and also traded for speedy wide receiver Martavis Bryant from the Pittsburgh Steelers including a lot of other good free agent players that will make an impact.

His only questionable moves were during the recent NFL draft. His first-round pick Kolton Miller, an offensive lineman out of UCLA, was a solid pick because it solidified Oakland’s lacking offensive line. Before the offensive line didn’t play up to expectations, they were very inconsistent and frequently left Derek Carr open to being sacked. But almost all of the rest of the players Gruden picked had some off-the-field issues, medical conditions and previous injuries.

Third round pick and defensive end Arden Key out of Louisiana State University entered a rehabilitation center for marijuana during college, and his production fell off when he returned. He also had shoulder surgery in college. Fifth-round pick and defensive tackle Maurice Hurst from the University of Michigan has a heart condition, so that could be very problematic if something were to happen. Azeem Victor, a linebacker from the University of Washington, was selected in the sixth round. He was arrested for a DUI in college and was suspended by the team indefinitely. Fourth round selection Nick Nelson, a cornerback out of the University of Wisconsin, tore his meniscus in a workout last month. It is a gamble because there is a chance that these players can become great players in this league, and Gruden is willing to take the gamble and trust his instincts.

The signing of wide receiver Jordy Nelson, former Super Bowl champion with the Green Bay Packers, is the best signing the Raiders have had this offseason. He has been one of the best and most productive players in the league since 2010. He has caught 63 touchdowns over the past six seasons he has played in. He still has a lot left in the tank, and he will make an immediate positive impact for the Raiders.

“He brings a lot of the ‘it’ factor that we need,” Gruden said at the NFL owners’ meeting in March. “Work ethic. Unselfishness. He’ll block. He’s excellent uncovering in scramble drills.” He continued, “He’s one of the free agents that is going to play a huge role for us.”

Another great move by Oakland was trading a third-round pick for wide receiver Martavis Bryant from the Pittsburgh Steelers. Bryant is an excellent young receiver that has dynamic speed that can take the top off defenses. His special combination of size, speed and honed athleticism will help Oakland’s offense tremendously. Especially, only trading a third-round pick for him was a steal.

“Let me tell you, he brings a different dynamic,” the coach said. “He’s 6-foot-4 and he plays it. He’s 4.4 fast [in the 40-yard dash] and he plays it. We just have to get him wired into the offense, and Jordy Nelson’s experience and versatility have really been impressive that it’s allowed us to do some things in just a few days that is pretty cool. We like our receivers, and we think Martavis will make you think twice about doing some things,” Gruden said to Raiders Media.

Despite Bryant’s excellence on the field, he has also had a bevy of problems in his young career. He was suspended for the first four games of the 2015 NFL season for violating the league’s substance abuse policy. He was also suspended for the entire 2016 NFL season for again violating the league’s substance abuse policy. During the 2017 season, he was very mad about his reduced role in the offense and vented his frustration on social media, and skipped mandatory team meetings the following week. He publicly told ESPN that he wanted to be traded from Pittsburgh. These problems better not escalate again, or it could be a long season for Oakland.

The Raiders secondary was also a huge problem, particularly the cornerbacks. Oakland has potentially solved this by singing a bunch of cornerbacks. They have signed, Rashaan Melvin, Shareece Wright, Daryl Worley, Senquez Golson and 11-year veteran, Leon Hall and other cornerbacks as well. Gruden’s best hope is that one of these can have a great break out year and be great, and he will just develop the corners he already has. If the secondary doesn’t get any better, then Oakland will be getting scored on a lot like they did last season.

Will all these additions, Oakland is poised for a successful 2018 season. If everything goes right, then the silver and black should be returning to the playoffs. They could be a very dangerous team.

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