The Raiders have officially been relegated from post-season football thanks to a resurgent Kansas City Chiefs team that have won 8 straight games, and the Broncos losing the past two games to other AFC teams in the hunt for wildcard spots. However, there is a Silver (and Black*) lining to the Raiders season regardless of the fact that Charles Woodson; who leads the Raiders in interceptions, is retiring at the end of the 2015 season.
Solid Coaching Staff
Jack Del Rio, previously with the Broncos has been a great hire for the Raiders, his approach to developing a solid Defense with veteran leadership has created some stability for Oakland. He also hired Ken Norton Jr; previously Linebackers coach for the Seattle Seahawks through their championship run, as his Defensive Coordinator, and Bill Musgrave from Philadelphia to be his Offensive Coordinator.
After finishing 3-13 in 2014, the Raiders had a chance to draft key impact players in April’s draft. With the 3rd overall pick in the draft they took Wide Receiver Amari Cooper, who has become a force to be reckoned with; he has eclipsed 1000 yards receiving at 15.3 yards per catch so far this season, and the Raiders have only played 14 games! There’s not been a lot of noise from the rest of 2015’s draft class; however we have seen players at key positions who are nearing the end of their sophomore years make a massive impact to the success of this Raiders team. Derek Carr was drafted in the second round of the 2014 draft. He was the first rookie to start out of the entire 2014 draft class, and posted a near perfect QB rating in week one, however his season was very nearly finished when he suffered a high ankle and MCL sprain in a Week 4 International Series game vs the Dolphins. He still managed to start every game in 2014, and was the first Quarterback to do so since Rich Gannon in 2002. Alongside this, Khalil Mack has been a terror off the edge; he’s combined for 15 sacks, 62 tackles and 2 forced fumbles through 2015, which has been an increase of 11 sacks, and 13 tackles through 14 games in his sophomore year.
When you look at all of the offensive totals from 2014/15 to 15/16 there’s been a massive improvement; from ranked last in the NFL from 14/15 to 19th this season. I believe this can be attributed to some stellar offensive line play, our Offensive Line measurement; G.O.B.I has the Raiders in the top 5 of the entire league. The above ranking can also be evidenced through the rushing totals for the team and the amount time Derek Carr has had in the pocket per drop back; the Raiders are up from 3.7 to 3.9 yards per carry from last season, and from an average of 5.5 yards per attempt to 7 yards. Clearly Derek Carr is getting more time in the pocket to go through his progressions and push the ball down the field. So although you’re out of the playoffs Raiders fans, you’ve got a lot to look forward to in 2016 A stellar head coach, a pair of fantastic coordinators, a franchise QB-WR tandem, a solid pass rusher and a defense that’s improving week to week. Provided the Raiders are able to draft well during the off-season and retain key players through free-agency, I can see them making a run for the playoffs next year *I’m not even sorry for the terrible joke, it’s Christmas! Related Reading NFL Draft Order 2016: Who’s picking where after MNF? NFL Playoff Picture: three more teams clinch playoff spots after Sunday NCAA Bowl Previews 2015: Miami Beach Bowl NFL Week 15: Ten Things You Need To Know BREAKING: Charles Woodson to retire at the end of the 2015 season