The last time the Silver and Black were division champions was their last Super Bowl season in 2002. How can the Oakland Raiders capture the AFC West?
The Oakland Raiders tried to turn the clock back to the early 2000s by bringing back Jon Gruden, hoping for a return to the days when they were last in the Super Bowl in 2002.
Instead, the 2018 season was troubling for the Silver and Black. The team tumbled to 4-12 and dead last in the division. The revolving door known as the Raiders’ roster throughout 2018 was rough to watch as star pass rusher Khalil Mack and promising wide receiver Amari Cooper were traded away. But with Gruden bringing in Mike Mayock as general manager, the duo has been hard at work the last few months bolstering the roster via trades, free agency and the draft.
So can the Raiders be a factor in the AFC West race? It’s a division that has seen its share of changes this year already. Here are three areas Gruden’s must fix sooner than later.
3. Establish a consistent ground attack
In Gruden’s first season of his second stint as the team’s head coach, the well-respected sideline leader took over a club that finished 25th in the NFL in rushing yards per game in 2017. Gruden brought in his offensive system and strong reputation for play-calling and the team finished … 25th in the NFL in rushing.
Gruden is hoping the addition of high-priced right tackle Trent Brown (four years, $68 million) and rookie Josh Jacobs will make the difference. Jacobs was the second of three first-round picks by the team in April and his selection had Gruden practically doing cartwheels in the Oakland draft room.
With Jacobs, the Raiders can move on from the pedestrian combo of Doug Martin and Marshawn Lynch, although Martin was re-signed after a season-ending Achilles injury to Isaiah Crowell. As for Jacobs, he emerged as the No. 1 back at Alabama last season after beating out the likes of Damien Harris and Najee Harris.
Oakland averaged less than 25 running plays per game this past season and the ground attack was erratic at best. The Raiders are in need of balance if the passing game is to work. And speaking of the latter…