No NFL franchise has had less success than the Oakland Raiders in the last decade. As the team prepares for the 2014 season, however, they are determined to turn things around.
This offseason, Oakland has been as active as any team in football. They’ve signed a number of free agents, hoping to compete in the AFC West. In 2013, the Raiders recorded a 4-12 record, finishing ahead of only the Jacksonville Jaguars for the worst mark in the conference.
Oakland has tried to address their biggest problems from last season. They had one of the worst quarterback situations in the league, with Terrelle Pryor, Matt McGloin and Matt Flynn all getting starts. Pryor began the season as the starter, but he won’t get that chance in 2014. The organization traded him to the Seattle Seahawks for a seventh-round pick on Monday.
Matt Schaub will take over as the team’s signal caller in the upcoming season. He struggled with the Houston Texans, as he battled injuries in 2013. Still, he’s had success as a starter, and should be an improvement over Pryor, who threw for just seven touchdowns and 11 interceptions, completing 57.4 percent of his passes for the Raiders.
On the defensive side of the ball, Oakland make several big signings. They brought in the likes of linebacker LaMarr Woodley, defensive ends Antonio Smith and Justin Tuck, as well as cornerback Tarell Brown. Only three teams gave up more points than the Raiders in 2013, and the new pieces should help Oakland improve in that area.
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Not only did the Raiders sign talented players, but they added free agents that have been part of winning teams. Both Woodley and Tuck have won two Super Bowls each, and Brown reached the title game in the 2012 season. The new additions are ready to elevate Oakland to the next level.
"I can definitely see [the Raiders] as a playoff team," Woodley told 95.7 The Game on Tuesday. "Last year, going back and watching some film on the Raiders, there were a lot of opportunities here where they just didn't close it out."
"Some games good in the first half, they just didn't close it out at the end of the game. So now we just have to learn how to close out games, and it'll be more wins than losses."
It won’t be easy for the Raiders to make a run towards the postseason. It’s been 11 years since Oakland had a playoff appearance, and they haven’t come close in the last decade. Since 2003, the Raiders have failed to register even one winning season. Twice in that span they’ve gone 8-8, while every other season has ended with the team recording five or fewer victories.
Still, Raiders fans have some reason to be optimistic. Other than landing a new quarterback and established players in free agency, Oakland has the potential to find a star in the draft. They have the No.5 overall pick, and could use it to select a player that will have an immediate impact.
Jake Matthews of Texas A&M could help give Oakland the stability they’ve been looking for on the offensive line. Recent rumors also have the franchise interested in wide receivers Sammy Watkins and Mike Evans. The Raiders are in need of a playmaker, coming off a season in which their leading receiver tallied less than 900 yards.
There is a chance Oakland’s first-round pick will barely get any playing time in 2014. The Raiders could decide to draft their quarterback of the future, if Blake Bortles or Johnny Manziel is still available. Even if the team takes a signal caller with the top pick, Schaub has a strong chance of being the starter in the upcoming season.
The oddsmakers don’t have much faith that the Raiders will have a big 2014 campaign. Only the Jaguars and Titans have worse betting odds of winning the 2015 Super Bowl, according to Bovada.lv.
Oakland might play in the toughest division in the AFC. Last year, the Denver Broncos, Kansas City Chiefs and San Diego Chargers all made the playoffs.