Despite having one of their most talented teams in years, the Oakland Raiders turned a promising season into another exercise in mediocrity en route to a second straight 8-8 record. The defensive coaching staff is largely to blame for this, and they have all been jettisoned. An entirely new coaching staff will be brought in by new General Manager Reggie McKenzie, but he will have a major challenge in dealing with the roster. The Raiders' payroll is pretty high and it will be difficult to sign any impact free agents unless McKenzie seriously shakes things up. Also, the Raiders only have a few draft picks to work with.
Luckily, youth is not the problem with the Raiders. The team is very young and the rookies this year are very promising, especially Stefen Wisniewski and Denarius Moore. The team as it stands now is good enough to contend in the AFC, it just needs to right leadership and coaching. Whomever the new coach turns out to be, he will need to bring strong discipline to the team.
It remains to be seen how much the offensive coaching staff will be overhauled, as the Raider offense was vastly more successful this season than it has been in many years. Al Saunders did an excellent job and the offense kept the Raiders in many games that the defense tried their best to lose.
There are several bright spots going into next season. First, the offensive line is very good. Jared Veldheer and Stefen Wisniewski showed themselves to be one of the top left sides in the league. Secondly, the Raiders will enjoy a full season of Carson Palmer. With an improved defensive scheme, Palmer will not be forced to try to win games by himself and hopefully will cut down on his interceptions. Also, Matt Shaughnessy will return to the team. His loss was a huge blow to the defensive line as he was showing himself to be an excellent pass-rusher. The Raiders will also enjoy a full year of Aaron Curry, who played very well in Silver and Black.
So a lot of change is coming, but there's a lot to look forward to. Throughout the next few days and weeks, we'll take a look at the team, player by player and position by position on both sides of the ball. We'll discuss what to expect from free agency and what sort of player might be targeted in the draft.