The Comeback is previewing all 32 NFL teams from worst to first leading up to the start of the 2018 regular season on Sept. 6. Up next in our preseason rankings are the living-in-the-past Oakland Raiders.
2017 in a nutshell: Franchise quarterback Derek Carr isn’t himself, the defense again fails to support star pass-rusher Khalil Mack and the Marshawn Lynch-led running game sputters in a disappointing six-win season that results in the firing of head coach Jack Del Rio.
What’s different: What’s old is different, as Jon Gruden returns in relief of Del Rio. And that’s not the only place they’ve gotten older. With Jordy Nelson, Doug Martin, Derrick Johnson and Leon Hall joining the fray, the Raiders are throwing it back to 2012.
Why they could be awesome: Carr is healthier than he was in 2017.
Why they could suck: Gruden is living in another decade, they still don’t have much support for Carr and Mack, and Mack continues to hold out in a contract dispute.
Major additions: Nelson, Martin, Johnson, Hall, cornerback Rashaan Melvin, linebacker Tahir Whitehead, wide receiver Martavis Bryant and first-round offensive tackle Kolton Miller.
Major losses: Wide receiver Michael Crabtree, defensive tackle Denico Autry, cornerbacks T.J. Carrie and David Amerson.
Breakout watch: They need another play-maker on defense, and third-year safety Karl Joseph has that in him. The 2016 No. 14 overall pick intercepted five passes in just four games as a senior at West Virginia, and he’s due for a breakout season as a 25-year-old in 2018.
Position to watch: Running back is weird. Martin and Lynch don’t have a lot left in the tank, while Jalen Richard and DeAndre Washington both failed to build off impressive rookie seasons as sophomores in 2017. It’s tough to tell where Gruden will go back there, but all four should have a shot at playing big roles.
Prediction: Let’s remember that Gruden inherited a Super Bowl team from Tony Dungy, and he went 45-51 during his last six seasons in Tampa. And that was a decade ago! He’ll do more harm than good to a team that simply lacks depth.
7-9, 4th place in the AFC West