The Oakland Raiders made a big splash this offseason, signing former Super Bowl champion and ESPN analyst Jon Gruden to take control as head coach. Gruden's inked his 10-year, $100 million dollar deal back in January to bring in a new era for the silver and black. Gruden who is known for his Monday Night Football broadcasting and "QB Camp" television show is one of the best offensive minds in football, and could possibly unlock Derek Carr and Amari Cooper's full potential.
The Raiders have struggled in recent years under head coach Jack Del Rio, only making one playoff spot in the 2017 AFC Wild Card before losing to Brock Osweiler and the Houston Texans. The next season Oakland failed to make a playoff spot again posting a 6-10 record. Now change is on the horizon with a new head coach and an updated receiving core, Derek Carr and company are looking to break into the fold of contending teams this season.
New acquisitions on offense like Jordy Nelson, Martavius Bryant and Doug Martin paired with the new faces on defense Derrick Johnson and Dominique Rogers-Cromartie, there is a light at the end of the tunnel this season for Oakland to possibly contend for the AFC West Crown. But with competition from the Chiefs and Chargers, Oakland has to fix their mistakes that haunted them last year.
The problem with Oakland recently has been their defense, which coach Gruden doesn't seem to focus on much. The Raiders' best player, and maybe the best defensive player in the league, Khalil Mack is still holding out because of a contract dispute and rumor has it Mack might get traded. Oakland isn't paying Mack the money he is requesting which is apparently causing tension between Mack and the front office.
The key to the Raiders season will be getting this deal done, or getting some great assets defensively for Khalil Mack, without his pass rush from the linebacker or d-line position that defense loses a lot of their force. But with Gruden at the helm, the Derek Carr led offense should show improvement from last season. Even coming off injuries over the previous years, Carr has an offensive mastermind of a coach and plenty of weapons to keep the defense guessing.
I believe that if the Raiders can get a deal done with Mack and Carr can stay healthy, they have a chance of winning the AFC West. But there are certainly lots of variables that must go right for Oakland, and that's where uncertainty sets in.