Black Magic in the Bay: Will the Oakland Raiders Improve in 2015?

It’s no secret that the Oakland Raiders were in dire need of change.

Last year’s 3 – 13 season has renewed an all too familiar taste in the collective mounths of Raiders Nation. Everything from strategy to personnel has been to blame in response to the recurrent underwhelming performances of the Raiders. Despite an abundance of raw athletic talent, Al Davis’ famous “just win baby” mindset, and a penchant for speed over practicality, nothing has yet to pan out for the Men in Black.

Enter Derek Carr.

Derek Carr - USA Today Photo

Derek Carr – USA Today Photo

Derek Carr showed great potential in the 2014 season, and the Raiders are determined to give him what he needs to drive the team forward. In fact, many have already tagged him as a franchise quarterback. It would be unrealistic to expect one man to turn around a team with so many issues, but the Raiders front office has made moves to supply Carr with the protection and the tools he needs to make an impact come game one of the 2015 season.

In the draft, the Raiders selected top prospect WR Amari Cooper to pair with sure-handed former 49er Michael Crabtree, who they obtained in free agency, to ensure Carr has both speed and agility to target in the passing game.  Amari Cooper will join the speedy youngster Rod Streeter as the probable starters this year. [Editor’s Note: Though I wouldn’t count out Josh Harper as a potential starter.]

Latavius Murray - USA Today Photo

Latavius Murray – USA Today Photo

The fight for a winning record isn’t exclusive to the air however, as Oakland is determined to bring the pain on the ground as well. The running corps of Oakland have taken on a brand new look to the tune of Trent Richardson, Latavius Murray and Roy Helu. Once heralded as the NFL’s next rising star, Trent Richardson has become available on account of underwhelming performances in Cleveland and Indianapolis. Richardson is coming to Oakland with significant expectations, as not only is he expected to bring reliability to the ground game, but to give Latavius Murray some time to develop. Many would expect Latavius Murray to be the starter after glimpses of explosive talent in 2014 (totaling 413 rush yards in the last six games he played and averaging 5.2 yards per carry); however Head Coach Jack Del Rio has taken a more long term approach in letting Murray continue to learn and develop, partially under the tried and (sometimes) true Richardson.

Oh, and there’s always Roy Helu to consider. In addition to Marcel Reece, Helu has made a name for himself in the NFL as a dangerous pass-catcher, catching and incredible 42 of 47 targets in 2014 for the Redskins and totaling 477 receiving yards.  Helu can be a significant change of pace presence in the Raiders backfield.

It appears that The Raiders will be sporting an almost-entirely new cast this year, but will it work?

Derek Carr - USA Today Photo

Derek Carr – USA Today Photo

All these weapons won’t be worth the shoes they tie in the locker room if Derek Carr can’t get them the ball. For every offensive option, a defensive move must also be considered. And when I reference defense, I’m not just talking about the other half of the team that takes the field after Carr walks off, but also the protection for Carr by the offensive line.

Jon Feliciano has been recruited by Offensive Line Coach Mike Tice to join the squad after making a significant impression at the NFL Scouting Combine. Three out of five Offensive Linemen will be returning to the field in 2015 to help usher in the new additions. Although the San Francisco 49ers may get the lions share of the media spotlight, the Raiders certainly stand to take the league by surprise.

Although, we have heard that before…

By Chris Flagler

Twitter: @TheKai27

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