By Nick Shook
Read full post on NFL.com
For the first time in more than a decade, the Raiders are a hot item in the offseason hype sale.
A 12-4 finish in 2016 coupled with a young core of talented players will do that. The support of some Hall of Fame alumni helps, too.
“They’re a very good football team,” Hall of Fame receiver Tim Brown said at the Gene Upshaw Memorial Golf Tournament in Truckee, California. “I think they proved last year that they are to be reckoned with. If not for the injury, who knows how last year turns out.
“I think the excitement should be really high in camp. And you can’t overlook the games you’ve got to play and start thinking about the Super Bowl right now. But I think if this team can stay together and of course, injuries are always going to play a part stay injury free, they have just as good a chance as anybody in the league, as far as I’m concerned, winning the whole thing.”
Predictions before the 2016 season rarely had the Raiders in Super Bowl contention, if at all. They’re a favorite pick this offseason, just below the Patriots, heading into 2017. The buzz is back in the Bay for the Silver and Black, and while we’ve already covered some of this during the seemingly endless offseason, we’ve also given Oakland easier treatment in not spending much time discussing what the Raiders need to improve.
Luckily, Marcus Allen is here for that.
“Certainly, I just think they have to get better defensively,” the Hall of Fame running back said when asked if the Raiders‘ title window is open. “I think they have tools on offense. They certainly have a quarterback. I think they have the receivers. I think they can move the ball and put points on the board.
“It sounds so cliché, but people do win championships. And you can’t outscore your opponent 40 to, you know you can’t put 40 points on the board every single night. Some days you’re going to struggle. You need that defense to step up. I think they need to get better on the back end.”
The gripe with the defense is fair, at least statistically. The Raiders finished 26th in total yards allowed at 375.1 yards per game (24th in passing at 257.5 ypg), and 20th in points allowed per game at 24.1. Oakland’s offense helped keep the Raiders in the black, supplying 26 points per game (seventh-best in the NFL). But as Allen said, the defense needs to be better to win the close games, like the two Raiders‘ losses to the Chiefs, and the early-season defeat at the hands of the Falcons, who simply beat them by outscoring them.
The Raiders entered the draft focused on upgrading the back end, selecting Ohio State corner Gareon Conley in the first round and Connecticut safety Obi Melifonwu in the second, but it’ll be a wait-and-see approach with the rookies. The bar is high in terms of expectations, but fortunately for the young bucks, it’s rather low on the defensive end for a team that was a broken leg away from potentially winning the AFC West and making a legit run at a Lombardi Trophy. Anything better than those aforementioned numbers is an upgrade.