2011 Record: 8-8 (3rd place, AFC West)
Projected 2012 Record: 8-8 (3rd place, AFC West)
Key Arrivals: FB Owen Schmitt, QB Matt Leinart, OLB Phillip Wheeler, RB Mike Woodson, CB Pat Lee, CB Shawntae Spencer, OG Mike Brisiel, CB Ron Bartell
Key Departures: OT Stephen Heyer, OLB Quentin Groves, RB Michael Bush, C Samson Satele, DE Trevor Scott, WR Chaz Schilens, OLB Kamerion Wimbley, RB Rock Cartwright, DT John Henderson, OG Cooper Carlisle, QB Jason Campbell, TE Kevin Boss, CB Stanford Routt
The Raiders started hot out the gate last season with a 4-2 record early, but a Jason Campbell injury, coupled with the death of Owner Al Davis and the mid-season trade for Carson Palmer, the Raiders faltered to an average 8-8 record. The death of Al Davis jolted a major shakeup in the organization, and after the lackluster finish, the Raiders decided to let Hue Jackson go after just one season, hiring GM Reggie McKenzie, who hired Dennis Allen, the former Defensive Coordinator for the Denver Broncos. He will be charged with reviving a defense that suffered a significant loss with Nnamdi Asomougha leaving for the Eagles at the beginning of the 2011 season. The Raiders dropped to 27th in both passing and rushing defense, allowing 251.4 and 136.1 ypg respectively, ranked 29th in points allowed (27.1 per game) and allowed more than 30 points 6 different times throughout the season. Stanford Routt is gone and in come Ron Bartell and Shawntae Spencer to replace him, and OLB Phillip Wheeler will attempt to bolster the front 7. Carson Palmer did well despite McFadden’s injury problems, passing for over 2700 yards in 9 starts, but tossing 16 INTs compared to 13 TDs. His turnovers hurt the team, and his transition out of retirement will only allow him so much leeway. Terrell Pryor and Matt Leinart are on board to back up Palmer should he get injured or resume struggling, neither option is that much greater, but at least they’re there.
The Raiders need their defense to bounce back, the running defense has to get better, they have been gashed the last several seasons and it is the basis of most of their defensive problems. As I’ve stated so many times before: if you cannot stop the run, you really don’t have that great a shot of making the playoffs, unless you’re offense is top-notch. While Palmer and company will be okay, and if McFadden can stay healthy, they can control tempo themselves, but if they get behind early and often, can they come back? With offenses like San Diego, Denver, Pittsburgh, Atlanta, New Orleans and Carolina on the schedule can they outshoot their opponent? That would concern me as a Raiders fan, how much better will Dennis Allen make our defense? Can Carson Palmer stop looking like he just came out of retirement? If so, Raiders could contend for the AFC West, it’ll be a tough race, but they could pull it off, if not, welcome to another year of mediocrity Raiders fans, maybe 2013 your fortunes will be turned around.