Raiders searching for success headed into Gruden’s 4th year
LAS VEGAS RAIDERS (8-8)
CAMP SITE: Henderson, Nevada
LAST YEAR: The Raiders got off to a promising start in their first season in Las Vegas with a 6-3 record, including a win at Kansas City, before faltering down the stretch. The Raiders lost five of six during a late-season slide thanks to a porous defense that finished 30th in the league allowing 29.9 points per game and an offense that had the fourth-highest turnover rate in the NFL. QB Derek Carr set career bests in several categories but still is seeking his first appearance in a playoff game since entering the NFL in 2014.
IMPORTANT ADDITIONS: DE Yannick Ngakoue, CB Casey Hayward, S Trevon Moehrig, RT Alex Leatherwood, WR John Brown, RB Kenyan Drake, DT Quinton Jefferson, DT Solomon Thomas, CB Rasul Douglas.
IMPORTANT LOSSES: WR Nelson Agholor, C Rodney Hudson, RG Gabe Jackson, RT Trent Brown, DT Maliek Collins, S Jeff Heath, S Erik Harris, RB Devontae Booker.
CAMP NEEDS: The Raiders need to rebuild a defense that has allowed the most points per game and second-most yards per play in three seasons since coach Jon Gruden returned. Coordinator Paul Guenther was fired late last season and Gus Bradley came in during the offseason to implement a simpler system the Raiders hope will lead to better results. Ngakoue and Jefferson should help bolster a weak pass rush but figuring out the secondary will be an important part of training camp. Second-round pick Moehrig should start at safety alongside 2019 first-rounder Johnathan Abram, but finding a slot cornerback and a second starter on the outside to pair with Trayvon Mullen will be a big focus this summer. Hayward was signed to provide veteran leadership and could challenge 2020 first-rounder Damon Arnette for a starting spot on the outside.
KEY CAMP COMPETITIONS: The Raiders overhauled their offensive line by trading away Hudson, Jackson and Brown. There figure to be strong competitions for starting spots at center and right guard. Former undrafted free agent Andre James has the inside track at center but Las Vegas also signed veteran Nick Martin. Second-year player John Simpson will compete with the versatile Denzelle Good for the starting spot at guard.
EXPECTATIONS: The return of Gruden in 2018 has led to little success so far with the Raiders failing to post a winning record or earn a playoff berth in any of his three seasons. The excuses are running out as the team has had a bevy of high draft picks and free-agent additions to rebuild the roster, and anything short of a playoff berth would be hard to be viewed as any sort of success. But unless the defense takes a big step forward and the offense cuts down on turnovers, competing in a top-heavy AFC won’t be easy.
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