By David Max
On January 31, 2016 the NFL’s annual star studded exhibition, known as the Pro Bowl, will be played. Like many of you, I will be in front of the TV at 4pm PST watching what’s essentially a couple of steps up from flag football. With an introduction like that, I bet you are wondering why I would make it a priority in my day. Actually, if this is a question to you, football may not be sport for you. You see, I, like most other football fans will watch this game because; you guessed it -it’s the NFL and we can’t get enough of watching modern day gladiators. Plus, with just two games left on the football schedule, and nothing NFL related to talk about after the Superbowl until June; chances are we’ll all be watching. I, however, have more incentive to watch the game before the BIG GAME: The young and talented core of the Oakland Raiders.
The future is very bright and the sky is definitely the limit. Like many in Raider Nation, I’m eager to see our favorite 5 Raiders playing in this particular game. Also, like many others in the Nation I will be paying close attention to the future of the organization suited up in Hawaii. Led by second year Quarterback Derek Carr, who threw for 3,987 yds and 32 touchdowns in 2015. Carr, who was just 3 TD’s shy of breaking the franchise record, and 13 yards away from being the third Raider to throw for 4,000 yds looked a lot more comfortable as the leader of this offense. In the 2014 season, Carr had over 3200 yards, despite having virtually no one to throw to. Enter Amari Cooper. The number 4 overall pick in the 2015 draft. Widely considered the most NFL ready in the draft, Cooper racked up a franchise rookie record 1,070 yds receiving. He, along with off-season addition Michael Crabtree, fellow rookies Seth Roberts, and tight end Clive Walford give the Raiders something they haven’t had in a long time: Depth in the receiving corps. Amari Cooper and Derek Carr (known as AC/DC in Oakland) hooked up for 6 TD’S as well. Look for that to double next year as chemistry builds.
The Silver and Black also had a formidable ground game in 2015 with stud running back, Latavius Murray, who rushed for 1,066 yds on 266 attempts. With the third most attempts in the league, behind Adrian Peterson and Doug Martin, Murray more than proved capable of being the lead back for the Raiders. With a little improvement to that offensive line in the summer, and some tuning up to Murray’s running style, we could be throwing around the “P-word” in the Nation. Carr, Cooper, and Murray combined for 2,368 of Oakland’s 5,336 offensive yards, which is a significant chunk considering this is their first year playing together.
On the other side of the ball, you have the one man wrecking crew himself; Second year phenom, Khalil Mack, who came in second in sacks behind JJ Watt with 15. Mack the number 5 overall pick in the 2014 draft is the only Raiders player starting in this year’s Pro Bowl. That’s no accidental feat. Khalil, who reached the QB many a times but only had 4 sacks his first year, more than tripled his sack total this time around; Including his national coming out party week 14 in Denver. The Mack Attack had 5 sacks in that game alone. Most of which were done in the second half, completely putting the Raiders defense on his back. The Raiders defense has many holes to fill, and question marks in that secondary. Not to mention the huge void at free safety, left by Raiders legend, Charles Woodson. Charles who will put on shoulder pads for the final time today, played his last down as a Raider on January 3 after 18 years, and to date has no predecessor. The ugly truth….. there is a big need to fill in an already unimpressive secondary. With that said, Raiders GM, Reggie Mckenzie has done a great job in the last two drafts. Maybe he will continue making these great draft decisions and make it 3 years in a row; Keeping our Oakland Raiders on point as being a young, hungry, up and coming team, ready to make the leap out of 14-years of mediocrity and back into their rightful place; Glory.