Alex Perl |July 31st, 2019
The dawn of a new NFL season is almost upon us. The Free Agents have signed their deals, the draft picks have settled into their new teams, and the blockbuster trades are now yesterday’s news. Which leaves the question for the Oakland Raiders, is this finally the year of change?
2018 was a year that had many Raider fans shaking their heads in disbelief. After waiting 17 years for the return of Head Coach Jon Gruden, their wish was granted, and after signing a 10-year, $100 million dollar contract, it showed he was there for the long haul and what Raider fans hoped would be redemption. Redemption it turned out would have to wait.
By signing marginal free agents such as Cornerback Rashaan Melvin, Linebacker Tahir Whitehead and an aging Wide Receiver in Jordy Nelson, these names highlighted an unsatisfying 2018 off-season, which also included by the Raiders taking Offensive Tackle Kolten Miller in the First Round of the NFL Draft, which many pundits and fans alike felt was quite a reach. Now as if this was too much to stomach for Raider fans, what would come next would have them scrambling in horror for the panic button.
The 2018 season is not only known for the Raiders miscues and last place division record of 4-12, but it was also the season of the dismantle. Gone would be Pro Bowl Receiver Amari Cooper to the Dallas Cowboys, as well as All-Pro Linebacker Khalil Mack who would leave for the Chicago Bears. In their place would be draft picks, the Raiders were now in a full-on rebuild and for a franchise that had not been to a Superbowl since 2002, this was unsettling news.
Now fast forward a year later, and things seem to be a lot different. Gone is General Manager Reggie McKenzie, in his place, is former NFL draft Analyst Mike Mayock (you read that right) and now replacing Cooper is All-Pro Receiver Antonio Brown, who was acquired for only a third and fifth-round draft pick. The off-season revamp would continue, with the Raiders free agent signings highlighted by Offensive Tackle Trent Brown, who was awarded the richest Offensive Lineman contract in history. Following Brown would be Free Safety Lamarcus Joyner, fresh off a Superbowl appearance, and a new receiver to play opposite Antonio Brown in former Los Angeles Charger Tyrell Williams.
The 2019 off-season overhaul was one that had Raider fans possibly believing once again in the vision of Gruden and the franchise, and the trades of Cooper and Mack had left them with three first-round draft picks. Picks which would be used on Clemson Defensive End Clelin Ferrell, Alabama Running Back Josh Jacobs and Safety Johnathan Abram of Mississippi State.
With such acquisitions come doubt and expectations. Can the eccentric Antonio Brown mesh with mild-mannered Quarterback Derek Carr? Is Josh Jacobs ready as a rookie to be an every-down back? Is Ferrell the answer to the pass rush gap left behind by the trade of Mack? There are a lot of questions to answer for this team, and with an appearance on HBO’s Hard Knocks to premiere soon, we get a first-hand look into either the turmoil or rebuild of this franchise. Jon Gruden was quoted this off-season by telling his players to “end somebody’s dreams”, well with a brand new team behind him maybe the dream of Raider fans can be fulfilled as well.
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