Khalil Mack SCOREBOARD XXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXX/GETTY IMAGES SPORT 2013 2012 2011 2010 2009 PLAYOFF FINISH - - - - - REGULAR SEASON W-L 4-12 4-12 8-8 8-8 5-11 POINTS PER GAME 20.1 18.1 22.4 25.6 12.3 POINTS ALLOWED PER GAME 28.3 27.7 27.1 23.2 23.7 YARDS PER GAME 333.8 344.0 379.5 354.6 266.1 YARDS ALLOWED PER GAME 363.7 354.5 387.6 322.8 361.9 TURNOVERS 31 26 30 26 33 TAKEAWAYS 22 19 26 24 20 frontline alone, you’ve got ex-Giant Justin Tuck, 31; ex-Steeler Lamarr Woodley, 30 in November; ex-Texan Antonio Smith, 32; not to mention 10th-year Raider (and 17th-year NFL vet) Charles Woodson, 37, and ex-49er Carlos Rogers, 33, in the secondary. GM Reggie McKenzie is banking—at a low price—that these vets can turn around a much-maligned defense with their wisdom and leadership. Anything different has to be better than last year, where the Raiders ranked 26th in team defense (29th in pass defense), rating amongst the bottom seven defenses for the third straight season, according to Football Outsiders. By signing old and drafting young—linebacker Khalil Mack was the Oakland’s first-round pick with the No. 5 selection—McKenzie has assembled a Moneyball team that resembles that baseball franchise that shares the same stadium. You’ve got linebacker Lamarr Woodley learning a new position at defensive end; 3-4 defensive end Antonio Smith learning a new role as a 4-3 defensive tackle. Billy Beane would be proud of this bang-forbuck defense. Next step, of course, will be improving on its No. 26 status that was attached to this team before most of these Raiders even got here. Defensive Player to Watch Tuck may not do many more Subway commercials in Oakland, and may find it easier getting along on BART than an actual subway in California. But that doesn’t mean the former New York Giant will be any less valuable to the Raiders as a 31-year-old defense end, as he was to the two-time Super Bowl Giants as a two-time Pro Bowl D-lineman. In Oakland, Tuck is the first line of defense that also features fellow standout newcomers, converted defensive end Lamarr Woodley from Pittsburgh and converted defensive tackle Antonio Smith. But as an 11-sackmaster who is still on top of his game, the 6-5, 265-pound Tuck may be the most valuable Raider defender, both in the locker room and on the field. His play indeed looms big in 2014. Raiders Special Teams Only Washington had a worse special teams unit than Oakland in 2013, recording miserable scores in every category, but kickoff coverage, where opponents only returned 30 kickoffs for 613 yards. Otherwise, kicker Sebastian Janikowski struggled Key Additions: T Donald Penn, CB Tarell Brown, CB Carlos Rogers, DE Antonio Smith Key Subtractions: DE Lamarr Houston, T Jared Veldheer, CB Tracy Porter, RB Rashad Jennings Rookies: LB Khalil Mack, QB Derek Carr, G Gabe Jackson, DT Justin Ellis, CB Keith McGill with field goal accuracy (4-for-6 in the 30s, 8-for-11 in the 40s and 3-for-7 in the 50s). Punter Marquette King had a booming average of 48.9 on 84 punts (two were blocked), though half were returned for a 10.4-yard average and a touchdown. As a unit, the Raiders kickoff and punt return units were subpar, but kick returner Taiwan Jones did well enough in his half (26 of 54) of returns, securing a 24.0 average, to be named No. 1 KOR in 2014 (the others ran back 28 kickoffs at a rate of 20.6 per return). This season’s top punt returner, Greg Jenkins, only had 8 runbacks for 59 yards in 2013. Prediction The once-proud and winning tradition of the Raiders endured a long drought. Twelve years to be exact since their last winning season (coincidentally their last Super Bowl trip as well). It’ll be another year of rebuilding for the Silver and Black, however, it’s not difficult to picture a five- or perhaps a six-win season, though most of those victories will have to come outside the very tough AFC West.
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