Top 5 questions facing 2016 Raiders entering regular season
The season is upon us...
The Raiders won the offseason, which, you know, doesn’t mean much. Head coach Jack Del Rio has preached that point since May, after the Raiders signed a bunch of established veterans in their prime and drafted a few good men from the amateur ranks. His players have listened. Many outside the team’s Alameda facility have not. That doesn’t the mean the Raiders will make their first postseason since 2002. Many have screamed they will from the mountaintops. There are a few key questions that must be answered to do exactly that... -- Scott Bair
5) Can Raiders stop the run?
This is that time of the gallery where y’all say…don’t worry, Scott. It’s the preseason. This summer’s run defense can’t be that bad. The Raiders better hope that’s the case. The first-unit run defense didn’t fit together well against some of the best backs faced this preseason, and must do so now without Mario Edwards Jr. in the lineup. It’s fair to say there’s much the Raiders haven’t shown up front, and that most problems are fixable. The Raiders should play better run defense and must, because it’s hard to win games without doing so. -- Scott Bair
4) Will new free agents earn their paychecks?
The Raiders spent beaucoup bucks on veteran additions this offseason, making investments in Sean Smith, Kelechi Osemele, Reggie Nelson, Bruce Irvin and others in key spots. Too often, free agency is fool’s gold. It can also fill key gaps, but a few too many miscues can leave an ascending team needing more. If enough blend well, it could push these Raiders over the top. Underperformance from a few too many could leave the Raiders lacking in a competitive division. -- Scott Bair
3) Will Derek Carr take the next step?
Ask the Raiders this question and they’ll respond with an unqualified yes. They have supreme faith in No. 4, who had a solid sophomore season with room to grow late in games and with great mastery and control over Bill Musgrave’s scheme. He has dynamic skill players, a massive offensive line and a run game looking to improve. The help is there. So is Carr’s work ethic, which helped him make strides this offseason. He’s primed to perform at a high level. Playoffs will hinge on that as much as anything else. -- Scott Bair
2) Can Khalil Mack take over games?
The Raiders edge rusher is one of the NFL’s best defensive players, hands down. It’s an indefensible point after he had 15 sacks, was an unstoppable run stopper and an All-Pro at two positions. Scary part: There’s room to improve. Double teams will come Mack’s way regardless of how well others perform, and his ability to fight through them and produce will be a key factor at crucial points. If Mack is truly dominant at key moments – remember 2015’s victory at Denver? Brock Osweiler does – he can secure wins as well as any quarterback. -- Scott Bair
1) Can Raiders perform under pressure?
Parity reigns in the NFL, with several tight games decided in the fourth quarter. The Raiders lost too many of those in last year’s 7-9 campaign, which might’ve gone different with better clutch performance. The Raiders have more experienced talent this season, with a chance to win some games on that alone. There are tough opponents on the schedule, and beating the best is essential to be considered among them. The ability to perform under pressure requires calm and confidence, traits the coaching staff has instilled over the summer. Now it’s a matter of execution when it matters most. -- Scott Bair