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Five Burning Questions For The Oakland Raiders

See the top five questions the Oakland Raiders must answer to climb out of the AFC West cellar.

Mark Gunnels

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The Oakland Raiders haven’t made the playoffs since 2002, which is the last time the franchise has reached the Super Bowl. Ever since then, Oakland has hired eight different coaches, with former Jaguars head coach Jack Del Rio being the latest.

Unlike recent hires, Jack Rel Rio brings some experience to the table, but at the same time, he’s under .500 for his career.

With training camp right around the corner, here’s five questions the Raiders must answer.

Is Derek Carr the franchise quarterback?

It’s been ages since the Raiders had a franchise guy under center. To be exact, Rich Gannon is the last quarterback to start four consecutive seasons in the silver and black.

Last year, Derek Carr raised eye brows, as he compiled a touchdown to interception ratio of 21 to 12 to go along with 3,270 passing yards.

It’s still a mystery as to if Carr can be a long-term option or not, but Jack Del Rio seems to believe in the second-year quarterbacks ability.

“Carr’s a special young talent,” the first-year head coach said. “He’s got a really quick release, good decision-maker; he’s shown some of that grit we’re looking for, some of that toughness, so he’s a guy that we feel like we have an opportunity to build around.”

In order to enhance Carr’s chances of being successful, Oakland decided to use their first round draft pick on Amari Cooper. 

“He [Cooper] is ridiculous in and out of his breaks,” Carr said. “His style of play is perfect for this league. He’s good at getting on toes and creating separation. He’s good at when the ball is in his hands making those fast-twitch movements to make a guy go one way so he can take it to the house. It’s just little things that honestly people don’t even notice.”

Oakland also picked up veteran receiver Michael Crabtree, in hopes of him turning things around, which puts even more pressure on Carr to spread the wealth.

Latavius Murray or Trent Richardson?

To say Oakland’s ground game was poor last year would be an understatement. Oakland ranked dead last in total rushing offense, while also finishing last in rushing touchdowns and they tied for the most fumbles with 10.

With Darren McFadden no longer in town, Latavius Murray and newly acquired Trent Richardson are set to compete for the starting position.

Murray was the lone bright spot on the ground, as he averaged 5.2 yards per carry, albeit on limited touches. With training camp right around the corner, Murray is probably in the best shape of his life.

“It’s me proving to them that it wasn’t just a couple carries here and there at the end of the season,” Murray said. “It’s what I can do. I know how important training and everything I put into the summer is going into the year because I know how important the season is for me and for the team in general.”

However, former third overall pick, Trent Richardson doesn’t plan to go away easily.

“I know this playbook already, especially when it comes to the run,” the former first-round bust said. “I know what they expect and how they’re going to spread the field, putting me in a position to be successful. With that, in talking to Coach, he just said there is just a lot of opportunity out here. He said he isn’t going to promise me anything, but if I come in and work, I can be the cow bell.”

With that being said, Murray has the inside track to win the job, but it won’t be given.

Who wil be the right tackle?

For the previous two questions to turn into positive outcomes, Oakland’s offensive line must be on point.

On the bright side, four of the five slots seem to be locked in, but there will be an open battle at right tackle between Austin Howard and Menelik Watson.

Howard started all 16 games at right guard for Oakland last year, but he’s expected to make a transition to a more familiar spot.

“We’ve talked about it,” Del Rio said. “He’ll definitely get a look at right tackle. In all likelihood, we’ll start there with him and (Menelik) Watson battling for the right tackle spot. That’s what I envision. We know that he moved in at guard, but he’s probably more suited to be a tackle.”

Considering the sudden position switch, it definitely feels like Howard is the favorite to win the starting job. Nonetheless, Watson was a second-round pick just two years ago, so don’t expect Oakland just to give up on him easily.

The competition is wide open.

Is D.J. Hayden ready to be the man?

When the Raiders drafted Hayden, the expectation was for him to be a shut down corner and how could you blame them?

After all, Oakland took Hayden with the 12th overall pick in the 2013 NFL Draft. Unfortunately, Hayden’s short career has been hindered by injuries thus far. During his first two seasons Hayden only appeared in 18 games. On the bright side, all signs point to Hayden being healthy and ready to go.

“In the past, some stuff has happened that I can’t control,” said the former first-round pick. “But I’m focused on the future right now. I pray that nothing happens.”

Other than Charles Woodson, Oakland’s secondary is very young and inexperienced, but Hayden is confident it’ll all come together.

“We are going to be a pretty tough defense. I like what (Norton) brings to the table, him and all the coaches. I fell like we definitely are getting better each and every week,” Hayden said.

At the end of the day, the Raiders secondary will only go as far as Hayden takes them.

Can Jack Del Rio take Oakland to the next level?

Oakland’s lack of success in recent memory is well documented, but the organization is hopeful new head coach Jack Del Rio can turn things around.

It won’t be an easy task at all, however it’s good to know Del Rio and Raiders general manager Reggie McKenzie have similar viewpoints.

“We’ve known each other for a long time, ” Del Rio said. “In terms of philosophies, I think the one thing that we both appreciate are big guys. We appreciate big men in the trenches. We believe in having a physical football team and I think it starts with the offensive and defensive line. We both have a healthy respect for what the players go through and what the demands are and how important it is to get good players. I think that’s where I’d start.”

If you’re a Raiders fan you should feel good about Del Rio in comparison to previous coaches, but as we all know, Oakland has a long way to go to break their playoff drought that’s lasted since 2002.

 

Mark Gunnels is an NFL columnist for Football Insiders. He has several years of experience covering the NFL and NCAA football. He's the radio color commentator for Lincoln University football. Mark's work has been featured on Sports Illustrated, Fox Sports and Yard Barker.

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