For some, the challenge will be harder than for the others. Teams with new head coaches, for example, will be well behind the pace.
The Raiders are one of those teams, but new head coach Hue Jackson is certainly no stranger in Oakland, having been the team’s offensive coordinator in 2010.
Still, Jackson and his staff figure to be plenty busy at breakneck speed whenever the lockout is lifted. To help him, S&BI has crafted its checklist of the five most important things that need to happen if the Raiders are going to build off the momentum they created last year.
Besides, watching rich people fight over more money tends to get old real fast. We just want to talk football for a change.
A wide receiver – any wide receiver – needs to step up
The Raiders owned the NFL’s second-best rushing attack a year ago and figure to be a ground-oriented unit again in 2011. Defenses know this and will stack the box to prevent it from happening, so it’s critical the passing game become a more integral part of the offense.
Specifically, one of the receivers has to become a playmaker. Tight end Zach Miller was that for quarterback Jason Campbell, but there’s a chance Miller might not be back depending on how the CBA shakes out. Even if he does return, the Raiders won’t go very far unless one of the wideouts steps up.
Chaz Schilens and Louis Murphy seem the most capable of stepping into that role, though Schilens hasn’t been able to stay healthy. Both Schilens and Murphy have the size you want in a No. 1 receiver but neither has been consistent enough.
Jacoby Ford definitely fits the bill, or at least he did as a rookie. Now the question is can he avoid the sophomore slump. Teams will be keying on Ford more, especially if no other receivers are making plays. Nick Miller has also spent the offseason bulking up, which will make it easier for him to get off the line of scrimmage if the Raiders ever give him a shot on offense.
That brings us to Darius Heyward-Bey. The former first-round pick is entering his third season and has yet to show any inclination of being a player the Raiders can rely on to carry the passing game. While DHB has a solid work ethic, his fundamentals have been poor and quarterbacks were noticeably hesitant about throwing his way in 2010.
Then again, maybe Jackson and Davis might want to give Plaxico Burress a call.
Next up: McFadden