Raiders can validate 12-4 with better defense and healthy Derek Carr

Updated September 9, 2017 - 4:57 pm

Most believe you shouldn’t look back to move forward, and perhaps that’s shrewd counsel for the Raiders as another NFL season arrives.

It’s one thing not to realize your potential.

It’s another when misfortune won’t allow it.

How far the Raiders might have advanced in the 2016 playoffs was all but determined before the postseason began, when on a Christmas Eve afternoon game against the Colts in Oakland, quarterback Derek Carr was sacked.

Result: Broken right fibula.

Result No. 2: Fate sealed.

The Raiders would fall short of winning a division title, make the playoffs as a wild card, start a rookie quarterback in Connor Cook at Houston and predictably be eliminated, because they weren’t good enough defensively to stop people while hoping an offense sputtering without its leader could outscore the Texans.

Which is another way of saying that whoever first uttered that phrase about hope springs eternal sure didn’t know anything about losing your most important player at an NFL season’s most critical time.

Think about it: In those 15 games Carr started last season, the Raiders averaged 28.2 points.

In the two he didn’t play, they averaged 10.

So it goes that not much has changed for the Raiders, meaning the team picked to win the AFC West this year and among those getting substantial action at sports books as a Super Bowl favorite can’t again afford any significant injury to the guy who in June was awarded a five-year, $125 million contract extension.

Carr was beyond impressive in those preseason snaps he was afforded the last month, completing 20-of-26 for 244 yards with four touchdowns and one interception. He has never looked better in an offense that could be as explosive as the league knows. It added Marshawn Lynch at running back to rumble behind one of the NFL’s best lines, and wide receiver Amari Cooper has produced two 1,000-yard seasons to begin his pro career.

Translation: These guys could be scarier with the ball than some weekly costumes in the Black Hole.

“We’re more comfortable as (an offense),” Carr said. “We play faster. When you keep some words the same, when guys can speak the same language over and over again, it puts ease in peoples’ minds so they can go out and play fast. There is less thinking involved.”

Defense must validate

Here’s the issue: While his backup this season has played 28 NFL games with 17 starts over four seasons in Buffalo and owns the experience Cook lacked when he became the first player in league history to make his first career start in a playoff game, EJ Manuel still isn’t Carr.

For this, it’s uncertain Manuel would be capable of playing at a high enough level to overcome what continues to be concerns elsewhere.

Yeah, over on the other side.

If the Raiders are going to validate and even improve on their 12-4 record of last season, they have to produce more stops weekly.

They drafted defense with the idea of shoring up things, wanting to be far better than a unit that last season was second worst against the pass and by far the worst against pass plays over 20 yards.

But two rookies who were taken with thoughts of making things better in those areas — cornerback Gareon Conley and safety Obi Melifonwu — missed significant portions of training camp with injuries. Neither has the preseason experience you would hope for first-year players wanting to make immediate impacts. Indeed, Melifonwu’s status for Sunday’s season-opener at Tennessee and beyond appears in jeopardy after he underwent knee surgery recently.

The Raiders still need help at linebacker. Defensive player of the year Khalil Mack remains one of the league’s most effective edge rushers, and the interior play shined this preseason. But you’re still talking about a defense that allowed an average of 24.1 points.

They bent a whole heck of a lot last season, and sometimes altogether broke.

“We want to win and we want to shut teams down and we want to do all the things that it takes to be a really good defense,” said Raiders defensive coordinator Ken Norton Jr. “We really like the direction we’re going.”

They don’t need to look back to move forward.

They just need to defend better than last season and hope when a block is missed up front and the other guys get to Carr, the worst result is a sack and nothing more ominous.

That’s how you validate 12-4 and perhaps live longer when the playoffs arrive.

That’s how you allow a lot of future Super Bowl betting tickets on your team to cash.

Contact columnist Ed Graney at or 702-383-4618. He can be heard on “The Press Box,” ESPN Radio 100.9 FM and 1100 AM from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. Monday through Friday. Follow @edgraney on Twitter.

Raiders Videos
Osemele says Raiders wanted to send a message of unity during national anthem
Offensive linemen Marshall Newhouse and Kelechi Osmele explain why some of the Oakland Raiders chose to protest by sitting and interlocking arms during the presentation of the national anthem prior to their game against the Washington Redskins.
Carr on the Raiders intended anthem message, loss to the Redskins
Oakland Raiders quarterback Derek Carr discusses the team's loss to the Washington Redskins and what message the team hoped to convey during the national anthem.
Del Rio on players protest during the anthem, loss to the Redskins
Oakland Raiders head coach Jack Del Rio discusses some of the players' decision to sit during the national anthem and the team's 27-10 loss to the Washington Redskins.
Nación Vegas: Los Raiders pierden 27-10 en contra los Redskins
Era una noche fea para los Raiders quien perdió el juego 27-10 en contra los Washington Redskins. Es la primera derrota para los Raiders esta temporada.
What statement will the Raiders make during the national anthem?
The Review Journal's Michael Gehlken and Ed Graney report from Washington D.C. and break down what to expect before the Washington Redskins vs. the Oakland Raiders game taking place at the FedEx Field in Landover, Maryland.
Vegas Nation: 5 things to watch for when the Washington Redskins play the Raiders
Here are five things to look out for when the Redskins play the Raiders on Sunday night.
Raiders management wants family-friendly Las Vegas stadium
When the Raiders relocate to the new Las Vegas stadium in 2020, the team’s management hopes to foster a family-friendly atmosphere at games.
Vegas Nation: Raiders Injuries and Preview of Redskins Game
Bryan Salmond and Michael Gehlken talk about this Sunday's game between the Raiders and the Redskins as well as potential players that might miss Sunday nights game.
Vegas Nation: Raiders Secondary Dealing with Injuries
Bryan Salmond and Michael Gehlken discuss Derek Carr's interesting commercial as well as the health of Raiders defensive backs Gareon Conley and Sean Smith.
Vegas Nation Red Zone Week 3
Bill Bradley hosts Vegas Nation Red Zone with guest Cindy Boren to discuss the Raiders matchup this Sunday against the Washington Redskins and the questions surrounding Kirk Cousins.
Sports Betting Spotlight: NFL Week 3
Todd Dewey, Kelly Stewart (@kellyinvegas) and Caesars Oddsmaker Alan Berg go over their picks for week three of NFL football and their best bets.
Vegas Nation: Raiders Injuries and Preview of Redskins Game
Bryan Salmond and Michael Gehlken talk about this Sunday's game between the Raiders and the Redskins as well as potential players that might miss Sunday nights game.
Vegas Nation: Lynch Getting 'Hyphy' and Mexico Earthquake Impact
Michael Gehlken joins Bryan Salmond in the studio to discuss how the NFL looks at Marshawn Lynch after getting "hyphy" on the sidelines, and how the Mexico City Earthquake is going to affect the game between the Raiders and the Patriots. They also compare the stats between Derek Carr and Kirk Cousins to see how Carr stands against the Redskins quarterback.
Social Sound Off: Raiders Beat The Jets
Bryan Salmond and Kelly Stewart go over your tweets from the game where the Raiders won their second game of the season.
Construction comes to life at Raiders Stadium site in Las Vegas
Construction activity is coming to life at the Raiders Stadium site in Las Vegas. Heavy vehicles, cranes and water trucks were visible at the site at Russell Road and Dean Martin Drive, just west of Interstate 15. A formal groundbreaking for the $1.9 billion, 65,000-seat domed stadium is expected in late November. Plans indicate the stadium will be 225 feet tall with 10 levels. It is also expected to gave a see-through video wall.
Mack, Joseph and Penn on the Raiders win over the Jets
Oakland Raiders' Khalil Mack, Karl Joseph and Donald Penn talk about defeating the New York Jets in their home opener, 45-20.
Carr on how Crabtree and the running game led to their win over the Jets
Oakland Raiders quarterback Derek Carr spoke to reporters during his post-game new conference about how special a player Michael Crabtree is and how effective the running game was in their 45-20 win over the New York Jets.
Vegas Nation: Raiders Improve to 2-0 with Easy Win Over Jets
Bryan Salmond, Michael Gehlken, Ron Kantowski and Gilbert Manzano break down the Raiders 45-20 win over the New York Jets, including the party-like atmosphere, Marshawn Lynch's impact on the team as well as another solid performance from the defense.
Nacion Vegas: Los Raiders Derrotan a los Jets
Los Raiders derrotan a los Jets, 45-20. Crabtree tuvo un día espectacular con tres anotaciónes. Lynch hizo una anotación debutando en su ciudad natal.
News Headlines
pos-2 — ads_infeed_1
post-4 — ads_infeed_2
Local Spotlight
Home Front Page Footer Listing
You May Like

You May Like