The Oakland Raiders haven’t made the playoffs since 2002 and are coming off a 3-13 season.
And yet, there is hope.
Maybe the Raiders won’t make the playoffs this season, but they should win at least five games for the first time since 2011 and – who knows? – possibly finish with more than eight wins for the first time in 13 years.
“There definitely is a positive buzz,” San Francisco Chronicle Raiders writer Vic Tafur said on CBS Sports Radio’s After Hours with Amy Lawrence. “I think it’s all because of the offense. I think people like Derek Carr. I think they think he’ll take the next step this year. He’s got a lot more weapons this year in Amari Cooper, and Michael Crabtree has come over a very determined and healthy guy. (He) wants to get back in the free-agent market next offseason and make some real money, so I think he’s got a chip on his shoulder and will have a big year.”
Carr has a chip as well. He completed 58.1 percent of his passes last year for 3,270 yards, 21 touchdowns and 12 interceptions. Those aren’t bad numbers for a rookie, but Carr knows he can be better. So does the Raiders’ front office.
“I think he’s smart, he has a big arm and he grew up in this kind of stuff with his brother,” Tafur said. “So he has everything you want as far as the development things you need to be a good quarterback. You can’t really judge him on last year because he had nothing around him. They couldn’t run the ball, his receivers weren’t very good (and his) O-Line was maybe average at best. He had decent stats last year. He did’t turn the ball over, which is what they asked him not to do. I think this year we’ll see more of what he can do as far as getting the ball downfield and actually putting points on the board this year.”
The Raiders used their fourth overall pick this year on Cooper, who was a Heisman Trophy finalist and Biletnikoff winner at Alabama. The 21-year-old Miami native figures to be targeted early and often this season.
“He’s been great, as advertised,” Tafur said. “He’s very polished. He runs routes really well, and he works hard. He’s definitely been brought up and trained that way throughout his career. He definitely has his head on his shoulders right.”
It also helps that he won’t be asked to be the No. 1 guy like, say, Sammy Watkins was last year in Buffalo. Crabtree is certainly no Dez Bryant, but he did have 68 catches for 698 yards and four touchdowns for San Francisco last season. He’s also entering his seventh year in the NFL, which means he’ll be able to mentor Cooper and show him the ropes.
“There won’t be pressure on Amari to do big things from day one,” Tafur said. “I think Crabtree might be the No. 1 guy.”