After back-to-back 4-12 seasons, there was some question whether or not Raiders coach Dennis Allen and general manager Reggie McKenzie would return for the 2014 season. But both are back for another go-round — and this time with an overhauled roster.
The Raiders used their massive salary-cap space this offseason to add a bevy of players with Super Bowl and Pro Bowl experience, including quarterback Matt Schaub, running back Maurice Jones-Drew, linebacker LaMarr Woodley and defensive lineman Justin Tuck.
On one hand, having seasoned players should help the Raiders be a more consistent, disciplined team. On the other hand, it could be a group of players whose best days of playing football are behind them.
How Oakland's veterans perform will likely determine if they can end their current 11-year drought without a winning season. And it won't be easy in an AFC West where the three other teams all reached the playoffs last year, including the Denver Broncos, who lost to the Seattle Seahawks in the Super Bowl.
Here are three things to watch as Oakland opens training camp this week:
In the NFL's current state, if you don't have a quality quarterback, you are in a heap of trouble. Well, the Raiders haven't had a quality quarterback in seemingly forever. They are hoping the addition of Matt Schaub can change that.
Schaub had some impressive seasons with the Houston Texans, including throwing for more than 4,000 yards three times, but he is coming off a dreadful year. Schaub threw 14 interceptions, many of which were returned for TDs, to just 10 touchdowns and eventually lost his starting job.
There have already been positive reports about Schaub's leadership ability since he's joined the Raiders, but Oakland needs him to turn that into results on the field, starting with training camp and the preseason.
If Schaub can't deliver, fans will be quick to start calling for rookie Derek Carr.
Better with age?
The Raiders went to the bargain basement in free agency this season, adding veteran free agents on short-term deals.
It could be a wise move if players such as receiver James Jones, Maurice Jones-Drew, offensive lineman Donald Penn, and cornerbacks Carlos Rogers and Tarell Brown still have some gas left in the tank. Some, such as Justin Tuck and LaMarr Woodley, are using their release from their previous team as fuel entering 2014.
On paper, the Raiders should be improved thanks to the influx of veterans. But on paper and reality don't always jive.
If numerous veteran players start popping up on the injury report during training camp, another long season could be in store for the Silver and Black.
Playing in a division that features Peyton Manning and the high-octane Denver Broncos, you'd better have a defense that can keep up. In recent years, the Raiders haven't come close, giving up the fourth-most points per game last season.
That has to improve in 2014 if the Raiders have any hopes of reaching the playoffs.
Oakland has spent its past two first-round picks on defensive players and need it to start paying dividends.
Rookie linebacker Khalil Mack has been built up as a star in the making and the Raiders need him, as well as Tuck and Woodley, to find ways to consistently put pressure on the opposing QB.
Last year's first-round pick, D.J. Hayden, had an injury-plagued rookie campaign and is being counted on to contribute more this season.
The Raiders will need to find out quick if their mix of veterans and youngsters can gel, or more changes could be in store.