The words all-time get thrown around all the time, and they’re rarely accurate. We have short term memories, and any time someone displays dominance, people start asking if they’re the greatest of all time. Peyton Manning, Tom Brady, Aaron Rodgers, J.J. Watt, Rob Gronkowski and others are players that have started in the last three years that some have included in the “all-time” conversation.
However, that doesn’t mean they’re always wrong. After all, you’d be hard-pressed to find a “G.O.A.T.” argument that didn’t include Manning or Brady. It is possible for some of the greatest ever to be playing right now. And just judging by the first two weeks, the 2017 Oakland Raiders have that kind of all-time potential.
The 2017 Oakland Raiders Offense Has All-Time Potential
This article was written before the Oakland Raiders took on Kirk Cousins and the Washington Redskins on Sunday night. Maybe the Raiders proved my point, slinging the ball all over the field, and maybe they had a meteoric meltdown. It has only been two weeks, but when you look at what film we have, and what we can see on paper, there’s some really interesting room for growth.
The Raiders go as quarterback Derek Carr does. As we saw in the playoffs last year, this team is absolutely nothing without their star quarterback. In his fourth season, the young quarterback is one of the best quarterbacks in the NFL, and he’s getting better every week. His chemistry with Oakland’s weapons, combined with a great relationship with offensive coordinator Todd Downing, have helped him improve on a 2016 season that had him earning MVP consideration.
If you’re going to have an elite offense, you need an elite quarterback, and while it might still be too soon to say, it looks like the Raiders might just have one. But as Andrew Luck will tell you, he can’t do it alone.
So far in 2017, nobody’s offensive line has played as well as Oakland’s. Donald Penn hasn’t suffered from his holdout, Rodney Hudson is still a beast at center, and the NFL’s best guard duo, Kelechi Osemele and Gabe Jackson, picked right up where they left off last year. Interestingly enough, Mike Tice has been able to get a ton of quality play out of Marshall Newhouse, who has yet to give up a quarterback pressure this season.
The offensive line has paved the way for Marshawn Lynch, DeAndre Washington, Jalen Richard, and even Cordarrelle Patterson to make big plays on the ground as well. The best offensive line in the NFL is keeping Derek Carr’s jersey clean while they make highways for the team’s backs. Quarterbacks are important, but rarely can they succeed without a good offensive line.
What makes Oakland’s offense so special is the combination of depth and versatility. This team is one with no shortage of weapons. At receiver, they’ve got Amari Cooper, Michael Crabtree, Seth Roberts, and the aforementioned Patterson. At tight end, they’ve got a trio of talented players in Jared Cook, Clive Walford, and Lee Smith. And the party doesn’t stop, when you look at the backfield, they’ve got Lynch, Washington, and Richard.
Not only do the Raiders have a plethora of weapons, but there’s so much versatility. No two players are alike, and everyone has their own set of unique strengths. Cooper can cut on a dime and run with the best of them. Crabtree can highpoint the ball and break ankles in the redzone. Roberts is deceptively fast, but he’s a great blocker, and always seems to come up in the clutch. And when you look at the speedy Patterson, he’s dangerous in the slot, out wide, back for returns, and even in the backfield.
The Tight Ends
The tight ends are the same way. Cook is very fast, and there’s definitely some chemistry forming between he and Carr. Walford was Oakland’s number one tight end, and he caught 33 passes for 359 yards and three touchdowns. So far, Carr and Cook are on pace for 72 catches and 648 yards. When you remember that Walford is still on the team, and that block-master Lee Smith is an underrated pass-catcher, they aren’t exactly slouches.
Then you’ve got the tailbacks. The Raiders have three that all receive multiple snaps. Marshawn Lynch, aka Beast Mode, is the muscle up the middle. He’s the hammer, and he always seems to pick up three or four yards. That’s where Washington and Richard come in. The two smaller, shiftier backs take advantage of the bruised front seven to break off big runs and catch passes out of the backfield.
So what makes the 2017 Oakland Raiders so different from the 2016 version? Well, this team has a certain attitude that the 2016 team didn’t. There’s a certain toughness, a physicality, a swagger. And that swagger is personified by the man they call Beast Mode. Nothing against Latavius Murray, but he didn’t always play with a ton of toughness last year. Lynch brings a certain toughness and swagger to an offense built around airing the ball out. On long downs, the Raiders have the ability to air it out, but with short yardage, nobody is stopping Lynch and that line.
And that’s why this team can be so dominant. They have so much talent, and it’s balanced. They can kill you on the ground and through the air, and they can do so in style. Last week, the Raiders put up 45 points on a pathetic New York Jets team, but the scary part is it felt like they could’ve done better. The Raiders are scoring at will, but it feels like they’re only getting started. It’ll be interesting to see just how good the 2017 Oakland Raiders offense can be.