Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

NFL: 32 in 32

Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

NFL: 32 in 32

Article excerpt

Byline: Phillip Heilman

Last week, the Times-Union began unveiling its 2016 NFL preseason power rankings by previewing one team, starting with the predicted worst (32nd) to best (1st).

18 OAKLAND RAIDERS

Coach: Jack Del Rio (11th season overall, second season with Raiders).

Offensive coordinator: Bill Musgrave (second season).

Defensive coordinator: Ken Norton Jr. (second season).

2015 record: 7-9 (third in AFC West).

Who's new (free agency): G Kelechi Osemele, LB Bruce Irvin, CB Sean Smith and S Reggie Nelson.

Who's new (notable draft picks): S Karl Joseph (first round), DE Jihad Ward (second round) and QB Connor Cook (fourth round).

Who's gone: DE Justin Tuck, OT J'Marcus Webb and LB Curtis Lofton.

FOUR STORYLINES

1. Is Derek Carr a franchise quarterback? It looks that way. The fourth quarterback taken in the 2014 NFL Draft (Doesn't Cleveland wish it could have a mulligan on taking Johnny Manziel?), Carr has started all 16 games in both of his seasons in the league. He improved the Raiders from 3-13 as a rookie to 7-9 last year while tossing 32 touchdowns and 13 interceptions. With second-year receiver Amari Cooper, Oakland has a young duo that should produce offensive fireworks for years to come.

2. How much can the defense improve? There are plenty of new pieces to watch. The Raiders made a splash in free agency by bringing in a group that includes veterans Bruce Irvin, Sean Smith and Reggie Nelson to revamp a defense that allowed 24.9 points per game last season, which was 22nd in the league. Smith and Nelson, who will replace retired safety Charles Woodson, are dependable pieces of a secondary. Irvin has never been a big stats guy but can be disruptive when playing well. Add in All-Pro Khalil Mack and suddenly this looks like a legitimate defense that should be able to create turnovers. …

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