Raiders hope coach Jack Del Rio changes pattern of losing
OAKLAND, Calif. (AP) The Oakland Raiders have had eight coaches, 18 starting quarterbacks and one all-too-familiar result for the past 12 seasons.
The Raiders have lost an NFL-worst 136 games since the start of the 2003 season and are the only team in the league that has failed to produce even a single winning record in that span.
But with stability at quarterback with Derek Carr, a dominant defender in Khalil Mack, and a new coaching staff led by Jack Del Rio, the Raiders are hopeful the ingredients for a turnaround are finally in place.
''We are changing the mindset, the culture, because as a football team, in order to do the things that we have on our plan, you have to operate a certain way and we're operating that way, and we're learning what it looks like,'' Del Rio said. ''So I believe in that. I believe that the guys here really want to win.''
Del Rio helped spearhead an upgrade in the team's weight room and facilities, overhauled the strength and conditioning program, and brought a heightened sense of competition to the franchise with a coaching staff filled with former NFL stars.
None of that will matter without better talent on the field. It all begins with Carr, who started all 16 games last season and became the seventh rookie to throw for at least 3,000 yards and 20 touchdowns in a season.
He also averaged an NFL-low 5.5 yards per attempt, but the Raiders hope an increase in talent led by rookie receiver Amari Cooper and former 1,000-yard wideout Michael Crabtree will help change that.
''I think in some key positions where we've added people, you add talented guys that can be potential game breakers for you,'' safety Charles Woodson said. ''That's what you need in this game. You need some guys that can go out there and perhaps take the game over at any given moment. I think we have a few guys like that.''
Here are some things to watch for the Raiders this season:
MACK ATTACK: The Raiders' best player is already Mack, who was dominant against the run as a rookie and generated consistent pressure on the quarterback despite only four sacks. Mack will play more of a defensive end role this season, limiting his drops into coverage, and looks like a much more capable pass rusher. That will be necessary if Oakland will increase its sacks total of 22 from a year ago.
BIG-PLAY TARGETS: Oakland has lacked a big-play receiver since Randy Moss left town eight years ago. The team has not had a 1,000-yard receiver since Moss did it in 2005, tied with Jacksonville for the longest current drought in the NFL. With Cooper and Crabtree on board, the Raiders have two receivers capable of being standouts.
SUSPECT SECONDARY: GM Reggie McKenzie chose to let starting cornerbacks Tarell Brown and Carlos Rogers leave in the offseason and did not bring in reinforcements. That was in part because of a belief in what youngsters TJ Carrie, DJ Hayden and Keith McGill can do. Oakland's success will depend heavily on whether those three can validate that confidence. Carrie played well as a rookie, but Hayden has struggled in two years since being a first-round pick, and McGill got only limited action in his first year in 2014.
RUN TO DAYLIGHT: The Raiders were last in the NFL in rushing a year ago as Darren McFadden and Maurice Jones-Drew struggled mightily. Latavius Murray provided a late-season spark when he finally got his chance by averaging 5.2 yards per carry. He will be the featured back this season behind an improved line anchored by free agent center Rodney Hudson, bruising second-year guard Gabe Jackson, and consistent left tackle Donald Penn.
HOME SWEET HOME: Hanging over the Raiders all season will be their future home. The team is playing on a one-year lease at the Coliseum and is in talks with the San Diego Chargers about building a stadium in the Los Angeles area. The decision on where they play in 2016 could possibly come late this season.
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