Quarterback Derek Carr and the Oakland Raiders improved by four wins to 7-9 in 2015, but with several big acquisitions arriving this offseason and Carr entering his third NFL season, expectations in Oakland are much higher for 2016.
“What we did last year on the field was better, but we want the same kind of jump again this year,” Carr said, via CSN Bay Area. “We want to be better than 7-9. Honestly, 7-9 is not going to cut it. It felt good last year, I think we were close to winning 10 games. We have to continue to push ourselves to do better than that.”
The Raiders started 4-3 but struggled to find consistency in the second half of the 2015 season, losing three in a row from Weeks 9-11 and winning only three of the last six games. Carr finished his sophomore season with 32 touchdowns and 13 interceptions, while linebacker Khalil Mack produced 15 sacks in an All-Pro campaign.
Oakland’s seven wins were the most since 2011.
General manager Reggie McKenzie was aggressive this offseason, using his millions in cap space to sign offensive lineman Kelechi Osemele, cornerback Sean Smith, linebacker Bruce Irvin and safety Reggie Nelson. The Raiders also have eight draft picks to use, including the 14th overall pick and two fifth-round selections.
If McKenzie nails another draft—and he’s found Mack, Carr, receiver Amari Cooper and several other core players in recent drafts—the Raiders will have built a strong foundation for a team capable of making the postseason.
Then again, Carr knows games aren’t won in the spring.
“On paper it looks great. We don’t want to be paper champs,” Carr said. “We’ve got some good guys, but none of that matters unless we put the work in. Everything can look good in theory and in practice it all falls apart. As a leader of this team, I’m going to concentrate on pushing to get better every day.”
The young and talented Raiders will be a sexy pick to make the playoffs in 2016. Even in a division with the Super Bowl champs and an 11-win team from 2015 (Kansas City Chiefs), anything short of a nine or 10 wins will be a big disappointment in Oakland next season.