The Oakland Raiders have unfinished business after a promising 2016.
The Raiders started last season 4-1 en route to a 12-4 record and a berth in the AFC playoffs for the first time since 2002.
Talk of an AFC championship meeting with the New England Patriots floated in December, but then quarterback Derek Carr suffered a broken right fibula against the Indianapolis Colts on Dec. 24 and Super Bowl dreams were dashed.
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Without Carr, the Raiders lost their last two games, including the AFC wild-card game against the Houston Texans.
Carr is healthy for his fourth NFL season and the Raiders hope to give Oakland a Super Bowl title before they move to Las Vegas, presumably in 2020.
“I am locked in,” Carr says.
Carr, a second round draft choice out of Fresno State in the 2014 NFL Draft, has 81 career touchdown passes and is one of five players in NFL history with at least 80 touchdown passes in his first three seasons.
He is the only player in the NFL with at least 80 touchdown passes and fewer than 35 interceptions in his first three seasons.
Carr and his offense ranked sixth in NFL in 2016 with 373.3 yards per game.
But they need help
The Raiders say they know improvement is expected on defense, even as that side of the ball returns 2016 NFL Defensive Player of the Year Khalil Mack.
In 2016, the Raiders were 26th in the league, giving up 375.1 yards per game. They ranked 24th during the August exhibition season.
In April, the Raiders thought they had found help for a beleaguered secondary in the NFL Draft. But second-round pick Obi Melifonwu went on injured reserve (leg) on Tuesday, meaning he will miss the first eight weeks of the season. And first-rounder Gareon Conley, a cornerback, hasn’t fully practiced since June because of a shin injury.
Still, cornerback David Amerson says the defense is ready to go. “We understand what needs to be done. It’s a matter of going out there and getting it done.”
Same offense, new OC
Carr will operate under new offensive coordinator Todd Downing when the Raiders open up in Nashville against the Tennessee Titans.
Gone is running back Latavius Murray, but the Raiders added Oakland native Marshawn Lynch to the mix, and signed free agents Jared Cook (tight end) and Cordarrelle Patterson (wide receiver).
Carr says the changes haven’t hurt the Raiders’ offensive cohesion. “We’re more comfortable. We play faster. When you keep some words the same, when guys can speak the same language over and over again, it puts ease in peoples’ minds so they can go out and play fast.”
A look at the Raiders
2016: 12-4, lost 27-14 to Houston in AFC wild-card game
Head coach: Jack Del Rio, 12th season as an NFL head coach, 87-84 (19-13 in two seasons with Raiders)
Key additions: RB Marshawn Lynch, TE Jared Cook, OL Marshall Newhouse, WR Cordarrelle Patterson
Key losses: RB Latavius Murray, LB Perry Riley Jr., RB Taiwan Jones
- Sunday, Sept. 10: at Tennessee, 10 a.m.
- Sept. 17: New York Jets, 1:05 p.m.
- Sept. 24: at Washington, 5:30 p.m.
- Oct. 1: at Denver, 1:25 p.m.
- Oct. 8: Baltimore, 1:05 p.m.
- Oct. 15: Los Angeles Chargers, 1:25 p.m.
- Oct. 19: Kansas City, 5:25 p.m.
- Oct. 29: at Buffalo, 10 a.m.
- Nov. 5: x-at Miami, 5:30 p.m.
- Nov. 12: Bye
- Nov. 19: New England (Mexico City), 1:25 p.m.
- Nov. 26: Denver, 1:25 p.m.
- Dec. 3: New York Giants, 1:25 p.m.
- Dec. 10: at Kansas City, 10 a.m.
- Dec. 17: x-Dallas, 5:30 p.m.
- Dec. 25: at Philadelphia, 5:30 p.m.
- Dec. 31: at Los Angeles Chargers, 1:25 p.m.