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The San José Raiders are an NFL team based out of San José, California. Founded in 1967, San José has won 6 Championships in 1974, 1990, 1993, 1994, 1999 and 2001. They have a rich history consisting of 16 HOF Players, one of which is the all-time leader in receiving yards and touchdown catches, Tim Brown. They also own the title of "greatest defensive franchise of all time" according to SportsNight Weekly online magazine.
While their offence has always been good, it is their defence that has been the staple of their franchise. They had the number one ranked defence in the entire league for an 12 season period stretching from 1990-2001 which won them 5 of their 6 total championships. The defence consisted of many talented players such as Brian Bosworth, who was the league leader in tackles for 4 consecutive years (1993-1996), Ronnie Lott, Reggie White and Deion Sanders, to name a few. Recently, the San José Raiders have been in a rough spot, trying to rebuild their team, coming off an abysmal season, finishing 3-13 and retaining the number 1 overall pick in this year's draft.
The Raiders are held together by head coach Mike Tomlin, who had one of the highest scoring offences in the league. Quarterback Ryan Tannehill threw for more than 4000 yards and 28 TDs, while their feature tailback, Rainn McDavis (an undrafted free agent signing) had a spectacular rookie campaign and rushed for over 1100 yards and 9 touchdowns. Even with their number 1 receiver, Larry Fitzgerald, once again crossing the thousand yard mark (his 6th consecutive season doing so) and the number 2 receiver, Nate Washington reaching 857 yards, both catching 7 TD passes, was not enough. This historically shut-down defence wobbled and collapsed this year, giving up a league high in yardage, TDs both through the air and on the ground, and had the leagues 2nd lowest turnover count, beaten out only by the Indianapolis Nighthawks. The only real bright spots of the defence this year was defensive back Orlando Scandrick (6 INT, 3rd league) and LB/DE Khalil Mack, who led the league in sacks with 17.5 and was top 15 in tackles.
General Manager Stan Kroenke has a lot of work to do if he wants to bring this team back to its original glory days with a stellar defence and an offence that can keep pace. This year's draft is crucial due to the fact that this draft class is stacked beyond belief with amazing defensive talent. If Kroenke wants to rebuild what was an abysmal defence, he has to build around Khalil Mack and Orlando Scandrick and hope that they can show leadership when the time is needed to the young draft class. Pass rushers have shown to be able to get to the quarterback very quick, while linebackers have been very effective at wrapping up in tackles and bringing opposing players down to the ground... But the highlight of this draft class is the secondary and their ability to ball hawk. This year was statistically the best year ever for college football defensive backs judging by interceptions and pass knockdowns. This secondary has to be a priority for GM Kroenke due to the fact that only one DB this year in a Raiders jersey intercepted more than 2 passes all year and that is even if you count back to all four preseason games.
Free agency will also be a concern for Kroenke and Tomlin. Orlando Scandrick will likely be the target of a franchise tag, and the team will definitely be clambering to re-sign Pro Bowl Left Tackle Gabe Jackson. Jackson was the anchor of the offensive line all year, which gave up the 3rd least amount of sacks with just 18. Jackson was credited with 0 of those given up. Another huge concern in free agency is RG Danny Watkins, coming off a huge year after his previous season was limited to just 5 games with a knee injury. He was credited with giving up just 2 sacks this year, both coming in a week 7 game against Ndamokung Suh. One of the biggest free agents is coming this year and he has expressed interest in the Raiders: that is FS Tyrann Mathieu, aka, Honey Badger. Coming off a Pro Bowl, defensive player of the year, 70 tackle, 11 INT season, he refused to re-sign or accept a franchise tag from the Boston Patriots due to "horrid treatment of players", and so, he will likely be getting 27 offers come free agency time. As mentioned before, he expressed interest in the Raiders and said that he would "love to come and play in San José" so if that isn't a reason to be optimistic for free agency, there isn't one.
Overall, this is a huge year for the future of the San José Raiders. If they want to return to the glory days of the 90's, Kroenke needs to make a splash on the defensive side of the ball, specifically focussing on signing Tyrann Mathieu and franchise tagging Orlando Scandrick. Also re-singing the 2 offensive lineman would be a good place to start. Drafting smart is something Kroenke has always been good at and this is his make-or-break year with the Raiders. After missing the playoffs for the last 5 seasons, a good year is in order for the fans.