The Oakland Raiders have garnered a lot of attention heading into the 2016 NFL regular season, and Tuesday morning former Raiders Head Coach Jon Gruden and the ESPN Monday Night Football crew shared their thoughts on the team during a national conference call.
Over the past seven years, Gruden has established himself as one of the premier sports analysts in the industry, and weighed in on the expectations surrounding the young team this season.
"Well I think everything you see about the Raiders, this is a year for them to take a giant step forward," said Gruden. "They've got some good players in place, [Head] Coach [Jack] Del Rio has done a nice job obviously. Look, Derek Carr has got some weapons, you have to love [Amari] Cooper, you got to like [Michael] Crabtree, and I think [Clive] Walford is coming on."
Carr is entering his third year in the NFL, commonly regarded as the point in their careers when young quarterbacks take yet another major step forward in their development. If Carr can continue his progression as both a leader and signal caller, the Raiders could be poised for a solid year.
According to Gruden, the aerial attack has the ability to grow due to the bolstered offensive line.
"Most importantly they've solidified the offensive line," said Gruden. "It's a salty group that can run the rock with [Latavius] Murray, and Khalil Mack one of the best closers in the fourth quarter, and I even see [Sebastian] Janikowski still kicking."
The AFC West features the reigning Super Bowl champs, but Gruden expects the race for the division title to be open, considering the Denver Broncos are in a quarterback transition. The Raiders can make some noise according to Gruden, and he believes they have the potential to be one of the better teams in the league.
Joining Gruden on Monday Night Football in 2016 will be veteran play-by-play commentator Sean McDonough. McDonough will be the fifth announcer to host Monday Night Football during the show's 46-year tenure, and he also chimed in to support a talented young Raiders group.
"Oakland has definitely been a trendy pick to be a team that takes a big step forward, and I really think that they will," stated McDonough.
To close out the call, Gruden didn't shy away from expressing his excitement when discussing the Raiders' game in Mexico City. "I will say this too, we are really excited to have the Raiders on Monday Night Football," he noted. "It will be the first Monday Night Football game ever outside American soil. It's going to be a lot of fun."
The Raiders are scheduled to make their Monday Night Football appearance in Mexico City November 21st against the Houston Texans at Estadio Azteca.