The Raiders may have one game left on the schedule, but the 15-game body of work under offensive coordinator Bill Musgrave is a marked improvement over recent seasons. The 2015 iteration is the best offensive unit the Raiders have fielded since 2012 and features the best rushing attack since 2013.
The Raiders are averaging 342.1 yards per game, good for 22nd in the NFL. Now, you may not think No. 22 is something to brag about, but considering the numbers posted in 2014 you would have to agree 2015 has been a major improvement.
The Raiders 2014 offense ranked 32nd in the NFL and averaged just 282.2 yards per game and a paltry 77.5 on the ground. This season, the Raiders are averaging 93.9 yards per game on the ground, the most since 125 per game in 2013. The team was -15 in turnover ratio compared to a flat even 0 this year.
"The influx of players has really had a profound effect this year on offense; Derek being in his second [year]," Coach Musgrave said. "We brought in some guys at the receiver position, the tight end position, running back position, O-line position. We just have a bunch of good players that we can work with. We really enjoyed it."
Perhaps the most eye-popping thing about the 2015 Raiders offense has been the individual accomplishments by both the new players and the holdovers.
Latavius Murray is the first 1,000-yard rusher since Darren McFadden in 2011. Rookie Amari Cooper is the first 1,000-yard receiver since Randy Moss in 2005, and Derek Carr is 207 yards away from becoming the first 4,000 yard passer since Carson Palmer in 2012. Carr is also 3 touchdown passes away from tying the franchise record of 34 set by Daryle Lamonica in 1969 - the most Rich Gannon ever threw was 28 in 2000.
The wide receiver corps has been impressive this season. Cooper and veteran free agent offseason acquisition Michael Crabtree have accounted for 152 receptions, 1,938 yards and 14 touchdowns. Seth Roberts and Andre Holmes have added 9 touchdown receptions, with Roberts hauling in two game-winners.
The tight ends have done their part in the passing game as well with the three-headed monster of Lee Smith, Mychal Rivera and rookie Clive Walford combining for 66 catches for 621 yards and 5 touchdowns.
Offensive line coach Mike Tice deserves some measure of the credit here as well as his unit has been tested due to injuries. Center Rodney Hudson missed time due to a sprained ankle and Tony Bergstrom filled in admirably. Recently, right tackle Austin Howard was lost for the season, and J'Marcus Webb moved to right tackle and rookie Jon Feliciano has taken over at right guard. The Raiders have allowed 27 sacks this season, which will tie for the second fewest in team history if Carr stays clean Sunday at Kansas City.
"I think Jon Feliciano is improving. It's just great to get experience," Coach Musgrave said. "Such a young player, whether it be he or Clive [Walford] or Seth [Roberts], Derek, Gabe [Jackson], we have a bunch of young guys that are getting invaluable experience this year. They're getting better as they gain that experience. The versatility that [Webb] displays is valuable for our team."
The Raiders offense is certainly a work in progress. Although Murray has proven that he carry the load as the feature back, a reliable complement or change of pace running mate has yet to materialize. Opposing defenses have found a way to stifle the unit the second half of the season, although Carr and company have found a way to overcome the lack of overall production with a timely drive when necessary – wins over Tennessee, Denver and San Diego are proof positive of that.
With the 2016 NFL Draft and free agency period on the horizon, the sky is the limit for this edition of the Silver and Black Attack.