By the end of the 2019 season, NFL analysts were enamored with the duo of General Manager Mike Mayock and Head Coach Jon Gruden because of what they were able to accomplish in their first season of working together.
Yes, the Silver and Black finished just shy of .500 with a record of 7-9; however, Mayock and Gruden added foundational pieces in the 2019 NFL Draft and because of that the Raiders took a big step forward.
Now with two drafts under their belt and growing optimism around the team, analysts expect the Raiders to take yet another step forward in 2020. Former NFL head coach and current NFL Network analyst, Steve Mariucci, has high hopes for the team this season, despite playing in a very competitive division.
"They have continuity in the coaching staff and systems, and they're ready to go," Mariucci said during a live segment. "It's going to be really exciting — that fan base is going to be crazy over there. It's a fresh start for the Raiders and I expect that to have a pretty darn good season, and probably jump into that wild card spot."
Since 2002, the Raiders have made the playoffs once in 2016 — which I'm convinced would've ended differently had Derek Carr not suffered a season-ending injury. Gruden and Mayock are determined to restore the Raiders to their former glory, which is why signing marquee free agents was a priority for the team this year.
"I don't think they're going to leapfrog Kansas City because the Chiefs are good in that division, but I think the wild card [is realistic]," Mariucci added. "All the free agents, they got three guys from Dallas: Jeff Heath, Maliek Collins, and Jason Witten. They also got Cory Littleton from the Rams and Nelson Agholor from the [Philadelphia Eagles]. They got some guys and then speedball Henry Ruggs III and Damon Arnette. I think the Raiders are going to make a push for the playoffs next year."
With the new playoff format and one more regular-season game, there's an increased chance of teams making the postseason. The Raiders have added veterans with playoff experience while managing to still stay youthful and fast.
One of the team's biggest struggles in recent memory is having a lack of offensive weapons, as well as a lack of talent on defense, but that's no longer the case. The Raiders' 2020 roster is balanced on both sides of the ball and both Gruden and defensive coordinator Paul Guenther will have plenty of toys at their disposal this season. If they're able to put it all together, Mariucci's prediction may come to fruition.
Take a look through photos from the first draft class of the Las Vegas Raiders.