The Raiders would like the start of their 2016 season to be very different from 2015.
A blowout loss to the Cincinnati Bengals in their first game last year was how the Raiders ushered in the new season, though rebounding to upset the Ravens in week 2.
The Raiders want to avoid a false start, though, and hope their offensive continuity gives them an edge over the New Orleans Saints this Sunday.
Head coach Jack Del Rio said he is ready for the challenge ahead:
“Great opportunity to express who we are, and what we stand for and what we believe in and how we are going to play football in 2016. We got an obvious reminder last year, when despite all those intentions we went out and didn’t really play well to start the year. … Clearly we’d like to start 2016 a little better than we did 2015.”
The game figures to be a shoot-out and a great opportunity for Derek Carr and the Raiders offense to start the season on the right foot.
Carr threw for 3,987 yards and 32 touchdowns last year, and cemented himself as the Raiders franchise quarterback. He is right on the precipice of claiming elite status, and carving up a weak Saints defense this week can only help build his confidence.
The Saints defense last year was atrocious, and was arguably the worst in the league. They gave up a league worst 30 points a game, and were gashed for huge chunks of yardage on a consistent basis.
They had the second worst pass defense in the league, giving up 284 yards a game through the air. Their rush defense was also ranked second worst in the league, with runners pulverizing the Saints front for an average of almost 130 yards a game.
It didn’t help their case that quarterback Drew Brees was keeping things close on the offensive side, either.
The Saints fired defensive coordinator Rob Ryan during the middle of last season, and replaced him with former Raiders head coach Dennis Allen.
Carr said he has the utmost respect for Allen, and is prepared to face the defensive schemes presented by his old head coach:
“As a coach, he is very smart, and he is obviously going to bring some exotic stuff and all those things. You try and prepare for things that maybe he hasn’t even shown. I know him; he loves his defense, that’s his baby. I know that he’ll try to maybe do some unscouted looks. So you have to prepare for everything.”
Carr said the continuity within the team will be key in getting an advantage on the Saints during gameday:
“I see why being in the same system means so much. This is the first time I’ve been able to do that. There was a time in 12 months when I had three head coaches. Now it’s nice to have the same system, same terminology, and now we can grow off of it, we’ve talked about that in the offseason. There isn’t a number you can put on that, because as a player it gives us so much familiarity.”
There is certainly more familiarity between most members of the team, in large part due to the Raiders retaining the same coaching staff. The continuity between coaches and players helps bolster the relationships players have with one another as well. Carr said he and his two top receivers, Amari Cooper and Michael Crabtree, are already on the same page:
“There was a time where I was (thinking last season), ‘Man, we are starting to get each other.’ There was a ball that I threw to (Crabtree) that we had been working on so much, and it worked. Finally it clicked for us. There was one that I threw to (Cooper), and that clicked. … It was nice to work on things, especially in the preseason.”
Cooper echoed similar thoughts as Carr, and said he and his quarterback are gelling because they have a year of experience together:
“It’s great. I know when (Carr) wants to throw the ball, and every concept. I know his reads. I know when he’s looking at me to throw the ball. We are more on the same page this year than we were last year.”
Playing on the road is never easy, and the Saints Superdome is known for being extremely loud. Carr said the continuity he has with the offense allows him to make silent reads and audibles at the line, which makes the noise less of a negative factor.
The Raiders have a great opportunity to win their first game of the season, and unleash some serious firepower on a weak Saints defense. The team will be put to the test on the road to start the year, and Del Rio said he wants to start the season strong:
“There is no question that each team this weekend, all across the league, is going to (say) ‘Let’s see where we stand after one week.’ The idea is to be standing with a victory after one week. That’s why these opening days are so exciting, everybody has a clean slate and a fresh start and an opportunity to make this season what they’re all about.”