The Raiders bombed in 2018, going 4-12 in Jon Gruden’s return as the team’s head coach.
Quarterback Derek Carr was inconsistent, the running game wasn’t as strong as hoped and the defense produced no pass rush – the fewest sacks in the NFL, just 13 – and the linebacking and secondary play were weak.
Yet as the team moves toward the opening of training camp in July, a flurry of offseason moves has given fans optimism that things may change for the better in 2019.
The acquisition of a pair of dynamic receivers in Antonio Brown and Tyrell Williams, a veteran offensive tackle in Trent Brown, some veteran linebackers and three first-round draft picks seemingly make this team better than it was a year ago.
Yet in evaluating every NFL team’s offseason, ESPN.com this week put the Raiders in its lowest tier, not in the "Elite," "Above Average" or "Average" tiers, but the "Too Soon to Tell" category.
Paul Gutierrez called it "yet another tear down and rebuild" in which the team got younger and faster but still has multiple questions. Also, the Raiders will have the NFL’s toughest strength of schedule, with an average opponent’s winning percentage of .539 – including a so-called home game in London.
"Through it all, real and specific roster needs were addressed," wrote Gutierrez. "It’s just that the schedule is brutal."
Also, some of the acquisitions – Brown, guard Richie Incognito and linebacker Vontaze Burfict, for instance – also come with histories of off-field issues that could disrupt team chemistry. It’s uncertain how all the new pieces will meld under Gruden. It's an experiment.
Gutierrez believes there are too many unanswered questions to know with any certainty how Oakland will do in Year 2 under Gruden.
"If the Raiders get off to a poor start and Brown is not getting the number of targets he wants and expects, how will he react," wrote Gutierrez. "QB Derek Carr needs time to get the ball to Brown after he was sacked 51 times last season. Brown and Carr have gotten along famously this offseason, with several highlight-reel throws and catches. How long the honeymoon lasts depends upon how much time Carr has to deliver Brown the ball."
The answers to all those questions won't be known until some time in October.