In 2016, the Raiders offense ranked sixth overall in the NFL. It was a balanced attack. But in the red zone, Oakland was slightly less efficient.
The Raiders ranked 13th in the NFL in red-zone touchdown percentage, scoring touchdowns on 58.6 percent of their possessions.
Plus, the Raiders became more predictable. As Michael Fabiano of NFL.com noted in a story this week, Oakland passed the ball on 62 percent of its red-zone downs, with wide receiver Michael Crabtree being quarterback Derek Carr’s favorite target. Carr threw to Crabtree 21 times in the red zone, with Crabtree catching six balls for TDs. Carr went to Seth Roberts 20 times and Amari Cooper 13 times. Though Cooper caught five passes, he didn’t have a single red-zone TD.
Fabiano notes that when the Raiders did run the ball in close, Latavius Murray had 41 red-zone carries.
So, as the Raiders head toward 2017, can they be less predictable in the red zone?
Certainly, Oakland has added some options, with tight end Jared Cook, wide receiver Cordarrelle Patterson and running back Marshawn Lynch.
Cook could prove to be a prime red-zone option. The 6-foot-4, 235-pounder is a big, physical target who’s had success inside an opponent’s 20-yard line often in his eight-year career with the Titans, Rams and Packers. With the Rams in 2013 and 2014, he was a prime target, with a combined 21 throws his way inside the 20, nine inside the 10 and six inside the 5. Plus, Cook gives the Raiders a nice ability to go with two-tight-end sets in close, opposite Clive Walford
The offense as a whole, too, is getting raves for its additions and its potential. If Lynch, especially, is in the Beast Mode form he was with the Seahawks, Oakland could be more balanced and more dangerous from any spot on the field, including the red zone.
NFL analyst David Carr of NFL.com – Derek’s older brother – wrote recently that Oakland may have the best offense in the league in 2017.
“As good as Latavius Murray was, Marshawn Lynch adds another element when it comes to yards after contact,” he wrote. “He will turn 6-yard gains into 20-yard gains. There are health questions, but I think a year off has done Marshawn some good.”