NFL Preview 2019: Raiders' Three Most Important Players for Next Season

There are a few different paths the 2019 Raiders can take. 

They can travel a similar road to 2018, with an offense that looks like it hasn't left 1999 and a defense that's incapable of getting off the field. That one's no fun and will make for a miserable final year in Oakland.

Door No. 2 has the Raiders' offense improving drastically in 2019, with the additions of Antonio Brown, Tyrell Williams, Hunter Renfrow and Josh Jacobs expected to give quarterback Derek Carr the necessary weapons to torture opposing defenses. Door No. 2 also sees the defense continue to struggle as the young Raiders experience growing pains and limp to a mediocre finish, somewhere around 7-9.

But let's talk about Door No. 3. After all, the great thing about sports is that hope always springs eternal.

Do the Raiders have the talent on both sides of the ball to go from a 4-12 campaign to a potential playoff berth? Possibly. But if the Silver and Black are to have a successful 2019, they will need three players in particular to have big seasons to lead them back to the postseason.

Derek Carr, QB

This one is a no-brainer.

It's Year 2 in Jon Gruden's system and the Fresno State product now has a number of offensive weapons at his disposal. The Raiders attempted to solidify the offensive line by signing Trent Brown, picked up Brown and Williams to be weapons on the outside, and drafted Jacobs to give the Raiders a more dynamic threat out of the backfield.

Carr is confident in his grasp of the playbook after a full season and appears to have already developed good chemistry with Brown and Williams.

With the weapons in place and the system further ingrained, the Raiders need Carr to get back to his 2016 MVP-level form in order to successfully navigate a brutal schedule. If he can do that, the Raiders could be a dangerous team in 2019.

Clelin Ferrell, DE

It might not be fair to put this much pressure on the rookie, but the Raiders absolutely need him to be productive this season. Forget productive, Ferrell must have an instant impact if the Raiders are to be successful.

Many people saw the drafting of Ferrell as a reach, especially for a team that is in desperate need of pass rushers who can make an immediate impact. Gruden and general manager Mike Mayock ignored the knocks on Ferrell and drafted the Clemson product with the No. 4 overall pick in April.

Now, Ferrell must reward their faith by becoming a three-down edge rusher who can impact the game starting Week 1.

The Raiders' defense was atrocious at pressuring the quarterback in 2018, registering an NFL-worst 13 total sacks, while allowing opposing teams to score 29.2 points per game (also a league-worst).

Raiders defensive coordinator Paul Guenther is building a defense and Ferrell has to be a key part of that unit right away for the Raiders to turn their fortunes around.

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Lamarcus Joyner, CB/S

Did I mention the defense was horrific last year? OK, good.

Enter: Lamarcus Joyner.

The Raiders signed the veteran safety at the start of the new league year. Joyner will move around in the back end of Oakland's defense, but he should spend a lot of time at slot corner, with Karl Joseph and rookie Johnathan Abram getting the bulk of the time at safety in the base defense.

With Gareon Conley and Daryl Worley expected to start at the outside corner positions, Joyner's versatility and leadership in the secondary will be paramount for Guenther's unit.

Joyner has been mentoring Abram early on in the offseason program, and his leadership will go along way to helping the Mississippi State product feel comfortable in the starting role, which in turn can allow Joyner to settle into the slot corner position that would most benefit the Raiders' defense.

Carr. Ferrell. Joyner. As they go, so go the 2019 Raiders.

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