Raiders show progress but fall short of playoffs
ALAMEDA, Calif. (AP) The signs of progress for the Oakland Raiders were stark.
More than doubling the win total from three to seven; a touchdown more a game scored on offense behind a vastly upgraded passing attack; a defense that improved mightily throughout the season.
The end result in coach Jack Del Rio's first season was the same: a 13th straight season without the playoffs.
But with rare continuity at quarterback with Derek Carr back for a third season, and at coach with Del Rio, as well as at several other key spots, the Raiders believe they will be ready to end that drought next season.
''I think we're very close,'' Del Rio said. ''You get a chance to earn that. The teams that are in - there are 12 teams that are playing this weekend - they all earned their way in. It's our goal to make sure that we're one of those teams next year.''
After years of being saddled with numerous lopsided losses, the Raiders were competitive all season outside of an opening loss to Cincinnati.
In the final 15 games, the Raiders either led or had the ball with a deficit of seven points or fewer in the fourth quarter of every contest. But they were unable to close out enough of those tight games, which led to another early offseason.
''We definitely feel like we should be playing, but we didn't earn it,'' Carr said. ''There are some teams in the playoffs that we played against. There are teams that we saw the mistakes they had and they barely beat us and things like that. We see where we're headed. Obviously we didn't earn it, we're not there yet, but we see where we're headed.''
Here are some other things to watch this offseason for the Raiders:
MOVING TIME: The biggest question surrounding the Raiders is where they will play next season. The team is looking to move to the Los Angeles area after spending the last 21 years in Oakland. An answer could come as soon as next week when NFL owners meet in Houston. If the Raiders are not allowed to go south they will likely remain in Oakland on another short-term lease and have their long-term future remain in limbo.
REPLACING WOODSON: Oakland will have to replace more than 1,000 defensive snaps, eight takeaways and 18 years of experience with safety Charles Woodson headed into retirement. Woodson has been a big part of the rebuilding the past three seasons. His lessons will last even longer.
''You're losing a legend, but I think he's taught the secondary, taught us a lot,'' cornerback David Amerson said. ''I think we've just got to take that forth through the season and throughout our careers and just strive from it.''
SPLIT SEASON: The Raiders had one of the league's top offenses the first half of the 2015 with Carr teaming with rookie Amari Cooper and Michael Crabtree to form a lethal passing game. But the defense held Oakland back. That changed in the second half of the schedule when the defense stepped up behind pass rusher Khalil Mack, Woodson and waiver wire surprise Amerson. But the offense sputtered down the stretch as the running game stalled, Cooper dealt with a sore foot and Carr faced increased pressure.
''You saw flashes from each side,'' Del Rio said. ''I think clearly you put those efforts together and you go on a nice run.''
COVETING CORNERBACKS: The biggest hole on the roster is at cornerback, where the only reliable player all season was Amerson. DJ Hayden, a 2013 first-round pick, lost his starting job midway through the season and looks like a bust. TJ Carrie could end up moving to safety after playing both spots this season.
With the 14th pick in the draft and plenty of salary cap room, the Raiders should have chances to upgrade.
RUN SUPPORT: While Latavius Murray became Oakland's first 1,000-yard rusher since Darren McFadden in 2010, he got almost no help in the backfield. Carr was the second-leading rusher with 138 yards and no other back even got 25 carries. Finding help for Murray will be important as he slowed down during the second half of the season, averaging 3.3 yards per carry in the final eight games.
''I felt that I left so much out there,'' he said. ''To me, it didn't feel like a 1,000-yard season. There were games where there was absolutely nothing. For me, I just know I want to get better.''
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