All photos by Shawn Jonas
The Raiders have missed the post season for the past 12 seasons, but that doesn’t change the expectations for head coach Jack Del Rio. He’s entering the 2015 season letting his players, the league, and the Raider Nation know what his number one goal is.
Del Rio wants the Raiders to secure the AFC West crown in 2015. It would be the Raiders’ first division title since 2002.
“Goal No. 1 is to win our division, and I don’t see why not,” Del Rio said via the Raiders’ team website.
The sentements in the building aren’t just Del Rio’s alone. Just ask offensive line coach Mike Tice, who tossed out an even loftier goal for the Raiders.
“We’re going to be a championship football team,” Tice said.
The mindset of the entire organization has changed since Del Rio, Ken Norton Jr., Mike Tice and the rest of this coaching staff was assembled.
Reggie McKenzie has done his part by bolstering the roster with premier talent such as Amari Cooper, Mario Edwards Jr., and Clive Walford in the draft. The roster has been influxed with a mix of young talent with much added depth in free agency as well.
The Raiders have the most talent and depth in almost a decade. The biggest question if these young players can take the next step. The bulk of the players they will rely on have been in the league less than three years. Derek Carr, Khalil Mack, Amari Cooper will have a lot of weight on their shoulders in 2015.
The AFC West quarterback group is an aging one, with the likes of Peyton Manning possibly having only 1-2 years left. Del Rio did coach against him everyday in practice for three years. Chargers’ Phillip Rivers is also on the backside of his career. He’s also in th middle of a contract situation. Does he return to San Diego? Chiefs’ Alex Smith has been very productive in the winning column, but is yet to take that next step as a big passing threat. Smith didn’t throw a touchdown pass to any wide receivers the entire 2015 season. Who can forget the Raiders first win of the season on Thursday Night Football to help knock the Chiefs out of the 2014 playoffs.
Del Rio’s expectations are lofty, but who’s to say there isn’t a change in the winds.