Opponent preview: Raiders expect bright future

Ryan Wood
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It’s been an uphill trudge for Reggie McKenzie.

Since being hired as the Oakland Raiders general manager in 2012, the former Green Bay Packers executive has had to rebuild arguably the worst team in the NFL. Progress has been slow. The Raiders finished 4-12 in McKenzie’s first two seasons, and 3-13 last year. Those kind of numbers aren’t good for job security.

Methodically, McKenzie has been laying a foundation. Draft analysts have praised his patient, consistent approach, something he learned from Packers GM Ted Thompson. The Raiders believe they have a franchise quarterback in 2014 second-rounder Derek Carr. Other pieces have been added, such as linebacker Khalil Mack, receiver Amari Cooper and newly hired coach Jack Del Rio.

It won’t be enough for the Raiders to contend for a title in 2015, and probably not the playoffs. They should see improvement soon. If not, things could get ugly. Patience is thin in the NFL. Here’s what to expect from the Raiders when they enter Lambeau Field in December.

Three things to know about the Raiders

» Growing pains: Good quarterbacks and good offenses are a package deal. You usually don’t get one without the other. So why do the Raiders believe they’ve found a good quarterback, despite an offense that ranked at the league’s bottom last season? Devoid of elite talent — James Jones was their No. 1 receiver — Carr pieced together a decent season. His 3,270 passing yards ranked eighth among rookie quarterbacks since 2004, and his 21 touchdown passes tied Cam Newton for third. Perhaps most impressive, his 12 interceptions were five fewer than Newton, six fewer than Andrew Luck and only one more than Matt Ryan. With Amari Cooper giving Carr a potential No. 1 threat, the Raiders expect their quarterback to flourish — and their offense to improve — in 2015.

» Woodson defying Father Time: Defensive backs are not supposed to do what former Packers cornerback Charles Woodson did last season in Oakland. Woodson led the Raiders with 81 tackles and four interceptions, remarkable for a 38-year-old. Production is one thing. Durability is quite another. Woodson, who turns 39 in October, has started all 32 games since returning to Oakland in 2013. He’s recovered nicely from a broken right collarbone that forced him to miss nine games in 2012, his final season with the Packers. And he’s done it while playing one of the most athletic positions on the field — he’s since moved from cornerback to safety, which is still physically taxing — at an advanced age.

» A schedule oddity: It doesn’t mean anything, but one of the more interesting tidbits about the Packers’ 2015 schedule — preseason and regular season — is it includes all five past Super Bowl opponents. The Packers will travel to the New England Patriots (Super Bowl XXXI) and Pittsburgh Steelers (Super Bowl XLV) in the preseason. They’ll host the Kansas City Chiefs (Super Bowl I) on “Monday Night Football” on Sept. 28, and travel to the Denver Broncos (Super Bowl XXXII) on Nov. 1. The stretch will conclude when they travel to Oakland on Dec. 20. Perhaps the Packers’ walk down memory lane will lead to a sixth Super Bowl opponent in February.

Packers schedule glimpse

Week before: Dallas, Dec. 13.

Week after: at Arizona, Dec. 27.

On the horizon: Minnesota, Jan. 3.

— and follow him on Twitter @ByRyanWood.

Oakland Raiders

Coach: Jack Del Rio (first season).

2014 record: 3-13, 4th AFC West.

Scoring offense: 15.8 points per game (31st in NFL).

Total offense: 282.2 yards per game (32nd).

Scoring defense: 28.3 points allowed per game (32nd).

Total defense: 357.6 yards allowed per game (21st).

Series: Packers lead 7-5 (1-0 postseason).

Last meeting: The Packers have won six straight — after losing five straight — against the team they beat in Super Bowl II. Their last meeting was Dec. 11, 2011, when the Packers won 46-16 at Lambeau Field in a game that wasn’t as close as the final score. The Packers cruised to a 31-0 halftime lead, which eventually ballooned to 46-7. The win ran the Packers’ record to 13-0, a shot at elusive perfection that ended one week later with a loss at Kansas City.

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