The Oakland Raiders missed the playoffs last year after a very disappointing season, but with a new head coach in Jon Gruden, they're expecting to return to the postseason in 2018.
Each year, teams expect players to step up and play key roles. Sometimes, the player in question makes the leap from backup to role player, or even to a starter. Sometimes, a player goes from role player to key starter or borderline star. So which players are the Raiders counting on this year to step up?
1) Amari Cooper, WR
Cooper was great in his first two seasons in Oakland, racking up at least 70 catches and 1,000 yards both years - something only three wide receivers in NFL history have done. However, Cooper really struggled last year, hauling in only 48 receptions for 680 yards and seven touchdowns. Raiders head coach Jon Gruden has stated he wants Cooper to be the focal point of the offense which should lead to a breakout season for the 24-year-old. If not, his days as a No. 1 receiver may be numbered
2) Maurice Hurst, DL
Hurst dominated the Big Ten during his time at Michigan, racking up 32 tackles for a loss and 13.5 sacks last season. However, he fell to the fifth round in the draft due to a heart condition detected at the combine. Hurst was a first-round prospect before the heart news came out and, if he is fully healthy in 2018, he will be a starter and impact player for Oakland. The Raiders need more production from their defensive tackles and Hurst is the guy with the most upside.
3) Martavis Bryant, WR
Bryant was traded to the Raiders this offseason and has a chance to have a breakout season with his new team. Bryant had a great rookie campaign in Pittsburgh scoring eight touchdowns in 10 games. However, after serving a season-long suspension in 2016, the Steelers essentially replaced him with wide receiver JuJu Smith-Schuster.
Bryant has the talent to be a star in this league and, if he can get a connection with Derek Carr, it could happen in 2018. Carr has a strong arm and Bryant is an excellent deep threat with a ton of talent. If everything goes well with him, he'll make Oakland's offense one of the most explosive in the league.Back to the Oakland Raiders Newsfeed