OAKLAND, Calif. (AP) — Justin Tuck has been around too long to make the same mistake twice.
After his preseason optimism led to just three wins his first season in Oakland, Tuck is taking a more circumspect view heading into year two with the Raiders.
While others will talk about the energy boost from the new coaching staff, the upgrades on the front seven of the defense and the young building block pieces in place on the Raiders, Tuck wants to see results on the field before he starts crowing.
“I can sit here and talk about what I think,” Tuck said. “But until we actually go out there and do it on Sundays and back this up, then it doesn’t matter.”
The Raiders get their first chance when they open the season at home Sunday against the Cincinnati Bengals.
It wasn’t long ago the Bengals were mired at the bottom of the league like the Raiders are, posting just one winning season in an 18-year span. But fortunes have changed of late in Cincinnati as the team has made a franchise-record four straight playoff berths.
Four straight one-and-done trips to the postseason have turned that success from a cause for celebration into questions about whether quarterback Andy Dalton and coach Marvin Lewis are capable of leading the team to the next step.
Dalton said the team believes it can win the Super Bowl even though the franchise hasn’t won a single playoff game since the 1990 season.
“The good thing is that the expectations for this team have changed, based on what we’ve accomplished,” he said. “To make it to the playoffs four years in a row is not an easy thing to do. But that’s obviously the expectation of this city, and the expectation of this organization.”
Here are some things to watch when the Bengals visit the Raiders:
HUE’S HOMECOMING: The Raiders’ closest brush with success the past 12 years came in 2011, when they finished 8-8 in a three-way tie for first in the AFC West. They missed out on the playoffs on a tiebreaker when they lost the season finale at home and coach Hue Jackson was then fired after his only season. Jackson makes his return to Oakland as Cincinnati’s offensive coordinator. Jackson said the sting of his firing lasted for a year.
“The feeling is different,” he said. “It’s not as raw in my emotions as it was back then.”
SACKS FOR MACK: After setting a franchise low with 22 sacks last season, one of the first things Jack Del Rio’s new coaching staff did was move Khalil Mack from linebacker to defensive end. With fewer coverage responsibilities and more refined pass-rushing moves, Mack should significantly increase his sack total of four as a rookie.
“He has tremendous explosiveness,” Lewis said. “He’s comparable to guys who have played in that spot like Derrick Thomas and guys like that who are tremendous football player, not just rushers, but football players.”
0-FOR-OAKLAND: The Bengals have never won a game in Oakland, losing their 10 previous trips, including a playoff game in 1975. In the last meeting at the Coliseum, the Raiders scored 10 points in the final 33 seconds to win 20-17. With the Raiders looking to move back to Los Angeles, this could be Cincinnati’s final chance at a win in Oakland.
“The last time we went out there, we kind of gave the game away at the end,” tackle Andrew Whitworth said. “Hopefully this time we can take care of business.”
AC/DC: The Raiders hope their search for a big-play receiver ended when they drafted Amari Cooper fourth overall. Oakland has not had a 1,000-yard receiver since Randy Moss in 2005, tied with Jacksonville for the longest drought. But with Cooper’s polished route running to go along with second-year quarterback Derek Carr’s strong arm, the Raiders are hoping to make music in the passing game for a change.
SUSPECT DEFENSE: After years of having one of the NFL’s stingiest defenses, the Bengals dropped to 20th in the league last year. Dominating tackle Geno Atkins struggled at times in his return from knee surgery and end Michael Johnson left as a free agent for Tampa Bay. Atkins is now fully recovered and Johnson has returned, giving the Bengals hope they can increase their NFL-low 20 sacks.