The worst thing you can call the swaggering Raiders is "mediocre," but this season they're obviously just another member of the NFL pack. With Memorial Coliseum less than half full on Sunday, they won their first game in five tries this season, 13-10 over another team that has slipped into mediocrity, the 1-3 Giants. The win was hardly a cure-all for a proud team that has had one playoff victory in eight years and a 51-52 record since 1986. Here's why L.A. has lost its luster:
•Aging players are spread all over the depth chart—the Raiders have a league-high 19 veterans who are 30 or older—and heirs aren't apparent. This year's grandmaster off-season move, the acquisition of Eric Dickerson, 32, hasn't panned out, and yet promising back Nick Bell sits on the bench, an example of how hard it is for a young player to make it on this team.
•The rest of the league has caught up to Raider boss Al Davis, who built a great franchise by going his own way. Fifteen years ago he could get an edge somewhere by outworking half the guys in the NFL. But in the league today, if you don't work 14-hour days, you're as good as fired. Also, Davis has made some awful trades: quarterback Steve Beuerlein to the Cowboys for a fourth-round pick; tackle Jim Lachey and five picks to the Redskins for quarterback Jay Schroeder and a second-round choice.
•The Raiders have become sloppy. In their first 20 quarters, they have 16 turnovers.
Still, the most pressing task for L.A. will be to inject new life into the roster, which is among the league's five oldest in the last decade.
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