In the 2000's, the Colts became a perennial playoff team because of their explosive offense. Clearly, much of that had to do with Peyton being who he is. But as we've seen in more recent years, a good QB cannot do it alone. He needs explosive players around him to be able to catch the balls he throws and carry the ball as well. And in that decade much of the Colts' success came with Manning, Marvin Harrison and Edgerrin James – affectionately known as the Triplets.
Moving into the 2012 season, the Raiders are looking at a trio that could be their own version of the Triplets if they can reach their considerable potential. Each of the three has the skills and explosion to be able to be among the best at their position but each has their own question marks as well.
The player lining up behind center will be Carson Palmer. Palmer looked like he got progressively better as the season progressed last season. Obviously, his first few games were very rough. He didn't have chemistry with his receivers. He didn't know the Raiders' offense. And he hadn't played a down of real football since the previous January – almost 10 months before.
By season's end, however, Palmer looked much more comfortable – slinging the ball into some very tight windows and by and large avoiding the costly interceptions that had plagued his play in earlier games. The Raiders need him to take his growth throughout last season and take it to an even higher level this season. With a full offseason, he should be able to get into sync with his new wide receivers.
This receiver corps includes the second of the Raider Triplets – Denarius Moore. Moore burst onto the scene in last year's training camp, earning rave reviews from the beat writers who witnessed him outperform receivers that were much more veteran. He showed that he could stretch the field and make difficult downfield catches. He didn't make it into the starting lineup for the Raiders until mid-season but when he did, he was able to show why he deserved to be there, putting up some great numbers and making highlight-reel catches.
Moore's question marks involve whether he will be able to become the number one wide receiver the Raiders need. While he showed flashes of being able to be a dominant force when defenses started to account for him more, he wasn't able to produce at the same level. Hopefully with an entire season behind him and with time to learn the nuances of the position from his coaches, the seasoned QB Palmer and his fellow receivers, he'll be able to be much more consistent in year two.
The third member of the trio, Darren McFadden, has already shown that he can be dominant. When healthy, McFadden is one of the most dynamic players in the NFL. The only problem? He's had a very difficult time staying healthy. Raiders fans can only hope that his most recent issue – a Lisfranc sprain – was potentially more due to the truncated season than the alternative – that as gifted as he is, he's unable to withstand the physical requirements of the NFL. The Raiders' shakeup this season started with the GM but has permeated to all areas of the football organization, including the strength and conditioning staff. Hopefully they can find something that the previous staff missed or find the key to keeping McFadden off the sideline and in the game.
If Palmer, Moore and McFadden can positively answer these questions, things look great for the organization. And if Allen and Tarver can improve the defense to a respectable level, the team should be able to earn a playoff berth for the first time since 2003.
You can follow me on Twitter @AsherMathews