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Making the Leap, No. 32: Raiders coach Dennis Allen

Around The League will profile the top 40 players (or, in this case, coaches) we see Making the Leap in 2013. No. 32 on the list: Oakland Raiders coach Dennis Allen.

Why Allen is on the list


When Around the League's gang of scribes huddled to come up with our 40 candidates for "Making the Leap," our choice for the Oakland Raiders took an unusual turn.

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I suggested coach Dennis Allen instead of one of his players, but at least one of my co-writers wasn't buying it.

"If they win six games, I'll eat my softball pants," Chris Wesseling declared.

That sealed it, and my ambivalence toward the Raiders has given way to grand visions of Wess at a quaint tabletop, his freshly laundered sporting garments spread before him and accompanied by fork, knife and maybe a healthy dabble of Grey Poupon.

Trouser cuisine aside, Allen's here for a reason: Despite strong backing from general manager Reggie McKenzie, Allen's leadership is under the microscope on a Raiders team that will struggle to improve upon last year's 4-12 mark. It's unrealistic to expect better results from this year's paper-thin roster, but good coaching will go a long way toward fostering buy-in from Allen's young players.

If he isn't up to the task, Allen's second season in Oakland could morph into one of the NFL's biggest train wrecks.

Making the Leap

Around The League will profile the top 40 players or coaches we see Making the Leap in 2013.

40. Isaiah Pead, Rams
39. Zach Brown, Titans
38. Michael Floyd, Cardinals
37. Jordan Cameron, Browns
36. Jarvis Jenkins, Redskins
35. Chase Daniel, Chiefs
34. Falcons' offensive line
33. Bernard Pierce, Ravens
32. Dennis Allen, Raiders
31. Golden Tate, Seahawks
30. Brad Jones, Packers
29. Julian Edelman, Patriots
28. Da'Quan Bowers, Buccaneers
27. Rob Ryan, Saints
26. Kendall Wright, Titans
25. Whitney Mercilus, Texans
24. Chris Givens, Rams
23. Chris Harris, Broncos
22. D.Rodgers-Cromartie, Broncos
21. Jimmy Smith, Ravens
20. Lamar Miller, Dolphins
19. Bryan Bulaga, Packers
18. Carlos Dunlap, Bengals
17. Alshon Jeffery, Bears
16. Greg Hardy, Panthers
15. Emmanuel Sanders, Steelers

Obstacles


It's easy to pick on the Raiders, but McKenzie walked into a ghastly scenario when he took the job 18 months ago. Short on draft picks and mired in salary-cap hell, the well-respected GM has worked tirelessly to revive this struggling, behind-the-times organization from the inside out. It's a painful process that still continues.

The challenges are everywhere. There's no clear-cut franchise quarterback, and the team's best player on offense, Darren McFadden, is a sometimes-dangerous runner who can't stay healthy. On defense, McKenzie used his first-ever first-round draft pick on D.J. Hayden. The Raiders are thrilled with the cornerback's potential, but few teams in the AFC have more issues in the front seven.

Allen's pedigree is defensive wizardry, but the Raiders might have the AFC's worst unit in 2013. Until more talent arrives, Allen will struggle to put his stamp on this group the way he did with the Denver Broncos' D in 2011. The win-loss record could be ugly, so it's important for Allen to win the public-perception battle, making his vision clear for everyone from owner Mark Davis down to the 8-year-old Raiders fan wondering when Sundays will be fun again.

2013 expectations


Our very own Elliot Harrison put Allen on his list of hot-seat coaches heading into the season. Elliot's argument -- that Allen's presumed loose leash doesn't mean much if Oakland crumbles -- is sound. I tend to believe Allen can save his job if he emerges as the primary voice of this organization. Sink or swim, he can't be a wallflower in Year 2.

If Allen sometimes lies awake at night, wishing he never left Denver, who could blame him? This might be the NFL's toughest head-coaching job of all in 2013, but it's also an opportunity for Allen to prove that Oakland -- missing many parts -- has a leader to hold onto.

Follow Marc Sessler on Twitter @MarcSesslerNFL.

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