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2013 NFL Team Previews, AFC West: Oakland Raiders - 4th

by Shasky Clarke on Aug. 16, 2013

2013 NFL Team Previews, AFC West: Oakland Raiders - 4th 

 

OFFENSE

 

Quarterback:

Though Carson Palmer performed fairly well as the starter over the past couple years, the Raiders moved him, acquired Matt Flynn and have opened up a quarterback competition. It is unlikely that Flynn is some kind of long term solution at the position. He may make coaches most comfortable in the short term, and in limited chances he has shown the potential to be a relatively efficient short and intermediate worker. However, he lacks the physical tools to make opponents fear the Raiders passing game.

Behind Flynn, the team has a couple interesting young talents with more talent. 6'5” 240-pound Terrelle Pryor has probably been the most impressive quarterback on the roster this offseason. He obviously has the elite height and bulk. And he may be the fastest quarterback in the league. But what has surprised the brass is his overall accuracy. The Raiders clearly have a package for him that will include read options and opportunities for him to run. What Pryor needs to improve is his decision-making, pulling the trigger on open pass catchers as well as not forcing throws. The team also drafted Tyler Wilson and signed undrafted Matt McGloin. McGloin has actually been more impressive thus far, playing more efficiently and achieving a higher position on the depth chart.

 

Running Back:

The Raiders want to return to their days as a smash-mouth, power running offense. When Darren McFadden is 100%, he has the talent to be an elite NFL back with breakaway speed, power and ball skills. Unfortunately, he's never proved the ability to carry the ball more than 225 times in five years in the league. Rashad Jennings enters as a capable power back, somewhat reminiscent in skill set to former Raiders back Michael Bush. The guy to watch here is underrated late round rookie Latavius Murray, a big, fast and productive back, talented enough to replace McFadden in the long term. At fullback is the supremely versatile Marcel Reese. He is a matchup nightmare one-on-one with linebackers and safeties and has polished receiving skills as a former college receiver.

 

Wide Receiver:

When the Raiders' wide receivers are healthy and all playing, the Raiders have a fairly potent and versatile group. The leading returning receiver is explosive 6'0” Denarius Moore. Moore brings excellent speed, tight route running and great ball skills but would ideally be a great number two guy. 6'2” Rod Streater broke out as an effective player as an undrafted rookie, also showing off ball skills, speed and the ability to consistently get open on the outside. Electric but injury-prone Jacoby Ford has flashed his 4.28 speed with top notch open field running and kick off returning when he's right. However, Ford missed 2012 with a Lisfranc fracture. 2012 5th Round pick 6'3 223-pound Juron Criner is a big, tough and physical target. Ultra productive return man Josh Cribbs could see some touches in the short area. And 6'3” rookie Brice Butler provides a dangerous, if raw, size-speed combo.

 

Tight End:

The tight end group took a hit, losing the team's leading receiver Brandon Myers to free agency. The remaining tight ends caught a total of nine catches for the 2012 Raiders. But the team hopes somebody breaks out among former receiver David Ausberry, Richard Gordon, and two rookies Nick Kasa and Mychal Rivera. Bulked up Ausberry is a great athlete for the position and is difficult to bring down in the open field after the catch. The unproven, but athletic, Gordon would be a little better blocker, bringing better bulk and strength. Kasa and Rivera lack top level talent but have the ability to contribute as long-term complimentary back ups.

 

Offensive Line:

The performance of the Raiders line was inconsistent in 2012. It failed to open up creases in the zone run game and struggled to consistently protect at the right tackle position. The team plans to lean on a power run blocking game and believe they have the horses to do it. Jared Veldheer, Stefen Wisniewski, Mike Brisiel and Khalif Barnes all return at left tackle, center, right guard and right tackle respectively. Replacing left guard Cooper Carlisle will be either Lucas Nix or Tony Bergstrom, two massive players who will be asked to pull often. The biggest weak point is Barnes, who was awful as a run blocker. The hope is that unique rookie Menelik Watson or ex-first round bust Alex Barron can effectively displace him as a starter.

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Best Offensive Rookie – RB Latavius Murray

Best Offensive Second-Year Player – WR Rod Streater

2014 Draft Offensive Position of Need – Quarterback

2014 Draft Offensive Suggestion – QB Johnny Manziel, Texas A&M

 

DEFENSE

 

Defensive End:

In 2012, the pathetic play of the defense can be blamed in large part on the utter lack of production from the pass rushers. The leading sack-getter (with four sacks) was powerful defensive end Lamarr Houston, a great athlete for his size who would probably be a more effective rusher from the interior. On the other side, and replacing Matt Shaughnessy, 6'4” 270-pound Jason Hunter will play a versatile role as a good, long athlete. He, however, hasn't been the most productive rusher in his seven years in the league. Behind them, veteran Andre Carter and second-year Jack Crawford are plus athletes as well.  In nickel packages, Carter will be on the outside with Hunter and Crawford utilizing their length and athleticism to create mismatches inside rushing the passer. The Raiders have bodies, but it is unclear that they have any double-digit sack talents at this point.

 

Defensive Tackle:

The Raiders have undergone significant change on the interior of the line, losing Richard Seymour, Tommy Kelly and Desmond Bryant. Aiming to start for the team are run pluggers Pat Sims and Vance Walker. Neither should create much in terms of pass rush. Behind them are are higher upside athletes Christo Bilukidi and Stacy McGee. Bilukidi is an amazing athlete for his 6'5” 315-pound frame and, ideally, he'd take one of the interior starting positions. McGee wasn't very productive at Oklahoma but should be a pretty good rotational guy.

 

Linebacker:

The Raiders often look to be playing a somewhat hybrid front, with an outside linebacker walked up onto the edge of the defensive line. Early indications are that this linebacker will be rookie Sio Moore, a thick, athletic, versatile and super-productive college player. At the other spots, the team has added more athletic veteran talent in Kevin Burnett, Nick Roach and Kaluka Maiava. Burnett and Roach are slated to start and should help provide the defense an advantage in coverage in the middle of the field. Second-year Miles Burris was fairly impressive in 2012 as a rookie, bringing size, physicality and fluid athleticism.

 

Cornerback:

Cornerback is the other position worthy of substantial blame for the defense's woes. In comes a barrage of talent in the form of Tracy Porter, Mike Jenkins and D.J. Hayden. Porter is one of the more underrated cover guys in the league, combining excellent speed and quickness with playmaking ability. Across from Porter will be Jenkins to start. Jenkins was much-maligned as a guy who gave up too much separation as a Cowboys starter. Ideally, a healthy rookie D.J. Hayden would take his starting job and give the Raiders one of the most talented and dangerous cornerback duos in the NFL going forward. Veteran Joselio Hanson will continue to get snaps in the nickel if Hayden or Jenkins is out. 

 

Safety:

The Raiders will allow their safeties to roam and use instincts to make plays. Tyvon Branch has been one of the more productive safeties in run support over the past few years. In comes Charles Woodson, one of the more productive, playmaking defensive backs in NFL history. He is slated to start at free safety and should admirably fill that role. Behind these guys, Usama Young is a versatile and rangy free safety.

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Best Defensive Rookie – OLB Sio Moore

Best Defensive Second-Year Player – DT Christo Bilukidi

2014 Draft Defensive Position of Need – Defensive Tackle 

2014 Draft Defensive Suggestion – DT Will Sutton, Arizona State