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2014 Team Report: Oakland Raiders

Quarterbacks

Starter: Derek Carr
Backup(s): Christian Ponder, Matt McGloin

Starting QB: A strong preseason has led Carr to be named the week one starter in Oakland. Carr had a spectacular season in 2013, becoming just the 4th QB in FBS history to amass 5,000 yards and 50 touchdowns. Some think that a lot of his success can be attributed to the spread offense but he has the arm talent and quick release to be successful. A bigger question is whether the Raiders have the offensive line and weapons to help him be successful.

Backup QB: Matt Schaub is coming off the worst year of his career which saw him struggle with interceptions and eventually led to the end of his seven year run in Houston. Schaub had some good times in Houston, including a stretch from 2009-2011 where he maintained a better than 2-1 TD/INT ratio. Schaub threw for 4,000 yards three times in his career and twice finished as a top ten quarterback statistically. Schaub's poor preseason and sore elbow has him second on the depth chart in Oakland. Matt McGloin looks like the quintessential backup quarterback after one year in the league. That's more than the Raiders thought they were getting when they signed him as an undrafted free agent but McGloin outplayed all three quarterbacks on the roster in 2013, and has outlasted them as well. McGloin is now firmly entrenched as the QB3 in Oakland.

Running Backs

Starter: Latavius Murray
Backup(s): Trent Richardson, Roy Helu, George Atkinson, Terrance Cobb
Fullback(s): Marcel Reece

Starting RB: Darren McFadden has gone from an explosive running back with injury concerns to an injury prone plodder. He's averaged only 3.3 YPC over the past two seasons after averaging nearly 5 yards a pop the first four years of his career. He's not played more than 12 games in the last three years and his career high is 13 games. McFadden is currently the favorite to win the starting RB job but even if he does he'll be sharing the load with 29 year-old Maurice Jones-Drew. Jones-Drew was brought in by the Raiders to provide a consistent option at running back. Jones-Drew was once one of the elite backs in the game, averaging more than 1500 total yards and 12 touchdowns each of his first 6 years in the league. In 2012 he dealt with a contract situation and then an injury that limited to 6 games. He was still very effective at 4.8 yards per carry however. Last year was a different story as Jones-Drew fell below 4 YPC for the first time in his career (3.4) and only scored 5 touchdowns in 15 games.

Backup RBs: The most intriguing back on the roster is second year back Latavius Murray. The 6th rounder spent 2013 on the IR, but should healthy for the start of camp. With two older backs in front of him, Murray could be in the perfect spot to get a midseason opportunity. Jeremy Stewart may be battling for a roster spot after earning only 2 carries in 2013. CFL star Kory Sheets has made an impression on the team early in camp but he and UDFA back George Atkinson will be fighting with Jeremy Stewart for a roster spot.

Fullback: Marcel Reece is arguably the most talented fullback in the NFL, but he always seems to be misused. Reece is capable as a pass catcher and a runner and lines up all over the field. Over his career he's averaged 4.8 YPC and 10.7 YPR but he's never been given more than 111 touches in a year. Last year Reece was his normally productive self with 549 total yards and 4 touchdowns on 78 touches.

Wide Receivers

Starters: Amari Cooper, Michael Crabtree
Backups: Kenbrell Thompkins, Rod Streater, Andre Holmes, Jeremy Gallon, Andre Debose, Brice Butler, Seth Roberts

Starting WRs: James Jones was the Raiders free agent acquisition in the receiving corps. The 30 year-old receiver has spent his entire career in Green Bay catching passes from Aaron Rodgers. His best season came in 2012 when he caught 14 touchdown passes. He was a reliable WR2/WR3 for the Packers, missing only 2 games in the last 5 years. In Oakland, he'll be asked to be the WR1. The starting spot opposite Jones is open for competition but the favorite should be Denarius Moore. Moore has spent his three years in Oakland playing with a variety of quarterbacks, very few of which were as talented as Matt Schaub. Moore has transformed from a deep threat only to a more complete receiver, but injuries and inconsistent quarterback play did cause him to take a step back in 2013. Moore's currently behind Rod Streater for the starting job opposite Jones. Streater came on strong in his second year, leading the team with 888 receiving yards. The undrafted 26 year-old now has 99 catches and 7 touchdowns in his first two years in the league and may be the best route runner on the team behind Jones. No matter who starts, all three of these receivers will play a lot.

Backup WRs: Another undrafted third-year receiver made an impac for the Raiders last year. Andre Holmes and should play a role in the passing game. Holmes emerged in the second half of the year with 25 catches for 431 yards and a score in his final 7 games. Brice Butler and Juron Criner have the measurables to be good receivers in the league but neither had shown even an inkling of the potential that everyone sees in them. Criner is not swift, but he has a huge catch radius and plays a power game. Butler is a raw size/speed prospect. Greg Little was brought from Cleveland but has had trouble staying healthy in camp. He's battling Criner and Butler for a roster spot at this time.

Tight Ends

Starters: Mychal Rivera, Lee Smith
Backups: Clive Walford, Brian Leonhardt, Scott Simonson Nick Kasa, David Ausberry, Jake Murphy (R)

Mychal Rivera emerged out of a wide open competition in 2013 to become the Raiders clear-cut TE1. The 6th round pick out of Tennessee saw a major uptick in production after Matt McGloin took over at quarterback. That should continue with Matt Schaub under center. He was also mentioned as a "foundation piece" by head coach Dennis Allen, so look for Rivera's role to only grow. Nick Kasa is probably the best blocking tight end on the team but he's struggled to get involved in the passing game. Kasa doesn't have the hands or athleticism that Rivera does. David Ausberry was the presumed favorite heading into camp last year before injuries derailed his season. Ausberry received a lot of reps with the first team again this summer, but had a knee surgery in early August and does not have a return date yet.

Place Kicker

Sebastian Janikowski: Kicker Sebastian Janikowski comes off one of his worst years (21 of 30, 70.0% on field goals last year). More than once he alluded to the holding of punter Marquette King as the problem for his struggles. The latter will be joined in camp by free agent punter Daniel Zychlinski. They’ll all be working with veteran long snapper Jon Condo. After shooting up to 1st in kicker scoring opportunities in 2010, the Raiders they slipped to 12th in 2011, 19th in 2012, and then 22nd last year.

Kick and Punt Returners

Kick Returners: Andre Debose [R], Travis Carrie, Latavius Murray, George Atkinson

Travis Carrie had a fair 2014 season as a kickoff returner, handling 15 returns with a 24.1 yard average. Though this year the Raiders may look first to rookie Andre Debose, who had 4 touchdowns in his 79 kickoff returns at the University of Florida. Oakland could also use Latavius Murray or George Atkinson in the return game. Both saw opportunities last season though were outplayed by Carrie.

Punt Returners: Andre Debose [R], Travis Carrie

The Raiders drafted one of the better returners in the nation in Andre Debose, and likely will give him an opportunity to take over punt returns from last season's primary returner, Travis Carrie. There was already talk last year that the Raiders might wish to limit extra injury risk to Carrie as his role on defense increased. The addition of Debose should allow that. In addition to his kickoff return touchdowns, Debose had a punt return touchdown and kept a 12.4 yard average in college.

Offensive Line

Projected Starters: LT Donald Penn, LG Tony Bergstrom, C Stefan Wisniewski, RG Kevin Boothe, RT Austin Howard
Key Backups: T Khalif Barnes, T Menelik Watson, G Gabe Jackson [R], G Lucas Nix

The Raiders have three new starters this year, and that uncertainty along with the lack of elite talent has them grading out as one a bottom tier units prior to the season. At left tackle Donald Penn (formerly of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers) should be the starter at left tackle. Penn left Tampa Bay under cloudy conditions as there was some doubt about his ability to stay in shape. The Raiders seriously bungled the Jared Veldheer situation, and Penn is a significant downgrade. Left guard Tony Bergstrom missed all of last season with a Lis Franc injury suffered in preseason. Bergstrom should be ready for action week one, but in case he is not, the Raiders drafted Gabe Jackson in the third round out of Mississippi State. Jackson is a burly and aggressive player, and could also challenge newly acquired Kevin Boothe for the right guard position. One way or another, the Raiders front office really wants to see Jackson on the field. Others in the guard mix include Khalif Barnes and Lucas Nix, both of which saw starts last season. At center, Stefan Wisniewski is a really solid player, with as yet unrealized upside. If this team could string together some wins, this is one of the Raiders who could make the Pro Bowl. Right tackle Austin Howard is an athletic specimen and played really well over the last few years for the Jets. He should be an excellent addition to the line. Menelik Watson doesn’t look likely to crack the starting lineup, but the coaching staff is reportedly still high on this player, and could be one to groom for the future. Overall this line has seen a ton of changes and will take some time to come together. However when they do, they could rise up the rankings, especially if rookie Gabe Jackson cracks the lineup and plays well.

Team Defense

The Raiders spent a large portion of their resources to improve their defense, specifically the pass rush. The added seasoned veterans Justin Tuck and Lamarr Woodley to the line and used the 5th pick overall to add outside linebacker Khalil Mack. All three will be an upgrade over anything they had up front last season. The most impactful holdover from the front line will likely be outside linebacker Sio Moore. The Raiders spent their 4th round pick on Keith McGill, a big physical corner that has some off the field issues. He and D.J. Hayden have both struggled to stay healthy in camp and Hayden is now out indefinitely. The secondary is once again a major question mark for this unit. Veteran Charles Woodson will still float around the back as a free safety. The Raiders look to be a much improved unit on paper with more playmakers than they've had in several years. How they all mesh together will determine how good this unit can be.

Defensive Line

Starters: Justin Tuck DE, Lamarr Woodley DE, Antonio Smith DT, Stacy McGee DT
Backups: Justin Ellis DT (R), Pat Sims DT, Shelby Harris (DE)

Starting DL: Justin Tuck and Lamar Woodley bring with them a long history of harassing NFL quarterbacks. Tuck has 61.5 sacks in his 9 years in the league and had a nice bounce back season with 11 in 2013. Woodley had 55 sacks in just 7 years, but he hasn't topped 5 since 2011. A lot of the Raiders success will be determined by how much these veterans have left in the tank. On the inside Antonio Smith is someone that can play all over the line, and will likely spell Tuck and Woodley when he's not playing inside. At 33, he's also fairly long in the tooth, but he was one of the best pass rushers the team had last year. The other spot is wide open, but if the team wants size inside Stacy McGee is a good choice. At 6'3" and 308 lbs the second year lineman has the ability to stuff the box, especially if the team wants to experiment with a 3-4.

Backup DL: Justin Ellis and Shelby Harris are a pair of rookies added in the draft that the Raiders expect to make an impact. Ellis is a mammoth of a DT at 334 lbs. He has great strength but there are injury concerns at his weight. Shelby Miller was a bit of surprise pick out of Illinois State. Miller struggled to dominate lesser competition and make take a while to develop. Pat Sims will be a part of a the defensive line rotation and could very well start inside. The 7th year tackle played all 16 games for the Raiders last year and racked up 40 tackles.

Linebackers

Starters: Khalil Mack OLB (R), Nick Roach ILB, Sio Moore OLB
Backups: Kevin Burnett OLB, Kaluka Maiava ILB

Starting LBs: This unit gets a major upgrade with the addition of Mack. Mack was an absolute stud at Buffalo posting 100 tackles, 10.5 sacks and 3 interceptions in 2013. Mack flies all over the field but has good instincts. He's incredibly quick off the line but also performs well against the run. Sio Moore should move to the other side in 2014 after a rookie year in which he showed great growth. He consistently improved and saw a large part of his production after the first five weeks. Nick Roach will man the inside as he did last year with 112 total tackles. Roach excels against the run and even showed an ability to get to the quarterback last year with 5.5 sacks.

Backup LBs: Kevin Burnett provides a veteran presence outside to support the two youngsters. Burnett will compete for a starting spot, but even if he loses out should see plenty of time in a rotation. The 31 year old linebacker has a lot of experience in the league but he's never made a huge impact. Kaluka Maiava is a 5th year player added from the Browns solely for depth.

Defensive Backs

Starters: Carlos Rogers, Keith McGill (R), Charles Woodson FS, Tyvon Branch SS
Backups: Carlos Rogers CB, Usama Young (FS) Usama Young, Chimmdi Chewka

Starting DBs: Another injury to D.J. Hayden has left the corner position wide open. Carlos Rogers is a 9 year veteran that will play a lot of corner for the Raiders this year. With all of the injuries it's seeming more and more like he'll start at one of the outside corner positions. Rogers has played all 48 games and racked up 9 interceptions over the last three years in San Francisco. McGill is a big physical corner that should be a major upgrade for the Raiders if he plays up to his potential. McGill has the size and explosiveness to cover some of the big receivers in AFC West if he can stay on task. He needs to get healthy but should win a job if he can. Charles Woodson was once one of the best defensive playmakers in the league, with 45 career interceptions. At 37 years old he's now best served as a mentor for the younger corners and a floater in secondary at free safety. Tyvon Branch missed most of 2013 with a leg injury but he's been one of the Raiders top tacklers for the last 5 years. Branch is good in run support but rarely makes a big play against the pass.

Backup DBs: Chewka has gotten a lot of work with the first team due to all of the injuries and has surprised in his performance. If Keith McGill isn't ready and D.J. Hayden doesn't return he could find himself in a starting role. Usama Young figures to get a lot of work at safety supporting the veteran Woodson. Young has played sparingly for the Browns the last three years with five picks in his time in Cleveland.

Last modified: 2015-05-10 20:05:18