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2013 Team Report: Oakland Raiders

Quarterbacks

Starter: Matt Flynn
Backup(s): Terrelle Pryor, Matt McGloin [R],

Starting QB: Matt Flynn struggled mightily in the team's third preseason game and looks to be in a dead heat with Terrelle Pryor for the starting job. Flynn's potential has only been realized on an NFL field once, a week 16 game against a porous Lions secondary. In that game he threw for 480 yards and six touchdowns, and hasn't earned a start since. One huge advantage Flynn will have if he's been paying attention the past five years is his knowledge of the West Coast offense. While the Raiders will run a variation of the scheme that now has so many, Flynn grew up as an NFL quarterback in the system and that should only work to his benefit. He has a stable of talented, but inexperienced receivers and two of the best pass catching backs in the league. The health of those weapons and Flynn's confidence in being the guy after all these years on the sidelines will largely determine whether this season is a successful one or not.

Backup QB: Terrelle Pryor's huge half against the Bears has put him right in the thick of the battle for QB1. Pryor is still raw as a quarterback in NFL terms but his athleticism is something head coach Dennis Allen would like to take better advantage of. "I think we still feel positive about giving Terrelle Pryor an opportunity to compete and specifically having a package of things that he can do really well and giving him an opportunity," Allen said on a conference call earlier this . "So I don't know that there's a whole lot that's changed as far as the mindset of what we feel like we can do offensively." Undrafted rookie Matt McGloin has been so much better than 4th round pick Tyler Wilson that the team cut their 4th round pick.

Running Backs

Starter: Darren McFadden
Backup(s): Rashad Jennings, Jeremy Stewart
Fullback(s): Marcel Reece

Starting RB: Darren McFadden made a lot of us look bad last season with another year cut short by injury. It's assured he will again this year, either by playing a full season and surpassing the expectations of the masses or starting eight games and disappointing those that still had faith. For the fifth consecutive season, McFadden failed to play in even 14 games in 2012. What's more concerning is that his yards per carry dipped to a career low 3.3 yards. That can largely be attributed to the Raiders attempting a zone-blocking scheme that has already been thrown out the window. One thing McFadden did better than he has almost any year before is catch the ball, averaging 3.5 receptions per game. Unfortunately he averaged only 6.1 yards per reception, also the lowest mark in his career. McFadden is still a supremely talented back that should get a large percentage of the workload for as long as he can hold up. The change in blocking schemes will help him, but his success in 2013 will depend largely on how many games he plays.

Backup RBs: The Raiders acquired fifth year running back Rashad Jennings from the Jacksonville Jaguars to be their primary backup at running back. Jennings got his shot last season after an injury to Maurice Jones-Drew and was flat out terrible before he was injured. Jennings averaged 2.8 yards per carry and fumbled three times in just 101 carries. It's possible that he can regain some of the success he had as a backup in 2009 and 2010 with fewer carries but if McFadden goes down to injury it's more likely that fullback Marcel Reece will be the go-to guy than Jennings. Behind Jennings is second year back Jeremy Stewart. Stewart received 25 carries last year and averaged over four yards per touch, and has a lock on the RB3 job after an ankle injury cost Latavius Murray his rookie year.

Fullback: Marcel Reece finally got an opportunity to use some of his athletic ability in 2012 and he did not disappoint. Reece had 52 receptions and over 750 total yards in 2012 and he put his rare combination of size and speed on display. A portion of his production can be attributed to Darren McFadden's absence, but more to the Raiders offensive scheme. They love throwing the ball to their backs in Oakland and Reece has great hands and the speed to make something happen in the open field. Reece lines up all over the field, including tight end, running back and split out wide and creates a match up nightmare when he gets a linebacker.

Wide Receivers

Starters: Denarius Moore, Rod Streater
Backups: Jacoby Ford, Brice Butler [R], Juron Criner

Starting WRs: The Raiders receiving corps is loaded with potential as it seemingly always has been. At the top of the list is Denarius Moore, a third-year receiver out of East Tennessee State. Moore has progressed the way we used to think young receivers were supposed to, before A.J. Green and Julio Jones. In 2011 Moore hauled in 33 receptions from 618 yards and five touchdowns. Last year he got better in every area with 51 receptions for 741 yards and seven touchdowns. His yards per reception decreased noticeably, but that was a product of him being more involved in the intermediate passing game. The battle for the spot opposite Moore is still open, but it will likely be 25 year-old Rod Streater. As an undrafted rookie Streater started just two games but still caught 39 passes for nearly 600 yards and three touchdowns. Outside of Moore Streater is the most reliable of the receivers as a route runner and pass catcher but he may not have the same potential as fell second-year player Juron Criner.

Backup WRs: The main competition from the reserves at receiver was thought to be Juron Criner. Criner generated all kinds of press last preseason but struggled to get on the field as a rookie, getting beat out by his undrafted counterpart. This year it's injuries that have kept him out of a majority of camp and he's fallen on the depth chart as a result. Jacoby Ford returned from a foot injury that cost him 2012 to be the veteran presence in this very young receiving corps. Ford's skills are probably better suited as a return man but injuries to the Raiders receivers mean that Ford may also have a role in the offense. The star of camp has been Brice Butler, who has skyrocketed up the depth chart with impressive performances in the team's first two preseason games.

Tight Ends

Starters: Richard Gordon
Backups: David Ausberry, Nick Kasa, Mychal Rivera

The Raiders tight end depth is much thinner after the loss of Brandon Myers to free agency and David Ausberry to injury. Ausberry is out for at least the rest of the preseason and probably longer. That means that Richard Gordon will probably be the team's starting tight end but he's much better as a blocker than a receiver. Rookies Nick Kasa and Mychal Rivera have made a late push in the preseason to get in the mix and one of both could see significant playing time by the end of the year.

Place Kicker

Sebastian Janikowski: There were plenty of legs in the Raiders roster - some new, some old. Kicker Sebastian Janikowski (31 of 34, 91.2% on field goals last year) was spelled in camp for second straight year by Eddie Carmona and then briefly by Justin Medlock. Punter/holder Shane Lechler is gone via free agency, to be replaced by promising second-year prospect Marquette King who won the job over free agent acquisition Chris Kluwe. Starting long snapper Jon Condo began the year with company but ended up as the only snapper in camp. After shooting up to 1st in kicker scoring opportunities in 2010, the Raiders they slipped to 12th in 2011 and then 19th in 2012.

Kick and Punt Returners

Kick Returners: Taiwan Jones, Jacoby Ford, Mike Jenkins

With Josh Cribbs failing to regain his old form and being released, receiver Jacoby Ford handled most of the returns for the first half of the year before the team turned to Taiwan Jones as Ford has shown some ball security issues. Mike Jenkins is another option after having had an impressive preseason.

Punt Returners: Greg Jenkins, Jacoby Ford, Phillip Adams

With receiver Jacoby Ford lost for the season last year, Oakland turned to cornerback Phillip Adams to handle punt return duties. It was a surprise at first to see Adams on the depth chart atop Josh Cribbs, but after Cribbs recovered from his knee injury, he did not shown the same burst and was ultimately cut from the roster. Jacoby Ford handled kick returns for part of the year but has lost that job and was restricted to handling mostly punts, until wide receiver Greg Jenkins took over the job later in the season.

Offensive Line

Projected Starters: LT Jared Veldheer, LG Tony Bergstrom, C Stefan Wisnieski, RG Mike Brisiel, RT Menalik Watson
Key Backups: T Khalif Barnes, T Willie Smith, T Alex Barron, G Jason Foster, G Lucas Nix, C Alex Parsons

The biggest change in the Oakland Raiders offensive line was on the coaching staff. Tony Sparano and a power-blocking scheme have arrived, to replace the zone-blocking scheme preferred by former coordinator Greg Knapp. While Sparano was a bust as a head coach and an offensive coordinator, he is an accomplished offensive line coach and should bounce back in his latest job. Another interesting tidbit this offseason were the Internet pictures of Jared Veldheer working out. Veldheer apparently gained fifteen pounds of muscle and looks like the Incredible Hulk. Veldheer has been a great story; he's rising player on the left side, but his offseason workouts may vault him to elite status. Certainly he is a player to watch in 2013. Left guard Tony Bergstrom steps in for the departed Cooper Carlisle and he has the talent to improve on his current grade. Bergstrom was actually the first draft pick of the latest Raiders regime and has the full support of the organization to win this starting position. Center Stefan Wisniewski was an extremely solid player at center, and like Veldheer, is a tentpole player for this team. Right guard Mike Brisiel is not a popular player among the Raiders fans, as his inconsistency can be maddening. Brisiel has been injury prone and it was revealed that he limped through the end of the season on a seriously injured leg. While his pain tolerance is laudable, it is possible that Lucas Nix, the former Pitt Panther, could win this position in the preseason. Right tackle Khalif Barnes is another solid but unpopular player, and he will be seriously challenged by second round pick Menelik Watson out of Florida State. Watson is a British-born athlete known for his rare foot speed. However, Watson is very raw and might need to begin as the swing tackle before he is ready for a starting position. Willie Smith and Alex Barron round out the depth crew but neither should be expected to contribute meaningfully, if Watson is healthy. Overall this Raiders line lacks super-elite talent, but they are relatively young and can trend upwards if the players learn the new scheme and Menelik Watson can win starting position in preseason.

Team Defense

The Raiders return only three starters from a defense that was mediocre at best in 2012. They've changed defensive coordinators, bringing in 37-year-old Jason Tarver, and they may be switching defensive schemes from a 4-3 base to a 3-4. While the team has not brought in a lot of top end talent, they have loaded up on depth in both free agency and the draft. This was meant to be a deep defense with a lot of players that can play in different positions depending on what type of look they want to give the offense. Unfortunately a hige percentage of the defense has missed part or all of camp due to injuries. This defense is devoid of stars, unless rookie cornerback D.J. Hayden turns into one overnight. Hayden has big play ability and good ball skills. The fact that he'll likely be picked on as a rookie means he'll get his fair share of shots at big plays. Hayden can learn from someone on the opposite side of his career arc, Charles Woodson. Woodson has been the young elite corner and will now man the middle in the Raiders secondary. If he can be even close to as good as he was in Green Bay, this secondary could be the strength of the defense. The Raiders are short on anyone with experience getting to the quarterback and a majority of their offseason moves point more towards trying to shore up the run defense. While this Raiders defense may be improved in 2013 it's difficult to see them producing many of the statistics that count in fantasy football.

Defensive Line

Starters: DT Vance Walker, DT Pat Sims, DE Lamarr Houston, DE Jason Hunter
Backups: DT Christo Bilukidi,

Starting DL: Vance Walker and Pat Sims are a couple of free agent acquisitions that the Raiders hope will anchor their defensive line. Both have been solid against the run in their careers and there some thought that Walker has an ability to get to the quarterback that he's not shown yet. Sims has struggled with leg injuries the past couple of years and his health will go a long ways towards determining his playing time. The defensive ends for the Raiders are a bit more familiar with Lamarr Houston returning from last year. Jason Hunter joins the Raiders from Denver and will either play defensive end or outside linebacker. Hunter missed 2012 with a torn triceps and will come into camp hungry. He has a good motor, his best sack total came in 209 with the Lions when he logged 5.

Backup DL: Christo Bilukidi is a second year player out of Georgia State. Bilukidi has the ability to play inside or out, but he'll have to improve in 2013 as he logged only 8 tackles in 13 games last season.

Linebackers

Starters: OLB Kevin Burnett, OLB Sio Moore (R), MLB Nick Roach,
Backups: OLB Kaluka Maiava, MLB Travis Goethel

Starting LBs: The Raiders were also active in free agency at linebacker, signing Nick Roach to man the middle and Kevin Burnett to play outside. Head Coach Dennis Allen loves Roach's versatility, but sees him starting in the middle. "I think the great thing about Nick is that he's very versatile," Allen said. "Again, put the Chicago tape on him and you see him play all three linebacking positions: Sam, Mike and Will. That's what I think is great about him. I think we'll start him off in the middle and we'll kind of see where things go from there." Kevin Burnett is entering his 9th season in the league, and he's topped 100 total tackles in each of the past two for the Dolphins. Burnett is another versatile player that can player multiple linebacker positions but will likely start as the weak side outside linebacker. Sio Moore has stepped up as one of the few bright spots on the Raiders defense this preseason. He's a diverse talent with both pass rushing and coverage abilities.

Backup LBs: Kaluka Maiava may be the 4th linebacker if the Raiders do indeed switch to a 3-4 base. As mentioned above he grades very well in coverage.

Defensive Backs

Starters: CB Tracy Porter, CB D.J. Hayden, FS Charles Woodson, SS Tyvon Branch
Backups: CB Mike Jenkins, FS Usama Young,

Starting DBs: Tracy Porter comes to the Raiders after spending a disappointing season in Denver. Porter player in only 6 games after struggling with seizures early in the year. Porter was coached by head coach Dennis Allen in New Orleans and is looking to reignite his career. Porter is a gambler at the cornerback position but may not have the hands to post large interception totals. He'll likely be joined in the secondary by rookie D.J. Hayden. Hayden will have to beat out veteran Michael Jenkins, but the Raiders will give the 12th overall pick every chance to do so. Head coach Dennis Allen sounds enamored with his rookie corner. "The one quality that you look at when you're looking at corners, is you're looking for guys that can cover, and this guy can cover. He can cover man-to-man, he's got great speed, he's got great quickness, he's got the ability to play both off and press coverage, and really one of the things I really look at is, how does the guy make plays on the ball, specifically the ball down the field, and he does a tremendous job of that." Tyvon Branch will start at strong safety for the Raiders. Branch enters his sixth season with the team and he's averaged over 100 tackles a season for the last four years. The wildcard in this unit is free agent acquisition Charles Woodson. Woodson has had an illustrious career and still has good ball skills, if not the same closing speed he once had. A healthy, active Woodson could shore up the backside of the defense and force opponents to focus more underneath.

Backup DBs: After earning a Pro Bowl berth with Dallas in 2009 Mike Jenkins' career has taken a turn for the worse to the point that he accepted a one year offer from the Raiders in the offseason. Much like Tracy Porter, Jenkins is hoping to revive his career, but he may have a difficult time beating out rookie D.J. Hayden. Joselio Hansen is another corner that could figure into the mix. At 5'9" Hanson really needs to play slot corner if he's going to get on the field. He had two interceptions and a career high 68 total tackles for the Raiders in 2009.

Last modified: 2013-12-03 20:38:33