AFC WEST RAIDERS 2014 STRENGTHS: • Defensive line, improving offensive line and strong GM moves Raiders Offense Matt Schaub once replaced Derek Carr’s older brother David Carr as Houston Texans quarterback in 2007, but he knows his role here in Oakland is different and he has embraced the change. Here, Schaub is a mentor to Derek Carr, holding down the position until the rookie quarterback is able to take over for himself. In his time as Houston’s main quarterback, Schaub had a fine career, going 46-44 as a starter while boasting a 90.9 passer rating. However, after a 2-6 start and 73.0 passer rating in 2013, the Texans team and fan base turned away from the 33-yearold vet, which led to his Oakland departure. Now Schaub finds himself, mentoring Carr on one hand, while leading a comeback carousel with running backs Maurice Jones-Drew and Darren McFadden, while also seeing if he can squeeze any more football life out of Denarius Moore, Rod Streater, Andre Holmes or tight end Mychal Rivera. As of now, new Oakland receiver and ex-Packer James Jones is the only skilled position player who could be described as a Raider reliable. Coach Dennis Allen can no longer get creative and piecemeal out a deceptive running game with rambling quarterback Terrelle Pryor (now a Seahawk) or versatile back Rashad Jennings (now a Giant). He now has to do so with riches-to-rags runners McFadden and MJD, who both rushed for 3.4 and 3.3 yards per carry in 2013, respectively. One encouraging sign: the offensive line is getting better. Who knows? Former Pro Bowl left tackle and ex-Buc Donald Penn, center Stefen Wisniewski or fullback Marcel Reece are all capable of the leadership it takes to lead (or lead-block) these Raider running backs back to form. Offensive Player to Watch Jones was able to put up stellar numbers in a down year for Aaron Rodgers and the Green Bay Packers passing attack. The Raiders—with their tricky quarterback situation—would be well 2014 WEAKNESSES: • Special teams, wide receiver depth and quarterback questions OAKLAND pleased if he continues to overcome adverse conditions, while in triumph with impressive numbers like 59 receptions for 817 yards that he amassed in 14 games in 2013. Or, better yet, gather in another NFL-leading 14 touchdown receptions, like he did in 2012 when Rodgers was in better health. The former San Jose State product may be the closest thing to a fantasy football star this organization has, after down-trodden years have hit their quarterback (Matt Schaub) and running backs (Maurice Jones- Drew and Darren McFadden). Raiders Defense It’s going to be fun watching Expendables 4 play out weekly with all the NFL 30-something castoffs getting featured roles every Sunday as Oakland Raider defensive starters. On the frontline alone, you’ve got ex-Giant Justin Tuck, 31; ex-Steeler Lamarr Woodley, 30 in November; ex-Texan Antonio Smith, 32; not to mention 10th-year Raider (and 17th-year NFL vet) Charles Woodson, 37, and ex-49er Carlos Rogers, 33, in the secondary. GM Reggie McKenzie is banking—at a low price—that these vets can turn around a much-maligned defense with their wisdom and leadership. Anything different has to be better than last year, where the Raiders ranked 26th in team defense (29th in pass defense), rating amongst the bottom seven defenses for the third straight season, according to Football Outsiders. By signing old and drafting young—linebacker Khalil Mack was the Oakland’s first-round pick with the No. 5 selection—McKenzie has assembled a Moneyball team that resembles that baseball franchise that shares the same stadium. You’ve got linebacker Lamarr Woodley learning a new position at defensive end; 3-4 defensive end Antonio Smith learning a new role as a 4-3 defensive tackle. Billy Beane would be proud of this bang-forbuck defense. Next step, of course, will be improving on its No. 26 status that was attached to this team before most of these Raiders even got here.
Oakland Raiders Gameday HQ
To see the actual publication please follow the link above