After an 8-8 third place finish in the AFC West, the Oakland Raiders are looking towards a breakout season that hopefully takes them back to the playoffs for the first time since 2002.
Behind first year head coach Dennis Allen, the Raiders will have their work cut out for them, as they saw Peyton Manning join the division in the offseason.
That said, the Raiders have potential with a deep enough roster to challenge for the AFC West crown, or at least an AFC wild card spot.
The following are three players who need to step up in training camp in an effort to propel the team to the top of the AFC West.
2011 Season: 16 Receptions for 151 yards and 0 touchdowns.
Myers has the potential to increase his production this upcoming season. With the departure of Kevin Boss, the tight end role is open for the taking.
While Carson Palmer has electrifying speedsters on the outside, if Myers can develop a role of short routes over the middle, he could turn into a huge asset.
His big frame makes him an ideal blocker in run situations and a lethal weapon in play action.
The Raiders success in 2012 could be determined by small improvements in less glamorous positions, such as tight end.
2011 Season: 19 Receptions for 279 yards and 2 total touchdowns.
After missing some time last season because of an ankle injury, Ford's numbers had an expected drop. That said, his production is key for the Raiders in 2012—particularly on special teams.
Ford is electric and has the ability to change any game by snapping off a huge return. Hopefully during training camp, Ford can show his bursts of speed in an effort to repeat his 2010 campaign.
2011 Season: 109 tackles with 80 being solo.
After signing the long-term contract he desired, Branch can now financially relax.
With the long-term contract though comes greater expectations. Now that the deal is inked, it's time for Branch to prove he deserves every penny. No team wants to sign a player to a long-term deal and have the player start slow. Once Branch proves he still has it during the first few days of camp, any concerns will be relieved.
The pressure is on Allen to push them to the next level. The Raiders will contend for an AFC West championship if they can build off a strong camp.