Oakland Raiders: 5 Raiders Who Must Be Great in Training Camp
With the regular season less than two months away, the Oakland Raiders look to finally get over the hump and make the postseason for the first time in nearly a decade.
The Raiders have been stuck at .500 for the past two seasons, but it's been a big step from where they were just a few years ago, when they were the laughing stock of the NFL.
As training camp is set to start at the end of July, let's take a look at five Raiders who need to be great in order for Oakland to have a successful campaign in 2012.
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The Raiders' offensive-line problems got a glimmer of hope when they drafted 25-year-old rookie Tony Bergstrom with their first pick in this year's draft.
According to Vittorio Tafur of the San Francisco Chronicle, Bergstrom isn't expected to start until next season.
However, he has the ability to play tackle and guard efficiently—something the Raiders can only benefit from. If any of their linemen goes down, look for Bergstrom to leave a big impression on first-year head coach Dennis Allen.
The Raiders cut veteran Cooper Carlisle in the offseason, just to bring him back shortly thereafter to save money. Since Carlisle is expected to remain the starter at left guard this season, Bergstrom will most likely have to wait until Carlisle's one-year contract is up.
Now, the Raiders have a veteran lineman who has proven he can stay healthy and a versatile rookie who can play anywhere on the line.
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Former Carolina Panther Mike Goodson will battle with Taiwan Jones for the backup role to Darren McFadden.
While Goodson has more NFL experience than Jones, he's known for his inability to hang on to the football—something that must be fixed if he wants to be the No. 2.
In 2010 as a member of the Panthers, Goodson fumbled six times while only making three starts.
McFadden hasn't played in more than 13 games in a season since being drafted in 2008, and Oakland must be ready to bring in a solid backup if he goes down this season.
While Goodson has the potential to be a solid No. 2, he must impress in training camp, or it will be Jones that will see more time if McFadden gets hurt.
The Raiders don't have the luxury of relying on Michael Bush this season, and finding a consistent running game is eminent if they want to be relevant in 2012.
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In 2011, wide receiver Darrius Heyward-Bey finally showed signs of being a great receiver in the NFL after catching 64 passes for 975 yards and four touchdowns.
Last year, his receiving yards doubled his total from his first two seasons combined.
Now that he's shown he's able to be a consistent target for Carson Palmer, the speedy Heyward-Bey must continue his success this season. He will be the No. 1 receiver for Palmer and serves as a legitimate deep threat for the Oakland passing attack.
With speedsters Denarius Moore, Jacoby Ford and Heyward-Bey leading the Raiders' receiving core, Oakland has the ability to run circles around opposing secondaries.
The time is now for Heyward-Bey to prove to everyone he was worthy of being the No. 7 overall pick back in 2009.
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With the exception of Rolando McClain, the Raiders are very limited at the linebacker position.
After making a trade with Seattle midseason last year to acquire Aaron Curry, Oakland is hoping he can live up to the hype he received before being selected No. 4 overall in 2009.
The Raiders' linebacker core has a completely different look to it than it had last year. If Curry can regain the form he showed at Wake Forest, as well as his first two seasons with the Seahawks, then Oakland can finally take some of the pressure off McClain.
Of course after last season, the Raiders really can't get any worse at linebacker.
It will be a risk to see which Curry will show up this year. Luckily for him, he has training camp to help him finally complete the transition from college to the NFL.
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Even though Carson Palmer will be the starting quarterback for the Raiders once the season starts (barring injury of course), he must turn heads in training camp.
Palmer showed some impressive signs for Oakland last year after an abysmal start that really can't even be counted. Now, he has a handful of young, speedy receivers, an improved offensive line and a solid running game to help him out.
There's no reason for Palmer to struggle this year.
Playing in the same division as Peyton Manning and Philip Rivers will be difficult for Palmer, but he has the tools to lead Oakland to the postseason.
Even though he restructured his contract in March, first disclosed in an official Oakland Raiders tweet, Pro Football Talk's Mike Florio reported that Palmer will still be making $11.5 million just from a signing bonus alone over the next three seasons.
With as much money as the Raiders are paying him, he better take them to the playoffs.