Oakland Raiders' Positions of Strength Entering 2013
After a 4-12 season, the Raiders definitely have a lot of needs on the team to address in either the draft or free agency with the little cap space that they have.
The list of needs goes on from pass-rushers to a middle linebacker and defensive backs to offensive linemen. But just because they have a lot of needs, doesn't mean that the Raiders don't have a solid core of players at certain positions on the field.
On that note, here is a look at areas the Raiders don't need to worry about in the 2013 offseason.
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Although it may not be the strongest position group on the roster, the Oakland Raiders are set at quarterback and do not need to add in either the draft or free agency.
At the most, the Raiders may sign a career backup just for an extra arm in training camp.
After Pryor showed promise in his first career NFL start in Week 17 of the 2012 season, he has earned the right to at least be dubbed the quarterback of the future.
I am troubled by those who are saying the Raiders should target Geno Smith in the draft. With all the Raiders' other positions of need, the Raiders can rely on the duo of Pryor and Palmer for 2013.
You may be surprised to see this as a strength of the team because of how poorly the entire offense played in 2012. The team leader in receptions, Brandon Myers, is an unrestricted free agent.
However, I am looking in the coaching booth when I say that this group is a strength.
What I mean by that is that the man coaching the tight ends, Al Saunders, is a brilliant offensive mind in the NFL, and the work he did with the tight ends, at least in terms of pass catching, was great.
Myers wasn't much of an impact player until he worked directly with Saunders as the starting tight end. Myers also reaped the rewards of the Greg Knapp offense which always features his tight ends. If you don't believe me, just ask guys like Alge Crumpler and Owen Daniels.
The Raiders should try to keep Myers, but if he departs via free agency, I trust Saunders to develop one of Oakland's young tight ends like David Ausberry.
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When people hear about the Oakland Raiders' linebacker corps, they make be quick to think of the burnout that was the Rolando McClain experience.
But while McClain was an absolute bust in the middle, the outside linebackers in 2012 held their own.
Rookie Miles Burris and free-agent acquisition Philip Wheeler gave the Raiders defense a bright spot with their solid play.
I am not worried about the contract status of Wheeler. If Reggie McKenzie was able to hand out a five-year, $20 million contract to Mike Brisiel and sign Tyvon Branch to a long-term contract under the restraints that were last year's cap mess, then I trust McKenzie to get a long-term deal done with Wheeler this year.
While the Raiders could use a massive boost in pass rushing from the outside linebackers or defensive ends, the overall play of Burris and Wheeler in 2012 makes them a strength of the team.
For 2013, perhaps Burris moves inside to replace McClain, and Wheeler gets a new contract. Then the Raiders draft Jarvis Jones with the third overall pick in the 2013 NFL draft. Suddenly, the entire linebacker unit falls into the team strength category for 2013.
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I think this group deserves a mulligan from the Greg Knapp offense of 2012.
Darrius Heyward-Bey shed the bust label, and Denarius Moore looked like the steal of the 2011 NFL draft with the way those two played in Hue Jackson's offense in 2011.
Then came Greg Knapp in 2012 and the rest is history.
Now Knapp is gone, and Greg Olson is coming to town to run the offense. Thankfully, he seems more like a Hue Jackson-type than a Greg Knapp-type coach.
The Raiders also have Rod Streater making a name for himself on the team, and he should continue to grow with NFL experience.
Also, the group gets a boost with the return of the injured Jacoby Ford. While Ford's return will mostly benefit special teams with his return ability, he is still a deep threat in the Raiders offense.
As nice as it would be to see a free-agent receiver like Dwayne Bowe, Greg Jennings or Mike Wallace in a Raiders uniform next year, the Raiders are still not in good enough cap shape to make a signing quite like that.
Unless Reggie McKenzie is able to free up cap room to make a push for one of those guys, it is not worth adding to the young receiving corps. It would be best to let them continue to grow if the Raiders could not bring in an elite receiver to lead the group.
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Much like the linebackers, the defensive line is not thought to be a team strength as a whole. But when looking at the edges of the line, there is promise.
On one end is the rising star that is Lamarr Houston who can both rush the quarterback and stop the run. He also hustles on every play as you can see when he recovered a fumble in Denver that was about 50 yards down the field.
On the other end is Andre Carter who began to come on strong as the season ended. Remember that Carter was still rehabbing a leg injury for much of the season and may have finally been back to full health by the time the season had ended.
If Carter is re-signed, he and Houston could be a solid group of defensive ends in Oakland.
Also, if Carter is not re-signed, the Raiders would likely be able to get a great defensive end in the first round of the draft.
Either way, this will be a good position group for the Raiders in 2013.