Oakland Raiders: Where These 5 Stars Must Improve in 2013
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The Oakland Raiders were filled with problems in 2012, but the inability to get everyone on the same page hurt them drastically as the team struggled to find any sort of identity.
Now that the Reggie McKenzie-Dennis Allen era is one year in the books, the organization has some stability and they've taken steps in the right direction after a disappointing first season.
This Raiders team needs to find an identity, and it all starts with the players who have proven to be successful in the past.
Philip Wheeler and Brandon Myers were Oakland's two most consistent players last season, but their free-agent status doesn't guarantee them a return to the bay in 2013.
Let's take a look at five team leaders who must improve their game next year.
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Area To Improve: Decision-making
In a season where Carson Palmer threw the ball an average of 38 times per game, the Raiders quarterback still managed to put together a solid season by throwing for over 4,000 yards.
Palmer had no running game to work with, and the right side of his line was completely ineffective.
Despite his early success, however, Palmer began to regress as the season came to an end.
His late interception against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers towards the end of the fourth quarter in Week 8 cost the Raiders a potential come-from-behind victory, and his interception against the Broncos in the red zone on Thursday Night Football made Raiders fans shake their heads in dismay.
Palmer's decision-making has always been questioned throughout his career, and it must improve next season if the Raiders want to be taken seriously.
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Area to Improve: Staying healthy
Unfortunately, Run DMC has yet to play in more than 13 games in a single season because his body seems to be made of glass.
With a contract year approaching, and a very dangerous Marcel Reece in the same backfield, McFadden needs to put together an impressive season if he wants to remain a Raider past 2013.
Oakland has since moved on from Greg Knapp and his ineffective zone-blocking scheme, and the Raiders' offense next season will cater more to McFadden and his ability to show the entire league just how dangerous he really is.
Hopefully for the Raiders' sake, he can stay healthy along the way.
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Area to Improve: Maturity
Denarius Moore has shown he has the ability to be a dangerous receiver in the NFL.
Moore has scored 12 touchdowns and averaged 16.6 yards per catch since breaking into the league two seasons ago.
But despite his talent, Moore has proven to be inconsistent with his production. It was evident at the end of the 2012 season when he finished with just 166 yards in his last seven games.
Moore also began to miss routes and drop easy passes as the season progressed, and found himself on the bench because of his mistakes.
He's shown he has the talent, now he must show he has the maturity to become a dependable receiver in the NFL.
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Area to Improve: Discipline
Despite having a more than forgetful year in 2012, defensive tackle Tommy Kelly can still be an asset to Oakland's defensive line.
Kelly finished with a lowly total of 1.5 sacks last season, but put together two solid years before that by finishing with 14.5 sacks and two forced fumbles from 2010-11.
With an aging Richard Seymour unlikely to be brought back next year, Kelly will be the veteran player on Oakland's defensive line. It gives him a new role he hasn't had in quite some time: leader.
Though he failed miserably to live up to his $8.8 million cap hit last season, there's still hope for this big, angry fellow. Kelly admitted that the Raiders were going after Cam Newton after Carson Palmer went down against the Panthers, showing that regardless of the team's performance, he remained loyal to his quarterback.
I'll admit, I wasn't a fan of bringing back Kelly in 2013, but with Seymour likely out of the picture, Kelly will play the father figure to a line that features a fiery Lamarr Houston, who Kelly gelled nicely with during the brawl against the Cincinnati Bengals, and hopefully a re-signed Desmond Bryant.
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Area to Improve: Leadership
As the most consistent and proven player in the secondary, Tyvon Branch must to do a better job as the leader of a dysfunctional group of Raiders.
The strong safety got the franchise tag during last year's offseason, and although he isn't responsible for every missed tackle and failed assignment his teammates make, he needs to take the initiative to get the defense back on the right track.
The Raiders need a vocal and emotional leader on the field, and Branch has the talent and the tenacity to be that guy.
The rest of the secondary can look up to him as he's proven he can be a solid safety in the NFL by averaging 107 tackles per season since 2009.