Any further veteran free-agent signings aside, Reggie McKenzie and Dennis Allen have, for the most part, constructed the Oakland Raiders’ roster for the 2013 season.
With such a young and relatively unproven group, any success that this team has will hinge upon some impressive performances at the most key positions.
Also of importance will be the potential for breakout seasons from some relatively under-the-radar players. These can include either veterans or younger players, but in any case, they will be those most likely to see their roles significantly increased this year.
Here are five Oakland Raiders players poised for a breakout campaign in 2013.
Most, if not all, NFL fans are well aware of the matchup nightmare that Marcel Reece can be from the fullback position. As such, many would not consider him to be a breakout candidate but more so an established player.
At the same time, given his rare skill set, there is little argument to be made against the fact that the Raiders have yet to use Reece as much as they should have. Considering last year’s difficult lessons in regards to building schemes around the strengths of the players on the roster, this should be the year Reece becomes most involved in the offense.
Not only is Reece difficult to cover in the passing game, but we now know how much he can contribute in the ground game, both as a lead blocker and ball-carrier.
Whether he’s lined up at fullback, tailback, tight end or out wide, Reece is one of the most talented players on the entire Raiders roster. If the coaching staff is wise, thus learning from last year’s mistakes, they will make every effort to involve him in the game plan as much as possible week in and week out.
An undrafted free agent out of Temple in 2012, little production was expected from Rod Streater in his rookie season. After an impressive showing in camp, he not only won a spot on the roster, but he earned a significant amount of playing time as well.
Early on, we saw that Streater was more than capable of playing at the NFL level, and he finished the season with 39 catches for over 500 yards and three touchdowns.
Streater has the speed and quickness to separate in his routes and be effective after the catch, while also possessing the size and leaping ability to win tightly contested one-on-one battles.
Heading into 2013, especially considering the offseason release of WR Darrius Heyward-Bey, Streater is the early favorite for a starting position opposite Denarius Moore.
With an almost certain increase in playing time and another full offseason to acclimate himself to the NFL game, we can expect Streater to improve on what was a very impressive rookie campaign and become a more consistent target in the Raiders offense.
Vance Walker was one of several underrated free-agency signings made by the Raiders this offseason, and he has a chance to contribute as much as any in 2013.
In his rotational role in Atlanta, Walker showed good quickness and strength off the snap, helping him to excel both defending the run and rushing the passer.
Now that Tommy Kelly, Richard Seymour and Desmond Bryant are no longer with the team, Walker is the early favorite to start at the 3-technique defensive tackle in the Raiders’ 4-3 front.
With the depth thin behind him, Walker will also likely be the most relied upon interior defensive lineman on the team.
Only signing with the Raiders on a one-year contract, looking to prove how successful he can be in an increased and starting role, Walker could be in for a breakout season in 2013.
In his earlier seasons with the New Orleans Saints, Tracy Porter established himself as a more-than-capable NFL starter and playmaker at the cornerback position. As such, he may be considered more of a re-breakout candidate in 2013, but a breakout candidate nonetheless.
After a difficult 2012 season in Denver, much of which was due to health reasons that were well out of his control, Porter will be looking to rebound in a big way. Signing a one-year contract in Oakland, he will have an opportunity to do just that and prove he is still the talented player he once showed.
At this point, Porter projects as a starter across from Raiders' first-round selection D.J. Hayden and could see time in the slot in nickel packages as well.
With the depth at the position thin behind him, Porter will be given every opportunity to succeed, and the fact that he will be playing under Dennis Allen, his old position coach in New Orleans, should only help his chances.
Usama Young is another of the Raiders’ underrated free-agent signings from this offseason, and at this point, he projects as the team’s starting free safety for the 2013 campaign.
Young gives the Raiders a balanced free safety who has the speed and coverage ability to play the deep center field position, but also the tackling ability to come downhill and make stops in the running game as well.
Young is coming off his most productive season as a playmaker in the secondary, where he finished with three interceptions and seven passes defensed for the Cleveland Browns.
That kind of ability to create turnovers is just what this Raiders defense needs on the back end—and especially so as they continue to open up the defensive playbook.
Another of Dennis Allen’s former players when with the Saints, Young has long been an underrated player in this league and is poised for a breakout 2013 season in an increased role with the Raiders.