Biggest Questions Facing the Oakland Raiders in Week 1 Contest with Colts
Although preseason action usually tells us a lot about what to expect from a given team heading into the regular season, there are still plenty of unknowns surrounding this year's Raiders squad.
For them to start off what is another rebuilding season on a winning note, there are a few things that will need to go their way.
Here are the five biggest questions facing the Raiders in this week's matchup against the Colts.
Can the Offensive Line Hold Up?
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The preseason performance of the offensive line was concerning to say the least, but writing them off based on that alone would be slightly premature.
Either way, this group will represent one of the Raiders' biggest overall question marks not only for this week but likely throughout the entire 2013 season.
Heading into Friday, there is still uncertainty as to who the starting unit will consist of. If left tackle Menelik Watson cannot go after tweaking his knee in practice this week, Khalif Barnes would slide to the left side, and the newly signed Tony Pashos would start at right tackle.
For the Raiders to have success on offense, the line will need to create lanes in the running game, as well as at least slow down the opposing pass rush.
Should there continue to be difficulties in both regards, much like there was throughout the preseason, the Colts will take control of this game early on.
Can Terrelle Pryor Give the Offense a Spark?
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While the Raiders have yet to officially announce their starting quarterback for the Week 1 matchup with the Colts, the expectation is that it will be Terrelle Pryor.
If that is indeed the case come Sunday, he certainly has the potential to be a difference-maker.
Not only can Pryor make things happen with his legs on designed runs and read-option plays, but he has consistently impressed with his ability to keep plays alive when the pocket breaks down.
As we have seen throughout the league in the past two seasons, a quarterback that does just that causes an opposing defense to step up and thus become susceptible to big plays over the top as well.
No, the Raiders aren't in great shape on the offensive line or at wide receiver, but Terrelle Pryor's dynamic presence at quarterback should help both areas in a big way.
Can the Raiders Create a Pass Rush?
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If the Raiders are going to slow down Andrew Luck and the Colts' offensive attack, it will start in the trenches.
Of course, there are plenty of uncertainties surrounding the Raiders' defensive line, but the Colts' offensive line was one of the weaker units in the NFL last season, providing a favorable matchup to start the season.
Expect the Raiders to send pressure in the form of extra defenders early and often, trying their best to get Luck and the rest of the offense out of rhythm.
If they cannot do so, and the Colts offense starts to move the ball as they did for so much of last season, the Raiders could be in for a long day.
How Much Has the Secondary Improved?
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On paper, the Raiders have made some significant upgrades in the secondary heading into the 2013 season.
This includes additions at cornerback with D.J. Hayden, Tracy Porter and Mike Jenkins, as well as free safety with Charles Woodson and Usama Young.
What's more, is how much this added talent should free up Tyvon Branch to make the plays he is capable of at strong safety.
Facing one of the league's best young quarterbacks in Andrew Luck, this group has an opportunity to prove that those "on paper" upgrades will translate to the playing field as well.
Can Special Teams Provide the Big Play?
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The Raiders made an underrated, yet important move this offseason when they hired the veteran special teams coach, Bobby April.
The hope is that April can help solve the issues that have plagued the team's kick coverage and return units for several seasons now.
If he can do just that, the Raiders still have one of the league's more talented return men in Jacoby Ford to take advantage of it.
With plenty of questions on both offense and defense for this season, the emphasis on the special teams units adding big plays will be a common theme throughout.