5 Oakland Raiders Players Poised for a Breakout Campaign in 2014
The proven veterans added to the roster will help quite a bit, but there are a number of players that we can consider breakout candidates to contribute as well.
Of course, that given player’s own talent plays the biggest role in which will make the biggest leap, but their supporting casts can quite often be an important factor as well.
Here are five Raiders players poised for a breakout campaign this season.
In his rookie year, D.J. Hayden was kept away from the majority of the team’s offseason activities while he recovered from injuries, and he struggled throughout the season as a result.
This time around, having had the time to add some size and strength, things should be much different, according to Coach Allen, per the Contra Costa Times:
“He’s light years ahead of where he was at this point last year,” coach Dennis Allen said Tuesday. “Not just from a physical standpoint, but really from a mental standpoint, too. He realizes now that everything’s going to be fine, he’s going to be OK, and now he can really focus on getting better as a football player.”
With that added size and strength—and even the relative normality of this offseason in comparison—Hayden will have a much better opportunity to prove why the Raiders were so comfortable in selecting him as high as they did in the 2013 draft.
A lot of the Raiders’ defensive success in 2014 hinges on the play of the secondary as a whole, and Hayden becoming a key contributor from the outset would go a long way toward ensuring that.
Although he wasn’t selected until the third round, Sio Moore had the most immediate impact of the Raiders’ entire 2013 draft class.
Not only was he a capable run defender on the strong side of the defense throughout his rookie season, but he flashed ability as a pass-rusher off the edge as well.
The addition of Khalil Mack in this year’s draft likely means Moore will transition to the weak side, but he should be used similarly regardless.
The significant upgrades the Raiders have made on the defensive line should free him up to make plays in the running game that much more often, and he should remain a key part of a now impressive nickel pass rush rotation as well.
Overall, the ability flashed as a rookie, coupled with the numerous upgrades made on the defensive front around him, makes Moore a prime candidate for a breakout season in 2014.
A great fit for the Raiders’ power-blocking scheme, Austin Howard signed a five-year $30 million free-agent deal with the Silver and Black this offseason.
What’s interesting about this move is the transition Howard will be making from the right tackle position he played with the Jets to a right guard spot he hasn’t yet experienced in the NFL.
The move may be unconventional, but at 6’7” and 330 pounds, the power he plays with in the run game does make him a fit as an interior lineman.
With the number of additions elsewhere on the roster, this particular move is going somewhat overlooked, but Howard should be considered one of the Raiders players primed to breakout in 2014.
While his play and potential demonstrated at right tackle is what netted him the free-agent deal he got, his fit as a guard in this scheme could see his performance increase in a big way this season.
Tight end David Ausberry has been considered one of the Raiders’ potential breakout players for several seasons now, but his physical talent will warrant that distinction until it happens.
A converted wide receiver, Ausberry can be a matchup nightmare for linebackers and safeties in the middle of the field, but he will need to stay healthy to get that opportunity this season.
In second-year players Mychal Rivera and Nick Kasa, he will have some competition for the starting spot but a role-specific rotation for the group is the most likely scenario anyway.
Working in favor of his potential production, and likely that of the position group overall, is the upgrade made at quarterback this offseason.
With a veteran in Matt Schaub, the Raiders now have a quarterback that can utilize his offensive weapons to the fullest, and Ausberry will benefit from which should he earn some significant snaps this season.
Since emerging as an undrafted free agent out of Temple in 2012, Rod Streater has shown steady development as a receiver for the Raiders.
Thus far, he has proven his ability to create separation both underneath and downfield, while having the size and athletic ability to make the difficult and contested catches.
Heading into 2014, he projects as a starter in the Raiders’ offense, likely seeing consistent snaps out wide along with James Jones and Denarius Moore.
As is the case for Ausberry, Streater and the receivers should really benefit from the addition of Schaub at quarterback. Again, a player of his caliber with his experience should be able to consistently run the offense in rhythm.
Streater, a player who produced quite impressively regardless of quarterback play over the past two seasons, could see his production take off this year.