5 Biggest Areas of Concern for Oakland Raiders Heading into Training Camp
The Oakland Raiders should be much improved in 2014 following what was their most productive offseason in recent memory.
However, the team is not without its fair share of question marks heading in, as there remain several areas of concern in regard to how the current roster shapes up.
If the Raiders can answer and/or solve all of which heading into the regular season, there is no reason why they shouldn’t find themselves in the thick of the AFC playoff picture coming down the stretch.
Here are the five biggest areas of concern for the Oakland Raiders heading into training camp.
The Raiders’ quarterback situation is much better off heading into the 2014 season, but just how much it improves over years past will go a long way toward determining the team’s overall success.
Matt Schaub will be the early favorite to start, but it remains to be seen whether or not he can bounce back from a difficult 2013 campaign.
If he can do so, proving capable of taking care of the ball and making plays like he once did, the offense could be in good shape.
If not, rookie Derek Carr could end up starting sooner than anticipated, and although he is undoubtedly the quarterback of the future, performing at a high level early on certainly cannot be expected.
Either way, the Raiders need to have consistent play from the position to continue moving in the right direction.
Without that, no matter how much other areas of the team have improved, it could make for another long season in this rebuilding process.
Staying Healthy at Running Back
Darren McFadden and Maurice Jones-Drew could give the Raiders one of the league’s more productive running back tandems in 2014.
The two players’ running styles should complement each other well, with McFadden ideally getting the majority of his opportunities outside the tackles, and Jones-Drew inside.
However, the key for both players, and even second-year back Latavius Murray, will be staying on the field.
Of late, all three players have had trouble doing just that, and they will need to find a way in 2014.
With said questions at the quarterback position, and some upgrades made on the offensive line, this group has an opportunity to carry the offense throughout the season.
The talent is certainly there, but again, they need to prove they can stay healthy and available throughout the season for consistent success in the running game.
Finding Consistency at WR/TE
Training camp competitions at receiver and tight end will be among the Raiders’ most interesting to follow this year, as there is plenty of young talent in the mix.
While the level of competition is a nice thing to have at this point in the process, the team will need to have found players that can consistently contribute for both spots by the time the season rolls around.
At receiver, the early favorites for which will be Rod Streater and James Jones, but Denarius Moore, Andre Holmes, Brice Butler, Juron Criner and Greg Little will each have every opportunity to earn primary roles as well.
At tight end, the team will once again be looking for David Ausberry’s break out season, but Mychal Rivera’s performance as a rookie proved that he has a bright future and Nick Kasa’s blocking ability could earn him a key role as well.
Again, there are a lot of names in the mix for both spots, and at this point in the process, that can be a good thing.
However, players at each position must emerge and grab hold of the starting jobs, as finding consistent pass-catchers has been one of the Raiders’ top needs for a number of years now.
Depth at Defensive End
One of the Raiders’ biggest offseason priorities was to address the pass rush, and they did so in a big way with several additions on the defensive front.
In free agency, the most notable of which were veteran defensive ends Justin Tuck and LaMarr Woodley, who should make for solid upgrades in the starting lineup.
However, the depth behind the two veterans is the issue that remains for the Raiders, as defensive end is still one of the thinner groups on the roster overall.
Training camp performances will likely dictate just how much the team chooses to rely on young players like Jack Crawford, Shelby Harris and Ryan Robinson in depth roles moving forward.
Either way, the defensive end depth chart will be important to keep an eye on throughout camp, as we should expect a few more additions to the group as the season gets closer.
Depth in the Secondary
As was the case for the defensive line, depth in the secondary proved to be an issue for the Raiders as the 2013 season went on.
While they have made some key free-agent additions to team with D.J. Hayden at cornerback in Tarell Brown and Carlos Rogers, the depth behind them is largely inexperienced.
Coming out of camp, the fourth and fifth spots on the depth chart could end up being held by rookies Keith McGill and T.J. Carrie.
At safety, a healthy Tyvon Branch returning to start alongside Charles Woodson makes for a solid tandem, but—outside of Usama Young as the third safety—the depth there is a concern as well.
While it is not unrealistic for rookie defensive backs to contribute right away, it is rarely in the team’s best interests to depend on them and construct the roster accordingly.
Like at defensive end, we can expect further additions to be made to address the depth in the secondary. Doing so will allow for the team to develop their young talent at their own pace and ideally avoid having to force them into the lineup sooner than they may be ready for.