USA TODAY Sports
Matt Schaub has much to prove in Oakland.
The Oakland Raiders don’t just have one question mark, they have a roster full. Despite this, the Raiders have undoubtedly improved in 2014.
The Raiders finished the season by losing their final six games, and there were complaints about fatigue in December because of the team’s lack of depth.
General manager Reggie McKenzie is wise enough to know that not every obstacle results in disaster. McKenzie took chances on veteran players this offseason, hoping to improve the team’s overall talent level and knowing that he won’t hit on every move.
Trading for quarterback Matt Schaub was a risk worth taking, but his bad 2013 season in Houston could be a sign of things to come. There’s a reason the Raiders drafted Derek Carr in the second round of the draft. If it turns out it wasn’t just one bad year for Schaub, the Raiders could be headed toward their 12th consecutive non-winning season unless Carr can hit the ground running.
McKenzie also took his chances on a 29-year-old running back with a lot of miles: Maurice Jones-Drew. Not only is Jones-Drew nearing the expiration date for running backs, but he also had a foot injury last year that limited him.
The Raiders doubled down on safety Charles Woodson, hoping to coax one more solid season out of the future Hall of Famer. Woodson will play next to Tyvon Branch, who missed 14 games last year with a broken ankle.
McKenzie revamped the defensive line with Justin Tuck and LaMarr Woodley at defensive end, and Antonio Smith at defensive tackle. The Raiders are hopeful that signing three veteran defensive linemen will help them compete in the AFC West.
Unfortunately, even these vets come with some question marks. Woodley hasn’t played more than 13 games in each of the last three years, and although Tuck had 11 sacks last season, he combined for just nine in 2011 and 2012. Antonio Smith will turn 33 in October and missed most of the offseason program due to an injury suffered in a weightlifting mishap.
Then there’s 2013 first-round draft pick D.J. Hayden, who will start training camp on the physically unable to perform list with a stress fracture in his foot, according to Vic Tafur of the San Francisco Chronicle.
Hayden missed eight games last season with a sports hernia and almost all of training camp while recovering from surgery to remove scar tissue that was the result of a life-saving operation his senior year in college. Hayden nearly lost his life after tearing the vein that carries blood to the heart, but it’s been other injuries slowing down the talented young cornerback.
With Hayden out, Oakland’s depth at corner is dangerously thin. Veteran cornerback Carlos Rogers will likely see an expanded role. Rogers was originally signed only as a nickelback, so Hayden’s absence will put significant stress on an already thin group.
The Raiders should be better in 2014, but you would be hard-pressed to find a team with more question marks. Not mentioned above is the team’s lack of a No. 1 wide receiver or an offensive line that will probably have four new starters.