Oakland Raiders: 10 Players Who Must Improve During the Offseason

Elias Trejo@@Elias_TrejoSenior Analyst IIJanuary 13, 2011

Oakland Raiders: 10 Players Who Must Improve During the Offseason

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    There are many questions surrounding the Oakland Raiders after their best season since 2002.

    Who will be the head coach? Which free agents will they lose? Who do they pick in the draft? 

    It's easy to worry about all the uncertainties sometimes as we tend to forget that this is a business.

    The reality is that coaches and players come and go all of the time, but there is always someone else waiting to step up and be the next star.

    There are a lot of players still under contract for the Raiders, let's take a look at 10 players who need to improve during the off season to assure that Oakland stays the course and takes that next step to become a playoff team

Darren McFadden

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    Darren McFadden had his best year as a pro and gave the Raider Nation a lot to be excited about. Last off season he changed the way he took care of his body and this year everyone saw the results.

    McFadden must work to get better this off season. If he comes back and has a much better year next year the Raiders won't have to worry about the possibility of losing Michael Bush.

    The best scenario for the Raiders is having Bush come back, but if he doesn't McFadden showed he has what it takes to take over and win games for the Raiders.

    He must come back next season better than ever.

Darrius Heyward-Bey

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    Darrius Heyward-Bey improved this year. His numbers were better than his rookie season and getting better every year is key.

    The majority of DHB's routes are deep routes, and the offensive line doesn't hold the defense long enough for the ball to get thrown his way.

    Heyward-Bey still struggles with making the catch, but he's made catches this year that he wouldn't have made last year.

    His contribution in the run game cannot be understated. The Raiders whole receiving crew does a great job at blocking and if you look at some of the biggest run plays of the year DHB was making key blocks.

    He worked hard last off season and put on 15 pounds of muscle. Look for him to put in the same amount of work and continue to progress.

    He was a raw talent coming out of the draft and everyone knew it was going to take time for him to evolve.

Louis Murphy

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    2010 was the year of the running back for the Oakland Raiders. In 2009 most fans were scratching their heads and wondering what happened to the run game.

    I see the 2011 season becoming the year of the receiver. The Raiders have a lot of talent in the receiving corps, but more production is needed from the crew.

    With Jason Campbell and Hue Jackson coming back the Raiders offense should be stronger. 

    The growth of the receivers during the off season will be key. Louis Murphy is one of the reasons the Raiders have a bright future.

    Look for him to take the next step next season and become a constant reliable target. 

Jacoby Ford

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    Jacoby Ford AKA V12 or the Hybrid does it all. I could be wrong, but he may be the only player this season to score a rushing, receiving and special teams touchdown.

    He truly is a special player and had a big rookie season.

    Look for the Raiders to use his speed to their advantage next season, but he must improve and get better.

    Ford is already one of the fan favorites, look for him and his speed to back with a more explosive sophomore season.

    It is important for the Raiders to keep him involved in the offense.

Jared Veldheer

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    Jared Veldheer started most of the season for the Raiders at left tackle. He had a good season, but it was also filled with rookie mistakes.

    Tom Cable has said the Veldheer is a true professional that wants to learn the game. That is something that everyone wants to hear.

    There are many reasons the Raiders have struggled in the last eight years, and one of the major reasons is a lack of a true offensive line.

    You can have all the speed in the world with your running backs and wide receivers and you can have a quarterback with the strongest arm in the league, but if no one can block for them nothing is going to happen.

    It is essential that Veldheer becomes a franchise left tackle. The pass protection must improve.

Rolando McClain

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    Rolando McClain had a pretty good rookie year. He wasn't spectacular, but it was nice to see the rookie handle starting well.

    The Raiders need McClain to have a great season in 2011. They drafted him 8th overall and was expected to start as a rookie.

    There are a lot of free agents on the defensive side of the ball for the Raiders and the Raiders may lose half of them.

    It will be vital for McClain to put in the time during the off season and become a force in 2011. McClain is a very smart and dedicated player. Don't expect anything less from General McClain.

Mike Mitchell

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    It's been said that Mike Mitchell once hit an opponent so hard it made Mike Tyson flinch. Iron Mike Mitchell is the angriest man in the world.

    Mitchell has played well when he has been on the field and the Raiders need to start using him a lot more.

    He is a fast and physical guy who loves contact. He needs to make sure he improves on his coverage skills this off season.

    Iron Mike needs to show up next season and become the hitter and play maker he was in college. 

    The defense needs the younger players to step up in the run game as it has been one of the biggest issues for the Raiders in recent years.

Bruce Campbell

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    Bruce Campbell had an amazing combine last year before the draft. He is a phenomenal athlete and didn't see much of the field in his rookie season.

    He was projected as a first round pick by some and many mock drafts had the Raiders taking him in the first round.

    Campbell is more than a workout warrior and he worked on honing his skills during the season.

    The offensive line needs to improve greatly this off season, especially if Robert Gallery is lost in free agency.

    Campbell must live up to the hype he created after his workout. He has a chip on his shoulder, look for him to become a starter next season and make an impact.

Jason Campbell

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    I believe the Raiders have found their guy in Jason Campbell, now they just need to find protection for him. He has the strong arm, he does well with the play action pass and he is a model citizen.

    He could have spoken out when he was benched the first time and again the second time. Instead he set an example and kept working without becoming a distraction.

    He must do what he can to learn Hue Jackson's system better. This will be the 2nd year for Campbell in the same system and this should excite all of the Raider Nation.

    Campbell has put up respectable numbers in his career despite having to learn a different offense almost every year that he's been in the NFL.

    Look for Campbell to have a big year next season with his rapport with the receiving group getting better.

    The biggest factor in Campbell's progress is whether he can get the protection he needs to execute the plays he's asked to do.

Chaz Schilens

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    Chaz Schilens' career is starting to look a lot like Justin Fargas' career. Both were promising players and showed they could make plays, but were hampered by injuries.

    Schilens has everything you need in a receiver. He has the size at 6'4", the speed with a 40 time of 4.38 and he has great hands.

    He must do what he can to heal his body so the Raiders have their receivers at full strength when the season starts.

    The Raiders receiving group has the potential to be very scary in 2011. Just picture what the Raiders offense can do if the receivers stay healthy and produce.

    Louis Murphy led all receivers with 41 catches and two touchdowns. The Raiders can't afford to go another season without having two or three wideouts without 50 or more catches.

    A lot of that comes down to pass protection once again. Oakland's receivers run a lot of deep routes, and they won't get the ball thrown their way if the protection isn't there.

    It's time for them to step up and help take the Raiders to the next level.

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