Oakland Raiders: Players Who Have to Improve for Success in 2012

Bradley Smith@@Bradley_Smith88Contributor IIIJune 11, 2012

Oakland Raiders: Players Who Have to Improve for Success in 2012

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    The 2012 Oakland Raiders will be looking to get out of their own "Black Hole" and do something they have not done since the 2002 season: make the playoffs.

    After the death of owner Al Davis, Reggie McKenzie, former director of football operations for the Green Bay Packers, was hired as the general manager. 

    McKenzie has quickly revamped the front office and changed the mindset of the organization. He hired Dennis Allen as head coach and put the daily operations of the team in the hands of knowledgeable football people.  

    McKenzie has done his part; now, it is up to Allen to get improvement on the field.

    If the Raiders want to compete in the wild, wild AFC West and make the playoffs, these players need to improve their play in 2012.

6. David Ausberry

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    The Raiders knew they were getting a receiving talent in Ausberry when they drafted him in the seventh round in 2011. 

    The problem was, they wanted him to convert into a tight end, which is a tough transition for any young receiver. But Ausberry has taken the challenge to heart.

    Ausberry has added 20 pounds of muscle to his frame and is working hard to become a weapon for the offense. 

    Also, Ausberry has a lot of things falling into his favor for 2012:

    1. The starting tight end in 2011, Kevin Boss, is now with the Kansas City Chiefs.
    2. Offensive coordinator Greg Knapp has a track record of utilizing the tight end in his West Coast attack e.g., Alge Crumpler, Zach Miller, John Carlson.
    3. He has the backing of quarterback Carson Palmer.

    The potential is there for Ausberry to succeed. Added improvements in blocking and recognizing defensive formations will be the final bounds he needs to overcome and grab the starting tight end spot for the Raiders.

5. Mike Goodson

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    When healthy, Oakland Raiders starting running back Darren McFadden is a top-five player at the position in the NFL. The problem is, he always gets hurt.

    That is why Mike Goodson is an important piece to the puzzle for Oakland in 2012. 

    Goodson fills the vacancy left by Michael Bush as the backup running back. If he wants to keep that spot, he'll have to improve taking care of the football.

    In 2010, Goodson was able to showcase some of his skills with the Carolina Panthers after DeAngelo Williams went down with an injury. He ran well and catch the ball well out of the backfield, but six fumbles led to a dramatically decreased role in 2011. 

    Goodson likes his chances, and if he holds on to the football, the Raiders will too.

4. DeMarcus Van Dyke

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    The one good thing about DeMarcus Van Dyke is that he is fast. Unfortunately, that may be the only thing going for him now.

    Van Dyke struggled in his rookie season in 2011 after being selected in the third round. It got so bad having him on the field, the Raiders were prompted to sign Lito Sheppard to replace him.

    Van Dyke has to improve his technique and ball skills to be a solid contributor in the secondary. With the likes of Peyton Manning and Philip Rivers in the division, Oakland needs all the help it can get in the back end. 

    He will be pushed by the likes of Chimdi Chekwa and Pat Lee, but if he lives up to his potential, he can easily be the nickel back in 2012, and maybe even push for a starting spot. 

3. Aaron Curry

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    The Oakland Raiders took a flier on Aaron Curry, rescuing him from a bad situation in Seattle, and all things considered, he played well for them in 2011. 

    Curry has not been the impact a fourth-overall pick should be, but since coming to Oakland, he has improved. He'll have to continue to get better in 2012 to help the Raiders fix their 29th-ranked defense.

    Head coach Dennis Allen is going to employ a hybrid defense, utilizing zones and blitzes instead of the natural 4-3 the Raiders have been known for.

    After the Raiders let go of Kamerion Wimbley, Curry will be looked upon to get pressure on the quarterback from the linebacker spot. With no sacks in 2011, that is a tall order for him to fill, but the ability is there, and the Raiders will give him the opportunity to do so.

    Curry is going to have to start living up to the hype for Allen's scheme to work and for the Raiders to win in 2012. 

2. Rolando McClain

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    Rolando McClain has been a disappointment for the Oakland Raiders. There is no other way around it.

    The 2009 Butkus Award winner has not been the same player for the Raiders that he was in college with Alabama. 

    Oakland ranked 27th in both passing and rushing defense, and McClain is one of the main reasons for those marks. He has looked slow, making him a liability in pass coverage, and he has trouble working off blocks against the run.

    Pile on top of that his off-field issues, and the Raiders have a real mess on their hands. It appears the Raiders are willing to let these issues play out and give McClain another chance to be the difference-maker they thought they were getting. 

    McClain has not been a leader on or off the field, but if he wants to keep his job and remain with the team, improvements to his game and life have to be made now. 

1. Carson Palmer

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    Let's face it, the NFL today is a quarterback-driven league, and if they do not play well, their team does not play well.

    That is why it is most important of all for Carson Palmer to improve his play for the Oakland Raiders if they want to succeed in 2012. 

    He had some highs and lows in his first season with the Raiders. He threw more interceptions (16) than touchdowns (13), but he gets a pass for 2011 because he sat out the first six games while still with Cincinnati and was learning everything on the fly.

    There are no questions about his leadership and arm strength, but he will have to prove he can run a Greg Knapp West Coast-style offense with extensive rollouts and bootlegs.

    Palmer has never been known to be a mobile quarterback, but if he can execute this system, the offense will flourish. 

    Oakland invested a big chunk of their future in Palmer, who enters the season at 32 years of age, but if he can play like he did in 2005 with the Bengals, the investment will be more than worth the price it paid. 


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