Oakland Raiders Veterans Who Have Been Put on Notice This Offseason
There comes a point in a player’s NFL career when he has to prove his worth. A solid or breakout season usually does the trick when trying to seal a future with an organization. The Oakland Raiders have a number of players who will be in the spotlight for show and tell in 2015.
The Raiders’ roster has an influx of young players, some of whom are still trying to cement themselves as consistent NFL talents. Personally, the third NFL season is the make-or-break year, where there’s a lot to prove, and failure to do so could land a player on the free-agent market or on waivers.
Who should the Raiders have a watchful eye on this season? I’ll list some players who need to show some potential or solid production in the upcoming season.
The Raiders’ leading cornerback has started in 10 games out of a possible 32 since entering the league in 2013 as the 12th overall pick.
Now isn’t the time to use inexperience as an excuse. The Raiders’ front office has put a lot of expectations on Hayden, and he must deliver.
Hayden played two years at Navarro College, a junior college, before committing to Houston where he played two seasons. His senior year was cut short due to a life-threatening injury that he recovered from halfway through his rookie season with the Raiders.
Why is Hayden's past history important to highlight? Simply because he’s only started 22 games against NCAA talent and 10 games as a pro. Essentially, he’s still learning the position—to anoint him as a starter is risky business considering the players behind him on the depth chart are only second-year players.
The Raiders didn’t go after veteran CBs like Tramon Williams in free agency, and that could hurt their secondary if Hayden struggles. Hayden struggled in a short stint in 2014. He was top-10 in most touchdowns allowed (seven) and surrendered the third-highest QB rating among all CBs, all within a span of eight games. He’ll need to turn his fortune around or risk losing playing time to Keith McGill.
There was much delight to hear Austin Howard moved back to his natural position at tackle. The question is, why?
Howard struggled as a tackle before leaving the New York Jets in 2013. He started two full seasons at tackle with the Jets before signing with Oakland. In those final two years with Gang Green, he was a liability on the right side of the offensive line. He has struggled tremendously in pass blocking registering ratings of minus-10.4 in 2012, minus-2.6 in 2013 and minus-11.4 in 2014 per Pro Football Focus.
Howard’s 2014 pass-blocking grade is overlooked because he played a new position at guard, but his track record doesn’t provide much optimism.
Poor footwork could be the culprit to his struggles. He’s 6’7”, 333 pounds and stands at a disadvantage to quicker edge-rushers who’ll use speed as their trump card. This led to experimenting with his positioning as an interior lineman. He has struggled in both positions.
The right side of Oakland’s offensive line could collectively struggle with Howard and either a rookie or Khalif Barnes on the same side. Austin has to finally prove he fits in as a solid offensive lineman.
Trent Richardson was the No. 3 overall pick of 2012 draft. He displayed a promising rookie season and flatlined after a great start. Richardson enters his fourth NFL season and suits up for his third team in three seasons. He’s definitely feeling the burden of proving himself in Oakland.
Richardson isn’t shying away from the challenge of reviving his NFL career. In fact, he comes in expecting to become the starter over Latavius Murray. He was also told, the starting position was an open competition straight from head coach Jack Del Rio’s mouth, per Pro Football Talk’s Josh Alper:
"We went over the offense and saw a lot of stuff that I saw in college," Richardson said, via CSNBayArea.com.
"I know this playbook already, especially when it comes to the run. I know what they expect and how they’re going to spread the field, putting me in a position to be successful. With that, in talking to Coach, he just said there is just a lot of opportunity out here. He said he isn’t going to promise me anything, but if I come in and work, I can be that bell cow."
I personally expect Richardson to win the starting job splitting carries with Murray 60-40, but that’s only half the battle. He must prove to be productive when on the field.
The Raiders will give him the opportunity to revisit his rookie season form when he was only 50 yards shy of 1,000 rushing yards. Oakland has conveniently set up a bigger offensive line similar to what Richardson saw in Alabama, which is what he alluded to in his quote above.
Murray will still get his touches as a change-of-pace back, but Del Rio will roll the dice on an every-down back who’s superior in pass protection. It’ll be up to Richardson to capitalize on a favorable situation in Oakland.
Rod Streater is on a one-year deal in Oakland. An injury or a poor season could send him packing. The Raiders are obviously waiting for Streater to wow them in his fourth season. Why else would they only sign him for a year and not a multiyear contract?
The Raiders chose to keep Streater and let Denarius Moore go this offseason. Moore had three solid seasons in Oakland with a revolving door of QBs under center. However, he was perceived as nothing more than a high-end No. 3 receiving option. Oakland hopes Streater can build off a 888-yard season with four TDs in 2013.
Now he’ll catch passes from Carr, but faces the challenge of splitting receptions with rookie Amari Cooper and Michael Crabtree as top receiving options. Crabtree is also competing on a one-year deal with a lot to prove after a poor season with the San Francisco 49ers.
Streater has the larger burden because he’s less proven than Crabtree. Just like Josh Harper this year, Streater was signed immediately after the draft in 2012. Typically, former top-10 overall picks with established resumes have more leverage than undrafted free agents with limited success.
Streater will play this season to remain relevant as a viable receiver in the league. This season will be his make-or-break year with a capable QB under center in an up-tempo offense.
He registered ratings of minus-7.6 in 2012, minus-4.3 in 2013 and minus-21.5 in 2014. Before entirely blaming the Saints for putting together a poor defense, the team had the fourth-ranked defense in points allowed per game (19) in 2013. So, it wasn’t as if the Saints defense was super stinky all three years—Lofton failed to deliver as well.
Sometimes new scenery is what a player needs to reinvigorate his play on the field. Lofton has the leadership qualities, but does he have the playmaking ability?
The Raiders drafted Ben Heeney, whom Del Rio speaks highly of (via Vic Tarfur of the San Francisco Chronicle) in regard to his relentless play on the field. The rookie inside linebacker will see time on the field in 3-4 situations and could take Lofton’s starting role if he continues to disappoint.
Are there any other players who should be put on notice for the upcoming season? Tweet your thoughts to Maurice's Twitter.