Oakland Raider Players That Are Ready to Break out in 2011

Carl CockerhamSenior Analyst IJuly 12, 2011

Oakland Raider Players That Are Ready to Break out in 2011

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    In 2010, the Oakland Raiders improved to 8-8 from 5-11 in 2009.

    That was due in large part to players like Darren McFadden, Stanford Routt, Michael Huff, and Tommy Kelly breaking out. Jacoby Ford broke out as a kick returner and and former first round outside linebacker Kamerion Wimbley reclaimed his career.

    In 2011, the Raiders are still a very young team with talent that has yet to be unleashed. I see some more Raider players that look to be on schedule to unleash that talent and break out.

    Should that happen, will we see another three game jump up to 11-5?

    I don't know but it will definitely help if these seven players break out.

    Turn the page to see who they are.

Center: Stefen Wisniewki

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    Stefen Wisniewski will break out in 2011 as a rookie just as Marquice Pouncey did in 2010. I'm not predicting a Pro Bowl berth for Wisniewski because Pouncey dwells in the AFC along with Nick Mangold, but Wisniewski will be a factor in Oakland.

    Wisniewski's scouting report is close to identical to Pouncey's going into the NFL. He probably would have been rated higher had he been listed as a guard out of Penn State.

    Usually that experience as a guard, dealing with big men in 4-3 defenses in college serves a prospective center well going into the NFL, where the 3-4 is taking over. His battle with first-round defensive tackle Muhammad Wilkerson is a good indication that he is ready for the big men of the NFL.

    Uncle Steve Wisniewski is a Raider legend that will coach him and have him even more ready to break out.

Defensive End: Matt Shaughnessy

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    Matt Shaughnessy is primed and ready to break out in 2011.

    The Raiders drafted him in the third round out of the University of Wisconsin in 2009. In his first year as a pro, Shaughnessy showed some promise as he had 26 tackles and four sacks in only two starts.

    That earned him some more playing time in 2010.

    Shaughnessy took advantage of it to the tune of 43 tackles and seven sacks in just eight starts. Starting in all 16 games alone should get Shaughnessy the breakout season he's looking for.

    He will also improve under defensive line coach Mike Wauffle.

    I expect double-digit sacks out of Shaughnessy in 2011.

Strong Safety: Mike Mitchell

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    This one is questionable because Tyvon Branch is the starter at strong safety even though Mitchell is a better fit for the position. Not only is he 6'1", 220 pounds as opposed to the 6'0", 205-pound Branch but hits much harder.

    In fact, he hits harder than most defensive backs in the NFL.

    This makes him a much better in the box strong safety as Branch struggled with shedding blocks and missed tackles. Pass coverage has held Mitchell back since coming to Raider Nation as a second-round pick.

    But Branch gave up 73.1 percent of the passes thrown his way for eight touchdowns and a 134 QB rating. Mitchell was at least 10 times better than that in pass coverage in 2010 so the competion should be open.

    In 16 starts, Branch had 104 combined tackles, three passes defensed, four sacks, a forced fumble and an interception. In only three starts, Mitchell had 51 combined tackles, five passes defensed, an interception and a forced fumble.

    Looking at this stat line favors Mitchell enough but physicality isn't a stat and that's his biggest advantage. I know Hue Jackson loves Branch, but he knows love doesn't win football games.

    This is why I believe Mitchell will win the job and break out in 2011.

Middle Linebacker Rolando McClain

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    Rolando McClain is prime to break out in 2011 after showing signs of getting it down the stretch of 2010. It took him a while to consistently find the football in as he had to adjust to playing middle instead of inside linebacker.

    But one thing he always brought to the Raiders' defense is the physical aspect of it. McClain ended up with 85 combined tackles, half a sack, an interception and six passes defensed in 2010.

    In 2011, I expect McClain to take his place in the top-tier of middle linebackers, thus improving the Raiders' run defense. He is surprisingly already in the top-tier of middle linebackers when it comes to pass coverage.

    McClain is a true student of the game so look for him to be all over the field rocking heads.

Playmaker: Jacoby Ford

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    Ford is a playmaker that can beat you in many ways with that 4.2 speed he has. He had two rushing, two receiving and three kickoff returns for touchdowns in 2010.

    He is the only man in the NFL to score a touchdown in as many ways in 2010. Hue Jackson was on NFL Network and said, "Jacoby is going to be a household name because he has some special ability."

    He already broke out as a return man so his break out will be at the receiver position in 2011. In 2010, Ford didn't get much of an opportunity to start the season but did get to do some damage in the second half of the season.

    He finished with 470 yards to go with his two touchdowns in about a half a season at receiver.

    How about 1,000 yards for 2011?

Defensive End: Lamarr Houston

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    Lamarr Houston should break out big time in his second year under defensive line coach Mike Wauffle. He is ultra talented at 6'2", 305 pounds and running a 4.7 40-yard dash.

    Houston is so talented that perennial Pro Bowl defensive end Richard Seymour went to camp early with the rookies. His reason for doing so was to tutor Houston to make sure he learned what he needed to learn early.

    The result was 40 tackles to go with five sacks which isn't too bad for a rookie base end. Now Houston is entering his second year in the league with improved pass-rush skills to get to the quarterback.

    He's already among the league leaders against the run at the point of attack.

    Houston will be at or near double digits in sacks in 2011, esepcially if the Raiders stop the run.

Receiver: Louis Murphy

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    I want to predict Chaz Shilens to break out in 2011, but I have to see him play a full season first. But either way, the Raiders don't need the veteran receiver that many are suggesting.

    This is because Louis Murphy will break out with a 1,000-yard season for the Raiders. He was on pace for a 1,000-yard season in 2010, but an injury to his shoulder and lung prevented that.

    Some will question Murphy's hands, saying "he drops too many passes," but that was 2009. In 2010, Murphy was statistically right up there with the best receivers in the NFL in drop percentage at 6.7 percent.

    This is a deep threat too.

    Murphy seemed to develop quite a chemistry with quarterback Jason Campbell in 2010. He did vehemently voiced his displeasure with the decision to bench him when Bruce Gradkowski came back from injury.

    Aside from the minicamp Campbell and Seymour hosted, Murphy has worked with Campbell this offseason.

    Look for that to pay off in 2011. 

Quarterback: Jason Campbell

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    With two receivers breaking out, this is the year that Jason Campbell breaks out.

    Sure, his 2010 stats aren't evidence of a breakout season, but one must look deeper to find that evidence. He struggled mightily in the beginning of the season and was benched but he hung in there.

    He then showed why Davis traded for him when he got another opportunity.

    The last five games of the season, Campbell threw for 1,065 yards, six touchdowns and two interceptions. He had a 65 percent completion percentage and a quarterback rating of 96.8.

    Campbell finished the 2010 season with a 7-5 record and tied for ninth in yards per attempt (7.3). In 2011, he has a head coach that believes in him and the same offense for the first time since he entered the NFL.

    I'm not predicting that he throws for 4,500 yards and 30 touchdowns.

    A record of 11-5 to 9-7 will be breaking out enough because Campbell will need to be efficient to do so. I'm predicting 3,800 yards, 25 touch downs and 12 interceptions with an 89 QB rating.

    Not too sexy but effective.

Overview

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    The Raiders had a good six players break out in 2010 and trememdously improved. If the seven players that I predicted to break out do so in 2011, it should be another improvement but it's deeper than that.

    The Raiders need two players in free agency that will lead to the players I listed breaking out. Some of you may know who I believe those players are already, and if you don't, you'll have to see it in an upcoming article.

    This Raider team could be closer than people think.

    Could be.

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