Football Nation Preview: The 2013 Oakland Raiders
2012 Record: 4-12
Lack of Defensive Pressure
The 25 sacks mustered by the Raiders were the second lowest total in the NFL in 2012, ahead of only Jacksonville's wretched 20. It's probably not a good sign when Richard Seymour misses eight games, and finds himself in a three-way tie for third place with 3.0 sacks. (Lamarr Houston led the club with 4.5).
The Raiders also managed just 11 interceptions, which puts them in the bottom third of the league. Compounding that, the team also had just eight fumble recoveries on defense, seventh worst total in NFL.
It's easy to see why Oakland had the second worst percentage of plays ending in a sack or pick in 2012, a 6.53 percent kill rate. This lack of pressure allowed opponents to average 27.7 PPG against the Silver and Black, fifth highest total in the league.
For the most part, Carson Palmer and the passing game enjoyed a bountiful season. As a whole, the Raiders ranked eighth in passing offense, as Palmer threw for 22 touchdowns and a shade over 4000 yards. Brandon Myers (806 yds, 4 TD) and Denarius Moore (741 yds, 7 TD) were his main beneficiaries.
While Oakland was eighth in passing, they were twenty-eighth in rushing offense. Darren McFadden missed four games due to injury, following up a quality 2011 with a wholly miserable 2012. He finished with 707 yards and 2 TDs, on a 3.3 YPC average.
Out of 23 backs that had 200+ carries, McFadden (216 carries) had the lowest average per attempt (Trent Richardson and Michael Turner were tied for second lowest; each had 3.6 YPC) For the season, the Raiders finished with the sixth worst YPC average in the league as a team, a 3.78 average.
2013 Projected Wins: 5.5
Top 3 Rookies
-DJ Hayden, CB (1/12): Survived a brush with death via an internal injury in practice this past season. Makes up for lack of size with a Napoleonic, ball-tipping aggression.
-Menelik Watson, OT (2/42): Raw talent with only one year of major college experience at Florida State. Instincts are somewhat underdeveloped by his minimal time in football.
-Sio Moore, LB (3/66): Versatile talent that holds his own in a 4-3 package, but a lack of size could be a rough adjustment against more sizable NFL backs and blockers.
The very day work began on this preview, possible Hall of Famer Charles Woodson agreed to return to the Black Hole after seven seasons in Green Bay. He's joined in the secondary by former playoff hero Tracy Porter, and Porter's former Saints teammate, safety Usama Young.
But the biggest move prior to Woodson's homecoming was the acquisition on April 1 of quarterback Matt Flynn from Seattle. The Raiders dealt two picks to get Flynn, who mostly stood and watched from the sideline as Russell Wilson broke out for the Seahawks last year.
This made Palmer expendable, so the veteran QB was shipped to Arizona for a couple of draft picks himself. One of Palmer's favored targets, Darrius Heyward-Bey, fled for the Colts after coming into his own after the past two seasons. Oakland did, however, acquire receiver Josh Cribbs, who will also bolster the return game.
Potential Starting Lineup
QB - Matt Flynn
RB - Darren McFadden
FB - Marcel Reece
WR - Denarius Moore
WR - Jacoby Ford
TE - Richard Gordon
LT - Jared Veldheer
LG - Tony Bergstrom
C - Stefen Wisniewski
RG - Mike Brisiel
RT - Khalif Barnes
DE - Lamarr Houston
NT - Pat Sims
DT - Vance Walker
DE - Jason Hunter
OLB - Nick Roach
MLB - Kaluka Maiava
OLB - Kevin Burnett
CB - DJ Hayden
CB - Mike Jenkins
FS - Charles Woodson
SS - Tyvon Branch
K - Sebastian Janikowski
P - Chris Kluwe
LS - Jon Condo
2013 at a Glance
It didn't take the Raiders long to try and exorcise the demons of 2012. Offensive coordinator Greg Knapp was fired on December 31 at the season's conclusion. Knapp was instrumental in moving to a zone-blocking scheme that cut down on sacks (Oakland only gave up 27, among the best in the league), but created the running problems noted earlier.
Replacing Knapp is Greg Olson, whose offensive work in Tampa Bay and Jacksonville over the past few seasons has been mixed in execution. However, his power-running attack will benefit McFadden, as it aided LeGarrette Blount upon his NFL entry.
While Olson cultivated minimal improvement in Blaine Gabbert last season, he's presented with the more enigmatic Flynn in Oakland.
At the end of the 2011 season, Flynn stepped in for Aaron Rodgers in a meaningless victory over the Lions, and set several Packers single-game passing records. His stock rose in 2012 free agency, and Seattle would have started him if Russell Wilson hadn't won Pete Carroll's heart.
Flynn, it should be noted, has only 2 career starts; one in 2010 where he took it to a great Patriots team for much of the game, and the 2011 shootout vs. Detroit.
With tight end Brandon Myers off to the Giants, the Raiders seem to have a bargain-basement battle for the starting job. Three year veteran David Ausberry seems to be the likely starter, but a pair of sixth round picks in Nick Kasa and Mychael Rivera are poised to challenge.
After 2012 fourth round pick Miles Burris joined Philip Wheeler in providing much of the defense's backbone (205 total tackles between them last year), the team has worked on retooling its defensive line in order to reduce the workload on the linebackers.
Richard Seymour, Desmond Bryant, Dave Tollefson, and Tommy Kelly have all departed the Bay Area.
Working to replace them are former Bronco Jason Hunter, a hybrid player familiar to Dennis Allen, and missed 2012 with a torn triceps. Incoming DTs Pat Sims (Cincinnati) and Vance Walker (Atlanta) aren't known for their pass-rushing prowess, but could go a long way in lowering Oakland's mediocre run-stopping averages.
While Oakland doesn't appear to have done too much in the way of personnel to improve pressure at the line, their skilled additions to the secondary could create more chances to devour the quarterback.
So much has changed for the Raiders in one year, and a lot of it seems puzzling to the casual observer. They're now banking on a quarterback with flashes of brilliance in minimal appearances. The offensive blocking is being overhauled, likely for the better, but it might not be an instant fit. Playmakers like Myers and Heyward-Bey have left town.
The defense has revamped its secondary, but outside of Porter and Young, none of the big names have played together. The defensive line seems to have gotten minimal attention. In what could be a hotseat year for coach Allen, he's taking a rather patient approach. Will it translate into success?