The Oakland Raiders are a team that needs to find a spark no matter where it comes from after finishing the 2012 season with a 4-12 record. Here is a look at how things are going for head coach Dennis Allen and his questionable Raiders team.
A Draft Class Al Davis Would Be Proud Of
You would think that with the passing of Al Davis that some of his traditions would have gone with him. Obviously the legacy of having the most questionable draft class has been carried on after cornerback D.J. Hayden was taken with the 12th overall pick.
Hayden was pretty much drafted based on his speed over his skills like former Raiders first round picks. He is also out for the rest of the Raiders off-season activities with an abdominal strain.
Hayden is not the only rookie player that is already banged up and missing valuable time, tight end Nick Kasa is out of action with a bad hamstring.
Kasa was drafted to replace Brandon Myers, the Raiders leading receiver from a season ago with 79 catches. If Kasa is already having hamstring issues that might not work out to well.
Not all things are bad with this draft class, fourth round pick quarterback Tyler Wilson has clearly demonstrated he is capable of starting week 1 when the Raiders go to Indianapolis to kick their season off. Wilson has a huge arm, and coming from the same school as Darren McFadden should help his cause.
A Offense In Need Of Leadership
With running back Darren McFadden as the senior player on this young Raiders offense, he is going to have to be the one to step up and lead this team. So far during mini-camps and organized team activities, quarterback Matt Flynn has had a strong voice as he competes for the starting job with Terrelle Pryor, and rookie Tyler Wilson.
With All-Pro Charles Woodson back in camp, there is no question who the leader on the defense will be. There is only one problem, Woodson has been participating in only silver and black with no number on his jersey.
There seems to be an issue with the number 24 that Woodson prefers to wear since it is assigned to fellow defensive back Tracy Porter. This should be hashed out in due time since the number rightfully belongs to Woodson.
Who Will Be The Starting Quarterback?
The Raiders have three quarterbacks in camp competing for the starting job that was vacated when Carson Palmer was shipped off to possibly finish his career with the Arizona Cardinals.
After trading Palmer away the Raiders front office made a deal with the Seattle Seahawks for the services of career backup Flynn. After strong showings by Pryor and Wilson so far this off-season, coach Allen will now have to decide if Flynn will be the starting quarterback.
As of now Flynn seems to have a strong hold on the job due to his experience and the leadership he has displayed in his first few weeks practicing in the “Black Hole.” Surely Flynn will not become a backup to a rookie two years in a row after initially being the starter.
The Injury Bug Has Already Attacked This Team
This team has seen it's share of injuries so far through mini-camps and organized team activities with 12 different players being sidelined for one reason or the other.
The latest players to miss practice are Jacoby Ford with a bummed hamstring, and Christo Bilukidi rolled his ankle. They will now be sidelined with Josh Cribbs, D.J. Hayden, Coye Francis, Jon Hoese, Nick Kasa, Miles Burris, and Isiah Williams in the stands heading into mandatory mini-camps which will be starting next week.
While their were two more players added to the infirmary list, Tracy Porter returned to practice after missing two weeks with a strained calf.
Stacey McGee and Johnny Jones also returned to the field with Porter after being sidelined with their injuries for the majority of O.T.A.'s heading into camp.
If this medical list is any indication of how the Raiders season is going to go as far as injuries, this is a team destined for doom this upcoming season.
Team Is Still In Need Of A Play-Maker At Receiver
Not only is the Raiders top receiver from a season ago tight end Brandon Myers playing for the New York Giants this season, but they also do not have the services of former first round pick Darrius Heyward-Bey this season either.
This season coach Allen will be depending on Denarius Moore and Juron Criner to step their game up. So far Criner has shined once again like he did this time of year last season, but only caught 16 passes in twelve games when he was needed the most.
Moore has seemed to struggle with holding onto the tougher catches he will need to to make in games so far through camp. If the Raiders plan on improving on their 8th ranked passing game from a season ago they are gonna need both of these guys catching every ball that flies near them.
Still Needing Depth At Running Back
While Darren McFadden will be the starting running back until he is no longer with the team, his health has played a major issue in his career. Over his five seasons in the league McFadden has yet to play all 16 games, and is coming back from back to back injuries that could have easily cost him his career.
As for now McFadden seems to be running at 100 percent, and for any reason he should go down this season, sixth round pick Latavius Murray has shown he can carry the load.
Special Teams Could Be Key This Season
Special teams is the perfect place for all the speed the players have on this Raiders team. It's looking like the top returners this season will be Denarius Moore, Greg Jenkins, Tracy Porter, and Conner Vernon.
Vernon and Jenkins have been the two that seem to want the returner jobs the most since they are the ones holding onto the ball. Both Moore and Porter both have bobbled and even muffed a few punts making it clear they are not the guys you want trying to field a kick.
Besides Vernon and Jenkins are rookies, special teams is the perfect place for a young player to make an instant name for himself.
Committed To Stopping The Run And Rushing The Passer
With the additions of Stacy McGee, David Bass, Ryan Robinson, Pat Sims, and Jason Hunter; the Raiders will see their 18th ranked run defense possibly climb in the top 10 this season. Sims and Robinson have been the most dominant lineman so far getting off their blockers and into the backfield at a steady rate. Both rushers also have batted passes against Wilson and Flynn over the last couple days of practice.
There Will Not Be Much Passing On This Secondary
This defensive secondary has been completely overhauled from the additions of All-Pro veterans to a young rookie needing to prove his first round value.
Rookie cornerback D.J. Hayden saw his off-season activities cut short with and abdominal strain while veteran Tracy Porter has been out nursing his own injuries. Porter finally returned to the field the same day that Hayden went down.
On the field linebackers Nick Roach and Kaluka Maiava have been the head hunters receivers have been trying to avoid. Both players have pretty much shut down any tight end presence and passes going across the middle of the field.
Roach will prove to be a solid addition to go along with fellow veterans Michael Jenkins, and Charles Woodson. This is a perfect opportunity for Jenkins to revamp his career after pretty much being booed out of Dallas.
Looking At The Big Picture
So far this off-season this young Raiders team has shown they have what it takes to compete at a high level in the AFC West even though they have to deal with Peyton Manning. With the additions this team has made, and if Darren McFadden can stay healthy this team should finish the season with an 8-8 record.
Their biggest improvement will be in the West where a season ago they were 2-4, this improved Raiders team should finish 4-2 in the division right behind the Denver Broncos.