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2013 Oakland Raiders Team Preview: Raiders Hopes Rely On A Healthy McFadden

Clay Link

Clay Link

Hailing from Arcanum, Ohio, Clay is a proud graduate of the University of Wisconsin - Madison. He began writing for RotoWire in the fall of 2011, and now contributes to breaking news and NFL Draft content, in addition to his duties as assistant baseball editor.

State of the Franchise

In GM Reggie McKenzie's second offseason at the helm for the Raiders, he really cleaned house. Offensive coordinator Greg Knapp, whose zone-blocking scheme resulted in the club's rushing attack ranking 28th in 2012 with 88.8 YPG, was fired and replaced by Greg Olson. Moreover, a pair of former top-ten draft picks (WR Darrius Heyward-Bey and LB Rolando McClain) were cut loose by the team. Rather than paying starting QB Carson Palmer $13 million this year, the Raiders traded him to Arizona. LB Philip Wheeler and TE Brandon Myers, the team's leading tackler and receiver from a season ago, respectively, walked in free agency along with RB Mike Goodson, CB Michael Huff and DE Desmond Bryant. Richard Seymour's four-year tenure in Oakland came to an end when his contract was voided and fellow veteran defensive lineman Tommy Kelly also got the axe.

This all came on the heels of a 4-12 campaign that saw first-year coach Dennis Allen's squad lose eight of its last nine games. Despite ranking near the middle of the pack in total defense, the team surrendered 27.7 points per game, fifth-worst in the league. The offense, which finished 18th in the league in total yards, was propped up largely by a passing game which ranked eighth in the NFL (4,084 yards), ahead of teams like the Packers and Giants, but a lot of that came in garbage time, with teams sagging on defense to prevent the big play. The Raiders' 18.1 points per game ranked them 26th in the league. Shoulder and ankle injuries cost top RB Darren McFadden four games and he struggled in Knapp's system, averaging a career-worst 3.3 YPC on 216 attempts.

As part of the team's much-needed makeover, QB Matt Flynn was brought in from Seattle and the team spent a fourth-round pick on Arkansas' Tyler Wilson to complete a retooled signal-calling corps that includes the speedy Terrelle Pryor. RB Rashad Jennings jumped ship from Jacksonville to back up McFadden, while oft-injured WR Jacoby Ford says he's 100 percent recovered from the foot ailment that kept him out all of last year. Meanwhile, with the zone-blocking scheme done away with and a return to a more north-and-south power run game, McFadden is poised to bounce back and approach his previous level of productivity.

Two of Oakland's first three picks in April's draft were used to bolster the defense, with No. 12 overall selection D.J. Hayden expected to step right in as a starting cornerback and LB Sio Moore also likely to contribute out of the gate. Allen has said the team will be basing out of a 4-3 defense again in 2013, though he added that the team's plethora of linebackers allows the Raiders the ability to have some 3-4 looks as well. Finally, the team added valuable experience to the secondary by bringing back Charles Woodson, who began his career in Oakland.

Offseason Moves

KEY ACQUISITIONS

Matt Flynn - QB, Seahawks
The Raiders don't figure to throw nearly as much this season, making him likely no more than a low-end QB2, even if he does lock down the starting job.

Rashad Jennings - RB, Jaguars
His numbers with Jacksonville last season were borderline atrocious, but for now, he's next up behind Darren McFadden.

Josh Cribbs - WR, Browns
It remains to be seen if he'll contribute much in the passing game, but provides a boost as a returner.

Charles Woodson - S, Packers
The 36-year-old defensive back returns to where he started his career.

KEY LOSSES

Carson Palmer - QB, Cardinals
An 85.3 passer rating last season was his best since 2007, but he wouldn't take a pay cut and the Raiders moved on.

Brandon Myers - TE, Giants
The team's leading receiver in 2012 left to join a contender.

Darrius Heyward-Bey - WR, Colts
A regression in 2012 ended his four-year run with the Raiders.

Mike Goodson - RB, Jets
Now part of the Jets' backfield after one year in Oakland, as the Raiders cycle Jennings in.

Team Notes

WILL FLYNN BE THE STARTING QB?

Three starts is the extent of NFL experience accumulated by the Raiders' current crop of quarterbacks. After being beaten out for the Seahawks' starting job by Russell Wilson prior to the start of last season, Matt Flynn appears primed to finally get his big chance in Oakland. It was announced that Flynn will open OTAs as the team's No. 1 quarterback, and it looks like it's his job to lose, but could a different Wilson, namely Tyler, thwart Flynn again this summer? Wilson reportedly shined at the team's rookie minicamp, showing off a strong arm with accuracy. While it's too early to tell, the quarterback situation will be worth keeping an eye on as training camp unfolds. As for Pryor, the team's decision to acquire Flynn didn't speak highly of what they saw from him in his first career start in last season's finale, and a move to a form of the read-option offense, which proved successful in places like Washington, Seattle and San Francisco in 2012, doesn't appear to be in the cards.

BALL CARRIERS

With injuries limiting RB Darren McFadden to just 19 games over the past two seasons, the idea of handcuffing his backup will likely be one many fantasy owners kick around. Rashad Jennings is currently second on the depth chart, but the 28-year-old filled in less than adequately for the Jaguars' Maurice Jones-Drew last season (2.8 YPC) while also dealing with knee and concussion issues. Fullback Marcel Reese handled tailback duties briefly last season when both McFadden and Mike Goodson were hurt, and the versatility he showed catching the ball is expected to earn him some snaps as a third-down back in 2013. A sixth-round pick was used on Latavius Murray, a 6-3 back, who totaled 1,337 yards and 19 touchdowns during his senior season at Central Florida. He could, conceivably, overtake both Jennings and Jeremy Stewart to become McFadden's top backup.

HANDS TEAM

Two of the team's top three receivers from a year ago are now gone, which leaves Denarius Moore, Jacoby Ford and Rod Streater as the top pass-catching options in Oakland. Moore had a nice stretch in the middle of the 2012 season, hitting pay dirt five times between Weeks 6 and 12, but he tapered off, averaging less than 30 yards per game over the team's final seven games. Streater, on the other hand, had a nice end to the season, with 351 yards over his final five contests and he figures to remain a top possession option for the club. Ford is a big question mark, given his injury history. If healthy, he could provide a spark to both the passing and return games. Meanwhile, the club drafted two tight ends in the sixth round of the draft, Mychal Rivera and Nick Kasa, to help compensate for the loss of Brandon Myers, and while Rivera is said to possibly have the best hands of any Raiders' tight end, he is a bit undersized.

Value Meter

Rising: Darren McFadden had a season to forget in 2012, and while injuries remain a concern, coordinator Greg Olson is expected to showcase him in the team's offense.

Declining: Denarius Moore is a boom-or-bust option to begin with and he struggled at the end of last season. Plus, the Raiders are unlikely to attempt 629 passes again this year.

Sleeper: Tyler Wilson may have to wait his turn, but he has a big arm and some fleet-footed wide receivers around him.

Supersleeper: Durability concerns surround Latavius Murray, but his competition behind McFadden isn't all that formidable.

IDP Watch

Tyvon Branch - S
He doesn't provide much else besides tackles, but should continue to produce in that category for IDP owners.

D.J. Hayden - CB
Playing time should be ample right off the bat, health permitting.

Charles Woodson - S
Coming off an injury-plagued season with Green Bay, but is still a ball-hawk when he's on the field.

TEAM DEFENSE

RotoWire Rank: 30