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2014 Team Preview: Oakland Raiders

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

As the 2013 campaign approached, the Raiders' starting quarterback job appeared gift-wrapped for offseason addition Matt Flynn, but he struggled so mightily in exhibition play that coach Dennis Allen ending up turning to Terrelle Pryor before the regular season even got underway.

While the move forced offensive coordinator Greg Olson to change his offense on the fly, it looked like Pryor's athleticism might have actually given the team a fighting chance, as he went into Indianapolis and rushed for 112 yards on 13 carries and put the team in position to steal a victory in Week 1. The upset bid fell short, but Pryor led the team to three wins in his next five starts, capped by another 100-yard rushing performance in Week 8. Around this time, however, his limitations as a passer became painfully obvious, and Allen ultimately pulled the plug on Pryor after an 11 of 26, 122-yard showing in Week 10, the quarterback's fourth straight game with a completion percentage under 54 percent. In came undrafted rookie Matt McGloin, who, after leading the team to a win in his first start, completed 56.7 percent of his passes and threw eight interceptions in his next five games, all Oakland losses. With the team in evaluation mode, Allen then turned back to Pryor (since dealt to Seattle) for the final game of the season.

All the while, running back Darren McFadden limped through yet another injury-plagued campaign and the shift from the team's zone-blocking scheme didn't help his production, as he posted the exact same yards per carry average (3.3) he did in 2012. Rashad Jennings, now with the Giants, stepped in while McFadden was hobbled, emerging as one of the team's lone bright spots. Just as wideout Denarius Moore was beginning to show some consistency, he suffered a shoulder injury in November and went on to score just once over his final seven games. Rod Streater led the team in receiving with 888 yards, marking the club's eighth straight season without a 1,000-yard receiver. On defense, the team struggled to the tune of 4,092 yards allowed through the air, second-most in the AFC, and the unit completely fell apart down the stretch, giving up 184 points over the season's final five weeks. For the second straight campaign, the team lost eight of its final nine games to finish 4-12.

Finally free from the salary cap restrictions he inherited, GM Reggie McKenzie went out and signed several semi-high-profile free agents in the offseason; running back Maurice Jones-Drew, wideout James Jones and defensive ends Justin Tuck and LaMarr Woodley. Moreover, in an attempt to stabilize the team's quarterback situation, he traded for embattled Houston signal-caller Matt Schaub. In the draft, McKenzie selected linebacker Khalil Mack with the fifth overall pick and added a potential future franchise quarterback, by tabbing Derek Carr in the second round.

OFFSEASON MOVES

Key Acquisitions

Matt Schaub QB, Texans
After a disastrous final season in Houston, Schaub gets a fresh start.

James Jones WR, Packers
The Packers let him walk, and the Raiders scooped him up on a three-year deal.

Maurice Jones-Drew RB, Jaguars
Joins the silver and black after eight seasons with Jacksonville.

Derek Carr QB, Fresno State (Round 2, 36th Overall)
The brother of former No. 1 overall pick David Carr will be groomed as the team's future QB.

Key Losses

Rashad Jennings RB, Giants
Improved his stock with a strong 2013 campaign and is expected to start for the Giants.

Terrelle Pryor QB, Seahawks
Assuming he makes Seattle's roster, he will likely be the third-stringer.

Lamarr Houston DE, Bears
The Raiders' sack leader from a season ago joined the Bears on a five-year deal.

Jacoby Ford WR, Jets
The oft-injured wideout heads to the Jets for a fresh start.

TEAM NOTES

FAMILIAR NEW FACES
Oakland's list of offseason acquisitions looks like a hodgepodge of castoffs from other NFL teams, but the idea is that the sum will be greater than the parts. Quarterback Matt Schaub is just two seasons removed from a Pro Bowl selection and won't have to worry about peeking over his shoulder, at least in 2014, given that the team wants Derek Carr to sit and learn as a rookie. Although running back Maurice Jones-Drew has played in just 21 games over the past two seasons, mostly due to a foot injury, he was an All-Pro in 2011 and a split in carries with Darren McFadden should go a long way in keeping both players healthy. If either or both end up going down, Latavius Murray could step in, as could trusty fullback Marcel Reece. Along with James Jones, Greg Little was brought in (via a waiver claim from Cleveland) to help bolster the receiving corps, and while the Raiders still lack an elite talent at the position, the burden will be fairly evenly distributed among five or six capable pass-catchers. Meanwhile, longtime Giant Justin Tuck will bring some much-needed athleticism along the edge of the defense, and former 49ers cornerback Carlos Rogers will provide a veteran presence opposite D.J. Hayden.

GO LONG
With James Jones and Denarius Moore likely lining up frequently on the outside, Rod Streater could end up working primarily out of the slot in 2014. The 26-year-old Streater is seen mostly as a possession receiver, but did record 10 receptions of 20 or more yards last season and could finally establish himself as a legitimate fantasy threat with another 100-plus targets. He's entering the final year of his contract, as is Moore. Despite not catching a pass until Week 11, Andre Holmes tied Streater for the team lead with 10 receptions of 20-plus yards and finished third on the team in receiving with 431 yards. Holmes stands 6-4 and possesses good speed and if he can stay on the field he was suspended for the first four games of the 2013 season for violating the league's performance-enhancing drugs policy he could eventually separate himself from the pack. A shoulder injury sent tight end David Ausberry to injured reserve in September, and while he may be the favorite for snaps out of the gate now that he's healthy, Mychal Rivera seems like a more viable threat in the passing game.

VALUE METER

Rising: Rod Streater only exceeded 100 yards once last season but did have a stretch where he went for 84-plus yards four times in six games.

Declining: The league leader in touchdown receptions two years ago, James Jones is now 30 and no longer has Aaron Rodgers throwing him the ball.

Sleeper: Maurice Jones-Drew battled through various injuries to post a career-worst 3.4 YPC average last season but should at least split carries and is a Darren McFadden injury away from the lead role.

Supersleeper: David Ausberry is back from injury, but second-year tight end Mychal Rivera could emerge as a favorite checkdown option for Matt Schaub.

IDP WATCH

Nick Roach - LB
Led the team in tackles last season with 112 and chipped in 5.5 sacks, an interception and four forced fumbles.

Khalil Mack - LB/DE
Playing time will be ample for the team's top draft pick, and he notched 28.5 sacks and 75 tackles for loss during his collegiate career.

Charles Woodson - S
Racked up a career-high 97 total tackles in his first season back in Oakland.

TEAM DEFENSE
RotoWire Rank: 29