Oakland Raiders (Last Year: 4-12)
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2014 NFL Season Preview:
QB Matt Schaub, RB Maurice Jones-Drew, WR James Jones, OT Donald Penn, OT Austin Howard, G Keith Boothe, DE Justin Tuck, DE/OLB LaMarr Woodley, DE/DT C.J. Wilson, CB Carlos Rogers, CB Tarell Brown.
Early Draft Picks:
DE/OLB Khalil Mack, QB Derek Carr, G Gabe Jackson, NT Justin Ellis, CB Keith McGill. Raiders Rookie Forecast
RB Rashad Jennings, WR/KR Jacoby Ford, OT Jared Veldheer, G Mike Brisiel, DE Lamarr Houston, DT Vance Walker, CB Mike Adams, CB Tracy Porter, CB Philip Adams.
2014 Oakland Raiders Offense:
Head coach Dennis Allen recently called Matt Schaub a "top-10 quarterback." Allen was probably projecting Schaub as a fit in the CFL because there's no way he is anything close to a top-10 NFL quarterback. Top-10 NFL quarterbacks don't set the record for consecutive games with a pick-six. That's the most noteworthy thing Schaub was able to accomplish this past season. As a result, angry Houston fans showed up to Schaub's house to threaten him, prompting the soon-to-be 33-year-old signal caller to lose all of his confidence. Once an above-average system quarterback, Schaub turned into a complete disaster.
There's a chance Schaub could rebound a bit in his new home under offensive coordinator Greg Olson's tutelage. Olson is one of the best in the business - he has gotten more out of scrubs like Josh Freeman, Chad Henne, Terrelle Pryor and Matt McGloin than anyone else ever has - but there's only so much he can do with a declining quarterback whose arm strength has been sapped a bit. The best the Raiders can hope for from Schaub is a mediocre campaign. But given that they have to compete with Peyton Manning and Philip Rivers, that just won't be good enough. Derek Carr, chosen in the second round because owner Mark Davis insisted upon it, won't be ready until at least 2015, but he could conceivably win the starting job this summer.
There is cause for a bit of optimism on this side of the ball, however. Darren McFadden is projected to have his best season yet. McFadden has been an injury-prone bust in his career, but he accepted less money to return to Oakland for one year because he has finally been shown proper offseason workout habits. McFadden has never trained properly, so there's a good chance he'll have his best year yet. If not, Maurice Jones-Drew is now two years removed from a brutal leg injury, so he's projected to improve as well.
The Raiders also dedicated some resources to their offensive line. They tried to sign Rodger Saffold, but Davis embarrassed his front office by vetoing the move. Instead, they were able to land Donald Penn and Austin Howard, who will play left and right tackle, respectively. The Howard acquisition was fine, but Penn has always endured weight problems in Tampa. There's no reason to think he'll just get over it in his new home.
Oakland bolstered the interior of the front by signing Keith Boothe and spending its third-round choice on Gabe Jackson. They figure to sandwich center Stefen Wisniewski, who was the best blocker on the team last year. Boothe and Jackson will be upgrades, as they've displaced the pedestrian Mike Brisiel and anemic Lucas Nix.
The Raiders added some help to the receiving corps as well, bringing in James Jones. The former Packer has posted some impressive numbers, but keep in mind that those were compiled with Aaron Rodgers. There's an obvious drop-off from Rodgers to Schaub, so as with Greg Jennings, Jones could be the latest Green Bay wideout to disappoint in an inferior offense.
Assuming Jones doesn't meet expectations, the Raiders will need Andre Holmes to take another step forward. As a second-year receiver, Holmes caught 25 passes in 2013, but didn't even snag a single reception until Week 11. He posted a 7-136 line against Dallas, so that could be a sign of things to come. He, Jones and Rod Streater figure to be Schaub's top weapons along with tight end Mychal Rivera, who is entering his second season. Rivera, who hauled in 38 balls as a rookie, was called a "foundation piece" on offense by Allen. Then again, Allen did call Schaub a "top-10 quarterback," so it's a bit difficult to put stock in that.
2014 Oakland Raiders Defense:
The Raiders need stability. It's just something they don't have right now. They entered the 2013 season with just two returning starters. This season won't be as bad, but they'll have at least five new defenders in the lineup. Those players are more talented than what they had before, but they're mostly short-term rentals.
The most changes came up front. The team added Justin Tuck and LaMarr Woodley via free agency. Both struggled at times this past season and happen to be past their primes - Woodley will be 30 in November and hasn't registered double-digit sacks since 2009, while Tuck turned 31 in March - but they're capable of playing well when healthy. The Raiders also spent the No. 5 pick on Khalil Mack to help rush the quarterback. He'll move around on defense, so it's unclear where he'll play most often, but there's no doubt that he'll bolster the pass rush right away.
Antonio Smith is another aging defensive lineman who was brought in this offseason. Smith, 33 in October, could provide some decent interior pass rush, but could just as easily fall off because of his age. He'll start next to Pat Sims, a stout run-stuffer.
The Raiders made some additions in the secondary, particularly at cornerback. This was a major problem area for them last year, so they were able to sign Carlos Rogers and Tarell Brown from the 49ers. Rogers, like some of the new defensive linemen, is a declining player, as he didn't perform very well this past season. Brown, on the other hand, is solid, and could be a decent No. 2 corner. The problem is that the Raiders don't have a top-caliber cover guy. Last year's first-round choice, D.J. Hayden, is there, but he was awful as a rookie. On the bright side, he has shown up to OTAs bigger and stronger, and Allen said that he is "light years" ahead of where he was this time last year.
Speaking of declining players, Charles Woodson was brought back as a starting safety. The future Hall of Famer will be 38 in October, so the wheels could completely fall off at any moment. Luckily, Tyvon Branch will return to the lineup to pick up the slack. Branch played in just two games last year because of a leg injury. When healthy, he's one of the better safeties in the NFL, so having him back in the lineup will help tremendously.
Oakland is most stable in the linebacking corps, but only because all three starters from last year - Sio Moore, Nick Roach and Kevin Burnett - have returned. Moore, a 2013 third-round choice, is coming off a decent rookie campaign. Roach struggled, but at least Burnett was solid in run support. The latter would be best off in a two-down role.
2014 Oakland Raiders Schedule and Intangibles:
The Black Hole seems like an intimidating place to play, but the Raiders are a sub-.500 team (69-83) as hosts since 1995. They were 3-5 at home last year, with four of the defeats being by eight or more.
Sebastian Janikowski signed a 5-year, $18.9 million contract last August, but he didn't live up to it. He had one of his worst years ever, connecting on just 21-of-30 tries. The last time he was worse than 80 percent was 2007.
Marquette King, who beat out the controversial Chris Kluwe, was in the middle of the pack in terms of net punting and attempts placed inside the 20.
Oakland struggled mightily in the return game in 2012. It improved a bit in this area last season, but the opposition still outgained them. The Raiders failed to score at all, while their opponents found the end zone once.
The Raiders have a tough schedule. They have to deal with the Broncos and Chargers twice each, as well as the Patriots and the entire NFC West. Easy games are mixed in, but there aren't enough of them.
2014 Oakland Raiders Rookies:
Go here for the Raiders Rookie Forecast
, a page with predictions like which rookie will bust and which rookie will become a solid starter.
2014 Oakland Raiders Positional Rankings (1-5 stars):
2014 Oakland Raiders Analysis:
The Raiders spent the entire offseason signing veterans who could help them be competitive. They'll be exactly that against most foes early on, but once it's apparent that they won't have a shot at the playoffs, the wheels could completely fall off, and the team could quit on head coach Dennis Allen. Best-case scenario: Oakland goes 6-10 and fights hard in most of its games. However, a three- or four-win campaign seems more likely.
3-13 (4th in AFC West)
2014 Fantasy Football Rankings
More 2014 NFL Season Previews
NFL Draft Team Grade: B Grade
Goals Entering the 2014 NFL Draft:
As with the Browns, the Raiders haven't been in the playoffs since the 2002 season when they lost to the Buccaneers in the Super Bowl. They hit rock bottom earlier this spring when owner Mark Davis embarrassed Reggie McKenzie by vetoing the Rodger Saffold signing. Since then, McKenzie has made some moves to stay competitive, but the Raiders still barely have any depth. They need to improve that area, all while finding a long-term answer at quarterback. That could be a problem, however, considering that the front office needs to win now to stay employed.
2014 NFL Draft Accomplishments:
I pretty much like everything the Raiders did in the draft except for taking Derek Carr in the second round. I was never a fan of Carr even before watching him be completely overwhelmed against USC in his bowl game. There's a reason he fell out of the first frame. Offensive coordinator Greg Olson is one of the best in the business, so he'll get the most out of Carr, but he may not be able to coach him very long, since another poor season could prompt the inept Mark Davis to send everyone packing. That's why the Carr selection was strange - it won't help the Raiders win now, so what good will it do for everyone currently on staff?
Otherwise, Oakland had a very solid draft. It was able to obtain a premiere pass-rusher in Khalil Mack, thanks to Jacksonville's incompetence. Gabe Jackson was the No. 1 guard on some boards (not counting Zack Martin because he can play tackle), so he was a steal in the third round. Keith McGill, meanwhile, was secured in the fourth frame despite being a second-round prospect. I wasn't a fan of some of the Raiders' late choices, but players taken in the final round usually don't make the roster anyway.
I'd say the Raiders improved overall. Had they opted for Marqise Lee, Allen Robinson or Jordan Matthews in the second round, I would've put them in the A- range.
NFL Draft Individual Grades:
5. Khalil Mack, DE/OLB, Buffalo: A+ Grade
Absolutely love this pick. Khalil Mack was the No. 2 prospect in the 2014 NFL Draft, so the Raiders are getting great value with the fifth pick, thanks to Jacksonville's incompetence. Reggie McKenzie signed a bunch of aging pass-rushers this offseason, but they need young blood at the position. Mack might even have a bit of a chip on his shoulder after falling to No. 5, so that makes this selection even sweeter.
36. Derek Carr, QB, Fresno State: C- Grade
I don't understand this pick very much. It's not terrible because there's good value with Derek Carr here, but he's not going to help the Raiders win now. That's exactly what they need to do though because Reggie McKenzie and the coaches will be fired otherwise. I get the feeling that incompetent owner Mark Davis stepped in and made this selection for the team, because it doesn't match what McKenzie has done this offseason. Plus, it's not like Carr is a great talent anyway. He was absolutely awful against USC.
81. Gabe Jackson, G, Mississippi State: A- Grade
Gabe Jackson was the top guard on some teams boards - I thought the Raiders would take him in the second round in my re-mock - so it's pretty remarkable that they were able to land him in the middle of the third. With Jackson in the mix, Austin Howard can play right tackle, and that should completely shore up Oakland's offensive line.
107. Justin Ellis, NT, Louisiana Tech: B Grade
I don't feel very strongly about this pick either way. There were some better players available, but Just Ellis fits the range and fills a need for a team that has some major defensive tackle issues.
116. Keith McGill, CB, Utah: A Grade
This is a steal. Keith McGill easily could have gone in the second round. He's a big corner who has great athleticism, and it's not like he didn't play well throughout his college career. The Raiders wanted to add to their cornerback corps, so this selection just makes so much sense.
219. Travis Carrie, CB, Ohio: C Grade
The Raiders added another corner, which is hardly a surprise. They were better players at the position available, however.
235. Shelby Harris, DE, Illinois State: C Grade
Another undraftable player, Shelby Harris will provide depth on the defensive line if he makes the roster. There were many better players available.
247. Jonathan Dowling, S, Western Kentucky: B Grade
The Raiders hadn't addressed the safety position yet, so they might as well do that now. Jonathan Dowling was seen as a late-round prospect, so this choice makes a lot of sense.
The Raiders were 3-4 at one point during the 2013 campaign, and coming off an upset victory over the Steelers, it appeared as though they'd be a factor in the playoff race. But things quickly fell apart, beginning with Nick Foles' record-setting seven-touchdown performance. Oakland decided to retain its front office and coaching staff, so maybe it'll have more success in 2014 with the quarterback it decides to draft this May.
Raiders cut G Mike Brisiel
Jets sign WR/KR Jacoby Ford
Raiders sign CB Carlos Rogers
Raiders sign DE/DT C.J. Wilson
Raiders re-sign DT Pat Sims
Raiders sign RB Maurice Jones-Drew
Seahawks sign CB Phillip Adams
Raiders acquire QB Matt Schaub from Texans for late-round pick
Raiders re-sign S Charles Woodson
Buccaneers sign CB Mike Jenkins
Raiders sign OT Donald Penn
Raiders sign G Kevin Boothe
Raiders sign WR James Jones
Raiders re-sign S Usama Young
Raiders sign DE/DT Antonio Smith
Raiders sign CB Tarell Brown
Chiefs sign DT Vance Walker
Raiders sign DE/OLB LaMarr Woodley
Raiders sign DE Justin Tuck
Redskins sign CB Tracy Porter
Raiders sign OT Austin Howard
Giants sign RB Rashad Jennings
Cardinals sign OT Jared Veldheer
Raiders re-sign RB Darren McFadden
Bears sign DE Lamarr Houston
Raiders re-sign G Khalif Barnes
- Quarterback: Offensive coordinator Greg Olson got the most he could out of Terrelle Pryor and Matt McGloin, but the Raiders need to find some stability at the quarterback position for the first time since 2002 league MVP Rich Gannon led the franchise to the Super Bowl. One of Teddy Bridgewater, Blake Bortles or Johnny Manziel will be available at No. 5, though they may like someone else... Traded for Matt Schaub
- Left Guard: I wrote this in my 2014 NFL Mock Draft, but Lucas Nix was the worst starting guard in the NFL this past year. Oakland desperately needs to upgrade this spot, perhaps with a second-day selection. Signed Kevin Boothe
- Two Defensive Ends: Lamarr Houston, Oakland's best player, happens to be a free agent. He'll have to be franchised. There is also a need across for an upgrade across from him. Signed Justin Tuck, Antonio Smith and LaMarr Woodley
- Two Cornerbacks: D.J. Hayden didn't play well as a rookie, but he'll be asked to start in 2014. Tracy Porter, Mike Jenkins and Phillip Adams will all be free agents, so the Raiders will need to find some new corners. Signed Tarell Brown and Carlos Rogers
- Safety: The Raiders had the league's worst pass defense in the month of December, thanks in part to Brandian Ross' awful play at safety. Charles Woodson, meanwhile, is a free agent. He's a mere shell of his former self. Tyvon Branch will be back, but one more safety will need to be added. Re-signed Charles Woodson
- Running Back: Rashad Jennings and Darren McFadden are both free agents. Jennings shocked everyone by performing well in 2013. Raiders re-sign Darren McFadden; signed Maurice Jones-Drew
- Middle Linebacker: Nick Roach did not get the job done this past season, as he happened to be a major liability against the run. Oakland needs a three-down linebacker to man the middle so that Kevin Burnett doesn't have to be on the field in passing situations.
- Defensive Tackle: Pat Sims is a nice run-stuffer, but the Raiders don't have anyone to rush the quarterback from the interior. Re-signed Pat Sims
- Left Tackle: Jared Veldheer missed a big chunk of the 2013 season with an injury, but he played well upon returning to the lineup. He's a free agent, however. Signed Donald Penn and Austin Howard
- Wide Receiver: Andre Holmes, Rod Streater and Denarius Moore have all flashed at one point or another, but none of those wideouts are capable of being No. 1 options. Sammy Watkins could be Oakland's first-round pick if all of the quarterbacks are gone. Signed James Jones
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2014 NFL Free Agent Signings:
Tarell Brown, CB, 49ers. Age: 29.
Re-signed with Raiders
Tarell Brown has been an excellent cornerback for the 49ers over the past few years. However, he missed some time with a rib injury this past season and lost his job to the emerging Tramaine Brock.
Maurice Jones-Drew, RB, Jaguars. Age: 29.
Signed with Raiders (3 years)
Maurice Jones-Drew's 2013 campaign was easily the worst of his career, but two things to keep in mind: First, he was running behind an offensive line with no talent whatsoever, all while opposing defenses were stacking the box against him. Second, he had a terrible injury in 2012, so he wasn't 100 percent. I wouldn't be surprised if he bounces back in 2014, assuming, of course, he lands in a much better situation.
James Jones, WR, Packers. Age: 30.
Signed with Raiders
James Jones is a talent receiver who struggled with drops early in his career. He fixed that problem while catching 14 touchdowns in 2012. However, teams better make sure they don't overpay a 30-year-old wideout who has never tallied more than 1,000 receiving yards in a season.
Austin Howard, OT, Jets. Age: 27.
Signed with Raiders
The once-beleaguered Austin Howard has improved every single season and is now viewed as a solid right tackle. He did a great job of improving his pass-protection skills this past year.
Justin Tuck, DE, Giants. Age: 31.
Signed with Raiders (2 years, $11 million)
Justin Tuck was always strong against the run, but did nothing in terms of rushing the quarterback in 2013 - until he racked up a whopping four sacks against the Redskins. He put consistent pressure on the quarterback after that.
Antonio Smith, DE/DT, Texans. Age: 32.
Signed with Raiders (2 years, $9 million)
Antonio Smith will be 33 in October, but he can still get after the quarterback. He can be a 4-3 left end who moves inside on obvious passing situations, but he's best off staying in the 3-4.
LaMarr Woodley, DE/OLB, Steelers. Age: 29.
Signed with Raiders (2 years, $12 million)
LaMarr Woodley notched 13.5 sacks in 2009 and then nine sacks in just 10 games two years later. However, it's all been downhill since then. He was out of shape and consequently mustered only four sacks in 2012. He got off to a hot start last season, logging a sack in all but one of his first six games, but a calf injury derailed the second half of his 2013 campaign. Woodley has major potential to bounce back if he can stay healthy and motivated, but he's definitely an injury risk.
Donald Penn, OT, Buccaneers. Age: 31.
Signed with Raiders
An overweight underachiever, Donald Penn failed to live up to the $41.7 million contract he signed in 2010. He has talent though, so with the right coaching, he could be a fine, short-term starter. Perhaps he'll be motivated after being released. Penn turns 31 in April.
Carlos Rogers, CB, 49ers. Age: 33.
Signed with Raiders
Carlos Rogers had a stellar campaign in 2011, but has regressed in each of the past two seasons. He can still pass for an OK No. 2 corner, but given that he'll turn 33 in July, he won't be a starting-caliber player for much longer.
Kevin Boothe, G, Giants. Age: 31.
Signed with Raiders
Kevin Boothe isn't a spectacular starter, but he's not bad either. His best attribute is his versatility; he can play all three positions in the interior.
- C.J. Wilson, DE/DT, Packers. Age: 27. -- Signed with Raiders
Oakland Raiders Free Agents:
Salary Cap: TBA.
Lamarr Houston, DE, Raiders. Age: 27.
Signed with Bears (5 years, $35 million)
Lamarr Houston, the Raiders' best player, is a strong pass-rusher and is even better at shutting down the run. He'll only be 27 in June, so he deserves a massive contract.
Jared Veldheer, OT, Raiders. Age: 27.
Signed with Cardinals (5 years, $35 million)
Jared Veldheer missed the first 12 weeks of the season with a triceps tear. Perhaps the Raiders will be able to retain him at a cheaper price as a consequence. If so, they should be happy because Veldheer is a solid blind-side protector.
Darren McFadden, RB, Raiders. Age: 27.
Re-signed with Raiders (1 year, $4 million)
Darren McFadden has been through so many injuries that he's been sapped of all explosiveness. He's averaged 3.5 yards per carry or worse the past two seasons. Perhaps he can rebound in a better offense and become a legitimate threat again.
Rashad Jennings, RB, Raiders. Age: 29.
Signed with Giants
Rashad Jennings was given a chance to prove himself when Maurice Jones-Drew suffered an injury in 2012, but struggled mightily. That's why it was so surprising that he thrived with the Raiders, outplaying Darren McFadden by a wide margin.
Charles Woodson, S, Raiders. Age: 37.
Re-signed with Raiders (1 year)
Charles Woodson is playing on his last legs. He'll be 38 in October.
Vance Walker, DT, Raiders. Age: 27.
Signed with Chiefs
Vance Walker is a jack-of-all-trades, master-of-none defensive tackle. He's passable as a starter.
Mike Jenkins, CB, Raiders. Age: 29.
Signed with Buccaneers (1 year, $1.5 million)
Mike Jenkins never lived up to expectations, but he started at corner for the Raiders in 2013 and didn't fail miserably. He wasn't very good either, however.
Pat Sims, DT, Raiders. Age: 28.
Re-signed with Raiders
Pat Sims is a solid run-stuffer who provided a good push in the pocket this season.
Khalif Barnes, OT, Raiders. Age: 32.
Re-signed with Raiders (1 year)
Khalif Barnes was forced to play left tackle in the wake of Jared Veldheer's injury. This was viewed as a disaster area, but Barnes actually held up pretty well, surrendering only three sacks in 11 starts on the blind side.
- Jason Hunter, DE, Raiders. Age: 31.
- Jacoby Ford, WR/KR, Raiders. Age: 27. -- Signed with Jets
- Tony Pashos, OT, Raiders. Age: 34.
- Usama Young, S, Raiders. Age: 29. -- Re-signed with Raiders (2 years)
- Tracy Porter, CB, Raiders. Age: 28. -- Signed with Redskins
- Andre Gurode, C, Raiders. Age: 35.
- Phillip Adams, CB, Raiders. Age: 26. -- Signed with Seahawks (1 year)
- Mike Brisiel, G, Raiders. Age: 31.
- Chimdi Chekwa (RFA), CB, Raiders. Age: 25.
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