Raiders 2014 preview
5 KEY QUESTIONS
1. How do the Raiders make sure Matt Schaub doesn’t become the next Matt Flynn?
Probably not a fair question, given Schaub’s body of work before a poor 2013 with the Houston Texans as opposed to Flynn’s thin resume a year ago. Still, it behooves the Raiders to get Schaub playing with confidence and part of that is making sure there is no immediate `competition’ with second-round draft pick Derek Carr.
2. How will the offensive line sort itself out around center Stefen Wisniewski?
The hope is Menelik Watson seizes the job at right tackle, enabling signee Austin Howard to move inside to guard. On the left side, rookie third-round pick Gabe Jackson emerges at guard and that Donald Penn returns to the form that made him a Pro Bowl player with Tampa Bay in 2012 at tackle.
3. How will Dennis Allen and defensive coordinator Jason Tarver utilize rookie first-round draft pick Khalil Mack?
Allen said the plan would be to throw as much as possible at Mack early on, then refine his role as the season approaches. One thing appears certain _ Mack will usually have his hand on the ground as a pass rusher in nickel defenses. It will be important to Oakland’s hopes that Mack excels instantly as a rookie.
4. Who emerges as go-to running back in the event that Darren McFadden and Maurice Jones-Drew struggle?
The best bet would be Latavius Murray, a fifth-round draft pick a year ago who spent his rookie season on injured reserve with a foot injury. The other possibility would be Kory Sheets, a former 49er who was a start last season in the Canadian Football League.
5. Is it already a make or break camp for cornerback DJ Hayden?
The first-round draft pick didn’t get much out of his rookie season because of surgery related to his trauma while at college in Houston and then with a sports hernia. An important offseason was slowed by a hamstring strain. Hayden needs to put a lot of practices together to become the starter opposite Tarell Brown.
RAIDERS TRAINING CAMP ROSTER
Here is a look at the Raiders’ roster, position by position heading into training camp, with players set to report Wednesday with the first full practice scheduled for Friday (Projected starters indicated with an asterisk):
Quarterbacks (4): *Matt Schaub, Derek Carr, Matt McGloin, Trent Edwards
The Raiders are counting on Schaub giving the kind of reliable veteran leadership and decision-making skills lacking at the position since Rich Gannon retired following the 2004 season. Carr has already passed McGloin to become the backup.
Running backs (9): *Darren McFadden, *Marcel Reece (FB), Maurice Jones-Drew, Latavius Murray, Kory Sheets, James Stewart, George Atkinson III, Jamize Olawale (FB), Karl Williams (FB).
Believe it or not, McFadden is only 26 years old. He’s determined to team with Jones-Drew and give the Raiders a 1-2 punch of rejuvenated runners. Reece remains perhaps the NFL’s top runner/receiver at his position.
Wide receivers (11):*James Jones, *Rod Streater, Andre Holmes, Denarius Moore, Juron Criner, Brice Butler, Mike Davis, Greg Little, Greg Jenkins, Seth Roberts, Rashaan Vaughn.
Jones adds a desperately needed veteran presence to an inexperienced group. Streater’s improvement in first two seasons has been dramatic. Holmes showed skills as a jump-and-catch receiver, while Moore is gifted but inconstant.
Tight ends (6): *Mychal Rivera, David Ausberry, Nick Kasa, Brian Leonhardt, Jake Murphy, Scott Simonson.
Rivera is a top receiving threat but the Raiders will be looking for a stout in-line tight end to emerge. Kasa’s progress will be watched closely in that regard, as will the waiver wire at cutdown time.
Centers (2): *Stefen Wisniewski, Kevin Boothe.
Wisniewski is the focal point of everything the Raiders do up front and keeping him healthy through camp will be a priority. Boothe will spell Wisniewski as well as be a vialble backup at both guard spots.
Guards (7): *Khalif Barnes, *Austin Howard, Gabe Jackson, Tony Bergstrom, Jarrod Shaw, Mady, Nix.
Barnes goes into camp as the incumbent left guard but will be pushed by Jackson. Howard, a tackle with the jets, could emerge at right tackle if necessary.
Tackles: (6): *Donald Penn, *Menelik Watson, Matt McCants, Dan Kistler, Erle Ladson, Jack Cornell.
Penn promises to be a punishing run blocker and return to form as a pass blocker. Watson is being given every opportunity to win the job on the right side. McCants got valuable experience last season as an undrafted free agent.
Defensive ends (6): *Justin Tuck, *Lamarr Woodley, Jack Crawford, Shelby Harris, Ryan Robinson, Denico Autry.
Tuck and Woodley are the new additions, and both have versatility in that Tuck can move inside and Woodley can play as a 3-4 linebacker when Tarver changes up. Harris, a rookie end who didn’t play as a senior in college, bears watching.
Defensive tackles (6):*Pat Sims, *Antonio Smith, Justin Ellis, Stacy McGee, C.J. Wilson, Ricky Lumpkin, Torell Troup.
One of the deepest position groups on the roster with the potential of a four-man rotation. Sims and Smith can givbe way to Ellis, a rookie with nose tackle size, and McGee, impressive as a rookie sixth-round pick last year.
Linebackers (11); *Khalil Mack, *Nick Roach, *Sio Moore, Miles Burris, Kaluka Maiava, Kevin Burnett, Kaelin Burnett, Justin Cole, Carlos Fields, Bojay Filomeautu, Marshall McFadden.
Mack will lean heavily on Roach to be in proper position for the myriad ways the Raiders plan to use him and camp will be a learning process in that regard. Moore was being pushed by Burris late in the offseason.
Cornerbacks (9): Tarell Brown, Carlos Rogers, DJ Hayden, Chimdi Chekwa, Keith McGill, TJ Carrie, Taiwan Jones, Chance Casey, Neiko Thorpe,
Brown and Rogers bring their act from Santa Clara to Napa as probable starters. The Raiders would love to see Hayden force his way into the mix alongside Brown. McGill and Carrie are interesting rookies who could figure in some packages.
Safeties (5): *Charles Woodson, *Tyvon Branch, Usama Young, Jonathan Dowling, Brandian Ross, Shelton Johnson.
As the theory goes, Woodson will be more free to do some of the things he did with the Packers with Branch healthy and ready to play. Dowling, a rookie seventh-round pick, showed good ball skills in the offseason as a single deep safety.
Long-snappers (1): *Jon Condo
The Raiders will find a backup somewhere during camp and then hope they never have to use him.
Punters (2): *Marquette King, Michael Palardy.
No one works harder than King, who can hammer it high and deep but has to learn touch and finesse.
Kickers (2): *Sebastian Janikowski,
After missing 10 field goal attempts, many from distances that were unthinkable the previous two years, Janikowski returns with something to prove.
RAIDERS TRAINING CAMP INFORMATION
Coach: Dennis Allen (3rd year)
Who: Rookies and veterans report Wednesday.
Where: Napa Valley Marriott/Redwood Middle School, Napa.
Practices: Begin Friday and camp runs Aug. 13, concluding with joint practices with the Dallas Cowboys in Oxnard. Select practices open to season-ticket holders and invited guests, but closed to general public. All practices begin at 3:30 p.m. and conclude at 5:40 p.m.