2014 NFL Season Preview, Fantasy Sleepers, and Predictions: Can an Aging Oakland Raiders’ Roster Compete in the AFC West?
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With the NFL season fast approaching, Latino Post looks at the off season moves that will make or break each team.
Last Season: 4-12 (Last in AFC West)
Key Additions: RB Maurice Jones-Drew, WR James Jones, QB Matt Shaub, WR Greg Little, CB Carlos Rogers, DE Justin Tuck, DE LaMarr Woodley, CB Tarell Brown, OT Donald Penn, OLB Khalil Mack (1st round), QB Derek Carr (2nd round), OG Gabe Jackson (3rd round), DT Justin Ellis (4th round)
Key Losses: WR Jacoby Ford, OT Jared Veldheer, DT Vance Walker, CB Mike Adams, CB Tracy Porter, CB Philip Adams, RB Rashard Jennings,
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.
Games to Watch: Oct. 12 vs. San Diego, Nov. 9 vs. Denver, Nov. 20 vs. Kansas City, Dec. 7 vs. San Francisco
Three Questions Heading into the 2014-15 Season:
HOW WILL THE AGEING DEFENSIVE LINE FARE?
Free agent pick-ups Justin Tuck, LaMarr Woodley, and Antonio Smith have a median age of 32 years old. Sure, they have years of experience and multiple Pro Bowl appearances between them, but one can only wonder how they'll fare past their prime.
It's not surprising that Tuck stepped up his game after dismal 2011 and 2012 campaigns. He was in a contract year with little hope of returning to the Giants. Tuck doubled his sack total from the previous two years and notched 41 tackles for the first time since 2010.
In the end, New York offered about half of the $11 million, two-year deal Tuck signed with Oakland. Maybe the Giants saw something Mark Davis didn't, like Tuck's inability to pass rush without Michael Strahan, Osi Umenyiora, or Jason Pierre-Paul around him.
Prior to last season, Tuck had only cracked the top 20 pass rusher rankings once in the last five years.
Woodley hasn't registered double digit sacks since 2010. He's missed 14 games in the past three seasons--five in 2013--yet led Pittsburgh in sacks during that span.
Woodley claims the Steelers labeled him fat and out of shape. True or not, the linebacker turned defensive end will benefit from the Raiders' 4-3 alignment. The eight-year veteran's lost a step, making his transition to the front line suiting, especially with Tuck at his side.
Oakland's defense ranked surprisingly high in among pass rush defenses last season, placing 13th in total rushing yards and yards allowed per game, respectively. They won't get anywhere near that mark if Tuck and Woodley show their age.
CAN MATT SCHAUB RECOVER?
Maybe it was the record-breaking four straight games with an interception, or the fact that Texans' fans were buying his jerseys only to burn them, but Matt Schaub's tenure in Houston was done long before his final snap.
In 2012, Schaub completed 64.3 percent of his passes while throwing for over 4,000 yards and 22 touchdowns in leading the Texans to a second straight playoff berth. One year later he couldn't crack 2,500 yards.
Regardless of what head coach Dennis Allen says, Schaub is not a top ten quarterback.
It was a monumental meltdown that led to Gary Kubiak's dismissal and Andre Johnson to request a one-way ticket out of Houston. The tipping point came in a Week 5 thrashing in San Francisco when Schaub tied a career-high by throwing three interceptions.
Schaub was benched and started sporadically in a lackluster 2-14 season.
The Raiders are baNking on Schaub being the quarterback that averaged 22.5 touchdowns and a 94.5 passer rating from 2009-2012. If Oakland had a Johnson or Adrian Foster it might be possible. They don't.
Schaub also doesn't have the luxury of a No.1 wide receiver anymore. James Jones and Greg Little signed on but Little only caught 41 passes for 465 yards in Cleveland last year. James played second fiddle to Greg Jennings in Green Bay and still managed 59 receptions in 14 games.
James, as with the rest of Oakland's receivers, won't get as many chances with Schaub's deteriorating arm strength. The best the Raiders can hope for is mediocre play from Schaub. Anything else would be a bonus.
SCHEDULE TOO MUCH TO OVERCOME?
NFC East teams outscored Oakland 128-78 last season and no one outside of Philadelphia finished with a winning record. With nine games scheduled against playoff teams from a year ago--including three against the last year's Super Bowl participants--another four-win season isn't out of the question.
But their season could realistically be over before they even play Denver.
Oakland may have the toughest overall schedule, but their opponents are only half the battle. They will travel more miles than any other NFL thanks in large part to their Sept. 28 trip to London. Visits to New York, New England, and Cleveland--all in the season's first half--will fatigue the team well before their divisional schedule kicks in.
A sewn-together offense won't compete with the NFC West's defensive juggernauts. Their Nov. 2 trip to Seattle has the making of a moral-killing blowout. If they have a respectable record through the first nine weeks, multiple meeting with Kansas City and Denver will surely end their playoff hopes.
The Raiders haven't won two road games in a single season since 2011. They've been a sub-.500 home team since 1995 and won a menial three games last year. Facing all the Bills and Browns of the world couldn't change that.
Andre Holmes- WR
The Raiders don't have much of anything on offense. Darren McFadden and Maurice Jones-Drew's injuries have made the once unstoppable running backs a shell of what they used to be and no one has stepped up to be Schaub's No. 1 option.
The only glimmer of hope lies in Andre Holmes, the third-year wideout who recorded 22 catches and 366 yards in the final five games. He wasn't activated until Week 6 and wasn't targeted until Week 11, but made an impact in limited time.
Holmes was named a starter before the Raiders' Thanksgiving game in Dallas and broke out for seven receptions and 136 yards. With a Larry Fitzgerald-type build, Holmes has the potential to be a playmaker.
Prediction: 3-13 (Last in AFC West)
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