For the Raiders to escape the NFL cellar, they will need their head honchos to excel week in and week out. There are several candidates poised to do so:
Darren McFadden – RB
Simply put, McFadden IS the offense. If the Raiders wish to be competitive in 2013, the star running back must stump the excuses and tap the potential he’s flashed for the past half-decade.
McFadden has been constantly banged up as a pro, but none of his injuries have been serious enough to affect his long-term outlook. With the offensive line reinstalling the better-fitting power scheme, combined with the back’s elite combination of size, strength, vision, fearlessness, agility and foot speed, the 2008 fourth overall pick should smash career-highs in aerial (507) and ground (1,157) yardage.
Charles Woodson – FS
Guess who’s back, back again…Woodson’s back, tell a friend…
Despite his advanced age (he’ll be 38 in October), Woodson represents the biggest impact addition on defense since Richard Seymour’s acquisition in September 2009. Unlike his last tour with the Raiders, the All Pro will line up at free safety (and occasionally in the slot) instead of cornerback, but we should still expect the interceptions, sacks, strips and open-field tackles that we’ve grown accustomed to seeing.
Matt Flynn – QB
McFadden may be the motor, but Flynn will steer the offense, and how he reacts to the burdening responsibility is anyone’s guess.
But we do know Flynn excels at making accurate short to midrange throws, which is a necessity to keep grueling drives alive. Oakland’s current set of receivers are not the most polished route runners, but they possess Maserati speed and acceleration, so Flynn could develop a lethal pitch-and-catch tandem with Denarius Moore and Jacoby Ford on slant and drag plays. The quarterback must also limit his turnovers to give the Raiders a fighting chance.
Lamarr Houston – DE
Houston is already one of the best run-stopping defensive ends in the league, but he will be asked this year to do the heavy lifting when pass rushing as well. That seems like a lot to ask of a player who’s totaled 10.5 sacks in three seasons.
Houston will be up to the challenge, however, because he is relentless at chasing down the ball carrier and rarely tires. At 6’3” and 300 pounds, the 2010 second rounder could channel his inner-Michael Strahan and earn his first trip to Honolulu.
Marcel Reece – FB
Fullbacks aren’t typically seen as impact players, but Reece is not your conventional fullback. Forced into action when McFadden and backup Mike Goodson broke down, the former wide receiver recorded his first-ever 100 yard rushing game in week 11, while still being a force after-the-catch on passing plays per usual.
Reece’s carries will likely reside at a minimum in 2013, but he will remain a primary target out of the backfield and on slip screens, and he is no slouch at the art of blocking either. He will be striving for consecutive Pro Bowl bids.
Denarius Moore – WR
It’s been stated wide receivers tend to break out in their third NFL season, so it may be Moore’s time to shine. The deep threat was slowed by hamstring pulls throughout 2012 (his yards per catch dropped from 18.7 to 14.5 his sophomore season), but he appears to be fully recovered.
Moore is unquestionably the Raider’s primary go-to option through the air, so if he and Flynn can develop a rapport in the preseason, a 70 catch, 1,100 yard receiving campaign is realistically achievable. We will see if the prophecy holds true.
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