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According to a tweet from Yahoo! Sports' Jason Cole, the Oakland Raiders have traded wide receiver Louis Murphy to the Carolina Panthers.
It once looked like Murphy would be the future at the receiver position for the Raiders after he was drafted in the fourth round out of Florida in 2009. In just his second season in 2010, Murphy led all Raiders receivers with 41 catches and 609 yards.
But this is 2011.
And after productive seasons in 2009 and 2010, Murphy saw his numbers plummet in 2011 with career-lows in games played (11), receptions (15), yards (241) and touchdowns (0).
The bad year came at the wrong time as the Raiders were already in the beginnings stages of creating a logjam at the wide receiver position. Juron Criner, Rod Streater, Darrius Heyward-Bey, Denarius Moore and Jacoby Ford will all be fighting for time at the wide receiver position. The development of some and the potential of others made Murphy expendable.
For more on the deal and Raiders coverage in general, check out Silver and Black Pride.
When Reggie McKenzie and the Raiders signed star safety Tyvon Branch to a four-year, $26 million deal last week, it was not only a case of the team locking up its best defensive player to a long-term reasonable deal, but also a message to the rest of the league and to its own players. That message is, "We are committed to running this franchise the right way. If you perform for us, we will reward you. If you do not, you will be gone." McKenzie has already jettisoned many of the Raiders' more overpaid players including Kamerion Wimbley and Stanford Routt.
Tyvon Branch is clearly the leader of the Raiders' defense and deserved this sort of contract. Not only was McKenzie able to sign Branch through his prime, he was also able to position the team to have more salary-cap room. This will be important should the team decide to sign another free agent to back up its current starters. Depth along the offensive line and in the linebacking corps is thin and more players are needed.
McKenzie was able to deftly accomplish all he set out to do. Unlike during the days of Al Davis, the team is no longer in salary cap hell, and will no longer be handing out massive contracts for minimal production. The Raiders are being run like a model franchise due to the efforts of McKenzie and the rest of the front office. There is little doubt now that McKenzie was the right choice and the best possible successor as GM to Mr. Davis. If coach Dennis Allen and the rest of the coaching staff perform as well as McKenzie has so far, the Raiders are positioned to be a major power in the AFC for years to come.
The Oakland Raiders turned one of their biggest weaknesses into a strength when they picked up left tackle Jared Veldheer in the third round of the 2010 NFL draft. After playing his college ball at division two Hillsdale College Veldheer did not think he had much of a shot at being an NFL player and aspired to be a doctor. But his size and skills made him a promising prospect who could be a solid NFL player.
After completing just his first full season as the starting left tackle for the Oakland Raiders, Veldheer has already lived up to a lot of the promise he showed in college. This couldn't be shown any better than when Veldheer held Jared Allen of the Minnesota Vikings sack-less in their week 11 match up against the Raiders. That performance ended Allen's streak of 11 straight games with at least one sack.
Veldheer has consistently shown an astonishing ability to adapt to play at the next level. After going from division two football directly into the NFL, Veldheer won a starting job before the season was half way over. Then, in his second year, he showed flashes of play that matched some of the best blind side protectors in the game. If he continues to progress the way he has been, he very well could make the Pro Bowl in his third season.
The Oakland Raiders have come to terms with one of their most talented assets in the secondary, signing safety Tyvon Branch to a four-year deal, according to numerous reports. The deal is reportedly worth $26.6 million over the four seasons, with slightly more than $17 million coming in guaranteed money.
The two sides had until Monday evening to work out a deal or Branch would've been forced to sign a tender worth $6.2 million.
Branch has been a great find out of the fourth round thus far, leading the Raiders in tackles the last two seasons. He's also a very durable player, starting in every game since 2009. He's expected to be a leader on a new-and-improving defense, where he'll play alongside Michael Huff in the backfield.
It appears to be a very fair deal for all parties involved. The Raiders lock up their very talented (and still young) safety for the foreseeable future, and Branch can now live comfortably with his family for the rest of his life.
For more on the deal and Raiders coverage in general, check out Silver and Black Pride.
Tyvon Branch has been one of the Oakland Raiders most consistent players over the past three years. Since earning the starting strong safety job to begin his sophomore year in 2009, Branch has notched more than 100 tackles each season and led the team the past two seasons. Branch is a ball hawk in the truest sense of the word, at the end of almost every play, Branch can be found within a yard or two of the ball carrier. But while he has been a solid player, he is better in the run game than the pass game and has not had a lot of impact plays.
Branch is still young and should continue to improve in his fifth season with the Raiders. That, however, is not the only reason he has a good chance of making the Pro Bowl for the first time in 2012. With all of the changes that have occurred in Oakland since Al Davis passed away, the Raiders will be running a massively different defense this season and one of the biggest changes being made will benefit Branch.
As I noted above, one of the reasons that Branch has not made the Pro Bowl yet is because he has not done anything to raise himself above the level of just being a very good player. This season, that could change. When he has been given the opportunity, Branch has shown a penchant for making plays in the back field on blitzes. Under the old regime in Oakland, blitzing rarely, if ever, occurred. In the new regime with Dennis Allen, the Raiders will do their fair share of blitzing, and Branch could be the man blitzing on a lot of those plays. If Branch can continue to tally triple digit tackle numbers while adding 5 sacks, the Pro Bowl would not be out of the question.
The Oakland Raiders went from having a serious dearth of talent at the wide receiver position, to being stacked with young talent that knows how to stretch the field. Perhaps the most exciting young receiver on the Raiders is the second year speedster out of Tennessee, Denarius Moore. After a rookie season in which Moore caught 33 balls for 618 yards and 5 touchdowns, the Raiders are excited to see what he will do in his sophomore year.
Excitement over Moore is nothing new. The fifth round pick was turning heads in his first training camp. His blazing speed was one thing, but the most promising part was that he ran clean routes and showed off great hands. Coaches could not stop remarking that he looked more like a seasoned veteran than a late round rookie. While he did not have a great rookie year, Moore made one thing clear, he has the talents to be a great wide receiver in the NFL.
When the Raiders traded for Carson Palmer, everyone began to see just how great Moore could be. Palmer's arm strength and accuracy on deep throws was much better than his predecessor, Jason Campbell and it did not take long for people around the NFL to realize how dynamic Moore can be. Now that Palmer has a full off season with the Raiders under his belt, he will play much better this season. That implicitly means that his top receiver will as well. Moore certainly has the talent to make the Pro Bowl and could do it as early as his sophomore year.
The Oakland Raiders were able to lay claim to one of the best running backs in the NFL and a potential MVP candidate for the first half of the 2011 season. Less than half way through the season, Darren McFadden was on his way to the best year of his career. Before getting injured, McFadden was leading the NFL in rushing yards, boasted an impressive 5.4 yards per carry, and was finally living up to his billing coming out of college.
After a breakout season in 2010 where McFadden put up over 1,100 yards and 7 touchdowns while averaging 5.2 yards per carry, hopes were high that McFadden would take it one step further and claim a spot among the top running backs in the NFL. Six weeks in tot he season, it looked like McFadden was primed to do just that until a lisfranc injury ended his season early.
In 2012, MCFadden may have an even better opportunity to succeed than he did in 2011. If Carson Palmer and his young receivers can get the passing game going, McFadden will see a lot more room to run since defenses will not be able to stack the box as they have in the past. After the past two seasons, there should be no question about whether or not McFadden has the talent to be one of the best running backs in the NFL. The only question that remains is whether or not McFadden can stay healthy for an entire season. If he can, he will be a shoe in for the Pro Bowl.
When deceased Oakland Raiders owner Al Davis traded a first round draft pick to the New England Patriots for Richard Seymour, many thought the Raiders had been fleeced. After eight years in the league and a number of injuries in that time, Seymour looked like he was nearing the end of his career. Meanwhile, Patriots coach Bill Bellichick had shown a knack for trading stars just before their value began to drastically drop. While Seymour was worth a first round pick early in his career, it seemed like too big of a price to pay for an aging star.
Since then, Seymour has received two pro bowl and one all pro nod while being the centerpiece for the turn around of the Raiders franchise. When Seymour came to Oakland, he made a big difference in changing the culture in the Raiders locker room. He helped develop a talented young defensive line and has taught the team how to be winners.
Every season with the Raiders, Seymour has increased his sack numbers and while his total tackles decreased last season, he has not slowed down a whole lot. Plus, the pro bowl roster spot is not always given to the player who had the best season at a given position. Players often get chosen for the pro bowl based in large part due to their career as a whole as opposed to the most recent season. Since Seymour has found success with two teams, in two different systems and at two different positions, he has earned a lot of respect from people around the league. If he puts up another season like the past couple, he could find himself a pro bowler again this year.
Oakland Raiders fullback Marcel Reece is unlike any fullback in the NFL. Reece brings a unique combination of speed and size to the fullback position. Reece has good size at 6'3 240 lbs, but he has clocked 40 yard dash times in the 4.4 range. That speed combined with great hands has made Reece a serious threat in the passing game while his size has allowed him to learn the blocking role of the fullback position.
The former University of Washington wide receiver was originally signed as an undrafted free agent by the Miami Dolphins in 2008 but was unable to stick with the team. The Raiders could not pass up on the freakish athleticism that Reece presented, but decided that he was not suited to play wide receiver at the next level. The Raiders toyed with Reece at a few different positions before finally moving him to the fullback position.
Reece eventually became the starting fullback for the Raiders in 2010. That season he showed that he could be an impact player for the Raiders. He is a nightmare for opposing defensive coordinators. He is too fast for most linebackers to cover and too big for most defensive backs to cover very well. However, despite his ability to make big plays, he has barely been used in the Raiders passing game. In two years, he has 28 receptions in his two years as a starter, but nine of those catches were 20+ yard receptions and five were for touchdowns. With Carson Palmer's arm strength, Reece has the ability to put up big numbers in 2012, the only question that remains is whether or not the new Raiders offensive coordinator will give him enough touches to live up to his potential.
The Oakland Raiders have a history of some of the league's best punters. For a long time, Ray Guy has been considered one of, if not the greatest punter to have ever played in the NFL. For the past 12 years, Shane Lechler has done his best to unseat Guy as the best punter in the history of the league. While doing so, Lechler has easily laid claim to being the best punter of his era.
Lechler is a 7x Pro Bowler, a 9x All Pro and was named to the NFL's All-Decade Team for the 2000's. Much like Sebastian Janikowski, Lechler has only seemed to get better as he has gotten older. In 2011, he set the franchise record for longest punt with an 80 yard blast (79 yards of which were in the air). Lechler has shown no signs of slowing down, has not had any injury problems in his career and has grown better and more consistent with every year that passes. Lechler has made the last five Pro Bowls in a row, and that streak does not look like it will end any time soon as he should be another shoe in for the 2012 Pro Bowl.
Examining what to expect from Carson Palmer in his first full season with the Oakland Raiders. For more on the Raiders, check out Silver & Black Pride.
Hey guys, another NFL Draft! Prepare your mocks!
The NFL Supplemental Draft takes place this July 12th at 1 PM. For those unfamiliar with how the NFL Supplemental Draft works, it involves players who didn't file for the regular draft or had eligibility issues due to academics or disciplinary issues.
Gregg Rosenthal of NFL.com has more on what we can expect in the draft and players to watch out for who could end up getting picked.
The following players are eligible to be drafted: Boise State DB Quaylon Ewing, Baylor WR Josh Gordon, Syracuse RB Adam Harris, Iowa State T Adrian Haughton, Carson-Newman LB Larry Lumpkin, Georgia DE Montez Robinson, McMurray WR Houston Tuminello, and TCU RB Ed Wesley. No other players are eligible to apply for the draft.
Because the draft order works similarly to the NFL draft, you can expect the San Francisco 49ers to pick later on in the draft in the first round while the Oakland Raiders will go just a little bit earlier than them.
Check out the SB Nation NFL YouTube channel and see if you'd be willing to subscribe to get more updates from our experts.
The Oakland Raiders have been slowly improving over the past few seasons, and as a result, they have increased the number of players who could make the Pro Bowl in 2012. The first player on the list probably should have gone to the last five Pro Bowls, but instead, only made his first Pro Bowl team this past year in 2011. One half of the Raiders dynamic duo of kicking, Sebastian Janikowski is easily one of the two best kickers in the NFL.
After the Raiders made waves by selecting Janikowski in the first round of the 2000 NFL Draft, he spent a number of his first years in the NFL being known more for what Al Davis had done in selecting him so high, than for his play. However, after spending 12 years in the NFL, Janikowski has become one of the most impressive kickers in NFL history.
In 2011, despite getting older, Janikowski put up the best year of his career. He finally made the Pro Bowl and was also named to the All Pro team. Plus, in week one of the regular season, he tied the NFL record for the longest field goal in history with his 63 yard field goal against the Denver Broncos.
Janikowski has showed no signs of slowing down as he gets older, and will likely be looking for an opportunity to break the record for the league's longest field goal in 2012. Janikowski really should be a shoe in for the Pro Bowl as long as he stays healthy.
The Oakland Raiders really only have one position on the team where they really do not have an adequate starter, and that position is right tackle. Last season the position was manned by Khalif Barnes and when he was wasn't churning out penalties, he was a liability in both the passing and running games. The Raiders did not pick up any notable tackles in free agency, and the only tackle they drafted is Tony Bergstrom and figures to be a guard at the next level.
The only real competition for the starting right tackle position will come from second year player out of LSU, Joseph Barksdale. Taken in the 3rd round of the 2011 draft Barksdale was supposed to be the starter at right tackle down the line. So far, it has not looked like he is ready to take the spot from Barnes, and that is a bad sign. A lot could change in training camp, but if Barksdale may not be the Raiders right tackle of the future if he cannot unseat a player who much more of a liability than a benefit.
With little to no cap space left and very few quality free agents available, the Raiders are stuck with the players they have at right tackle. There will not be a significant signing or trade for a tackle, so if the Raiders need someone else to be their right tackle of the future, they won't be able to get him until next season. If Barksdale is unable to unseat Barnes and Barnes does not drastically improve, the right tackle position will be a liability throughout the 2012 season. The Raiders just hope the rest of their line is good enough to minimize the impacts of a poor quality right tackle position.
The Raiders linebacker position has been a work in progress. The Raiders have had a notoriously bad run defense and it was in large part due to poor performance by the linebackers. The linebacking corps hasn't exactly shined in the pass game either, but it has been better than in the run game. The Raiders will welcome a new starter to the linebacking corps with free agent Philip Weaver and a new draft pick who should challenge for a starting position with fourth round pick Miles Burris.
Aaron Curry will be entering his second season with the Raiders. He played much better in the Silver and Black than he ever did for the Seattle Seahawks, but he still showed a lot of the same flaws that prevented him succeeding in Seattle. Middle linebacker Rolando McClain has come no where near being the stud linebacker that was supposed to solve the Raiders run problems. On top of that, his off the field issues run the risk of forcing him to miss time due to jail, suspensions or both. With Kamerion Wimbley being cut this off season, the Raiders will look to Philip Weaver to man the strong side linebacker spot. Wheeler is a little undersized, but has great football instincts. He played primarily in a cover two with the Indianapolis Colts, so it is hard to know how he will do in a new difference.
As for depth, the Raiders have perennially injured back up Travis Goethel and rookie Miles Burris. There is a lot of talent in the back ups, but there is very little experience. The upside is that both of these guys can play all three positions, so the thin depth is made better through their versatility.
The linebacking corps in Oakland is not going to wow anyone. The goal should be just to stay out of everyone's mouth. For a unit that has had a lot of problems and is often talked about, but only in a negative light, silence would be welcomed as a good thing.
The Oakland Raiders had one of the worst corner back groups in the NFL last season. Led by an overpaid pass interference machine named Stanford Routt, the Raiders corner backs were one of the major reasons why the Raiders were unable to make the playoffs in 2011. This off season, the Raiders got rid of the three corner backs who saw the field most last season in Stanford Routt, Chris Johnson and Lito Sheppard. They also signed veteran corner backs Shawntae Spencer and Ron Bartell.
Spencer and Bartell are both solid football players and represent an upgrade over the duo the Raiders had starting last season with Routt and Johnson. But they also represent somewhat of a question mark at the position. Both have played their entire careers with one team and are coming to a new defense in Oakland. Both are getting older and both have had injury issues in recent years.
Behind the two presumed starters are second year players DeMarcus Van Dyke and Chimdi Chekwa. Chekwa was injured for a large part of last season, but when he did play, he showed a lot of potential to be a quality CB in the NFL. Van Dyke saw more time and showed that he was clearly not ready to play in the NFL. However, Van Dyke also showed why Al Davis liked him with his blazing speed and impressive athleticism. If he can learn to play the position better, he has the physical abilities to be a great corner.
Much like the tight end position discussed yesterday, the corner back position is one that has a the potential to be good, but also has enough questions surrounding it that there is always the possibility it could turn out to be a liability yet again this season.
The Oakland Raiders are a team with a lot of holes. While they are no longer the team that struggled for years to achieve anything close to success, they are still only a middle of the pack team in the NFL. As a result, while the Raiders were able to add some solid talent this off season, they still have a number of positions that are a big question mark heading into the season, and tight end is one of them.
The tight end position in the NFL involves two primary functions, blocking and pass catching. Traditionally, a solid pass catching tight end in the NFL is seen more as a luxury than a necessity. A solid blocking tight end on the other hand, is a necessity on most teams, and especially those who rely on a strong run game, as the Raiders do. So, in my opinion, a tight end who is not a very good pass catcher is not a liability, but not having a solid blocking tight end would be.
The Raiders will likely go into the 2012 season with three tight ends on the roster, second year players David Ausberry and Richard Gordon, as well as Brandon Myers who has been a back up on the Raiders for the past three years. These three tight ends actually make up a perfectly balanced tight end position. Ausberry is primarily a pass catching tight end, Gordon is primarily a blocking tight end, and Myers is a little bit of both.
While that kind of balance would normally make for a solid position that would not be thought of as a liability, the lack of experience has got to be a concern. The past few years, the Raiders had experienced tight ends who were capable of playing all four downs in Zach Miller and Kevin Boss. Both Gordon and Ausberry saw a lot of time in the pre season last year, but barely saw the field during the regular season. And while Myers has seen a good amount of playing time as a back up, he has never been the primary tight end as he likely will be this season.
There is a lot of potential at the tight end position for the Raiders, but there are also a lot of question marks. The two second year players will need to improve and do so quickly if they want to play much for the Raiders this season. The likely starter, Brandon Myers, has never had to play as many downs as he will this season and is untested as a starter. There is not a high probability that the tight end position will be a liability, but the lack of experience is certainly a concern.
While the Oakland Raiders have done a lot to address what was once a very weak offensive line unit, there is one position that is still a major issue for the Raiders. Last season, the right tackle position was responsible for a disturbing number of penalties and was a serious liability in pass blocking. For most of the season, that position was manned by the guy who is considered the odds on favorite to be a starter again this season in Khalif Barnes.
Barnes was brought to the Raiders in 2009 as a free agent after being a starter at left tackle for his first four seasons in the NFL with the Jacksonville Jaguars. When he came to the Raiders, it was expected that he would take over the right tackle position almost immediately. Instead, he saw time at guard and as a back up before finally earning a starting role at right tackle this past season. Rather than proving he had earned the spot, Barnes made it clear that his job as a starter at right tackle had more to do with the fact that the Raiders had no one else who was capable of starting over him.
The only guy who will compete with Barnes for the starting role this season is second year player out of LSU, Joseph Barksdale. When he was drafted in the third round, many figured that it would only be a matter of time before Barksdale took over the right tackle position for the Raiders. In his rookie year, Barksdale saw time at the guard position, and is versatile enough to back up both spots. But the Raiders hope he will challenge for the starting role at right tackle. He played both right and left tackle at LSU and spent a good amount of time in a zone blocking scheme and after one year in the NFL, Barksdale really needs to start showing whether or not he is capable of starting for the Raiders.
This battle is as wide open as any on the Raiders this off season. Neither guy has stepped up and made a clear showing that they should be the starter at right tackle for the Raiders. But one thing is for sure, if Barksdale is not able to unseat Barnes as a starter, it is a good sign that the Raiders may need to begin looking elsewhere for their future starting right tackle.
The Oakland Raiders are in the process of rebuilding an offensive line that was among the league's worst for a number of years. Over the past two NFL drafts, the Raiders have found two big time pieces to their offensive line in left tackle Jared Veldheer and center Stefen Wisniewski. Both of these guys have looked great early in their careers, and if they continue on the path they are on, they will likely be anchors of this offensive line for years to come.
Last year, in his rookie season, Wisniewski played left guard along side Veldheer and the two made a dominant left side of the line. This season, however, Wisniewski will be moved to center, where the Raiders plan on keeping him. That means his spot at left guard is suddenly vacant and gives the Raiders an interesting scenario going into training camp.
The Raiders added two guards this off season with the free agent signing of Mike Brisiel and the third round pick used on Tony Bergstrom. They also cut, then resigned Cooper Carlisle at a much lower price, leaving the Raiders with three potential starters battling for the two starting guard positions.
Mike Brisiel is all but guaranteed a starting job, and at his natural position as a right guard. Brisiel was signed by the Raiders because he excels in the zone blocking scheme that offensive coordinator Gregg Knapp plans on implementing. In addition, Brisiel played under Knapp in Houston last season and is very familiar with the offense that most of the Raiders are still trying to learn. This was a great signing by general manager Reggie McKenzie. Due to the fact that Brisiel only excels in zone blocking, his value was limited and the Raiders were able to grab a guy who represents a big upgrade on their line for a good price.
With the right guard spot tabbed for Brisiel, that leaves veteran Cooper Carlisle and rookie Tony Bergstrom to battle for the starting left guard position. Carlisle is a 12 year veteran who has spent the last five years as a starter for the Raiders. For at least the past two to three years, the Raiders have been in need of replacing Carlisle as he is clearly on the downside of his career. Both he and the Raiders are hoping that he will step it up this season now that the Raiders have gone back to the zone blocking scheme that Carlisle plays better in, and now that he has some real competition on his heels for the first time in years.
That competition will come from third round draft pick Tony Bergstrom. Despite not being taken until the third round, Bergstrom is a guy who many tag as capable of becoming a starter in the NFL. Bergstrom played tackle in college but has been projected as an NFL guard, and that is exactly how the Raiders plan on using him. Going into training camp, Carlisle will be the odds on favorite to start at left guard if for not other reason than because of his experience. However, if Bergstrom plays well, and Carlisle continues to show signs of aging and deterioration in his play, there is a good chance that Carlisle finds himself playing back up this season.
The Oakland Raiders are coming off of a season in which their corner back situation was almost laughable. The two starters last season, Stanford Routt and Chris Johnson were two of the most penalty and big play prone corners in the entire NFL. Their back ups really did not get a whole lot better. The Raiders had two rookies with promise in Demarcus Van Dyke and Chimdi Chekwa. Beyond that, the Raiders added way over the hill veteran Lito Sheppard. Johnson and Chekwa spent much of the season sitting on the bench with injuries, and DVD showed he was not ready to play at the next level. That meant the Raiders spent most of the season with Stanford Routt and Lito Sheppard as their top two corners, a true recipe for disaster.
When the Raiders hired Reggie McKenzie to spearhead football operations, one of the first things he did was blow up the corner back position. He got rid of Routt, Johnson and Sheppard, whether by cutting or not re-signing them, and only held onto the duo of second year players in Chimdi Chekwa and Van Dyke. Then, McKenzie went out and signed two veteran corners in the free agent market with Ron Bartell and Shawntae Spencer.
Both Spencer and Bartell flew under the radar in free agency and were signed to rather cheap one year deals with the Raiders. In Spencer's case, he was a casualty of an overpopulated secondary with the San Francisco 49ers. His being cut had nothing to do with ability, and everything to do with logistics. In Bartell's case, the Raiders landed a good deal primarily due to the fact that Bartell has had a few injuries and has spent his career as a relatively unknown while playing for the St. Louis Rams.
While neither Spencer nor Bartell are sexy signings, they represent an upgrade over what the Raiders had as starters last season. Heading into training camp, they will be the presumed number one and two starters at the corner back position. With that being said, they are both on the older side and will be vulnerable to challenges by Chekwa and Van Dyke if either of the two youngsters can make big strides this off season.
While Van Dyke was the higher draft pick and is very athletically talented, it is Chekwa who I think has a real shot at cracking the starting lineup for the Raiders. Chekwa saw some time at corner last season and looked pretty good. He definitely showed signs of being a rookie at times, but he also exceeded expectations as a fourth round draft pick. If Chekwa can continue to grow as a player, his size, physicality and football instincts make him the most likely candidate to challenge one of the free agent signings for a starting spot. I do not expect him to win a starting role before the season, but don't be surprised if he cracks the starting lineup during the season.
The Oakland Raiders could use some running back depth with Michael Bush gone, Taiwan Jones probably limited in terms of carries, Darren McFadden injury-prone throughout his history, the Raiders could use a new running back that gives them more quality depth.
Adam Schefter of ESPN filed this report which has the Raiders taking a close look at free agent Cedric Benson.
I’ve long thought this is a logical pairing. The Raiders lost backup Michael Bush to Chicago in free agency, and while starter Darren McFadden is a star, he is not durable.
McFadden’s backups are Mike Goodson and Taiwan Jones. Goodson didn’t have any carries with Carolina last year and Jones is more of a change-of-pace back. If signed, Benson would provide terrific experience as a backup and as an injury replacement.
Benson was a very successful running back last year with the Cincinnati Bengals, rushing for 1,067 yards and six touchdowns with some catches sprinkled in there. Benson could be a good complement toward McFadden and give Oakland a solid one-two punch in the backfield to ensure their offense keeps on humming whenever either one of them leaves the field. Benson is a solid second option who could easily fill in and give the Raiders what Bush once gave them.
Talk about how well Benson would match with Oakland with Raiders fans with Silver and Black Pride.
The Oakland Raiders linebacker position is arguably the Raiders weakest position on defense. Last season, that title belonged to the corner back position, but with the signings of Shawntae Spencer and Ron Bartell, Reggie McKenzie greatly upgraded that position. At the linebacker position, the Raiders only added a fourth round draft pick in Miles Burris and an above average outside linebacker in Philip Wheeler, but also lost former starter Kamerion Wimbley.
The presumed starters going into the season are Aaron Curry, Rolando McClain and Philip Wheeler. After coming to Oakland, Aaron Curry showed that he was worth much more than the 7th round pick the Raiders gave up for him. He played much better in the Silver and Black than he did with the Seattle Seahawks, but he still showed some serious flaws in both run and pass defense. He is an athletic freak of nature who has the physical talents to be a star, but thus far, has not shown the football intelligence to get there.
Rolando McClain was supposed to be the solution to a linebacking corps that had struggled to fare well in run defense for years. He was heralded as a quarterback on defense capable of becoming the defensive anchor for the Raiders like Patrick Willis is for the San Francisco 49ers. Unfortunately, he has been consistently unable to shed blocks and is often out of position. In addition to his poor play on the field, he has also had off the field issues. If he does end up being sentenced to time for the assault charges in Alabama, he could miss a significant portion of the season when you combine time missed for being in jail with time missed after Roger Goodell gets through with him.
Philip Wheeler played four seasons with the Indianapolis Colts and was solid, but nothing special. He is a bit undersized, but is a very smart football player. He has said that he felt like he was held back a bit with the Colts due to their almost exclusively playing a cover two defense. Wheeler has stated that he is excited to play for the Raiders due to the fact that he will be asked to do a lot of different things and will not be as limited as he was in Indianapolis. Wheeler is certainly not guaranteed a starting spot in Oakland, but so far, he looks like he will win the job.
The reason that I lumped all of the linebacker positions into one group is because all three positions are up for grabs at this point, and there are two guys on the roster who are capable of competing for all three positions. Travis Goethel is a versatile backer who makes up for his small stature with big plays. He has good speed and plays with great vision. He is able to make plays all over the field and is a very smart player. Should McClain miss any time, Goethel would be first in line to back him up. However, if McClain continues to struggle, and Goethel lives up to his potential and can stay healthy, I would not be surprised if he challenged McClain for the starting position.
Miles Burris was the Raiders fourth round draft pick in the 2012 NFL draft. Another versatile player, Burris played in a defense at San Diego State that had him seeing time at both strong and weak side linebacker. He has an impressive burst of speed and also plays with good vision. The Raiders have used Burris exclusively at outside linebacker so far this off season, but he could play middle linebacker if needed. Burris has played at both outside positions during the Raiders camps, and has even played with the first team at weak side linebacker for a bit. If either Curry or Wheeler are unable to step up their play this season, Burris could see the starting lineup a lot sooner than most would have expected.
The Oakland Raiders have not had two clear starters at the wide receiver position since the duo of Jerry Rice and Tim Brown were wearing the Silver and Black, and this year is no different. In the past however, the Raiders did not have clear starters because, well, their receivers kind of sucked. This year, the Raiders' problem is not a lack of talent, it's choosing which talented young receivers on the roster should be the starters.
The Raiders currently have twelve wide receivers on their roster, but it is doubtful that more than five will make the roster. Those five receivers will be Darrius Heyward-Bey, Denarius Moore, Jacoby Ford, Louis Murphy and rookie Juron Criner. Of those five receivers, the is really only one who does not have a chance at being named a starter this season. While most might guess that would be the rookie, it is actually Louis Murphy. While he had a solid rookie season, Murphy has been unable to improve much and now looks like nothing more than solid depth.
Normally, a fifth round draft pick would obviously not be a starter, but Criner is not an ordinary fifth round pick, and this is not an ordinary situation. Originally thought of as an early round talent, Criner fell deep in the draft because of an incredibly slow 40-yard dash time at the NFL combine. Criner has good hands, runs good routes and has enough speed to get the job done. It is not a matter of if Criner succeeds at the next level, but when. And it could be sooner than most expect. The Raiders are stacked with speed at the receiver position, but have been lacking a big bodied, possession receiver. It just so happens that Criner fits that description. If he has a good off season and pre season, Criner could snag a starting spot simply due to the fact that he plays such a different style than the other receivers.
Two years ago, it looked like Jacoby Ford was the speedy receiver that Al Davis was dreaming of when he drafted DHB. He had a great rookie season and showed the ability to be a game breaking wide out. However, during his sophomore season, Ford began to look like the second best speedster at the position after rookie Denarius Moore. Given the fact that these two are nearly identical, it is highly unlikely that they will start alongside each other this season. While Ford is certainly a good receiver, he just is not as polished as Moore, who I fully expect to be a starter this season.
That only leaves Darrius Heyward-Bey. People were shocked when the Raiders chose DHB with the number six pick in the NFL draft. Over his first two seasons in the NFL, DHB looked like he could be the next big draft bust to wear the Silver and Black. Then, in his third year, DHB shocked everyone and caught 64 passes for 975 yards and 4 touchdowns. What was almost more surprising is that DHB did a lot of his damage on shorter, possession style routes, dispelling thoughts that he was nothing more than a track runner in football pads. His experience and new found versatility makes DHB a very likely candidate to be a starter this year, assuming he does not re-acquire a bad case of the drops.
The Oakland Raiders must be feeling some déjà vu when it comes to the Tight end position. For two straight years, the Raiders have seen their starting tight end sign with another team in the off season. First, it was Zach Miller, a pass catching machine who lead the Raiders in receptions for a couple of years, who left in free agency to sign with the Seattle Seahawks. Then, this off season the Raiders were forced to cut Kevin Boss due to cap issues and watched him sign with division rival Kansas City Chiefs.
While the Raiders went out and got Boss in free agency to make up for the loss of Miller! They made no major free agent signing at the tight end position this off season. As the Raiders begin their off season workouts, they have five tight ends on the roster, David Ausberry, Richard Gordon, Brandon Myers, Tory Humphrey and Kyle Efaw. However, both Humphrey and Efaw are camp bodies who will not make the team. That means the starting tight end position will come down to Myers, Ausberry and Gordon.
Both Gordon and Ausberry are second year players who did not see much time in their rookie year. Myers is a fourth year player who has primarily been a back up and special teams player. This means that no matter who is named as the Raiders starting tight end, they will not have a ton of experience. It also means that the Raiders could use a tight end by committee without a real defined starter.
Tight end by committee is even more likely when you consider the strengths of these three players. Gordon is primarily a blocking tight end, Ausberry is primarily a pass catcher, while Myers can do both, but does not excel at either. However, given the lack of experience at the position, I expect Raiders coach Dennis Allen to begin the season with Myers. He has startedn12 games in his career and can stay on the field on both passing and rushing downs.
However, I fully expect David Ausberry to finish the season as the Raiders unquestioned starting tight end. Ausberry, a former college wide receiver, has the most upside of the three. He has the ability to create mis matches and potentially develop into one of the better pass catching tight ends in the league. With guys like Rob Gronkowski and Jimmy Graham re-defining the tight end position, Ausberry seems like the most logical guy for the Raiders to focus on as the potential starter of the future in Oakland.
The Oakland Raiders haven't had to worry about their back up running back position for a few years now. With Michael Bush, the Raiders had a complimentary bruiser to Darren McFadden's speed, and a quality back capable of being a starter when (not if) McFadden got hurt. With off season cap difficulties, the Raiders were forced to let Bush sign with the Chicago Bears.
Once it became clear that the Raiders were letting Bush walk, it was presumed that Taiwan Jones would serve as McFadden's primary back up. Jones is a second year back out of Eastern Washington. While he did not play a lot in his rookie season, the few times he did get into the game, Jones made it clear that he had elite speed at the NFL level. Jones still has a good amount of work to do before he is an elite back at the NFL level, but he has the raw talent necessary.
In order to add depth to the position, the Raiders traded offensive lineman Bruce Campbell to the Carolina Panthers for Mike Goodson. The Panthers are stacked at running back with DeAngelo Williams and Jonathan Stewart. As a result, Goodson did not have much of an opportunity to shine. Both Goodson and Raiders general manager Reggie McKenzie hope that he will take advantage of the move and shine in Oakland. Goodson has more experience than Jones and is suited well to the zone blocking scheme that Greg Knapp is installing in Oakland.
This will be a tough battle, and all three backs will see action during the season, but I expect Goodson to become the primary back up to McFadden. He is more polished than Jones and should excel in the zone blocking scheme. However, Goodson has a history of fumbling. Even if he does win the back up role, he could very well lose it during the season if he has problems hanging onto the ball.
The Oakland Raiders know who their starting quarterback for the 2012 season is. After trading away first and second round draft picks to get Carson Palmer, the Raiders could not afford to bring in anyone that could challenge for a starting role. Instead, they signed a guy in Matt Leinart, who will challenge Terrelle Pryor for the number two quarterback position.
Pryor is entering his second season with the Raiders, but has yet to play an NFL snap. Last season, Pryor did not see the field in the pre season and was suspended for the first five games of the regular season. When his suspension was lifted, Pryor looked prepared to play a role in the Raiders offense. He lined up to take the snap in a game against the Kansas City Chiefs but was called for a false start. For whatever reason, Hue Jackson never gave Pryor another opportunity to play in an NFL game.
Matt Leinart entered the NFL draft as one of the best college quarterbacks in years. He was the leader of a USC team that was unstoppable (unless they were playing Vince Young in the Rose Bowl, that is). Leinart was drafted into what appeared to be the perfect fit. He was set to take over for an aging Kurt Warner and play with one of the best wide receiver tandems in the NFL in Anquan Boldin and Larry Fitzgerald. Despite being in a good situation to succeed, rumors were that Leinart spent too much time partying and not enough time in the film room. Four years in, Leinart was labeled a bust and was cut after losing the starting job to Derek Anderson. Leinart then spent the next two years with the Houston Texans backing up Matt Schaub.
This competition really should not be much of a competition. Leinart is once again in a great position to succeed. He has way more NFL experience than Pryor, automatically making him the better option in a pinch. But besides that, Leinart simply makes the most sense. He played in Houston the past two seasons, the same place that the Raiders new offensive coordinator spent his last two seasons. Leinart already knows the playbook and can spend his time building a rapport with his receivers, rather than trying to learn the offense. In addition, he has backed up starter Carson Palmer in the past when they were both at USC. I would be shocked if Pryor was able to beat out Leinart for the back up gig, but if he can, it is a great sign for the future of the Raiders.
The Oakland Raiders will not need to make their final cuts and get their roster down to 53 men until September 3. However, with the draft and free agency over, this is the least exciting time of the NFL off season. While some news trickles out of OTA's and mini camps, they are not much to get excited about. So while it is far too early to make a true judgment on many players vying for a spot on the Raiders roster, it never hurts to take a look at who the 53 men who are on the roster when the Raiders open the 2012 season against San Diego on Monday Night Football.
So, based on very little actual facts, here are the 53 men that I believe the Raiders will take into the 2012 season:
A lot of these are fairly obvious. The Raiders have depth issues all over the field and do not have the luxury of having serious competition at many positions. Thus, a lot of the positions are filled out simply by taking all of the guys with any kind of experience.
There are, however, a few players that could be deemed surprises on my list. Guard Lucas Nix is a undrafted free agent who had previously been thought of as a mid round talent. Nate Stupar was the Raiders 7th round pick in the 2012 NFL draft. Seventh round picks do not often make the team, but Stupar's special teams talents and the need for depth at linebacker will enable him to make the squad. Kaelin Burnett is another undrafted free agent. Raiders general manager liked Burnett enough to have him come work out for the Raiders leading into the 2012 Draft. He, like Stupar, is benefitting from the lack of depth at the outside linebacker position.
Finally, and perhaps most significantly, I have the Raiders carrying two fullbacks. This is rarely done in the NFL as the trend towards pass first offenses has massively diminished the importance of the fullback position. This is not your ordinary fullback battle, however. Marcel Reece and Owen Schmitt play completely different roles. While Schmitt is a traditional fullback, Reece is more of a TE/FB/WR hybrid. Reece excels in the pass game by creating mismatches and showing surprising speed to go with his big body. Reece may one day re-define the fullback position, but he lacks the traditional blocking skills that Schmitt can provide.
The Oakland Raiders have re-signed an important piece to the 2012 campaign in defensive tackle Desmond Bryant. Coming to the Raiders as an undrafted free agent out of Harvard, Bryant has surpassed all expectations and become an impactful back up that is capable of being a starter one day. Bryant is a big man standing at 6'5 290 lbs and plays with a motor that knows no end.
Bryant showed his versatility last season by filling in at both defensive tackle and defensive end when the Raiders had seymour injuries all over their defensive line. Starting in 10 games, Bryant finished with 35 tackles and 5 sacks. With both Richard Seymour and Tommy Kelly getting older, Bryant will likely see a good number of plays this season regardless of injuries. Bryant's ability to penetrate into the back field and make big plays will allow the starters to stay fresh late into games without a downgrade in production while they get rest.
As of now, the Raiders only have four tight ends under contract and none of them are remotely close to being considered stars in the sense that Zach Miller and Kevin Boss were. What the Raiders do have is a young group of players with potential, only one of whom has more than a single NFL season under his belt.
Brandon Myers is that player, entering his fourth season out of the University of Iowa. He has been a capable backup in his career, but he is slow and sluggish in his routes. He is powerful and has good hands and wll likely see the lion's share of snaps at the TE position this year.
David Ausberry is entering his second year and is easily the most athletic tight end on the team and arguably the one with the most potential. Ausberry was a four-star recruit coming out of high school, but was never targeted much at USC which is why he fell so far in the draft. He does have all the physical tools and speed one looks for in a dependable receiver, and reports that he has increased his bulk in OTAs are encouraging. He could truly be the answer at the position for years to come if he continues his development.
Richard Gordon is the Raiders' other second-year tight end. He is extremely tough and will be used primarily as a blocker. His success will depend largely on his mastery of the zone blocking scheme, do not expect to see many receptions from him.
The final TE on the roster is an UDFA from Boise State, Kyle Efaw. He was one of Kellen Moore's favorite targets at Boise State and the Raiders liked him well enough to sign him to a three-year contract. His measurables seem similar to Myers', so we will see where his career goes from here.
Having a lack of an established star at the position for the Raiders may be a blessing this year, as it will force the team to give each of its young players lots of time on the field and compete to be the guy.
The Oakland Raiders have struggled to find consistency at many positions ever since the Gruden Bowl loss that sent them in a downward spiral. Amongst the areas of need, offensive line has been one which was consistently overlooked. After wasting a first round pick on the bust known as Robert Gallery, the Raiders did not pay much attention to their offensive line besides the occasional late round pick, or unheralded free agent. As a result, offensive line is still one of the Raiders biggest concerns heading into the 2012 season.
Luckily for the Raiders, one of the later round picks, Jared Veldheer, has turned out to be a very solid left tackle. Also, the Raiders second round pick in 2011 has turned out to be a real stud. Stefen Wisniewski, aka Young Wiz, played at left guard in his rookie season, but will be moving to center to start out the 2012 season. However, besides those two, who are locked in as starters, there are question marks that span across the remainder of the offensive line.
The Raiders currently have 14 offensive linemen on the roster:
As I stated above, both Jared Veldheer and Stefen Wisniewski are locks to start in 2012. Without a doubt, Veldheer will be the Raiders starting left tackle and Stefen Wisniewski will be the Raiders starting center. The remainder of the starters, however, is unsure. Leading into the draft, it looked as though the starting guard positions were also solidified with Cooper Carlisle and free agent signing Mike Brisiel. However, when the Raiders chose Tony Bergstrom with their first pick in the 2012 NFL draft, the guard position was thrown wide open. Bergstrom is a guy who has the talent to be a starting guard in the NFL, the only questions are whether or not he will start as a rookie, and if so, whose spot will he take.
At the right tackle position, Khalif Barnes likely has a slight lead over Joseph Barksdale for the starting position. This is clearly the biggest position of need for the Raiders on the offensive line. Barnes is not a starting caliber tackle and last season had a ton of issues with false start penalties. Barksdale was a the Raiders' 3rd round pick in 2011. At the time, it was hoped he would develop into a starter, but so far, has not been much of a challenger for the job. Hopefully for the Raiders, that will change this season.
Dan Knapp and Lucas Nix were both signed as undrafted free agents in 2012. Neither has a high chance of making the team, but Lucas Nix is an interesting player. In his junior season, it was thought that he would be a mid round draft pick. However, due to a poor senior showing, he fell off of many draft boards. If the Raiders can get him back to playing like he was as a junior, he could add some valuable depth.
Ed Wang was an interesting off season addition. He started his career with the Buffalo Bills in 2010, but after injuring his hand before the 2011 season, he was cut from the team. He could be a steal for the Raiders if the Bills cut him purely due to injury reasons. The Raiders could use some quality depth at the tackle position and Wang may be able to provide that.
Parsons is a guy who has been in camp with the Raiders before and is being brought back again this season. He is likely more of a camp body and potential practice squad player, but since the Raiders are bringing him back, they may see potential in him. Kevin Haslam, Zach Hurd and Colin Miller are three other players who have been camp bodies and practice squad players in the NFL the past couple of seasons. The only intriguing guy here is Colin Miller, and that is primarily due to the utter lack of depth at the center position.
The Oakland Raiders have added yet another quarterback to their roster. Is he the upstart that could end up putting the team in the right direction?
The Raiders signed Kyle Newhall-Caballero, a quarterback from Brown who went undrafted, but enjoyed solid success in the Ivy League. Here's the report from Comcast Sports Net California/Bay Area.
"I don't think we bring in anyone that's just for charity," head coach Dennis Allen said. "We bring in guys that we think have a chance to compete and have a chance to be decent football players. And that's what I think about him. That was the plan all along, to bring in a 4th quarterback. We wanted to bring 4 to camp, to make sure we did have 4 arms and I think Kyle will do a nice job there."
"I think he's smart, he's athletic and he's got a strong arm."
The Raiders have a logjam at quarterback right now. There's Carson Palmer, Terrelle Pryor, and Matt Leinart, none of whom you would consider a true frontrunner to land the job (I guess you could consider Palmer, but he's not way ahead). If there's a roster where Newhall-Caballero could sneak in and land the starting job, this might be the one for him.
To discuss Newhall-Caballero and see what Raiders fans think of him, hit up Silver and Black Pride.
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Currently, the Raiders have twelve wide receivers on their roster. Obviously some of these guys are just war, bodies for training camp, but we'll focus on the guys who have proven something in college and the pros.
The Raiders’ #1 receiver at this point has to be Darrius Heyward-Bey. Taken eighth overall in 2009, he had a rough start to his career, with more dropped passes than one cares to think about. He came on strong last year with nearly a thousand yards receiving and four touchdowns. With Carson Palmer throwing the passes, it is fair to expect an even better year from him in 2012.
Jacoby Ford would have to be considered the team’s #2 receiver, although he is talented enough to be considered a #1. He is blazing fast and is a dynamo in the return game. The Raiders will look to use him in a variety of ways, including on screens and deep outs. He is not tall enough to win many jump balls, but can use his speed to gain separation.
Denarius Moore was a steal in the fourth round last year and quickly established himself as one of the game’s premier young wideouts. He is a true deep threat in the Julio Jones mold and has good enough hands to catch the tough balls over the middle.
Louis Murphy is fourth on the depth chart, and while talented usually doesn’t get enough balls thrown his way to make an impact. However, in the case of injury he can be a capable fill-in, and would have already done so if he did not have such a durability problem himself. In any case, he currently stands as quality depth for the WR position.
Lastly on the "real players" list we have Raiders 2012 draft pick Juron Criner. He was one of the top receivers in the Pac-12 for the majority of his collegiate career, and fell in the draft likely due to a poor 40 time. However, at his Pro Day he ran a 4.5 so he isn’t exactly slow. The Raiders have plenty of speedy receivers, what they need is a guy with good size and great hands. That is exactly what Criner brings to the table. He put on a total show at OTAs, catching everything thrown his way. Given the opportunity he could be a major weapon for the Raiders this year and should figure heavily in their plans for years to come.
The full WR depth chart is as follows:
The Oakland Raiders' defensive line was supposed to be one of their strong suits last season. However, injuries plagued the group as starter Matt Shaughnessy missed a large portion of the season, and Trevor Scott, Richard Seymour and Lamarr Houston all missed time or played through injury. While the Raiders made one addition to their defensive line in free agency, and once through the draft, much of the improvement along the defensive line in 2012 will come from simply being healthy.
There are really no battles for a starting position along the defensive line this season. If everyone stays healthy, the undoubted starters will be Lamarr Houston and Matt Shaughnessy at the defensive end positions and Richard Seymour and Tommy Kelly starting at defensive tackle (this would be for a 4-3 front, all we know about a 3-4 front is that Tommy Kelly would likely be playing nost tackle).
Including the four unquestioned starters, the Raiders have 15 defensive lineman currently on the roster. Clearly not all of these guys will make the team:
As I noted before, the four starters for next season are clear, assuming there are no injuries to any of them that is. Thus, with Shaughnessy, Houston, Kelly and Seymour being the unquestioned starters, let's take a look at the unquestioned back ups who will be sure to make the team. The first guy that must be talked about is Desmond Bryant. He came to the Raiders as an undrafted free agent out of Harvard. Bryant has been one of the Raiders best back ups at any position. He is versatile enough to play at defensive end or defensive tackle, has great size, and has a motor that never stops running. With Seymour likely getting close to retirement, do not be surprised to see Bryant as a starter for the Raiders in the near future. The only other player that is all but guaranteed a spot on the roster is Dave Tollefson, the free agent defensive end the Raiders signed away from the New York Giants this off season. Tollefson is a very valuable back up who is a talented pass rusher.
Jack Crawford, Christo Bilukidi, Dominique Hamilton, Wayne Dorsey will all be rookies this season. Jack Crawford was taken in the 5th round of the 2012 NFL draft, Christo Bilukidi was taken in the 6th round, and the rest were acquired as undrafted free agents. Jack Crawford is a guy that is also very likely to make the team this season. He is unpolished and needs some time to develop, but could contribute right away on special teams and possibly even get on the field on passing downs as a back up pass rusher. Bilukidi is a developmental defensive tackle. Many were surprised to see him taken in the 6th round, so Raiders' general manager Reggie McKenzie must have seen something he liked if he was willing to spend a draft pick on a guy most projected as an undrafted free agent. He needs a lot of work, so in all likelihood, he will wind up on the Raiders practice squad to start the season. The remaining undrafted free agents will all have a difficult time making the team this season. The Raiders have starters and backups who are already entrenched, and four experienced practice squad guys to compete with.
Those additional practice squad guys are Mason Brodine, Jamie Cumbie, Travis Ivey and Carl Ihenacho. Both Cumbie and Brodine have been on the Raiders practice squad, and both have made it onto the game day roster at times. While neither is close to being a guarantee to make the roster, they have both been showing improvement and will be strong candidates for the practice squad and possibly the regular season roster as back ups. Meanwhile, Ivey and Ihenacho are both likely just camp bodies.
On paper, the Raiders are set at running back with the top two of Darren McFadden and Mike Goodson. However, as McFadden has yet to complete a full season due to various injuries, the Raiders depth chart actually consists of a lot of question marks and players who have proven very little in the NFL.
McFadden has the potential to be an All-Pro if he can stay healthy, and all indications are that he is currently at 100% and ready to go for the season. However, this was also said about him before last season began and we all know how that turned out. The loss of McFadden last season was somewhat mitigated by the presence of Michael Bush, but he is now a Chicago Bear backing up Matt Forte.
Now in the Bush role is Mike Goodson, a fourth-year player from Texas A&M. Goodson was acquired in a trade from the Carolina Panthers, where he had great success filling in for an injured Jonathan Stewart, gaining on average over 100 yards in his three starts. He also gained over a thousand yards in kickoff returns for the season. If the Raiders choose to use him in a return role this season he could be a great asset in that regard.
Taiwan Jones will also be returning from injury, and if he stays healthy he can be a real game-breaker for the offense. He is blazing fast and extremely elusive, but due to his size isn't very durable. The Raiders will likely want to keep McFadden's workload light to keep him from wearing down, which will mean more opportunities for Jones.
In addition, the Raiders just signed Owen Schmitt, who is a fullback but is listed at RB on the Raiders depth chart. He is a tough, bruising runner who is more athletic than he looks and can be counted on to get the tough yards in short-yardage and goal-line situations. He is basically a slightly slower version of Mike Bush.
The rest of the depth chart is mostly camp fodder and practice squad nobodies. The full RB roster is here:
The Oakland Raiders do not have the best line backing corps. In fact, after the corner backs, linebacker is easily the biggest position of need for the Raiders. Oakland has struggled against the run for years now and a big reason behind that is poor linebacker play. It was only a couple of years ago when the Raiders completely blew up their line backing corps and started over with Rolando McClain, Quentin Groves and Kamerion Wimbley.
Now, the Raiders have gotten rid of Groves and Wimbley and have replaced them with Philip Wheeler and Aaron Curry. And now, with the new coaching staff, it would not be surprising if the Raider Nation sees even more change at the linebacker spot over the next year or two. There are already those who believe McClain is not a three down backer and needs to be replaced. Same goes for Curry and Wheeler. The linebacker position is definitely one to keep a close eye on in training camp.
The Raiders currently have 8 linebackers on their roster:
At the middle linebacker position, the Raiders have Rolando McClain, Travis Goethal and Nate Stupar. McClain has yet to live up to his high draft spot and for the most part has been a disappointment for the Raiders. He looks slow in pass coverage and is far too easily blocked out of plays in run coverage. After having stem cell therapy on his knee in the off season, McClain will need to show the Raiders that he can be an every down backer or they might start looking for someone to replace him. If back up Travis Goethal had not been injured the past two seasons, he very well could be considered a serious contender for McClain's starting position this off season. Goethal is a high motor backer that never stops working. He has a great nose for the ball in the run game and plays adequately in pass coverage. He is undersized which may contribute to his injuries, but it does not appear to slow him down on the field as he appears able to get off of blocks easier than the big bodied McClain. Finally, Nate Stupar, the Raiders 7th round pick in 2012, is a special teams player who, over time, may be able to become a solid back up.
At the outside linebacker position, the Raiders have starters Aaron Curry and Philip Wheeler. Behind them are Miles Burris, Kaelin Burnett and Mario Kurn. After the Raiders traded a 7th round pick to get him, Curry looked like a much better player in Oakland than he did in Seattle. However, he also showed a lot of holes in his game and can definitely be challenged for a starting spot. Wheeler is new to the Raiders this season but is known as a solid all around player who does well in both pass and run defense, but does not excel at either. However, despite the fact that neither outside linebacker has their starting position locked down, there is really only one player who could challenge for one of those starting positions, and that is rookie Miles Burris, the Raiders second pick in the 2012 NFL draft. Burris has experience playing both strong and weak side linebacker and can play at either spot with the Raiders. He is a very solid pass rusher and is an above average run defender. If he catches on to the game at the next level quickly enough, he very well could compete to be a starting outside linebacker in 2012.
Kaelin Burnett is an undrafted free agent with some potential. If he is able to make the squad, his rookie season will be spent primarily on special teams, but he could develop into a quality back up down the road if he can live up to his potential. Mario Kurn, on the other hand, is likely a career practice squad and camp body. He will spend some time with the Raiders this off season but is not likely to be around come the pre season.
Going into the 2012 season, quarterback is at long last the position at which the Raiders have the least amount of concern. The position is manned by an All-Pro, Heisman-winning, former number one overall pick in Carson Palmer. He is backed up by a solid veteran and also former Heisman winner Matt Leinart, and third on the depth chart is supplemental pick Terrelle Pryor, a tremendous athlete in his own right who will be given the opportunity to learn the system without any pressure to perform immediately.
The Raiders gave up a lot to get Carson Palmer, but a player of his skill and caliber always requires great sacrifice to acquire. He has a huge arm, good accuracy, and a quick release which somewhat negates his lack of mobility. He can make all the throws and has the ability to lead Oakland's speedy receivers with pinpoint downfield throws. He is a good fit for OC Gregg Knapp's system, as he can make all the throws Matt Schaub was asked to make in Houston under Knapp. Palmer will not have any receiver remotely as good as Andre Johnson, but the Raiders WR corps as a whole is vastly superior to Houston's (and Cincinnati's when Palmer last played there) and Palmer will be able to take advantage of that. Look for a huge year from Carson Palmer.
Matt Leinart is the perfect backup for this team. He's a California guy, a smart player who previously backed up Palmer at USC, and played in the Greg Knapp system last year in Houston. He showed flashes of being really good last year before suffering an injury. He will know his role and should anything ill befall Palmer, Leinart will be better than Kyle Boller was last year. That's really all the Raiders ask at this point. He was thrown to the wolves in Arizona, but has been a solid backup since then. He may end up taking the long route on the Matt Schaub career path, wherein he languishes as a backup for some time before a team picks him up to be the starter. He is precisely what the Raiders need at this juncture.
Finally, there's Terrelle Pryor. Many people felt Al Davis was daft to use a third-round supplmental pick on Pryor. Those people apparently never watched Pryor play in college. He is extremely athletic and willed Ohio State to many victories seemingly on his own, He was one of those Cam Newton man-amongst-boys type players in the Big Ten and dominated the competition. There was clearly nobody in the third round this year remotely close to Pryor's level of skill and football talent. He will have every opportunity to develop into this team's long-term answer at QB, as neither of the top two QBs on the depth chart have long-term futures here. Pryor is the perfect guy to slowly develop and mold into that role. If all goes well for him he could develop into a Randall Cunningham-style dual threat at quarterback and make the Raiders even more dynamic on offense than they are currently.
The Raiders have signed free agent fullback Owen Schmitt after he worked out for the team this week. Schmitt is 6'2, 240 pounds and has played in 51 career games (12 starts) during his four-year career. He has nine rushing attempts for 27 yards and 34 receptions for 218 yards with two touchdowns on his career, and his best season statistically came in 2010 when he caught 19 passes for 136 yards and a touchdown.
The former Eagles fullback reunites with Raiders offensive coordinator Gregg Knapp, who was with the Seahawks when they drafted Schmitt out of West Virginia in 2008. He became somewhat famous in Seattle when he, in his excitement to play some smashmouth football, smashed his helmet against his head a few too many times and starting bleeding profusely, spawning a line of t-shirts emblazoned with the rugged look.
He's a no-nonsense lead-blocking, old school fullback and will present competition for the Raiders backfield, which already includes fullbacks Manase Tonga, Rashawn Jackson, and recent tryout Tre'shawn Robinson. Marcel Reece is the presumptive starter, but has yet to sign his restricted free agent tender while looking to get a longer deal done.
Talk about this signing and more with Raiders fans, make sure you head over to Silver and Black Pride.
Darren McFadden got injured last year midway through the season and could never get back into good health. His absence was a critical blow to an Oakland team that just never had enough offense to keep up with other teams, and the Raiders narrowly missed the playoffs.
It's the offseason though, and the reports surrounding McFadden seem positive. Evan Silva of Pro Football Talk has some exciting news regarding McFadden.
ESPN's Shelley Smith on Darren McFadden: "I'm told McFadden looks as good as new ... Making cuts full speed, looks like he's ready to go."— Evan Silva (@evansilva) May 15, 2012
Perhaps the most exciting news for Raiders fans is the supposed emergence of wide receiver Juron Criner, a fifth round pick for Oakland in the 2012 NFL Draft. Silva has this to report.
If these reports are true, Oakland could suddenly possess one of the youngest and most dynamic receiving units in the country. That would be some offense to contain if they could find the right quarterback to lead all those offensive weapons.
Talk about the offseason success of McFadden and Criner with Raiders fans at Silver and Black Pride.
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The Oakland Raiders will try out free agent fullback Owen Schmitt this week according to 710 ESPN's LIz Mathews. Schmitt will be entering his fifth NFL season, he played two seasons for the Seattle Seahawks and these past two seasons for the Philadelphia Eagles.
Former Seahawks and Eagles fullback Owen Schmitt has a tryout this week with the Raiders.Beer truck rolls into the black hole...— Liz Mathews 710 ESPN (@Liz_Mathews) May 14, 2012
Pro Football Talk reports Raiders fullback Marcel Reese has yet to resign and this signing of Schmitt could be used to increase pressure on Reese to do so.
In Oakland, exclusive rights free agent fullback Marcel Reece has yet to sign his one-year tender. The Raiders' tryout of Schmitt may be an attempt to put pressure on Reece.
Schmitt appeared in 16 games and started five for the Eagles. He logged 38 total yards for the Eagles in 2011. The 6'2" fullback out of West Virginia is known for his aggressiveness and toughness which sometimes gets out of control — he caused his own injury after hitting his helmet against his head repeatedly before a Seahawks game during his time there. It's not surprising that in his official Eagles bio that his favorite part of football is "the contact."
For more on the Oakland Raiders, check out Silver And Black Pride.
The Oakland Raiders biggest liability last season was clearly its cornerbacks. One starting spot was manned by Stanford Routt while the other was more of a merry go round of players, from Chris Johnson, to DeMarcus Van Dyke to Lito Sheppard. Of those to start for the Raiders at corner last season, only second year player DeMarcus Van Dyke remains with the squad, and for good reason. Many of the Raiders late game break downs came as a result of corner play. Whenever the Raiders had a lead late in the game, it seemed almost a guarantee that one of the starting corners would give up a big play or pass interference call at a crucial time, if not multiple crucial times. As a result, the cornerback squad was wiped clean save the 2011 rookies, DeMarcus Van Dyke and Chimdi Chekwa.
During free agency, new Raiders general manager Reggie McKenzie signed two starting caliber corners in Shawntae Spencer and Ron Bartell. Both guys are underrated players whose value was diminished due to playing for bad teams or being buried in a crowded secondary. Neither is an overly exciting pick up, but both are quality football players that likely represent an upgrade at the position over last season.
The Raiders currently have 10 corner backs on the roster, though many of them will not be on the team come opening day:
Shawntae Spencer and Ron Bartell will enter training camp as the men to beat for the starting spots. But do not be surprised to hear a lot of talk about the corner back position being an open competition. The Raiders need to see a lot of improvement from their secondary if they want to succeed in 2012. Part of ensuring that will be through pushing players to earn a starting role. While Spencer and Bartell will be the presumed starters, I would not be surprised to see one of them beaten out by one of the second year corners, but not the one you are thinking. In the limited time that Chekwa played as a rookie, he showed a lot of promise. While he does not have the raw athletic talents of Van Dyke, Chekwa has better football skills. Chekwa showed good talent for getting his head around to see the ball and competing for the ball at its highest point, two talents that are very important for corners in the NFL.
After the top four corners, the Raiders have a few special teams and depth players in Bryann McCann, Brandon Underwood and Pat Lee. McCann came to the Raiders in 2011 when they were desperate to find kick returners due to the injuries sustained by Jacoby Ford and Denarius Moore. McCann showed why he is valued as a kick returner, but also why he does not have much value as a corner. Brandon Underwood and Pat Lee are two guys that general manager Reggie McKenzie brought in this off season. Both are strong special teams players and add decent depth to the team. I would not expect all three of these guys to make the team and if the Raiders can find a kick returner elsewhere, McCann may be the odd man out.
Terrail Lambert is a practice squad player and camp body who has little to no chance of making he team. Chaz Powell and Conroy Black are two undrafted free agents. Both Black and Powell will be given every chance to make the team as I am sure McKenzie wants a competitive camp for the corner backs this off season. Black is a guy that the Raiders invited for a pre draft work out and could be the more likely of the two to make the team, but more likely, these are potential practice squad guys who could potentially work their way onto the team.
According to FOX Sports NFL reporter Aaron Wilson, the Oakland Raiders signed seven free agents on Monday. The seven players tried out in Oakland's rookie minicamp last weekend.
Eddy Carmona is a punter/kicker from Harding University in Arkansas. He will compete for a roster spot with veteran kicker Sebastian Janikowski and punters Shane Lechler and rookie free agent Marquette King.
Also signed to help Oakland's offense is Tre'Shawn Robinson a linebacker for Idaho who is listed at fullback by the Raiders. Kyle Efaw comes from Boise State, the tight end started eight games in 13 appearances for the Broncos, scoring a career high seven touchdowns.
Wayne Dorsey is a defensive end out of Ole Miss — he only played in six games in 2011 for the Rebels, but led his team in sacks (3.0) and tackles for loss (5.0).
Rounding out the Raiders' undrafted free agents signings is Tray Session, a wide receiver out of Nevada. Session hauled in 291 yards on 23 receptions for the Wolfpack in 2011.
The Raiders also signed former Jacksonville Jaguars offensive tackle Kevin Haslam to a one-year contract. The second-year player did not appear in any games for the Jaguars, but will add depth at his position for the Raiders during training camp.
Lastly, Oakland added former Tennessee Titans cornerback LeQuan Lewis. The cornerback enters his second year in the NFL after appearing int four preseason games for the Titans in 2011.
For more discussion on the Oakland Raiders, head over to SB Nation's Silver And Black Pride.
The Oakland Raiders are putting a lot of faith in Darren McFadden having a strong season in 2012. They allowed star back up running back Michael Bush walk during free agency, and only have second year burner Taiwan Jones, and former panthers back up Mike Goodson available to replace McFadden should he get injured again.
Luckily for the Raiders, it appears as though McFadden has returned to full health after suffering a lisfranc sprain that kept him out for half of the year in 2011. Raiders runningback coach Kelly Skipper spoke to the press about McFadden over the weekend and gave the most comprehensive report on the Raiders play making running back we have seen this off season.
Per Skipper, McFadden is making cuts at full speed and looks ready to play at a high level. Skipper even went so far as to say that if you did not already know McFadden is coming off of an injury, you would not be able to tell by looking at him in practice right now.
This is big news for the Raiders. They will need McFadden to play well early in the season as the passing game gets used to the west coast system that is being installed by new offensive coordinator Gregg Knapp. Having McFadden healthy will allow the Raiders to lean on their running game while the passing game works out the kinks. Now, the only question that remains for McFadden is how long he will be healthy before getting injured again.
The Oakland Raiders safety positions is not one of their strong suits. While they have solid starters at each safety position, the depth is questionable at best. The Raiders suffered a rash of injuries last season, which included starting free safety Michael Huff who missed four games last season. Depth will become even more important if Michael Huff spends some time playing at the corner position as has been speculated this off season.
The strong safety position boasts a starter in Tyvon Branch, that very well could find his way to the Pro Bowl in upcoming seasons (if there is one...). Branch has shown himself to be a very sturdy player and has not missed a game since he became a starter in 2009. But Branch cannot play every single down, and some formations call for more safeties, so depth is still an important issue.
The Raiders currently have 6 safeties on the roster:
Tyvon Branch and Mike Mitchell are the only two strong safeties in this group. While having another strong safety would be nice, it is not a major priority. As noted above, Branch has proven himself to be a sturdy player, and Mike Mitchell has been improving every year. Branch is consistently one of the team's top tacklers, and is a true ball hawk. At the end of every play, you are guaranteed to see Branch somewhere near the ball, if not involved in the tackle. Mitchell was a second round draft pick that has taken a while to get used to playing at the next level. He is a more than satisfactory back up, but still has a long way to go before he can be much more than just a guy who spells the starter. Despite the lack of depth, the strong safety position is a bright spot in the Raiders secondary.
At free safety, the Raiders have starter Michael Huff, back up Matt Giordano, undrafted free agent Aaron Henry and practice squad player Curtis Taylor. Huff has never been able to live up to his high draft status, but has played much better the past few seasons. Early concerns about Huff's work ethic seem to have been dispelled as he has been a much more active player recently. He is still not the impact player that the Raiders were looking for when they took him with the 7th pick of the 2006 draft, but he has become a solid NFL starter. When Huff was forced to miss four games due to injuries last season, the Raiders found themselves lucky to have signed Matt Giordano as his back up. In his first season with the Raiders, Giordano led the team in interceptions and quickly became a fan favorite. While his lack of size was a disadvantage at times, his feel for the game and penchant for being in the right position often made up for it. Definitely not a starter in the NFL, but Giordano is certainly a very strong back up.
In Curtis Taylor, the Raiders basically have a camp body and potentially a practice squad player. Taylor has been in camp or on practice squads around the NFL for a few years now, but has been unable to stick with a team. Aaron Henry, on the other hand, could be a big pick up for the Raiders who could use some depth at safety with the loss of Hiram Eugene this off season. Henry was a guy that many had given a mid to late round draft grade to, but for whatever reason, he went undrafted. If he deserved that mid to late round grade, he could stick as a special teams player and add depth to the safety position.
The Raiders are chalked full of young talent. Here is a look at some of the young players who could have a breakout season in 2012.
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