Five Questions the Oakland Raiders Must Answer During Training Camp
Five issues the Oakland Raiders must address at training camp
It’s going to be a tough year for the Oakland Raiders, who are headed into 2013 with an impotent offense and a patchwork defense that was completely rebuilt this offseason. Luckily for them, they’ve still got one more year before axes start falling.
Despite their roster’s lack of elite talent and chemistry, the Raiders enjoyed an underrated offseason in 2013. They brought in several young, inexpensive role players who should develop into the core of the Oakland roster. The 2013 NFL Draft (and the ensuing undrafted free agency) brought several intriguing bodies aboard. Even with the return of Charles Woodson was a move worth praising for GM Reggie McKenzie.
Still, there’s plenty of ground to cover before the Raiders can even begin to consider this upcoming season anything more than a rebuilding year.
The quarterback spot is a complete mess, and the fact that two rookie quarterbacks are serious contenders for the starting job just shows how devoid of proven talent the position is. The offensive line is in shambles after the Raiders failed to add anything more than a second-round rookie to the mix. Although the linebacking unit was completely overhauled with some proven talent, there will be some growing pains as a lack of continuity takes its toll. Put simply, it’s not going to be easy earning wins for the Raiders this year.
If they hope to be competitive, there are several issues that must be addressed during training camp. From the quarterback spot to concerns in the defensive backfield, questions must be answered before the preseason arrives.
Here’s a look at five of those lingering questions as training camp draws closer.
What is Charles Woodson’s role in Oakland?
Raiders Nation was ecstatic when Woodson re-signed with the Raiders, the team that originally drafted him back in 1998. But what exactly is the plan for the veteran defensive back now that he’s made his return to Oakland? Did the Raiders sign him to be their starting free safety while Usama Young continues to develop? Or was he brought in to serve as a role model and leader for the Raiders’ young, talented group of defensive backs? Chances are that, assuming he stays healthy, Woodson will see plenty of playing time in 2013, but is that the main reason Oakland brought him back? Maybe it was just a PR move…
What’s the contingency plan when Darren McFadden gets hurt?
It’s virtually guaranteed that, at some point this season, McFadden will fall to injury. In his five NFL seasons, he has never managed to stay healthy more than 13 games. So what’s the Raiders’ fallback when McFadden suffers his inevitable injury? Oakland added veteran Rashad Jennings this offseason to provide some experienced backup. The other story coming out of OTAs is rookie sixth-rounder Latavius Murray, who is quickly turning heads. If the rookie can catch on quickly, he might do enough to replace Jennings as the No. 2. One way or another, though, the Raiders need a contingency plan.
Can D.J. Hayden overcome anxiety and live up to first-round billing?
Hayden, the Raiders’ 2013 first-round pick, has overcome quite a bit in the last half a year. After a freak practice accident saw him come within minutes of death, the Houston product appeared eager to get on the field in Oakland. Instead, he headed back to the hospital as complications from his injury arose. While Hayden has stated that the near-death experience won’t linger as he transitions to the NFL, you have to imagine it’s causing some anxiety in the back of his mind. Once the pads are on during training camp, can Hayden keep his composure or will his tragic accident become a crutch?
Has the offensive line improved at all since last season?
Throughout the 2012 campaign, the Raiders fielded one of the worst offensive lines in the league. Unfortunately for the rest of the offense, not much was done during the offseason to improve in the blocking department. While the lone addition of Menelik Watson is a step in the right direction, the raw rookie might not be ready to contribute. The Raiders might have made a scheme switch from zone to power blocking, it will be for naught if the front five is still made up of incompetent blockers. Apart from Jared Veldheer and Stefen Wisniewski, the Oakland offensive line is a mess.
Who will be the backup quarterback?
At this point in the offseason, it’s anyone’s job to win. While offseason acquisition Matt Flynn is the favorite to be the Raiders’ Week 1 starter, the room for error is extremely small. With rookies Tyler Wilson and Matt McGloin nipping at his heels, it’s only going to take a game or two of inept passing for Flynn to find himself riding the bench. Assuming that’s the case, it’ll be paramount to determine who owns the No. 2 gig. While the general consensus is that Wilson and Terrelle Pryor will duke it out for the backup job, don’t be surprised if undrafted rookie McGloin sneaks up the depth chart.