NFL Oakland Raiders

5 Reasons Why Oakland Raiders Will Contend in the AFC West in 2014

5 Reasons the Raiders will contend in the AFC West in 2014

Touchdown Raiders
Cary Edmondson-USA TODAY Sports

GM Reggie McKenzie has spent a considerable amount of time and money overhauling the Oakland Raiders this offseason. He's signed a number of veteran playmakers who will provide leadership to a team in dire need of it. The roster is filled with competitors and the culture in Oakland is changing. McKenzie's labors will yield a very good team this season-- one that is very capable of contending in the AFC West. Here are five reasons why...

5. A Vastly Improved Offensive Line

Raiders Offensive Line
Doug Pensinger/ Staff

5. A Vastly Improved Offensive Line

Raiders Offensive Line
Doug Pensinger/ Staff

There is no doubt that losing Jared Veldheer hurts. But McKenzie has mitigated that loss by building the line with players like Kevin Boothe, Austin Howard and Donald Penn to go along with holdovers Khalif Barnes, Stefan Wisniewski and Menelik Watson. The revamped line is athletic, versatile and will be better run blockers than last year's patchwork unit. They will also likely do a better job of not letting their QB get blown up regularly.

4. Finally -- A Defense with Some Teeth

Raider Defense
Tim Heitman-USA TODAY Sports

4. Finally -- A Defense with Some Teeth

Raider Defense
Tim Heitman-USA TODAY Sports

The D has been retooled, top to bottom. Newcomers Justin Tuck, Lamarr Woodley, Antonio Smith, Tarrell Brown, C.J. Wilson and Carlos Rogers will give the Raiders some proven run stuffers, a legitimate -- and fierce -- pass rush and a secondary that won't find themselves getting burned as regularly and thoroughly as California during wildfire season.

3. An Improved Receiving Corps

Raiders Receivers
Brian Bahr/ Stringer

3. An Improved Receiving Corps

Raiders Receivers
Brian Bahr/ Stringer

The Raiders' receivers are young, inconsistent and have unlimited potential. The addition of James Jones is only going to help the team by giving Matt Schaub a legitimate weapon to work with and a mentor for the youngsters. He'll be especially valuable down in the red zone where they've often struggled. And if they take Sammy Watkins in the draft, they might have one of the more lethal receiving corps in the NFL.

2. A "Franchise" Quarterback Capable of Big Things

Matt Schaub
Bob Levey/ Stringer

2. A "Franchise" Quarterback Capable of Big Things

Matt Schaub
Bob Levey/ Stringer

It took some doing, but McKenzie finally landed the franchise quarterback he's coveted for so long. Is he Peyton Manning or Tom Brady? No. But Matt Schaub is still an above average quarterback capable of putting up big numbers. Schaub has plenty of motivation to rebound from a dreadful 2013, and he will. He's been through the ups and downs of the NFL before. His experience will benefit Matt McGloin or whatever young arm the team brings in.

1. Chemistry and an Actual Team Identity

Raiders Team
Ed Szczepanski-USA TODAY Sports

1. Chemistry and an Actual Team Identity

Raiders Team
Ed Szczepanski-USA TODAY Sports

A team identity is an undervalued commodity the Raiders haven't had for a long time. And many believe that has contributed to their troubles. McKenzie has crafted the 2014 roster by his vision of the team's identity. They're a tough, hard working, blue collar squad who put the team first, will battle to the end, and never give up. They may not be the most talented team in the league, but the Raiders are going to be a very tough out for anybody.