6 Players Who May Be Keys to Oakland Raiders’ Success in 2014

Players Primed to Have a Big Impact for the Raiders

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Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports

After a busy offseason, the Raiders have a number of big names populating their roster this season – and more talent than they've had in years. Justin Tuck, Matt Schaub, James Jones, Maurice Jones-Drew – there are a number of veteran leaders who will be key figures on this season's squad. But there are a number of others who seem to be getting overlooked a bit but will be just as key and just as vital to the Raiders' success in 2014.

6. LaMarr Woodley

Woodley
Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports

6. LaMarr Woodley

Woodley
Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports

With so much of the attention on the defensive side of the ball being given to Justin Tuck and Khalil Mack, many seem to be discounting and/or ignoring the presence of Woodley. Though he's battled some injury and the perception that he's washed up, Woodley showed in OTAs that he has plenty left in the tank, is still ferocious and with the Raiders planning to use him off the edge, he is primed to have a big year blowing up opposing QBs.

5. Tyvon Branch

Branch
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5. Tyvon Branch

Branch
Pat Lovell-USA TODAY Sports

Healthy again after a terrible injury wiped out practically all of his 2013 season, Branch is itching to hit the field once more. And the Raiders are itching just as much to have him out there. Along with Charles Woodson, Branch is the glue that holds the secondary together. And with so many new faces and so much uncertainty in Oakland's defensive backfield, they need Branch's productivity, leadership and stability.

4. Andre Holmes

Holmes
Tim Heitman-USA TODAY Sports

4. Andre Holmes

Holmes
Tim Heitman-USA TODAY Sports

Rod Streater and James Jones seemingly have a lock on the top two spots in the receiving rotation. But the competition for the third spot in that rotation looks to be wide open, and Holmes may have a slight edge over the others coming into camp. He has size, athleticism and proved himself to be a solid, reliable target in the latter part of 2013. If he can refine his route running, his experience may be a key factor in the fight for playing time.

3. Latavius Murray

Murray
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3. Latavius Murray

Murray
Kyle Terada-USA TODAY Sports

Back from an injury that derailed his rookie season, the Raiders are expecting big things from Murray as they expand his role in the running game and the offensive scheme as a whole. Though he's likely to only see touches after Jones-Drew and McFadden get theirs, Murray will still factor into the offense in a big way. And if the coaches are right about his upside, he could have a very big impact for the Raiders in 2014 – and beyond.

2. Michael Rivera

Rivera
Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports

2. Michael Rivera

Rivera
Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports

He's a better receiver than a blocker, but after a solid rookie season, he has a chance to see a lot of playing time – and receptions – in OC Greg Olson's tight-end friendly system. David Ausberry may be named the starter, but Rivera – who ran with the starters in OTAs – will figure heavily into the offense and be a key contributor for the Raiders. He will build on a very solid, productive 2013 season.

1. Antonio Smith

Smith
Thomas Campbell-USA TODAY Sports

1. Antonio Smith

Smith
Thomas Campbell-USA TODAY Sports

Smith may be one of – if not the – most underrated addition to the Raiders' defense this season. Smith provides a big presence inside that can penetrate and blow up plays before they even get started. He is a disruptive force, a solid run stopper, and the success Tuck, Woodley, Mack and Moore may have in getting after the opposing QBs may be directly attributable to Smith taking up space and wreaking havoc inside.


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