5 Areas of Strength the Oakland Raiders Can Build On in 2013
Elias Trejo – Jun 27, 2013
There are many experts who don't expect much of the Oakland Raiders this season. The Raiders are being called an expansion team full of back ups. Regardless of what's being said, the players and coaches in the locker room aren't playing to lose. They plan to win and that is what they'll prepare to do. So let's ignore the negatives from the media and other outsiders, and focus on five points of strength that the Raiders can focus on in 2013.
The offensive line struggled last year in the run game as they tried adjusting to a primarily zone blocking scheme. This year they are moving back to the power scheme, which suits the Raiders personnel better along the offensive line. Oakland has two anchors who can potentially have a Pro Bowl season this year in Stefen Wisniewski and Jared Veldheer. Oakland is looking to improve their right tackle position as well as their guard positions. Rookie Menelik Watson could provide an immediate upgrade at right tackle if he can beat out Khalif Barnes, which I expect him to do so. If Oakland can get better play from the guard position, they should enjoy a big season in the run game regardless of who is running the ball.
The Raiders allowed 27 sacks last year which was the 5th least in the NFL, but they allowed the 12th most pressure in the league according to ProFootballFocus.com. If Oakland can improve even a little bit in that area they could see enough improvement to get much better offensive production.
The Raiders run game should be back in 2013 with a better scheme suited for their players. Darren McFadden is the primary weapon that makes the run game dangerous and one of the best in the league when he is firing on all cylinders. When McFadden gets going he's a hard player to stop and the Raiders become a hard team to beat. The new blocking scheme will allow McFadden to have a stronger year than last year. Health is always a concern when talking about McFadden, but Oakland does have Marcel Reece and Rashad Jennings who are capable of filling in.
In 2011, when Oakland last ran the power scheme, they were a top 10 rushing attack despite not having McFadden for the majority of the season. I firmly believe the new scheme will allow the Raiders to plug in any running back and have success running the ball. Now there is a big difference from a player like McFadden compared to a player like Jennings, but they can manage without McFadden if needed.
If Oakland plans to improve on their record from last year the run game needs to be a primary focus of the offense and it must be successful. A strong run game could push the Raiders to a .500 record if it holds up for the full 2013 season.
Last year was a head scratching year for the Raiders special teams. They had the talent to be strong, but health issues and just poor execution really hurt the team. This year Oakland added two strong pieces that will help out the special teams. The first addition was special teams coach Bobby April. His experience and record for success is a positive sign for Oakland. It all starts with coaching and having April as a coordinator will help. The Raiders also added Josh Cribbs, who is a return specialist. This adds another weapon for Oakland in the return game along with Jacoby Ford.
While Oakland lost Shane Lechler, they have a young Marquette King with plenty of potential and a strong leg competing against former Pro Bowl punter Chris Kluwe for the starting punter job. They still have Sebastian Janikowski who is, in my opinion, the best kicker in the NFL. Oakland could have a very strong special teams this year, which is an important part of the game.
The secondary last year for the Oakland Raiders was a disaster. They allowed opponents to complete 66% of their passes and have a quarterback rating of 97.5. Tom Brady had a 63% completion percentage and a quarterback rating of 98.7 for the season, which basically means the Raiders made every quarterback they played look like Brady. So what does Oakland do after having such a horrible secondary? They reload and remodel.
The Raiders have added several new players to the secondary including cornerbacks DJ Hayden, Tracy Porter, and Mike Jenkins. They also brought in Charles Woodson to play alongside Tyvon Branch at safety. Those moves alone, should help provide stability for the Raiders secondary and should improve many aspects of the Raiders defense including their pass rush. What was Oakland's weakness in 2012 on defense could be their strength in 2013. I am a firm believer that a better secondary helps a pass rush and a pass rush helps a secondary. Last year the secondary was terrible, which in my eyes, was one of the biggest reasons the pass rush was horrible as well. There should be a major difference from this year to last and it will all start in the secondary for the Raiders defense.
The Raiders have had a lot of turnover the last few years since Reggie McKenzie took over. While many players and some coaches have come and gone after one season under the new regime, the leaders still remain and more are starting to show. McKenzie and Dennis Allen are still here trying to implement their program and systems to have the franchise running like it should. We'll know how well everything is working by the product on the field.
Players like Lamar Houston, Darren McFadden and Tyvon Branch were kept because of their on field ability and their off field leadership. They are being asked to take on more of a leadership role as they are now among the longest tenured Raiders. From top to bottom the Raiders leadership is stronger than it's been in the last few years. Even Mark Davis as the Owner is showing willingness to lead by letting things take their course and not pretending to know more than he does on some issues. The Raiders franchise is better off than it's been in a long time and if they are able to build on these five strengths, their success could come a lot sooner than later.
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