2014 OAKLAND RAIDERS FOOTBALL PREVIEW
July 14, 2014INDIANA SPORTS PAGE
2015 OAKLAND RAIDERS FOOTBALL PREVIEW
HEAD COACH: DENNIS ALLEN, 8-24 WITH RAIDERS
OFFENSIVE COORDINATOR: GREG OLSEN
DEFENSIVE COORDINATOR: JASON TARVER
2013 RECORD: 4-12
OFFENSE PPG: 20.1
TOTAL OFFENSE: 333.8
DEFENSE PPG: 28.3
TOTAL DEFENSE: 363.7
TO MARGIN: -9
The Oakland Raiders have already been told they will have a tough time being better in 2014. That is plenty of motivation for a group of players who feel they still have plenty to prove. Oakland brought in 12 new free agents and 8 draft picks while saying good bye to 8 players who didn’t get the job done.
The Raiders spent tons of money are players who are either getting late in their career or guys are felt cheated and have a huge chip on their shoulder. Many have Super Bowl rings including DE Justin Tuck (Giants), OLB LaMarr Woodley (Steelers) and WR James Jones (Packers). QB Matt Schaub comes in from Houston who still believes he can play in the NFL.
Schaub had some good seasons in Houston but never go them to the promised- land. Schaub had three 4,000 yard seasons but was benched last year. His numbers from last year were terrible with only 10 TD passes, 14 INT’s and a passer rating of 73.0. Oakland drafted Derek Carr out of Fresno State with their second-round selection. Veteran Matt McGloin started six games in 2014 and will compete for the starting job.
The receiving corps was young in 2013 so the Raiders acquired former Green Bay WR James Jones (123 receptions, 1,601 yards, 17 TD’s in two season). Jones will bring leadership and stability to a group needing direction. Jones will be joined by Rod Streater, who led the team with 60 receptions for 888 yards and 4 scores. Streater is a big, physical receiver and is a nice complement to Jones. Joining Jones and Streater will be Denarius Moore, Greg Little (Cleveland) and Andre Holmes. Moore had 46 receptions last season. TE Mychal Rivera played well as a rookie with 38 receptions for 407 yards and 4 TD’s.
The backfield will have veterans Darren McFadden and Maurice Jones-Drew. Jones-Drew (Jacksonville) led the NFL in rushing just three seasons ago (1,606 yards, 17 TD’s) but slipped to 803 yards last season and a career low 3.4 yards per carry. McFadden’s career has been marred by injuries since he was selected by Oakland in the 2008 draft. When healthy, McFadden can add explosiveness and can catch the ball out of the backfield. The Raiders lost the team’s leading rusher Rashad Jennings to the Giants. Marcel Reece and Jamize Olawale will rotate as the fullbacks.
The offensive line will look different after Oakland lost LT Jared Veldheer to Arizona as a free agent and they cut RG Mike Brisiel. The only potential returning starter will be center Stefen Wisniewski. Menelik Watson is getting every chance to start at RT with free-agent Donald Penn (Tampa Bay) looking at LT. Former Jet Austin Howard is expected to start at RG. Also in the mix will be Kevin Boothe, Khalif Barnes and Gabe Jackson.
The Raiders defense was simply awful in 2014 giving up 453 points, ranking 28th against the pass, 13th against the run and 22nd in total defense. As you would expect, a makeover was needed and accomplished. Big time improvement is needed in the secondary and the ability to rush the QB. In free-agency the Raiders picked up CB’s Tarell Brown and Carlos Rogers from San Francisco. They also used their 4th round selection on Utah CB Keith McGill, CB TJ Carrie and S Jonathan Dowling.
Buffalo LB Khalil Mack was taken in the first round of the draft and will start at WLB. Mack will be the edge pass rusher they need. Justin Tuck will start at RDE and former Pittsburgh LB LaMarr Woodley will move to LDE. Tuck brings the ability to get to the QB (11 sacks last season) and may see some time at DT in the nickel package with Mack moving to DE. Former Houston Texan Antonio Smith will start at DT along with Pat Sims. At linebacker with Mack will be Sio Moore at SLB and Nick Roach MLB. Veteran Kevin Burnett will be a back-up playing behind Mack. CJ Wilson was signed as a free-agent from Green Bay adding depth and experience. With Oakland signing Rogers and Brown from San Francisco, the Raiders secondary got better overnight. They will join veteran Charles Woodson and SS Tyvon Branch, who is returning from a broken leg and missing 14 games in 2013.
The doubters have spoken and the Raiders now have something to prove. After back-to-back 4-12 seasons, GM Reggie McKenzie put his money where his mouth is and got out of the salary cap mess, then signed free-agents that can help this football team. Oakland plays in the same division with Denver, Kansas City and San Diego, all good and improving football teams. Getting out of the division basement will be difficult.
2014 DRAFT REVIEW:
The Oakland Raiders started the 2014 NFL Draft with seven draft picks. After trading down in the 3rd round, the Raiders picked up an extra 4th round selection and concluded the draft with eight picks.
In the first round, the Raiders selected LB Khalil Mack out of Buffalo with the 5th overall pick. “When you watch Khalil play, he plays the game like it’s supposed to be played,” said General Manager Reggie McKenzie. “He plays hard, he plays physical, and he goes from snap to whistle.”
The 6’3”, 251-pound linebacker was a first-team All American as a senior and led the MAC with 10.5 sacks. In 48 games at Buffalo, Mack recorded 327 tackles, 28.5 sacks, 75 tackles for loss and 31 quarterback pressures. He also caused 16 fumbles, which is an NCAA record.
Mack was in the Green Room at Radio City Music Hall when he learned he was drafted by the Raiders. He then flew to Oakland Friday morning – his first-ever trip to California – to visit Raiders headquarters. He met the coaching staff, toured the building and was introduced to the media and Raider Nation in a press conference.
“He’s physical. He’s tough,” said Director of Player Personnel Joey Clinkscales. “He’s able to rush the passer, obviously from standing up, with his hand in the dirt. He gives you speed. The versatility, I mean I could go on and on. I love the player and I love the pick.”
Mack was the first of six defensive players chosen by the Raiders in the 2014 NFL Draft.
With the 36th overall pick, the Raiders drafted QB Derek Carr out of Fresno State. “In evaluating him, we thought he could definitely throw the ball. He was athletic. All the things that we were looking for in a quarterback, we felt like he had,” said McKenzie. “He played different styles of offense. He played under center, and of course he played in the spread offense. Bottom line, he was an extremely smart football player, he knew how to read defenses. He was one of those guys that you knew he knew how to play the position. We had a chance to get a really good player, and we jumped at it.”
Among active NCAA players, Carr ranked second in touchdown passes (113), fourth in total offense (13,032 yards), third in passing yardage (12,842 yards), second in pass completions (1,086), third in pass attempts (1,630) and fourth in touchdowns responsible (118). The Bakersfield-native started 39 games at Fresno State and completed 66.69 percent of his passes.
“Honestly, I’m a football player. I’ll play anywhere, but the fact that it’s in Oakland, I can’t tell you how happy I am,” said Carr. “I am going to come in and work, compete and try and make the team better. I’m not a selfish guy, that’s for sure. I can’t wait to get coached by those coaches.”
The Raiders selected G Gabe Jackson in the 3rd round (81st overall). The 6’3”, 336-pound offensive lineman out of Mississippi State was a two-time All-American and four-time All-SEC selection. Jackson was credited with 20 touchdown blocks in his senior season. He was also the first offensive linemen to ever win the Conerly Trophy presented to the top collegiate player in the state of Mississippi.
“I feel like I fit in with their physical play,” said Jackson. “They like strong, physical offensive linemen.”
Jackson was drafted by the Silver and Black for a reason. “I think he could come in and play pretty early for anybody. He’s a powerful, physical young man,” said Clinkscales. “When you’re building a guard, physically, that’s what they look like. Once he gets on the field and competes with the other guys, then we’ll see how that turns out. I am pretty confident that Gabe will come in and compete and be tough and be exactly what we expect him to be.”
The Raiders had two picks in the 4th round. For their first pick (107th overall), they selected DT Justin Ellis, a 6’1”, 334-pounder out of Louisiana Tech. Ellis finished his college career with 102 tackles and caused two fumbles. The Monroe, La.-native impressed at both the East-West Shrine Game and the Senior Bowl.
The Raiders newest defensive tackle is looking forward to working with the veterans on Oakland’s defensive line. “I’m honored to be able to work with those guys,” said Ellis. “Justin Tuck is another guy that I think is a good defensive tackle, D-lineman, period. LaMarr Woodley, all those guys, I think they are great professional athletes. I’m happy to be a part of the Oakland Raiders.”
With their second pick of the 4th round (116th overall), the Raiders drafted CB Keith McGillout of Utah. The big converted-safety recorded 109 tackles, forced two fumbles, blocked two kicks and tallied 21 passes defensed, and added 12 interceptions.
During his senior season, McGill was named third-team All-American and All-Pac 12 first-team by The NFL Draft Report. McGill had a good feeling about the Raiders prior to being drafted. “I had a private visit there and they really liked my ability to press off the line and how I was able to move,” said McGill. “They said not a lot of other big guys can do what I was doing. I kind of got a good feel.”
The Raiders had to wait until the 7th round to select another player, but had three opportunities to do so in the final round.
With their first pick in the 7th (219th overall), the Raiders selected CB T.J. Carrie out of Ohio. Carrie is a native of Antioch, Calif., and ran track against CB Taiwan Jones. He also attended De La Salle, Maurice Jones-Drew’s alma mater. Carrie is also familiar with former Raiders safety Mike Mitchell, who was a senior when Carrie was a true freshman.
Carrie was named First-Team All-MAC as a punt returner as a senior and Third Team as a defensive back. During the draft process, the 6’, 206-pound corner felt good about his interaction with the Silver and Black. “I had a visit with them and then they actually came and worked me out, too,” said Carrie. “The visit was great, it was awesome. Loved the staff and loved the facility and the program. The whole defensive scheme that they laid out and the film, adjusted to the coaches and everything like that. The vibe felt good. Me and my agent talked a little bit about the situation, so we kind of had a hunch for something that was going down in this process. Excited to be here.”
The Raiders followed the Carrie selection with DE Shelby Harris with the 235th overall pick out of Illinois State. Harris did not play college football in 2013, but was First-Team All-MVFC in 2012.
He’s looking forward to his opportunity in Oakland. “Just to have my name called was a great feeling,” said Harris. “Just knowing that it’s official, and I’m part of Raider Nation. I couldn’t be more excited.”
The Raiders scouting department liked what they saw from Harris during his college career. “He was a football player,” said McKenzie. “He’s one of those guys who knows how to use his hands and he finds the football. Some guys just have it. The instinct is to locate the ball and get there, and he did a very good job of that.”
With their final pick of the 2014 NFL Draft (247th overall), the Raiders selected S Jonathan Dowling out of Western Kentucky. As a senior, Dowling totaled 67 tackles, three interceptions and six forced fumbles. Dowling is ready to contribute to the Raiders in any way he can. “As far as what I can do, whatever they ask me to do, I am going to do,” said Dowling. “Whatever they want, I plan on doing it. I am just ready to play, whether it’s at corner, safety, whatever it is, I am going to do it full speed.”
Dowling will have the opportunity to learn from veterans Charles Woodson and Tyvon Branch. “I’m ready to learn everything from ‘C-Wood,’” said Dowling “I always looked up to him. He’s done things the right way. He’s played as long as anybody should want to play. I’m just ready to get next to him and read him like an open book.”
The eight Raiders draft picks are eager and ready to don the Silver and Black. McKenzie was pleased with his 2014 draft. “From top to bottom, we felt like we got true Raiders,” said McKenzie. “Guys who love football, guys who really want to be physical, we feel like we got some great size, guys who can play with some power and we got some guys that can run. We got a big corner, [a] big offensive lineman, [a] big d-lineman. We wanted to get bigger. We wanted to be more physical, because we feel that’s the Raider way. We feel we did that this weekend.”