This year, like every year, as a Raider fan I start to buy into all the hype of rebuilding/reloading and I start to believe in the team, only to be let down. It seems that Raider bloggers bring up all the positives the team has done for the off season (which I appreciate, Levi and Marcus I have been following you for years from TFDS) but it always seems to build such a false hope, to be let down by Week 3. So, this year I have decided to take a much more grounded/realist approach. Every other writer and analyst seems to be writing us off, but I don't want to entirely buy into that either. I spent the off season, like many of you, watching game tape and putting it all together in my head. In my conclusion, success in 2013 will be based on injuries to our game changers.
With not too many rookies from last season, maturing of players won't play a huge factor from last year. Only for players like Denarius who fell into a sophomore slump and current rookies transitioning to the speed of the NFL. For the most part in the offseason, we picked up solid role players and didn't pick up too many game changers. We can only pray that the stars already on the team can stay healthy and elevate us to that level.
Let's start with offense, the obvious two being McFadden and Ford.. McFadden and Ford both have the uncanny ability to turn a game around. If you need proof, just watch the Chiefs game from Ford's rookie season, or any of McFadden's healthy games from a couple years ago. The problem is both have a problem with staying on the field. McFadden seems to be made of glass but hopefully with Murray and Jennings the workload will be split, keeping more tread on the tires. I know a lot of people want to see a trade but honestly McFadden for 13 games is better than a 3rd round pick like Bergstrom. He is a threat that all teams have to account for, anytime he is on the field because he can take it to the house on any run. Going back to power-blocking, should only help him return to form. Ford is another often linked to injury, I don't believe he is injury prone like everyone else seems to be promoting. He played injured for most of 2011 and then had to get surgery on the same injury,, and that kept him out all of 2012. If he can stay on the field, we have a poor-mans Wes Welker that can sneak in an occasional TD on a reverse or kick return. Also has the wheels to stretch the field and make a Nickel Corner try and keep up. Keeping them on the field is key though.
QB in my opinion is completely up in the air. I am not in anyone's camp. The way I see it, Pryor has unlimited upside but none of that matters if he can't find an ounce of accuracy. If he could figure that out and that's a big IF, he could be an X-Factor. Flynn is a little bit less boom or Bust, but it will still depend which Flynn shows up, the one that set records in Green Bay or the one that lost out to a rookie and looked sub-par, in preseason, for Seattle. Wilson is the ultimate wildcard. I have watched game tape on him and still can't decide how good or bad he will be in the future. I see it as a good and bad thing that he is compared to Brett Favre however. Whoever wins out I will be excited for I just hope it's everyone's full potential that is beaten, so we can compete.
Then we have the players the game changers who need to regain form. Denarius Moore has highlight talent but seems to be hit or miss, if he can find his stride, all the sudden our offense is looking like a powerhouse. Reece played great last year but wasn't utilized properly and needs to get his X-Factor (his nickname) back and hopefully Olsen can do it right. Our offensive line is solid and can only get better as Watson and our guards develop.
Now comes a bit of a worry, defense is filled with holes and role players. I do believe Roach can be a game changer. He is smart enough and athletic enough. Sio Moore has the potential as well, but it will be based on how he transitions to the NFL. He was projected as a 5th or 6th rounder until he impressed in East/ West, Senior Bowl and work outs. Hopefully Burris keeps progressing and avoids a sophomore slump. I think Maiava is strictly a role player and a ST standout, after watching his film I am lost on why everyone is so high on him and thinks he is going to win a starting job. If he does it is for lack of a better option because he will be a weak point on our defense.
Besides Houston our whole D-Line is role or hole players. I am just hoping they can command enough presence so that Houston and our linebackers don't get overwhelmed. McGee and Bass are rookies and can't be expected for much. Carter and Woodson used to be play makers but both are really old and have takin more of contributing, leadership roles. The leaves us with our young,, injury question mark CB's. Hayden looks to be the real deal hopefully he can find his form/courage after a year away from football. Porter has playmaker potential but is oft injured. Beyond that are boom or bust players Adams and Jenkins. We seems to have found a solid role player in Hanson at the Nickel spot however. Which leaves us with probably our most solid playmaker Branch hopefully with an improved D he can return to 2011 form.
All in all I see the potential but with a lack of star talent we will have to rely on the few we have and pray to the football gods that the injury bug skips over us on the way to Denver. If we can stay healthy we have a fighting shot. However if the injuries start to pile up expect to be another bottom feeder year. Until we fix our D-Line (hopefully with a free agent or two and a solid draft next year) I don't see us making the playoffs.
Prediction: (I won't even venture to guess this season, it's got too many variables) Playoffs for the 2014 season