There is a great mystery that surrounds much of this rebuilt Raiders team. When 2/3 of the team is new, that will happen. It is a team of made up mostly of young hopefuls and veteran castoffs. So, where will the strength of this team come from?
Is it on offense?
At running back there is Darren McFadden who always seems poised to show his vast potential and Pro Bowl fullback Marcel Reece being a mismatch for opposing defenses. They could prove to be one of the best backfield duos in the NFL this season. The switch back to the power blocking scheme will improve things greatly as well.
Last season Carson Palmer put up over 4000 yards passing in a little over 14 games in this offense even with the wide receivers having a great many drops. Matt Flynn put up record numbers in Green Bay the last game he played in this style of offense. With young receivers like Rod Streater and Denarius Moore having another season under their belts, could the passing offense take another step forward? Enough to eclipse last season's numbers? Oh, and toss in some wrinkles with Terrelle Pryor and it could get pretty interesting.
What about the defense?
The linebacker position for this team is the deepest it has been in years. Replacing Rolando McClain with Nick Roach is the biggest difference. Every one of the top five linebackers on this team were starters at the end of last season (third round pick, Sio Moore, was in college). What has long been a big weakness for the Raiders could step up and prove to be a big strength.
A ragtag bunch to start last season which quickly became an injured patchwork group, was the secondary. Only Tyvon Branch returns to start at strong safety. He anchors this new group made up of former starters Tracy Porter and Mike Jenkins and rookie first round pick DJ Hayden. Also returning as slot corner is Joselio Hanson, talented but oft-injured Phillip Adams and former fourth round pick, Chimdi Chekwa, who has been mentioned by Dennis Allen as being much improved.
The defensive line was terrible most of last year. That area became a strength in the final four games of the season and two of the staples of that resurgence - Andre Carter and Lamarr Houston - are still here. Desmond Bryant was a big part of that as well and he is gone but Vance Walker had a very similar season as Bryant last year. Both started the last half of the season but Bryant had one more sack. Pat Sims has never been a full time starter but he is known as a guy who can clog up the middle. Most fans will use the statement "it can't be worse than last year" but does that mean it will be a great strength? We'll see.
There has been a heavy emphasis on special teams this off-season. Though the team lost Shane Lechler as a free agent, they have improved in every other aspect. They replaced Steve Hoffman with 2-time ST coordinator of the year, Bobby April. They signed former All Pro return man, Josh Cribbs, and brought in Chris Kluwe as the heir apparent to Lechler and compete with Marquette King. Just to prove their commitment to special teams, they extended the contracts of Sebastian Janikowski and long snapper, Jon Condo. If Jacoby Ford can get/stay healthy, they will field the only two return men to have three return TD's in one season in the past five years. Could be one of the best special teams in the NFL a season after it being a serious liability.
So, armed with this information, where do you think the Raiders' strength will lie this season?