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Five Raiders who need to step up in 2015

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If the Raiders hope to improve from their 3-win 2014 season, there are a few players who will need to step up. Here are the five players whose ability to shoulder the load will be key to the team's success in 2015.

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1. Derek Carr

Let's put perceived potential aside for a moment. Derek Carr did not tear it up last season. He finished 2014 as one of the worst rated starting quarterbacks in the NFL last season. Those who wish to give him the benefit of the doubt - he IS a rookie, after all - will say he didn't get a lot of help. The Raiders' receiving corps was mediocre, the run game was nearly non-existent, and the play calling left a lot to be desired. Even still, Carr made plenty of mistakes which can't simply be written off or blamed on his teammates and coaches. First and foremost is his pocket presence -- mostly fleeing a clean pocket or getting rid of the ball too quickly -- but his tendency to throw the back shoulder pass became predictable as well. He must take the next step in his development in his second season if the Raiders are to take the next step forward as well.

2. D.J. Hayden

The new regime's first first round pick hasn't been healthy for more than a half season. He showed some great potential last season when he came off the PUP list. Now he needs to put it all together. That means turning those pass breakups into interceptions and staying healthy throughout training camp and the season. The Raiders are looking to him to be their number one corner this season in a secondary full of young corners.

3. Latavius Murray

He burst onto the scene last year and the Raiders rode him to their first win of the season after starting 0-10 with Darren McFadden gaining just over three yards per carry. This offseason the Raiders didn't do a whole lot in the way of trying to upgrade the position, which could mean they believe Murray can be the guy. As insurance, they took a chance on Trent Richardson and signed Roy Helu Jr. But if Murray can't step up and be the workhorse the Raiders hope he can be, they may be right where they were last year, struggling to establish a ground game.

4. Austin Howard

The experiment of signing this former Jets right tackle to play guard did not work out too well, so the team is moving him back to right tackle to try and get the most out of him. Also playing into this decision was the poor play of former round two pick Menelik Watson who will now back up Howard at that spot. Howard was known for being a solid run blocker at tackle and a mediocre pass blocker. That's why Tony Sparano moved him to guard. If Howard can't improve his pass blocking at right tackle, Carr is going to get twitchy again and the offense will suffer because of it.

5. Jon Feliciano

Few positions are more in need of a starter than right guard. Right now it's Khalif Barnes who is lining up there, but best case scenario Feliciano can win that job. The team drafted him in the fourth round with those hopes. Barnes is what you might call a jack of all trades, master of none. Feliciano's ability to step up and take the right guard spot early, could go a long way to helping solidify the Raiders offensive line. The team chose Gabe Jackson in the third round and he nailed down the left guard spot. If they can do it again, that would be huge. If not, the right side of the Raiders line could end up just as shaky as it was last season.