Oakland Raiders started a new era in 2013 with the hiring of head coach Dennis Allen. The offense lacked a franchise quarterback and had plenty of up and down moments. Several injuries and inconsistent play by starters also contributed to the team not making it to the post season. The running game should get a boost with the signing of Maurice Jones-Drew. He and Darren McFadden should make for a nice one-two punch. The wide receiver unit needs someone to step up and take the reins as the primary go to guy. Denarius Moore and Rod Streater should be early on favorites to win that position. James Jones was signed in free agency from Green Bay and is in the mix as well.
Defensively the Raiders overhauled their team for 2014 and signed plenty of veterans through free agency. Justin Tuck, LaMarr Woodley, and Antonio Smith will give the defensive front an entirely different look. Nick Roach is solid at middle linebacker and led the team with 112 tackles in 2013. "Mr. Versatile" Charles Woodson roams the back end at free safety and has a knack for making big plays. The Raiders could challenge for a playoff spot if Matt Schaub can regain his confidence, someone emerges as the go to receiver, Maurice Jones-Drew and Darren McFadden can thrive together, and the defense gels together quickly with all of the new faces.
Khalil Mack - linebacker
Khalil Mack is an impressive specimen with his speed/power combination. Mack was selected by Oakland as their 2014 NFL Draft first round pick. He played the hybrid linebacker role in college where he was used in a 3-4 defensive scheme to pressure the quarterback. He has the athleticism to play with his hands down as a defensive end or standing up as a outside linebacker. Mack plays fast with energy and can close on the ball carrier quickly. Has a little trouble covering out in space, but uses his foot quickness well to make up for mistakes. Mack will help improve Oakland's pass rush day one.
Matt Schaub - quarterback
Matt Schaub gets another chance to prove he is a capable starting quarterback. He comes over from the Houston Texans where he had his worst season in 2013. He seemed to lose his confidence and the offense struggled. Maybe a change of scenery will help get him back on track. He has been a 4,000 yard passer several times in his career and shown he can win big games with his arm. Schaub needs to improve on protecting the ball and make better decisions. He could put himself in the conversation for Comeback Player of the Year by the end of the season if he does.
Tarrell Brown - cornerback
Tarrell Brown gives the Raiders a solid veteran corner who is use to winning. Brown may lack in size, but not in toughness and plays with confidence. He rarely gives up big pass plays. Brown can cover the slot and the boundaries with very good instincts. He has solid anticipation that allows him to make plays on the ball.
Justin Tuck - defensive end
Justin Tuck brings veteran leadership and two Super Bowl rings to the Oakland Raiders. Tuck is over the age of 30, but still capable of being very disruptive along the defensive line. He had 11 sacks in 2013 with the New York Giants. He is use to playing with a deep depth chart of talented pass rushers back in New York and will have the same in Oakland. Tuck and LaMarr Woodley should be great mentors for rookie Khalil Mack.