Oakland Raiders: 2012 Team Needs
February 15th, 2012 By DraftNasty Staff Reports
The Oakland Raiders were 7-4 in 2011 and heading into a stretch that many believed would ink the team the division title. After imploding down the stretch, HC Hue Jackson was let go and the team went out and hired Reggie McKenzie to be its new general manager. One of his first moves was to hire Denver Broncos' DC Dennis Allen. With just a few picks in the 2012 NFL Draft, the team is expected to be a major player in free agency.
Oakland Raiders 2012 Team Needs
Potential Free Agents: Kyle Boller, QB, Jason Campbell, QB, Michael Bush, RB
Rock Cartwright, RB, Marcel Reece, RB (Restricted), T.J. Houshmanzadeh, WR, Chaz Schilens, WR, Samson Satele, C, Khalif Barnes, OT, Stephon Heyer, OT
Positions of Need: RB, Combo OL
Carson Palmer adapted well to former offensive coordinator Al Saunders’ system. His offense featured a number of multiple tight-end sets and various vertical/double move concepts by perimeter receivers. He stretched defenses both vertically and horizontally in Palmer’s first season with the club. New OC Greg Knapp actually will have the benefit of mixing up his philosophy with Saunders, who was retained as a senior offensive assistant.
Terrelle Pryor impressed the former staff with his work habits, but it remains unclear whether the new staff believes he’s the QB of the future. After starting the year impressively, Jason Campbell’s future is uncertain. He may look elsewhere to compete with a team that needs a stop-gap measure while developing a young QB.
Michael Bush saved the offense last year when McFadden once again went down to injury. Even more impressive than Bush’s 977 yards rushing were his 37 receptions (11.3 ypc). Bush will likely get long looks in free agency. If so, then the team will have to find a viable rotation back for McFadden, who’s yet to get through a full season unscathed. Last year’s 4th round pick –Taiwan Jones- failed to distinguish himself as someone capable of a full-time role if required to start. He, too, has a long injury history and missed time.
It will be interesting to see if running backs like Tennessee’s Tauren Poole or Louisiana Tech’s Lennon Creer will still be around when the Raiders finally get on the clock. One important thing to consider should also be the possible re-signing of backup RB Rock Cartwright. Cartwright is one of the team's best special teams players.
The only question marks here center around scheme. Last year -while the team employed Kevin Boss and Brandon Myers as the primary tight ends- it was FB/H-Back Marcel Reese who seemed to find a comfort with Palmer when healthy. Along with rookie Richard Gordon, the pair filled a quasi 3rd TE/FB/H-Back-type role. The variables are: 1) if Reese leaves, can Gordon fill his role and 2) whether anyone will present the displacement (lines up at X-receiver vs. LBs, Ss) matchup problems Reese (27 receptions, 301 yds) creates. It is important to remember that Reese is a former collegiate receiver with limited blocking skills.
Rookie Denarius Moore (633 yards, 18.7 ypc, 5 TDs) dominated within the division and he looks like a keeper with his 4.3 speed and soft hands. He and Palmer looked like a fit for the foreseeable future. Derrius Heyward-Bey still drops passes, but he finally looks like he could at least get in the area code of his 7th overall selection (64 rec, 975 yards, 4 TDs). The third WR role was supposed to be Moore’s with a healthy Jacoby Ford in the mix. After an explosive rookie year, Ford couldn’t stay healthy (3 starts) and there are questions as to whether he can be a true starter. 4th year man Louis Murphy could get more reps, but he needs to stay available.
An argument could be made that the Raiders’ offensive MVP in 2011 was LT Jared Veldheer. He started all 16 games and rarely was overmatched.
Samson Setele has been OK as a starter, but if he were to leave in free agency, the team could possibly slide 2nd year OG Stefen Wisniewski over to his spot. He played center at Penn State, but excelled at LG for the Raiders as a rookie. Setele communicated efficiently a year ago, something that shouldn’t be discounted when evaluating his value on a line that gave up just 25 sacks. RG Cooper Carlisle’s status seems secure, but a viable youngster could add depth as he enters the back half of his career.
If either Setele or OT Barnes leaves in free agency, the Raiders likely will have to venture into free agency to find a legitimate starter. Players such as Buffalo OT Demetrius Bell and Green Bay OC Scott Wells could be options.
Late in the draft, the Raiders may make swing OL a priority. The ability to swing up and down the line as an extra backup would be key characteristics. Someone such as Iowa’s Markus Zusevics could be a legitimate consideration depending on who’s still on the board, but he probably would be a misfit inside.
Potential Free Agents
Carl Ihenacho, DL (signed-Future/Reserve contract), Travis Ivey, DL (Signed a reserve/ future contract on 1/3/2012), Jarvis Moss, DL, Trevor Scott, DL, Mason Brodine, DL (Exclusive Rights FA ), Desmond Bryant, DL (Restricted), Darryl Blackstock, LB, Quentin Groves, LB, Tyvon Branch, SS, Jerome Boyd, DB *Exclusive Rights FA*
Positions of Need: CB, LB
The Raiders weren’t about to part ways with Richard Seymour, who will offer first-year DC Jason Tarver potential line flexibility if he incorporates some of the 3-4 system he used as co-defensive coordinator while at Stanford. Seymour (6 sacks in 2011) had the second year of his extension guaranteed in one of new GM Reggie McKenzie’s first moves. It would certainly seem reasonable to expect to see both he and DL Tommy Kelly (7.5 sacks) aligned over the OTs at some point.
The rotation possibilities exist when you consider that along with the pair, the team also has 3rd year DE Lamarr Houston in the mix. He was solid in 2011. Restricted FA DT Desmond Bryant would also seem to be an ideal fit as a DE in a 30-front scheme and his youth (26 yrs old) indicates he may just be hitting his stride. Scott may not return.
All that would then be needed is a legitimate 0-technique (NG) capable of plugging the middle. It remains to be seen which direction the team will head towards for 2012, but offseason mini-camps may provide some clues.
LB Quentin Groves could also fit as an OLB in a 30-front scheme. But he may not return if the team decides his career productivity (2.5 sacks in 4 years) is a sign of things to come. Matt Shaughnessy has a definite 30 front OLB-look, despite starting just three games a year ago. It would seem that all the team would have to do is decide whether these players are a fit with returning starter Kamerion Wimbley (42.5 career sacks), although he didn’t stand out in Cleveland in this capacity after a flashy rookie season.
Rolando McClain was inconsistent and endured off the field problems. His size and length would probably fit best in the 30-front scheme, where the edges of the defense are set. He could then stack-and-shed inside. 4th year man Aaron Curry had his moments, but still has yet to justify his draft position in 2009. While he would fit as a Sam LB in an under front, it would be tough to imagine him as a full-time 3-4 OLB.
How long will collegiate DEs with OLB potential -such as Houston’s Sammy Brown and Troy’s Jonathan Massaquoi- stay on the draft board?
Tyvon Branch has developed every season and he concluded 2011 as the team’s leading tackler. His collegiate cornerback experience and tremendous speed help him in coverage. But he’s proven to be a solid wrap tacker in open field situations. The team probably won’t franchise him, so it could be a chore to get him back in the mix. Matt Giordano played well for 8 starts in Michael Huff’s absence, but it is imperative that Huff stays in the lineup. A third safety could be considered.
At cornerback, Stanford Routt’s cap number and inconsistency forced a release. As he’s out getting courted by various suitors, it’s unclear as to the Raiders’ current strategy at the position. Regardless, both speedy 2nd year CBs- Chimdi Chekwa and Demarcus Van Dyke- proved they are currently best on special teams. They were not ready for full-time duty.
With a lack of picks in the draft, the overwhelming consensus is that the team will most likely enter into the free agent frenzy at CB. Players such as New Orleans’ Tracy Porter, Kansas City’s Brandon Carr (divisional experience) and Atlanta’s Brent Grimes could all get serious consideration.
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