OAKLAND — While it may be a little early to set things in stone on who makes the Raiders roster in 2015, the starters should not be as difficult to figure out at most positions. So we will take a look at who the starters will be and their impact as well as rub the THF crystal ball to see the likely candidates in making the team as either future stars or insurance policies.
This upcoming year has plenty of Raiders fans excited about the potential. While many in the mainstream media feel that the Raiders are primed for another bottom of the barrel season, we here in the Bay Area tend to disagree.
Oakland has gotten stronger in the last two years at just about every single position. All the way from the coaching staff, the players, and all the way on down to the waterboys, the Raiders feel like they are better. And they have reason to.
Below, we will take a look at the starters and the potential they are bringing in to the 2015 Season.
QB1: DEREK CARR – Carr is potentially the best quarterback this franchise has seen since Rich Gannon led them to a Superbowl appearance in 2002. The characteristics of Derek Carr’s game are leading a lot of the pundits to draw comparison’s to that of a young Brett Favre. While each player is different, Carr slings the ball in a no-fear-let-loose kind of way.
In Carr’s rookie season, he did not have the most lethal arsenal at receiver to blow up and prove to the league that he was going to be on an Andrew Luck type of level. Because he turned the ball over frequently (as most rookies will) many wouldn’t really foresee him in that type of light. However, statistically, Carr did exceptional with the context of what weapons he had at his disposal.
Carr and the Raiders finished with a 3-13 record. But the young quarterback threw 21 touchdowns and 12 interceptions; which isn’t terrible all things considered. He had a 58.1% completion rate and managed 3,270 yards by air.
Look for Carr to step his game up from here as he will have quality receivers to throw to now such as veteran, Michael Crabtree and rookie, Amari Cooper to target.
His back ups: QB2 – Christian Ponder, QB3 – Matt McGloin
RB1: LATAVIUS MURRAY – Murray should get the nod to be the bell cow in Oakland as he had a fantastic season last year even though he was a back up. He played in 15 games and only started in 3. However, he was averaging 5.2 yards per carry and 8.4 yards per reception. His most memorable moment last season came against the Kansas City Chiefs (Click Here) when he took the ball all the way from the Raiders 10-yard line on a 90-yard run for the score.
Should Murray be able to stay healthy for an entire season, he should very well be able to finish with over 1,000 yards on the ground and 400 yards receiving with 10+ touchdowns. The only reason he would not potentially is due to the offseason acquisition of former Browns and Colts running back, Trent Richardson. Assuming Richardson performs rejuvenated as he claims he is, the possibility of them splitting the backfield is not out of the realm of possibility.
All signs point to Murray being the starter but anything is possible and the Raiders seem to be decent at this position.
His back ups: RB2 – Trent Richardson, RB3 – George Atkinson, RB4 – Roy Helu
FB1: MARCEL REECE – This could potentially be one of the more underrated players in the entire NFL. Reece can play sort of in an H-back role as his skill set has a wide range of power blocking nd receiving out of the backfield. In certain situations, he can be used as a second tight end in lining up in next to a tackle. Look for Jack Del Rio to use this fullback in many different ways as an X-factor when things get dull on offense.
WR1: AMARI COOPER – Let’s face the facts here… the Raiders did not select Cooper to play second fiddle to anybody. Heading in as a rookie he will be looked upon to make big plays and be a leading receiver in the NFL. While the Raiders did bring on former Forty-Niner, Michael Crabtree, they expect big things from their number one draft pick. That might be stating the obvious, but the expectations are going to be for Amari to perform like a veteran straight out of the gate.
It’s been said that Derek Carr and Amari Cooper are already working on their chemistry together and that it is going extremely well. Once training camp hits, the Raiders will have a better gauging on just what they are getting in terms of the chemistry between the two.
His back ups: WR3 – Kenbrell Thompkins, WR4 – Rod Streater
WR2: MICHAEL CRABTREE – While Michael Crabtree had what some would consider a down year, it was not completely his fault as the 49ers organization was in turmoil. His production was at an all-time low considering that he played the entire year. The Raiders hope to get a little bit more out of the veteran than what he put out on the field last year. They shouldn’t have an issue with that considering that Derek Carr will be working with a healthy and stout offensive line and other vital weapons for him to utilize. The ball should be spread around quite a bit and this will free Crabtree up to make important plays when they count for this young and growing squad.
His back ups: WR5 – Seth Roberts, WR6 – Andre Holmes
TE1: MYCHAL RIVERA – Mychal Rivera is not going to be the tight end that is lighting up fantasy league across the nation but his production has been trending up since his rookie year in 2013. The Raiders main tight end saw 99 passes his way and caught 58 of those. He finished the year with over 500 yards and 4 touchdowns replicating what he had the season before. Much like the receivers on the list, Rivera should benefit from the many weapons this team will have. His production should spike by about 20%… look for Rivera to finish with closer to 700 yards with 6 touchdown receptions this season if he stays healthy for an entire year.
His back up: TE2 – Clive Walford
LT1: DONALD PENN – While Donald Penn may not have much left in the tank, he is still one of the most talented linemen in all of football. His football IQ is way up. Penn will hold this starting position for another year most likely until Menelik Watson is ready to go full time. Penn isn’t what he once was when he was dominating the scene in Tampa but he will give Carr what he needs in time to find the open guy.
His back up: LT2 – Menelik Watson
LG1: GABE JACKSON – Many have speculated (and not just in Raiders land) that Gabe Jackson could wind up being the best guard in the entire NFL this season. That is riding on a lot but if he performs even near that, the Raiders will be cashing in. If you have watched even 1-minute of Jackson playing, it’s tough to dissect where he might have problems. That is a great situation for either Bill Musgrave or Mike Tice to have.
His back up: LG2 – Tony Bergstrom
C: RODNEY HUDSON – Rodney Hudson has not quite lived up to Pro Bowl status like the Chiefs had hoped when they drafted him in 2011. However, he was very solid at the center position. With great coaches at his disposal, Hudson could see a jump in production. There’s always something that seems to motivate a player more when they join a team that is seemingly on the rise like the Raiders currently are. The Raiders potentially landed themselves a steal for the quarterback of their offensive line with Hudson here.
His back up: C2 – Lamar Mady
RG1: KHALIF BARNES – Barnes may not be the best pass blocking guard in all of football but at his time playing right tackle for the Raiders proved to be a force in the run game. He eats up a lot of space though so that could bode well against blitzing linebackers and things of that nature to assist in the pass game.
His back up: RG2 – Jon Feliciano
RT1: AUSTIN HOWARD – Howard signed with the Raiders in 2014 and has been a stalwart at right tackle. While he doesn’t possess the skill set of his counterpart on the other side (Penn), Howard can knock some pass rushers around. Under Mike Tice, Howard should gain wisdom and technique helping his game reach the next level. If the Raiders offensive line gels the way it seems that it should, Howard will be a crucial piece to making that happen and keeping Carr upright.
His back up: RT2 – Menelik Watson
On paper, this offense look pretty scary. It will be up to the coaches to get the most out of them. Look for the Raiders to be a dark horse in the AFC this year and quite potentially punch a ticket to the dance in early January of 2016 for their chance to compete to get to Superbowl 50.
Tomorrow I will provide Part 2 of this preview in looking at the Defense. Following that, I’ll finish it up by looking at the Raiders Special Teams in Part 3. Tweet any questions or comments to @TheHomeTownFan or Hit us on Facebook. The comments section is below.