OAKLAND RAIDERS / 2013 TEAM NEEDS
In its first year under Greg Knapp, the Raiders’ offense struggled, especially on the ground. Oakland fired Knapp and hired Greg Olson, who will run a downhill, power-running scheme to help get more production from RB Darren McFadden. QB Carson Palmer has some young, talented receivers, but he has struggled since coming to Oakland. The O-line could have new faces, too.
TOP 3 OFFENSIVE NEEDS
OL — It was a rough year for the Raiders’ O-line under Knapp, and the hope is a new offense will get the most out of this group. There could be a couple of holes to fill, with OLG Cooper Carlisle and ORT Khalif Barnes entering free agency. ORG Mike Brisiel is undergoing surgery this offseason, and should be ready for minicamp, making depth at guard a focus.
RB — It appears that McFadden will return for 2013, after another injury-plagued season. Taiwan Jones wasn’t ready to fill his shoes, and Mike Goodson will be a free agent. FB Marcel Reece came through in place of McFadden, but depth behind the Raiders’ top playmaker is key, especially considering he has never played in more than 13 games in a season.
WR — There is young talent here, starting with Darrius Heyward-Bey, Denarius Moore, Juron Criner and Rod Streater. This need is certainly low on the priority list, but Oakland should always be looking to add dynamic pass catchers. Another thing to consider: Heyward-Bey is entering the final year of his rookie contract and is due over $7.7 million.
The Raiders’ 4-3 defense is supposed to be predicated on pressure from the front four, but they didn’t get a whole lot of that last season. There are plenty of holes to fill, mainly up front on the D-line and in the secondary at cornerback. Rolando McClain’s situation brings up uncertainty at middle linebacker, as well. The Raiders could use an infusion of young talent on this side of the football.
TOP 3 DEFENSIVE NEEDS
DT — Oakland’s plethora of needs on defense begins up front. Richard Seymour is entering free agency, and Tommy Kelly, 32, is due a hefty salary of $6.5 million in 2013. Even if Seymour and Kelly aren’t wearing different uniforms next season, the Raiders need more production from the middle of the D-line. Seymour and Kelly combined for only four sacks and nine tackles for loss last season.
CB — This position was a nightmare for the Raiders. They parted ways with Ron Bartell, and Shawntae Spencer will be a free agent. Michael Huff had his struggles at corner, and there are no long-term answers at the position. Oakland could draft a corner who can start Day One, and it shouldn’t be hard to find an upgrade.
MLB — This position is a big question mark, centered on former first-rounder McClain and his future with the club. Reggie McKenzie was non-committal, but McClain, who was suspended by the team this past season and has been in trouble off the field, is no certainty to be a Raider in 2013. MLB Omar Gaither is entering free agency, as well, making depth an issue.
2012 DRAFT REWIND
3rd round (95): OG Tony Bergstrom / Utah (GP/GS: 9/1)
Skinny: Concerning that he did not work his way into starting lineup.
4th round (129): SLB Miles Burris / San Diego State (GP/GS: 16/15)
Skinny: A bright spot that could get look at MLB in offseason.
5th round (158): DE Jack Crawford / Penn State (GP/GS: 4/0)
Skinny: Project could still develop into contributing backup.
5th round (168): WR Juron Criner / Arizona (GP/GS: 12/0)
Skinny: Could be buried on depth chart again next season.
6th round (189): DT Christo Bilukidi / Georgia State (GP/GS: 13/0)
Skinny: Can factor in rotation as run-stuffing specialist.
7th round (230): OLB Nate Stupar / Penn State (GP/GS: 0/0)
Skinny: Spent time on practice squad with Eagles and 49ers.
SUMMARY: Trades by his predecessor handcuffed GM Reggie McKenzie, and Burris is the only true hit thus far.