After another disappointing season in 2013, the Oakland Raiders are hoping some of the core players start to step up their game in 2014. With more than $60 million in cap space and a full complement of draft picks, the Silver and Black are all but ensured of another tumultuous off-season. Last Season saw as many as 10 new starters on defense. This season the whole team may see more turnover as the organization tries to increase the overall talent level. Lets examine three players who need to take their game to the next level:
1. Rod Streater, WR
Streater entered the league as an undrafted free agent out of Temple in 2012. In the previous two seasons, Streater has shown that he is an NFL level talent. He followed a decent rookie campaign in which he had 39 catches for 584 yards, with a 2013 season in which he compiled 60 receptions and 888 yards. At his current pace, Streater should reach the 1,000-yard mark easily next season.
Known in locker room as a hard worker and a good character guy, Streater figures to terrorize defenses for years to come. An honor roll student in the classroom and an athletic freak on the gridiron, the former Temple Owl has all the measurables to succeed in Oakland.
Streater shows extremely good hands and is an asset in run blocking, but his sub 4.4 40-time means he is a home run hitter on any given play. Perhaps the scariest part is that he played well with unreliable signal callers under center.
2. Tyvon Branch, S
With Darren McFadden off the books and before the Raiders sign any big free agents, the highest paid player on the roster is strong safety Tyvon Branch. After a season that saw him being placed on injured reserve, Branch figures to come back strong. The leg injury against the Jacksonville Jaguars that ended his season appeared to be minor at the time, but it shut him down at every comeback attempt.
Branch is a prototypical modern day safety that can cover the seams and be an enforcer in the tackle box. His versatility was greatly missed in the secondary where backup Brandian Ross couldn’t hold his own. The envisioned pair of Charles Woodson and Branch at safety lasted less than two games. A rejuvenated and hungry Branch would be a great help to the ailing Raider secondary.
3. D.J. Hayden, CB
Hayden had about as horrible a 12-month span as you could as a football player. After suffering what could have been a fatal accident in practice in college, the former Houston product finished his first NFL season on injured reserve. After a game against the Philadelphia Eagles in which he gave up three touchdowns, Hayden went down for the season with a Sports Hernia.
In my opinion, Hayden will be a very good player in the pros even though many fans have already classified him as a bust. I love the tenacity with which he plays and I believe the rest of his game will eventually develop, but he does have to win over a lot of fans’ respect. In the span of next season, I see him growing close to the potential scouts forecast before the last draft.
For the Silver and Black to finally turn the corner, every player on the roster will have to play their part. It is vital that the aforementioned three players live up to their potential. 2014 may be another losing season for the Raiders, but the light is finally visible at the end of the tunnel.
Tags: Oakland Raiders