Few teams had a more productive NFL draft than the Oakland Raiders. However, their true success in 2014 won’t come through their new-look defense. It won’t come through the running game either. As so often happens it rest at the quarterback position and the result of the pending battle between veteran Matt Schaub and rookie Derek Carr.
Khalil Mack and defense will only keep games close
Of the eight draft picks the Oakland Raiders made in 2014, six of them were on the defensive side of the ball. That shouldn’t be a big surprise since the team is run by head coach Dennis Allen. There is excitement surrounding rookie linebacker Khalil Mack, tabbed by several draft experts as the best player in the class, even more so than Jadeveon Clowney. The reason being that Mack, aside from his pass rush skills is also an able tackler in space and very good in coverage. Together with a strong influx of veteran talents like Justin Tuck and LaMarr Woodley the Raiders have a chance to field a strong defense in 2014. If that trend holds up it will certainly make them more relevant in the AFC West chase, but it won’t win them many games.
James Jones and Gabe Jackson additions should keep QB battle clean
That division is predicated on scoring points what with Peyton Manning and the Broncos, Philip Rivers and the Chargers and Andy Reid’s Chiefs. Beating such teams will require good defense, sure, but also productive offense. The Raiders went into the off-season knowing they can’t field an effective quarterback until the talent around them was upgraded. Additions like free agent receiver James Jones and rookie guard Gabe Jackson have a chance to open things up on the ground and through the air. If anything else, they should help make the quarterback battle as clean as possible.
Schaub must limit mistakes while Carr must learn to handle pressure
Most Oakland Raiders fans expect Matt Schaub to get first crack at the starting job. It’s reasonable thinking. He’s a two-time Pro Bowler with playoff experience. Perhaps last season was more of an anomaly than a trend. Still, it’s hard to forget a quarterback throwing 14 interceptions to just 10 touchdowns and four of those interceptions being a pick six. His number one job, aside from meshing with the talent around him is finding a way to limit his mistakes and thereby keeping his confidence up. At the same time he should know the team invested a second round pick in Derek Carr for a reason. The Fresno State star was arguably the most talent quarterback in the draft and he is most definitely the future of the team. How soon he sees the field depends on Schaub but also on his development. Carr can throw the football anywhere on the field. His issues lay in learning a pro style attack but more importantly learning how to handle pressure. During his time with the Bulldogs he rarely experienced defenders in his face, so when he did like in the USC game it really affected his play. If he can show the coaches improvement in that area, he has the skill set and the leadership to supplant Schaub.