It’s a team effort to win in the NFL. The Oakland Raiders know this, but there still has to be a leader in every stat category. Who will be for them?
Passing: Matt Schaub
Derek Carr is a very real threat to veteran Matt Schaub, but the Raiders have remained insistent that they fully intend to give the 32-year old his shot and at least for the time being have stuck to it. So barring an injury he should lead the team in passing. Don’t expect a 4,000-yard breakout though. A modest but decent 3,800 yards is more likely.
Rushing: Darren McFadden
It’s impossible to expect a full season out of Darren McFadden. The guy simply can’t stay healthy for any length of time. However, that doesn’t mean he can’t play the majority of the games, and when he is able to play he can be quite productive. The Oakland Raiders should have an improved offensive line. If they can open some holes for him, McFadden can turn them into big plays. Around 1,100 yards rushing and 250 receiving are fair projections.
Receiving: Rod Streater
The key to picking a winner in this category is understanding the quarterback. From his days in Houston, Matt Schaub showed a great affinity for big receivers, namely All-Pro Andre Johnson. It stands to reason that preference will carry over to Oakland, which is why the 6’3″ Rod Streater should be the favorite. He led the team in receiving last season and should have more help from the addition of veteran James Jones. His third year may be the time for Streater to breach the 1,000-yard mark.
Tackles: Nick Roach
As a whole the Oakland Raiders defense wasn’t very good in 2013, but that overshadowed how remarkably solid a year middle linebacker Nick Roach had. He led the team with 112 tackles in addition to gaining 5.5 sacks and forcing four fumbles. At age 29 he is in his prime and should have more help from an improved defensive line. Another 100-tackle season is likely, though he will have healthy competition from emerging second-year man Sio Moore.
Sacks: Khalil Mack
One would think that the additions of Justin Tuck and LaMarr Woodley would make them instant favorite as team sack leaders, but both aren’t capable of what Khalil Mack is. The rookie 1st round pick is a highly versatile player. He can rush from a multitude of angles both as a blitzer and as a straight rusher off the edge. If he plays up to his talent, opponents will learn about him real fast. Ten sacks is not out of the question.
Interceptions: Tarell Brown
Forcing turnovers was a real problem for the Oakland Raiders last season, which is why they invested so heavily on defense in free agency and the draft. Intercepting more passes is a big goal and many would hope second-year man D.J. Hayden takes the next step. However, they may find free agent Tarell Brown to be their leading interceptor by season’s end. He’s experienced, solid in coverage and can get his hands on the ball when the pass rush is up to par. If he gets that, four to five interceptions will be the range if he starts the full season.