At some point in the 2014 season, key players for the Oakland Raiders will endure a personal test of mental and physical stress. Which ones have the hardest?
Matt Schaub – Test: Seattle Seahawks defense
The best quarterbacks have a short-term memory when it comes to tough losses but Matt Schaub certainly remembers the last time he saw the Seattle Seahawks defense. Despite taking a 20-3 lead in the game and playing well in the first half, the eventual world champions used a momentous interception touchdown to rally for a stunning 23-20 win. Some might see that game as the one that broke Schaub’s hold on the starting job in Houston and eventually landed him with the Oakland Raiders. If he is to exorcise any demons, then Schaub needs to come back strong when he sees the Seahawks again this season.
Khalil Mack – Test: D.J. Fluker
The versatility of rookie linebacker Khalil Mack almost certainly means the Raiders coaching staff will move him around as a pass rusher. However, if the game tape shows anything it is that he’s gifted at rush from the left against the right offensive tackle. So if he’s going to show everybody his big boy pants are on, he’ll have to prove he can handle big blockers. San Diego Chargers right tackle D.J. Fluker is the perfect test. Mack gives up two inches and 90 lbs in that matchup. Safe it say it won’t be easy.
D.J. Hayden – Test: Michael Floyd
Veteran corner Carlos Rogers will likely the draw the best receivers of every opposing offense the Oakland Raiders face in 2014. That means second-year man D.J. Hayden could be tasked with cover the #2 guys. The most supreme test he’s likely to face is rising Arizona Cardinals star Michael Floyd who emerged alongside Larry Fitzgerald to post over 1,000 yards and five touchdowns. Hayden can’t afford a letdown in that October tilt, otherwise doubts will begin to surface about his viability at the pro level.
Donald Penn – Test: Von Miller
There is nothing wrong with saying the Raiders plan to run the ball a lot this season. Donald Penn believes that is what they can do best. However, the team hired him because they feel when required he can drop back to protect his quarterback, something that became inconsistent for him in Tampa Bay. He better not let that happen in the AFC West because at some point he’s going to face Denver Broncos star pass rusher Von Miller who will quickly dispel any doubts about whether Penn is worthy of the starting left tackle job.