A number of key players are hovering between rising and falling for the Oakland Raiders in 2014. Which ones will sink and which will swim?
Swim: Derek Carr – QB
The coaches are all convinced that Matt Schaub is exactly the kind of veteran quarterback the Oakland Raiders need to finally break the playoff drought. They could very well be right. However, Derek Carr could mess everything up. The rookie quarterback has that “it” factor about him. He’s got the arm and the talent but more importantly he’s mature and exudes confidence. He might not be ready yet, but at some point in 2013 the Fresno State product is going to trot Schaub to the bench. Mark it down.
Sink: Maurice Jones-Drew – RB
For a space of time there probably wasn’t a better running back in pro football than Maurice Jones-Drew. His three-straight Pro Bowls are clear evidence of that. Yet NFL active NFL players aren’t saluted for past deeds. Jones-Drew hasn’t looked like the same player he was before suffering a serious foot injury while still in Jacksonville. His burst and ability to cut are drastically reduced. Oakland is hoping he has enough left to lift the ground game to respectability in 2014. They better have a backup plan.
Swim: Khalil Mack – OLB
Part of being successful in the NFL is being that guy who can do more than one thing well. Experts call it “versatility.” That is a big reason why the Oakland Raiders drafted linebacker Khalil Mack. It’s also a big reason why he’ll swim for them in 2014. Mack is a tremendous athlete with first rate instincts. He knows how to rush the quarterback from a variety of angles, can track down and tackle ball carriers and also drop into coverage to pick off passes. When offenses have trouble game planning for a player, he will be good.
Sink: Charles Woodson – FS
His induction to the Hall of Fame is all but secured and he was quite effective in an otherwise bad defense in 2013. Unfortunately, Charles Woodson is nearing the end of his tether in Oakland. Set to turn 38 in October, the free safety isn’t nearly as rangy or capable in coverage as in years past. He’s still a great leader and a coach on the field, but expectations should be reserved about what he can offer the Raiders in terms of meaningful stats.