Anyone who watched the frustrating enigma that was the Oakland Raiders offense in 2012 knows that the team took a step back from the 2011 Hue Jackson run squad. In terms of numbers they dropped from the 9th best offense in the league to the 18th. In terms of reality it was a unit that highlighted making the best player on the team in Darren Mcfadden look incredibly average until having his season derailed by injury and Carson Palmer throwing for garbage yards to non-household name players. Health permitting it is believed that Mcfadden is a game changing talent, but the rest of the team remains shrouded in mystery. Today we take a look at the offensive talent that was lost, and how they will be replaced moving forward in 2013.
Carson Palmer – I don’t believe that Palmer gets enough credit for the positive things that he accomplished last season. What he brought to the team was the best quarterback play since the Rick Gannon era. You can’t exactly find 4000 yards and 22 touchdowns with a 61% completion percentage on the street. All this while throwing to a receiving corps that some analysts had ranked as the worst in the league, mainly due to inexperience. This was, however, a real jeckyll and hyde type season that have many declaring him more Kerry Collins than Rich Gannon. Although 14 interceptions may not be horrendous, the timing of most of them certainly was. Palmer proved to be anything but clutch by throwing 5 4th quarter interceptions along with many other incredibly untimely ones. A lot of his gaudy stats did come in “garbage time” as the team was long out of competing for a W. All things considered I don’t believe that Palmer was the reason the team only had 4 wins and that the lack of a running game was the real problem. Ultimately is was his penchant for shying away from big moments and blowing the game that led to his departure.
Possible replacements in 2013 – Matt Flynn, Terrelle Pryor
Brandon Meyers – Rising from obscurity to hot fantasy football waiver wire pickup overnight Meyers enjoyed easily the best season of his career in 2012. He was able to log 79 receptions to the tune of 806 yards and 4 touchdowns, a solid season no doubt. Of all tight ends with over 50 receptions Meyers was actually the league leader in highest catch percentage at 75%. He served as the only real constant on the unit and was a great security blanket and 1st down target (picking up 41) for Palmer. Unfortunately like the last successful TE for the Raiders, Zach Miller, Meyers has taken his talents elsewhere in moving to New York. The only positive that I can glean from this is that Meyers was an average-at-best blocker in the run game. With the highly documented struggles of the run game last year it may be beneficial to throw in a mauler type blocker.
Possible replacements in 2013 – David Ausberry, Richard Gordon, Nick Kasa
Darrius Heyward-Bey – The statement that the Raiders had cut DHB came with an almost collective sigh of relief from Raider Nation. From the get-go of joining the team his on field production, or lack thereof, was put under a microscope. Playing in 11 games and only making 9 catches will do that for any first round pick. This was followed by a less than stellar 2010 campaign as well. In 2011 in seemed that DHB had developed into a solid starting receiver with great physical tools, less than great hands, and mediocre route running. He actually just missed becoming the first Raiders wideout to top 1,000 yards since Randy Moss coming up just shy at 975. In 2012 he had a noticeable dip in production which, combined with his bloated salary, resulted in his being released. I think he is a hard working kid who I hope continues to improve in the future, but thats going to have to be with the Luck led Colts now. Replacing his hands shouldn’t be a problem, but work ethic and explosiveness (9 plays of 20 yards or more last year) is something worth looking in to.
Possible replacements in 2013 – Rod Streater, Jacoby Ford, Juron Criner
Mike Goodson – With Roger Goodell cracking the whip in recent seasons it may be a blessing in disguise that Goodson is gone as he has since ran into some legal trouble and his future is murky. That being said I don’t think I am the only one that was pleasantly surprised with Goodson last season. His style was clearly a better fit for the zone blocking scheme than Mcfadden’s style is. He showed some explosiveness posting a 6.3 per carry average and 5 plays of 20+ yards with only 51 touches. It was unfortunate that he went down at the same time as Mcfadden as we never really got to see him fully carry the load.
In order to replace these players there are several players who will need to step up this year.
Key Players in 2013
Matt Flynn – I am withholding judgement on the signing of Flynn. Bringing in a veteran was definitely needed as the only other QB’s on the roster are Pryor and the rookie Wilson. This however isn’t some savy verteran with tons of time behind center. Flynn has just 2 starts in his career and is still riding the coattails of his monster game against Detroit a few years back. After being relegated to holding a clipboard last season he should have a chip on his shoulder. His success hinges on a strong running game and avoiding turnovers. A game manager role would be best as he reportedly doesn’t have a cannon for an arm.
Terrelle Pryor – I don’t expect Pryor will be given a legitimate shot at earning the starting gig this year, although he probably should. He has become a student of the game and is showing that he is dedicated to his craft. His debut against San Diego didn’t come without hiccups, but he did show the ability to move the chains and put points on the board with an offense that was sputtering into the offseason in weeks prior. Greg Olsen, the team’s new offensive coordinator, would be wise to use him in a role similar to how the 49ers used Kaepernick early on last season. Coming in every now and again to run the pistol offense and have plays designed specifically for him.
TE – Hard to give much insight on this position until preseason begins. I remember being impressed with Ausberry’s receiving ability last preseason, and in the limited action that he saw last year as well. He may share time with Richard Gordon who could become the aforementioned mauler in the run game if need be. I am also interested to see what the rookie Kasa is bringing to the table.
Denarius Moore/Rod Streater – Moore giveth, and Moore taketh away. The dude could be a stud if he would just be more consistent. A self admitted lack of confidence led to a dropoff in production towards the end of last season. Still he shows flashes of being great and he did notch 7 touchdowns. Fortunately he has been replaced on punt returns as he never really showed much of anything in games and it will help to keep him fresh. He is a legitimate deep threat (12 20+ yard plays) and can make some of those highlight reel catches. He is being leaned on to be the team’s #1 receiver unless…
Streater beats him to it. The undrafted rookie out of Temple proved everyone wrong last season after opening eyes in training camp and making the team. With his impressive play as a rookie and the departure of DHB expect Streater to blow his numbers from last year out of the water as he slips into the starting lineup. He may be the go-to chain mover in this team.
Jacoby Ford/Darren Mcfadden – Both players can be summed up in short. Explosive, dynamic, and fragile. It’s easy to see both of these players becoming elite if they can stay on the field, but that is the problem. They are also both entering into a contract year. I believe that returning to a power blocking scheme will bring back the Mcfadden of two years ago.
Marcel Reece – The most intriguing puzzle piece has to be Marcel Reece. The former college receiver turned quasi-fullback, H-back can be a mismatch nightmare for opposing defenses. His versatility allows him to play the role of power back or flanked out wide as a receiver if need be. He may be the most important player in replacing the comfortability that Meyers brought to the table. I hope Reggie can get him under contract as I see him being a hot commodity if he hits free agency.
James Umstead is an NFL Writer for TPF and can be contacted at JUmstead@ThePenaltyFlagBlog.com