Raiders Much Impoved at Quarterback and Running Back

After yet another disappointing 4-12 season in 2013, the Oakland Raiders made a lot of offseason moves in hopes of addressing at least some of their needs.

Two huge areas of concern for the black and silver were quarterback and the running game. General Manager Reggie McKenzie took extra time with those issues, trading a sixth round pick to Houston for Matt Schaub in March. In the running back department, they signed big free agent Maurice Jones-Drew.

So far in training camp, Schaub has looked ready to take on the starting quarterback role after struggling with the Texans last season. He started just ten games in 2013, averaging 6.45 yards per throw, completing just ten touchdown passes, and finished with a QB-rating of 73.0, 33rd in the league.

However, he seems to have found his stride in training camp with the Raiders. On Monday, he completed several passes, including a few slants to fellow newbie Jones-Drew. The QB also finished strong in the redzone, with touchdown passes to a few different guys. Head coach Dennis Allen was happy with what he say from his first string quarterback.

“I thought he was really sharp in the redzone. When you go through practice, you want to see a little bit of give and take with the offense and the defense…but generally when the quarterbacks perform well you walk off the field and you feel pretty good about the way you practiced. And I really felt all of them had another nice day, and specifically Schaub down in the redzone.”

2014 second round pick Derek Carr has spent most time taking reps alongside Schaub with the first-team squad. Despite a few mutterings, this in no way indicates that Carr is in the running to take the starters job. The rookie out of Fresno State is simply there to learn from veteran Schaub. Carr did complete a few nice passes to Seth Roberts and Brice Butler, but he also wasn’t as crisp as Schaub, rifling some passes off the hands of his receivers. All in all, though, the quarterback situation looks to be taken care of for 2014 and for a few years to come.

The running back position also seems to be on a huge upswing for Oakland, especially with the signing of Jones-Drew, one of the premier RBs in the NFL until a foot injury in 2012 slowed him down. His numbers were back up in 2013, though not what they were in years past due in large part to just a terrible Jacksonville team. He should get a bulk of the carries for the Raiders and looked ready for that in training camp.

Darren McFadden will be a big factor for the running game as well. McFadden has never played more than 13 games in a season due to various injuries. However, when he’s had more than 200 carries, he’s been very effective. In 2010, his best season, he rushed for 1,157 yards on 223 attempts with seven touchdowns. He doesn’t have more than 710 yards and five TDs in any other season. He’s performing well at camp, making cuts and showing bursts of speed. A healthy McFadden gives the Raiders a huge advantage.

But maybe the most intriguing guy with a chance to make the final roster is running back Kory Sheets. The third year out of the Canadian Football League has been impressive in camp, and he’s made quite an impression on Allen.

“We’ve seen some nice run skills. Kory’s a guy that’s still got some work to do from a protection stand point, but as far as ‘turn around and hand him the ball and let him go run with it’ he’s got some very good run instincts. And he’s got an exceptional burst when he gets into open space.”

With all of those guys healthy and ready to be on the roster for the first game, it’ll be fun to watch how the running game improves from last year to now. The depth is there for a big year, and Allen likes the competition it brings.

“I like the depth that we have at the running back position. I think it’s a nice battle to see which guys are gonna end up making the 53-man roster.”

The next few weeks should be fun to watch for Raider fans.