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Meet Andre Holmes, Oakland Raiders’ WR Set to Breakout This Summer

The Oakland Raiders’ wide receiver position will see plenty of competition heading into the 2014 season, and Andre Holmes is one player who could emerge from it to have a breakout year.

While the upside his physical tools gave him was undeniable, little was expected by way of production when the Raiders claimed him off the waiver wire in March 2013.

Cut after a short stint with the New England Patriots, and by the Dallas Cowboys before that, he was having a difficult time staying on an active roster when the Raiders brought him in.

That new opportunity with the Silver and Black did not get off to the best of starts either, as he was suspended for the first four games of the regular season, and yet another release certainly could have been an option.

However, betting on Holmes putting it together, the Raiders chose not to cut him, instead giving him the opportunity to come back and contribute after the suspension.

While he needed to work his way back into the rotation and earn his snaps upon returning, he was quickly able to establish himself as one of the offense’s most reliable playmakers, performing at a high level throughout the second half of the year.

Only seeing significant snaps in the team’s final seven games, Holmes tallied 25 receptions for 431 yards, good for an impressive 17.2 yards-per-catch rate.

Averaging that seven-game production over the course of a full 16-game season would have given him 985 yards on 57 catches, which would make for the highest Raiders receiving-yard season since Randy Moss‘ 1,005 in 2005.

So, of course, the projected statistics are there, but what makes Holmes the kind of impact player he is and can be moving forward?

More so than any Raiders receiver in recent memory, Holmes combines his impressive 6’4″ 210-pound frame with his speed to separate downfield and the ability to high-point the ball, often making difficult catches in one-on-one situations.

In one particular play in Week 15 against Kansas City, Holmes saw single coverage downfield on 3rd-and-long. With only his right arm free from the defender’s grasp, he managed to come down with an impressive one-handed grab, moving the chains in a key situation for the offense.

In his best statistical game of the year, a seven-reception, 136-yard performance on Thanksgiving Day in Dallas, he made a similarly impressive play.

On a route going up the right sideline, Holmes extended for a jump ball over the top of the defender, showing incredible body control in the air by twisting to make the catch and coming down inbounds.

In fact, it was plays similar to these that Holmes seemed to make on a fairly regular basis over the last few games of the season, constantly getting the offense out of difficult situations and picking up first downs.

Working in his favor for him building on that demonstrated ability will be the Raiders’ significantly improved quarterback situation moving forward.

Now, the team has both a short-term veteran option in Matt Schaub, as well as a long-term and potentially franchise-type player with Derek Carr.

Putting up the numbers and making the plays he did in 2013 was impressive enough, but considering that anticipated improvement from the quarterbacks in 2014 and beyond, Holmes’ ceiling raises that much more.

Of course, building on his small sample size of success is key, as there have been countless examples of NFL players flashing big-time potential early on only to struggle shortly thereafter.

However, Holmes’ ability to emerge as a reliable target in what was a difficult season for the Raiders’ offense, and the one-on-one advantage his physical tools give him, certainly bode well moving forward.

At the very least, he should challenge for one of the top three spots on the receiver depth chart throughout training camp, and with increased snaps over the course of a full season, his production could be in for a significant boost.

As such, in a 2014 season where the Raiders should be improved throughout the roster, Andre Holmes is in line for a breakout campaign, and he could quickly become one of the offense’s most dangerous weapons overall.

Read more Oakland Raiders news on BleacherReport.com


DJ Hayden Injury: Updates on Raiders CB’s Foot and Recovery

Oakland Raiders cornerback D.J. Hayden missed eight games due to injury last season as a rookie. The 2014 NFL regular season is fast approaching and the talented defensive back may be in danger of missing even more time.      

According to John Middlekauff of the Bay Area’s 95.7 The Game, Hayden continues to nurse a foot injury that could keep him out for part of the preseason and perhaps beyond:

Hayden’s injury history is a long one. Per Ray Aspuria of the Times-Standard, Hayden entered the NFL on the heels of suffering through a dangerous heart ailment. The Raiders still made him the 12th-overall selection in the 2013 NFL draft, but he went on to suffer a season-ending groin injury in Week 9.

Despite his inability to stay healthy, Hayden entered OTAs with plenty of optimism after bulking up during the offseason, according to Aspuria

“It will definitely be beneficial—me being a little bigger, a little stronger—because we do have physical receivers in this league, and I think it will be good to be somewhat big,” Hayden said. “I made it through one OTA. I’m definitely excited I made it through one.”

Unfortunately, the injury bug bit Hayden again as he rolled his foot in June and had to sport a walking boot, per NFL.com’s Kevin Patra.

With the preseason closing in, Hayden now finds himself in a situation where he could be well behind everyone else due to this injury. He hasn’t been able to do much over the past month, which really hurts his development as a young player.

Raiders veteran defensive back Charles Woodson knows how important this part of the offseason is in terms of preparing for the regular season. According to SiriusXM NFL Radio on Twitter, Woodson made it clear that Hayden is in a less-than-ideal situation:

There isn’t much that Hayden can do about it if he is physically unable to perform, but it is disappointing considering how much talent Hayden possesses. He could be an elite corner if everything comes to together, but that won’t happen if these injuries persist.

The Raiders are a potential sleeper team in 2014 with few giving them a chance to make any noise. They have a lot of good young players and Hayden is near the top of that list. If this injury turns into a long-term issue, though, Hayden may find it difficult to contribute in the early part of the season if at all.

 

Follow @MikeChiari on Twitter

Read more Oakland Raiders news on BleacherReport.com

Jim Plunkett, Marcus Allen split on where Raiders should play

A couple of days after former teammate Marcus Allen said he thinks the Raiders should move back to Los Angeles, Jim Plunkett said the fans are better in Oakland. “Oakland was a very crazy place to play a football game,” the former quarterback said on an ESPN Outside the Lines panel on Monday. “The fans came out in droves and filled the stadium. Everyone’s heard about the Raider Nation and it’s really that way. It’s a small community, somewhat similar to Green Bay where everybody turned out, supported the team no matter what.” “L.A. was a much different story,” Plunkett continued. “It was almost kind of a fair-weather situation,” he [...]

Oakland Raiders’ 2014 Training Camp To-Do List

The Oakland Raiders have had an eventful and ultimately successful offseason. After adding several respected free agents and putting together an impressive draft class, the team looks to be vastly improved—at least on paper.

Of course, that doesn’t mean anything if the team can’t fulfill that promise on the field.

A successful training camp is absolutely crucial for the Raiders. With so many new faces, every member of the roster will be looking to find consistent playing time. It will be up to the coaching staff to sift through all of the personnel and all of the options in order to establish the depth chart at every position that will give the team its best chance of success.

While the team has holes to address or question marks all over the roster, the Raiders must in particular address the following five issues during training camp. If these issues are allowed to continue past training camp, they’ll become bigger and bigger distractions and ultimately derail the team’s entire season.

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Predicting the Winners of the Oakland Raiders’ Biggest Training Camp Battles

The Oakland Raiders kick off training camp this week, and with it begin some interesting position battles to keep an eye on throughout the preseason.

There should be much more roster competition this year than there was in years past, and that goes a long way toward showing just how much the Raiders’ overall talent has improved in a short period of time.

Most of the competition will come at the skill positions on the offensive side of the ball, but a key battle in the secondary should have a significant impact on the success of the overall defense as well.

With predicted winners for each, here is a look at the Raiders’ biggest training camp battles in 2014.

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Are the Oakland Raiders Poised for the NFL’s Biggest Turnaround in 2014?

The Oakland Raiders have been an NFL doormat for a long time. This is a fact that nefarious fans of other teams like to remind the Raider Nation every chance they get.

It’s true; the Raiders haven’t had a winning season since 2002. They have been a perennial bottom-dweller in the AFC for over a decade and are averaging an astonishing 4.8 wins per season over the last 11 years. In far too many losses, the Raiders haven’t even been competitive.

The question every member of Oakland’s loyal fanbase asks now isn’t if this is the year the team wins it all, but if this is the year that it finally turns around its misfortunes. Some fans will always say yes, but there’s actually reason to believe things are different this year.

It sounds like an offseason cliche, but it just feels different this year. Fourth-year special teams ace Taiwan Jones said as much recently on the team’s official website.

“I truly believe that it’s different here,” Jones said. “When you have veterans that have been in the game a long time and that have been able to accomplish the goals that we’re trying to accomplish this year, it definitely feels good because you get to see and hear advice from those guys and hear them say that we’re close and that it’s possible.”

Things have changed so much in Oakland this offseason that Jones isn’t wrong in his assessment. General manager Reggie McKenzie finally had a full deck of draft picks and the cap space to add much-needed talent to the Raiders after two years on the job. The Raiders were previously light on young talent and lacked the necessary draft choices or salary-cap space to restock the shelves.

 

The Art of the Rebound

Over the last five seasons, the average improvement for a team coming off a four-win season or worse was about four wins. For teams with exactly four wins, the average improvement was about three wins. No team got worse the following season, although the 2014 Raiders were the closest to doing so. 

In theory, every team should progress or regress toward the mean, but we know that it doesn’t always work that way. Conditions have to be right for a big turnaround, which we’ll define as a five-win improvement or more. 

Average turnarounds are much more likely, as 60 percent of four-win teams improved by three wins or more and 40 percent by four or more. The biggest turnarounds in the league, although slightly less common, typically follow similar pattern.

The first step is to get a new quarterback. Of the six instances in which a team improved by five or more wins over the last five years, five of the situations included a quarterback in their first or second year with the team. The other was in his third year with his team.

Of those five quarterbacks, four were drafted and one was acquired via trade. The Raiders covered both bases by acquiring Matt Schaub via trade and drafting Derek Carr in the second round of the 2014 NFL draft. If the Raiders are going to turn things around in a big way, their quarterback will likely be a huge factor.

There are a few reasons to believe in Schaub and Carr. One reason is that there isn‘t just one option, but each player also brings something to the table that the Raiders like and will help the team rebound in 2014 from back-to-back four-win seasons.

The Raiders are hoping that a new offensive scheme and giving Schaub more authority to change plays will get him away from the calls that caused him to throw so many interceptions in 2013 (14 INTs). They obviously like his veteran leadership, which should help Oakland’s young receivers develop. 

Carr is already impressing Oakland’s coaching staff and will enter training camp as the No. 2 quarterback ahead of Matt McGloin. Despite tough circumstances, McGloin did OK when he became the starter for six of the final seven games, so this is a good sign that Carr is already improving.

Schaub may well be done like many seem to think, but it’s worth letting him try before making him hand over the offense to Carr. There’s little doubt the Raiders now have two quarterbacks who are superior to their options last year. Better quarterback play should yield more wins during the season. 

What the Raiders don’t necessarily have going for them is the coaching situation. Three coaches of the teams with the biggest turnarounds were in their first year with that team, one was in his second, and one was in his third, as Dennis Allen will be for the Raiders. One was in his ninth year with his team. Three of the six coaches also had nine or more years of head coaching experience.

One thing all the teams had in common was that they all improved drastically on defense. In fact, the worst defensive improvement was 12 spots in points allowed, with an average improvement of 16 spots.

The Raiders were 29th in scoring defense last season, meaning they would need to improve to 17th or better to give themselves a shot. Oakland’s biggest upgrades of the offseason came on defense, so it has a chance.

The additions of defensive ends Justin Tuck and LaMarr Woodley will help the whole defense. The Raiders also drafted Khalil Mack to play linebacker. The No. 5 overall pick should have an immediate impact on the Raiders in 2014.

Mack helps the Raiders in many areas because of the way the the team will now be able to use its personnel. Tuck can now slide inside on passing downs, and linebacker Sio Moore can flip sides and play weak-side linebacker, which is a position that seems like more of natural fit for his skill set.

All the offenses improved as well, but four of the six didn’t improve by more than seven spots in the rankings. Both of the teams that did—the Kansas City Chiefs and Philadelphia Eagles in 2014—improved by more than 20 spots in the rankings, but both teams also had very weak schedules, strength-wise.

Oddly enough, strength of schedule varied from easy to hard among all the teams, so the fact that the Raiders are projected to have a tough schedule in 2014 will play a role, but how much of one remains unclear. The strength of a schedule has a tendency to change as well, so it’s not a forgone conclusion that it will be as tough as it seems right now, as they are slated to play the NFC West and AFC East.

 

Talent Improvement

Part of the reason the Raiders have been struggling over the past two years has been the lack of talent on the team. Oakland’s cap situation was so bad in recent seasons that McKenzie couldn’t afford much more than cheap veterans to fill out his roster.

Thanks to a record amount of cap space in 2014, Oakland’s roster is massively more talented now than it was just a few months ago. The Raiders replaced three of their four worst players on defense as graded by Pro Football Focus (subscription required) and the other will become a backup.

The Raiders also replaced or added competition for their four lowest-graded offensive players. Last season’s starting left guard Lucas Nix will likely be fighting for a roster spot. Veteran offensive lineman Khalif Barnes will move inside to left guard and will compete with rookie Gabe Jackson for the starting job.

The Raiders also upgraded at right guard with the addition of Austin Howard and took a chance that Donald Penn can still be a solid left tackle. Since the Raiders didn’t really have any stable play at left tackle last season, Penn doesn’t have to be great for the Raiders to improve in that area.

In the secondary, the Raiders added Tarell Brown and Carlos Rogers. Again, the Raiders got players who are probably nearly at the end of their best years, but have certainly played at a high level before and are upgrades over what they had last season.

The Raiders will also get strong safety Tyvon Branch back from injury and with some luck, second-year cornerback and 2013 first-round pick D.J. Hayden.  Hayden has much to prove, but losing Branch was a huge loss in 2013.

Every team says it got better in the offseason, but the Raiders actually did. Not only did they get better, they made drastic improvements at virtually every position.  The Raiders now have experienced, quality players dotted throughout the roster and plenty of young talents to fill in the gaps.

Read more Oakland Raiders news on BleacherReport.com

5 Moves the Oakland Raiders Should Have Made This Offseason

The Oakland Raiders have had a successful offseason in 2014, but it hasn’t been flawless.

The team entered the free-agency period with more than $60 million to spend, and the demand from the fans was high. They expected the team to make a push for any available big names.

However, this was never really a possibility.

The Raiders simply had too many holes to fill, and using up too much of that cap space on just one or two signings was not going to do them any good moving forward. The team needed to be careful when deciding which players to go after and how much to spend.

For the most part, the team made smart signings for the right money, but there were still a few head-scratching decisions. In other cases, the Raiders just didn’t do enough to sign a player who would have addressed a major need.

Oakland should have made these signings because not only would they have improved the team overall, but also they fit within the signing model under general manager Reggie McKenzie: good talent at a reasonable price.

Here are five offseason moves the Raiders should have made but didn’t.

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5 Biggest Areas of Concern for Oakland Raiders Heading into Training Camp

The Oakland Raiders should be much improved in 2014 following what was their most productive offseason in recent memory.

However, the team is not without its fair share of question marks heading in, as there remain several areas of concern in regard to how the current roster shapes up.

If the Raiders can answer and/or solve all of which heading into the regular season, there is no reason why they shouldn’t find themselves in the thick of the AFC playoff picture coming down the stretch.

Here are the five biggest areas of concern for the Oakland Raiders heading into training camp.

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Oakland Raiders Players Who Will Surprise During 2014 NFL Training Camp

Training camps are fast approaching, and with them the opportunity for several players across the NFL to secure important positions in their teams’ lineups. This is especially true for the Oakland Raiders, a team that has gone through a massive overhaul this offseason.

No matter where you look on the Oakland roster, you’re going to find a roster spot that is up for grabs. Fortunately for the Raiders, there are several players on the team primed and ready to take those spots.

Players like Rod Streater and Mychal Rivera have shown game-changing potential, and incoming rookies like Justin Ellis will enter training camp with high expectations and the skills to meet them.

Here are the Raiders most likely to impress and secure their spots during training camp.

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Breaking Down Oakland Raiders’ 5 Biggest Training Camp Projects

Much has been made of the Oakland Raiders’ many veteran additions this offseason, and deservedly so, as the roster’s overall talent has been upgraded significantly.

However, it is the play of the younger, less experienced players that will dictate the success of the Silver and Black’s 2014 campaign.

Of course, every team has its long-shot projects it only hopes will pan out someday, but for the Raiders, this idea more so surrounds returning, still-developing players who need to step up and become consistent contributors.

Here are the Raiders’ five biggest and most important projects in training camp this season.

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