Just the fact that Alex Barron could join the Raiders roster should tell you a lot about the Boys next adversary; that he is is battling for a starting slot tells you EVERYTHING.
This Friday our Dallas Cowboys will take the short trip up the California Coast to visit the garbage dump of the NFL when they visit the Oakland Raiders. While the "Black Hole" may have a reputation for being an intimidating place to play, the Silver and Black have been a sub .500 team at home over the last two decades, and they were 3-5 at home during the 2012 season. Like the Cowboys, this once proud franchise has experienced a long period of dismal performance. Unlike Dallas, however; Raider fans have little hope for an improvement in 2013. Lets take a look at this week's foe.
Gone is quarterback Carson Palmer, whom the Raiders had once counted on to keep their playoff hopes alive. In his place the team gave up a fifth round and a conditional 2015 draft pick to acquire the services of Matt Flynn. Despite one game where he set the world on fire as the quarterback in Green Bay, Flynn is certainly not an NFL starting caliber quarterback. In fact, there was a clear possibility that Tyler Wilson, the Raiders fourth round selection this spring, could be the starting QB for week one. That possibility has faded as Wilson has been losing snaps to UDFA Matt McGloin; and Terrelle Pryor could be in the mix as well. However that battle is decided,, don't expect the Raiders quarterback to have much to work with. Between them, the top two returning receivers, Rod Streater and Denarius Moore, go through more butter than Paula Deen. They had a combined 16 drops last season. The starting quarterback won't even have solid tight end Brandon Myers to count on; he sought greener pastures in New York. The Raiders are pinning their hopes on rookies Nick Kasa and Mychal Rivera.
The running game doesn't look any more promising for Oakland. Darren McFadden, who is one of the most gifted running backs in the league, has suffered so many injuries that he is a shadow of his former self. The explosiveness just isn't there anymore, and the Raiders can expect to use fullback Marcel Reese as the primary ball carrier at times throughout the upcoming season. While Oakland does have a solid center in Stefan Wisniewski, he is surrounded by guards that made Bernie and Livings look like All-Pros last season. Left tackle Jared Veldheer is also serviceable, but the other bookend could well be a face familiar to Cowboys fans; Alex Barron. He has been out performing second round pick Menelik Watson in camp, due in part to injuries.
On the other side of the ball, Oakland returns just two starters from 2012, Lamarr Houston and Tyvon Branch. Houston and a yet to be decided JAG will play the defensive ends; while inside Pat Sims, who came over from the Bengals and Vance Walker, late of the Falcons, will attempt to become the centerpieces of Oakland's run defense. The will not be able to count on help from the linebacking corps; had he went to Oakland, Dan Connor would have been considered a stud. As it stands third round rookie Sio Moore is already the top backer on the Raider roster.
Tyvon Branch is the one truly good defender that the Raiders have. He is one of the better safeties in the league, and the team is banking that Charles Woodson, who returned to the Raiders in May, can find enough left in the tank to be a solid piece beside him. At 37, that is questionable for Woodson. At one corner Oakland has rookie D. J Hayden, who suffers from a heart condition, and another old Dallas friend, Mike Jenkins, was signed to be his counterpart. The slot corner will be former Saint Tracy Porter. Porter may be pressed into Hayden's role, since the first round selection had a second heart surgery during OTAs.
Maybe the strongest unit the Raiders have will be the special teams, and they are not stellar. Placekicker Sebastien Janikowski returns for the final year of his 4 year $16 million dollar contract. In 2012 he hit on 31 of 34 field goal attempts, including 6 of 9 from 50+ yards. Chris Kluwe, a middle of the road punter, will handle the other kicking duties. The return game has been dismal in Oakland, so their front office brought in Joshua Cribbs to be the return specialist.
To wrap up this piece I will leave you with a statement from Walter Football:
2013 Oakland Raiders Analysis: The Raiders have one of the worst rosters the NFL has seen in decades. Their quarterbacks are terrible, their running back is always hurt, their receivers drop tons of passes, their offensive line isn't very good, their defensive line can't get to the quarterback, their linebackers have never played together, and their cornerbacks can't cover. Oakland has a legitimate shot to go 0-16 this season.
Projection: 1-15 (4th in AFC West)