Enemy Intel: Raiders

Enemy Intel: Raiders
June 25, 2013, 7:30 am
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Over the past four months, we’ve kept a watchful eye on the teams who appear on the Redskins’ 2013 schedule.

We’ve tracked their free agent signings. We’ve examined their drafts. Now, in our final edition of Enemy Intel, we’re taking a look at three storylines that will dominate each team’s preseason.

Up today …

Opponent/Week: Raiders/4

2012 record: 4-12

Key acquisitions: QB Matt Flynn, S Charles Woodson, WR/KR Josh Cribbs, P Chris Kluwe, CB Tracy Porter, CB Mike Jenkins, LB Kaluka Maiava, LB Nick Roach, LB Kevin Burnett, DT Pat Sims, DT Vance Walker, DE Jason Hunter

Top draft picks: CB D.J. Hayden, OT Menelik Watson, LB Sio Moore, QB Tyler Wilson, TE Nick Kasa, RB Latavius Murray, TE Mychal Rivera

Storyline No. 1:  Who will start at quarterback? Right now, it appears as though it’s Matt Flynn’s job to lose. But it should be noted that he’s lost a job in training camp once before. Recently, in fact.

A year ago, Flynn, who has all of two NFL starts in five seasons, was supposed to be the starter in Seattle after spending four seasons in Green Bay as Aaron Rodgers’ backup. Flynn, however, was beat out by a rookie named Russell Wilson, then got traded to Oakland in April.

Reports out of the Bay Area this offseason have suggested that Flynn hasn’t been consistently sharp. But neither have Terrelle Pryor or rookie Tyler Wilson.

If Flynn can hold off Pryor and Wilson in training camp and the preseason, he’ll be under center Week 1 in Indianapolis. If he struggles, it could be deja vu all over again.

“So Matt is our starting quarterback as we go forward right now,” Coach Dennis Allen said told reporters in late May. “Until the competition dictates otherwise, that’s the way we’re going.”

Not exactly a ringing endorsement.

Storyline No. 2: How will the revamped defense fare? After ranking 28th in points allowed per game (27.7) last season, changes were in order.

Well, how about nine of them? That’s how many new starters could line up on defense in 2013.

Last season, the Raiders weren’t particularly good against the run or the pass. But the unit’s biggest weakness, without question, was the secondary’s inability to prevent big gains through the air and keep receivers out of the end zone (28 passing touchdowns allowed, tied for 23rd most). Opposing quarterbacks completed 66-percent of their passes against Oakland; only three teams were worse.

Enter safety Charles Woodson, who began his distinguished career in Oakland, rookie cornerback D.J. Hayden and free agent corners Mike Jenkins and Tracy Porter.

That looks a whole lot better. But we’ll know for sure after the Raiders face Andrew Luck, Peyton Manning and Robert Griffin III in three of their first four games.

Storyline No. 3: Can Darren McFadden bounce back (and stay healthy)? The Raiders' star running back had his worst season as a pro in 2012, gaining 707 yards on 216 carries in 12 games for a career-low 3.3 yards per attempt.

That, after averaging 5.3 and 5.4 yards per carry in 2010 and 2011, respectively.

McFadden’s struggled last season in former offensive coordinator Greg Knapp's zone-blocking scheme. Knapp was fired at the end of the season and the Raiders have returned to the power blocking scheme that helped McFadden shine previously.

Health has also hampered McFadden throughout his career. In fact, the 25-year-old has missed 23 games in five seasons.

But McFadden is not only healthy, he says he’s in the best shape of his career. That, combined with the scheme changes on offense, could help get him and the Raiders’ running game back on track.

And if the Raiders are going to have any hope this season, they had better hope that is the case.