The Oakland Raiders addressed what was arguably the biggest remaining hole on their roster when they signed Charles Woodson. But even with that signing, the Raiders are a far from completed project. General manager Reggie McKenzie has a lot of work left to do before the Raiders will be serious playoff contenders.
But that begs the question. Now that Woodson has signed, what are the biggest areas of need for the Raiders?
The Raiders had almost no ability to put pressure on the quarterback in 2012. It didn’t help that the secondary could not cover wideouts for more than a second or two, but either way, the pass rushers were simply not getting there. Only the Jacksonville Jaguars had fewer sacks than the Raiders in 2012.
The Raiders have attempted to address this through the signing of Andre Carter, the drafting of Sio Moore and potentially moving Lamarr Houston to the right side on occassion.
But really, only Moore has the potential to be a truly impactful pass rusher. Carter is getting older and, while he contributes, is past the point where he can be dominant. Meanwhile, Houston is a very good end, but has been more of an all-around player than a pass rush specialist.
The Raiders said goodbye to their two starting defensive tackles from 2012 and signed two new ones in free agency — Pat Sims and Vance Walker. The Raiders also have holdover Christo Bilukidi, whom they drafted in the sixth round a year ago, and they added Stacey McGee in the sixth round of the 2013 NFL Draft.
Of these four who will likely be in the rotation at defensive tackle, only Walker has shown that he has the ability to be an every down starter. Sims is more of a run stopper and both Bilukidi and McGee are young and raw.
This section was originally going to be the offensive line in general, but now that it looks like Tony Bergstrom is ready to compete for, if not win, the starting left guard spot, right tackle is the only glaringly bad position on the offensive line.
The Raiders have been looking for an answer to their woes at right tackle for years now without success. The most recent player to man the spot has been Khalif Barnes. While he had a decent year in 2012 and has been better than some of the right tackles in recent Raiders history, he’s a penalty machine and isn’t great in pass protection. He is easily the biggest weakness on the offensive line.
The Raiders used a second round pick on tackle Menelik Watson out of Florida State. Watson has shown the potential to be a dominant tackle in the NFL, but he has only played football for two years. Even if he can unseat Barnes, his rookie season will likely have some tough learning experiences.
Now, clearly there are other positions which could afford to be upgraded by the Raiders, but these three are the most glaring areas of need. If the Raiders are unable to take a big step forward in 2012, one of, if not all of these weaknesses on their roster will be a major reason why.
But don’t give up hope yet. As the Woodson signing has shown, the offseason is not over. There will likely be some solid players with potential who will be released from teams because of numbers rather than a lack of talent. Keep a close eye on the Seattle Seahawks – they in particular have a ton of defensive linemen and a quality player could find himself on the outs as a result.