- Paul Gutierrez, ESPN Staff Writer
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Final Power Ranking: 30
Preseason Power Ranking: 29
Biggest surprise: Now, no one is suggesting that Matt McGloin is the Raiders’ quarterback of the future, but the undrafted rookie who initially joined Oakland as a fourth-stringer and training camp arm did acquit himself well in starting six games and appearing in relief in another. So much so that coach Dennis Allen said McGloin has a future in Oakland, even if it’s not as the heretofore mentioned QB of the future. What the Raiders may have lost in athleticism when McGloin replaced Terrelle Pryor was gained in pocket presence. McGloin’s skill set simply fit the type of offense the Raiders wanted to run this season.
Biggest disappointment: It seems harsh to pinpoint a rookie who nearly died the previous time he stepped on a football field, but that’s the bull’s-eye the Raiders placed on cornerback D.J. Hayden when they selected him 12th overall -- and said they would have used the No. 3 pick on him if they were unable to trade down -- despite his heart issues. Hayden was playing catch-up from Day 1 and seemed overmatched by the speed of the game at times. A groin injury ended his season after just eight games and one interception. Only because expectations are so high for an early first-rounder does Hayden surpass oft-injured running back Darren McFadden in this category.
Biggest need: Let’s start with the obvious and continue down the list: a franchise quarterback, or at least, a vet who can bridge the gap to said franchise QB. Neither Pryor nor McGloin is that guy. And while defensive end Lamarr Houston did an admirable job switching from the left side to the right and had a team-high six sacks, the Raiders also need a pure beast of a speed rusher. The Raiders could also use a playmaking wide receiver, because while Rod Streater and Andre Holmes flashed as possession pass catchers, they are not your prototypical playmakers, either. An offensive lineman would do as well. Maybe even a center, that way Stefen Wisniewski could move back to left guard. Of course, the biggest O-line need is to re-sign left tackle Jared Veldheer.
Team MVP: When Rashad Jennings signed as McFadden’s backup, you knew Jennings simply had to bide his time before McFadden went down to injury. He did, and Jennings made the most of his opportunity, leading the Raiders with 733 rushing yards and six rushing touchdowns, including an 80-yard TD scamper on a direct snap at Houston, and averaging 4.5 yards per carry. Jennings also caught a career-high 36 passes for 292 yards and blocked a punt. Perhaps most impressive: He never fumbled the ball and his 2.2 yards per carry after first contact ranked second in the NFL. Jennings, who will be an unrestricted free agent, missed one game in tying a career high with 15 games played, starting eight.
9hEric D. Williams
2dEric D. Williams