1. Darren McFadden’s Health- If McFadden can stay healthy and provide the Raiders with a formidable rushing attack, Carson Palmer and the receiving corps should have all kinds of space to work with in the passing game. McFadden’s game-breaking speed is a game changer and something opposing teams must account for. No running back on the depth chart behind him has the same effect.
2. Rookie Maturation-Oakland only had six draft picks-all of them late, yet these guys will be called on early and often to contribute. Criner, Burris, and Bergstrom in particular will see extensive roles in Oakland’s gameplan. They’ll need to play with veteran savvy for the Silver and Black to turn in a productive and successful season.
3. Veteran Leadership-Every battle hardened vet, from Palmer to Janikowski needs to be a voice of reason and influence in the lockerroom. Make no mistake, like all teams; the Raiders will go a rough patch. Whether it’s two games or 6, the veterans have to keep this young team focused on the goal: A Playoff Birth.
4. The Emergence of David Ausberry-In today’s NFL, an elite tight end is becoming a necessity. Ausberry has all the physical tools to be a top ten tight end in this league. Oakland’s offensive staff need to keep him involved in the gameplan in order to help him develop into the weapon he can become. Do this, and opposing defenses will have one more thing to worry about in stopping the Raider offense.
5. Pressure the Passer-The AFC West, perhaps more-so than any other NFL division, is full of teams who are going to air it out. The Raiders need get to the opposing quarterbacks early and often. Dave Tollefson could be a key to getting this done. Whatever the case, Oakland cannot afford to let the likes of Philip Rivers and Peyton Manning get into any kind of rhythm.