Raiders: Five story lines to watch this season

08/30/2014 5:00 PM

10/08/2014 12:16 PM

Home’s not so sweet

Raiders owner Mark Davis has said he has no plans to extend the team’s current one-year lease at O.co Coliseum without a plan for a new stadium in Oakland. The Raiders are the last NFL team that shares its home stadium with a baseball team.

Davis already has met with city leaders in San Antonio – appearing more of a leverage play than a possible new home – and the idea of returning to Los Angeles might be picking up steam.

Last week, the Los Angeles Times’ NFL writer Sam Farmer reported that the league has made changes in upper management, assigning an executive vice president to “stadium development, the return of a team presence to the Los Angeles area, the league’s strategic investment fund, and other key strategic initiatives.”

Earlier this month in Santa Clara, NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell publicly floated the idea that the Raiders play in the 49ers’ Levi’s Stadium. Davis, however, has made it clear he wants his own stadium.

The drama continues.

Quarterback controversy?

The Raiders signed free-agent quarterback Matt Schaub during the offseason but then drafted Derek Carr out of Fresno State, presumably to be his eventual replacement.

The question is how quickly that change is made.

Schaub, who struggled last season with the Texans and hasn’t looked good during the preseason, sat out practices and the final exhibition game with a troublesome elbow. At age 33, his days as a productive starter are mostly behind him. But the Raiders say they expect him to be ready for the opener against the Jets in East Rutherford, N.J.

How quickly will Raiders coach Dennis Allen go to Carr, who has a stronger arm and is a better athlete, if Schaub struggles to start the season or is hampered by his sore elbow? Carr completed 11 of 13 passes for 143 yards and three touchdowns in Thursday’s 41-31 victory over Seattle in the preseason finale, but he still must show he can be as effective operating from under center as he was in the shotgun at Fresno State.

Raiders on the run

Veteran running back Darren McFadden and newly acquired back Maurice Jones-Drew are coming off seasons in which they averaged less than 3.5 yards per carry, but the former 1,000-yard rushers looked to be in top shape and good health entering the preseason finale.

When he’s healthy, McFadden has been explosive and a key offensive threat. In the 13 games in which he has rushed for 100 or more yards, the Raiders are 11-2. Unfortunately, he has missed 19 games the past three seasons. Even in his best season, when he rushed for 1,157 yards in 2010, he missed three games.

So the Raiders brought in Jones-Drew, a three-time Pro Bowl selection with Jacksonville and fourth on the NFL’s active rushing list with 8,071 yards, to bolster the rushing game. But Jones-Drew also has struggled with injuries in recent seasons and hasn’t rushed for 1,000 yards since 2011.

With a big offensive line suited to a power running game, McFadden and Jones-Drew should take pressure off the passing game.

Turning the corners

The Raiders have new starting cornerbacks for the third consecutive season after bringing in Tarell Brown and Carlos Rogers, who started together with the 49ers the past three seasons, at least until DJ Hayden, last year’s top draft pick, gets healthy.

Hayden missed the entire offseason and part of training camp as a rookie as he recovered from abdominal surgery related to a near-fatal heart injury in college. He started two of the eight games he played as a rookie before having season-ending hernia surgery. Now he’s out at least the first six games this season after the Raiders put him on the physically unable to perform list Tuesday with a stress fracture in his right foot.

That leaves the corners to Brown and Rogers, who was slated to be the nickel cornerback before Hayden’s injury was discovered.

Brown played seven seasons for the 49ers, starting the last three alongside Rogers. Though he’s 33, Rogers is considered solid in man coverage. He started all 48 regular-season games for the 49ers the past three seasons, with 185 tackles, nine interceptions and three fumble recoveries.

Do the 49ers know something the Raiders don’t?

Putting on the pressure

The Raiders expect big things from linebacker Khalil Mack, the No. 5 pick in the draft out of Buffalo.

He’s a rookie, so it’s no surprise that he struggled a bit in the first two preseason games. Then, against the Packers, he looked the part of a top draft pick, with five tackles (two for losses) and an interception while playing just the first half.

Even more important, Mack’s athleticism and strong pass-rushing skills should help make it easier for veteran LaMarr Woodley – signed by the Raiders after the Steelers released him – to get to the quarterback. Woodley has battled injuries the past few seasons, but he’s looked good this preseason and sacked Aaron Rodgers in the Raiders’ 31-21 loss to the Packers.

The Raiders need to put pressure on opposing quarterbacks to take pressure off their secondary.

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