NFL releases Raiders 2014 schedule
Rashad Jennings and Rod Streater were two rare bright spots for the Raiders in a disappointing 2013 season. (AP)
The Raiders finished 4-12, with precious few highlights along the way. It was an especially down year for an offense that finished the season ranked No. 23 in total offense and No. 24 in scoring.
With a bit more production, the Raiders would certainly have a better record and Dennis Allen’s job wouldn’t be hanging in the balance.
The Raiders never found consistent quarterback play, were plagued by injury along the offensive line and inexperience at the skill spots.
There were a few sources of light in this dark season, and we at CSN Bay Area are rewarding those efforts. We’re passing out honors (no hardware, no speeches gentlemen) in categories orthodox and off-the-wall. I'm sure you've got a take who should've won what award. Let's discuss in the comments section below. Also, stay tuned. We’ll do defense on Tuesday and the rookie class on Wednesday.
Offensive player of the year: RB Rashad Jennings
Early in camp, the thought of Rashad Jennings starting at running back was a worst-case scenario. That would mean feature back Darren McFadden was hurt, as he is prone to do. It also meant the running game was in trouble.
Jennings was rarely good in a starting role, doing little damage when Maurice Jones-Drew went down in Jacksonville.
This season, Jennings provided the steady production expected from McFadden in a power-blocking scheme based on gap creation and control. He exceeded expectation and was by far the Raiders most consistent offensive weapon.
Jennings had 1,025 yards of total offense and six touchdowns. He averaged 4.5 yards per carry with a career-high 163 carries. His physical rushing style fits what the Raiders are trying to do, which makes Jennings a virtual lock to return next season despite an expired contract.
In a season where the Raiders hoped to find diamonds in the rough to build a foundation for the future, Jennings should have the running back spot locked down.
Unsung hero award: OL Khalif Barnes
Khalif Barnes was supposed to play right tackle this season, but he never took a snap there. Barnes selflessly switched over to left tackle after Jared Veldheer partially tore a triceps, the Alex Barron experiment failed and Menelik Wastson’s knee went haywire.
Barnes wasn’t the first option, but he was the most consistent member of a line that struggled with injury all season. He made 16 starts, including 11 at a left tackle spot he hadn’t played since 2008.
Then, when Veldheer returned on Thanksgiving against Dallas, Barnes selflessly volunteered to move inside and play left guard, a position he’s rarely played.
Barnes wasn’t a great interior run blocker, but he gave up just three sacks all season and was stout protecting the passer. The Raiders would be wise to sign him to a sixth straight one-year contract and keep some continuity up front.
Give him the (darn) ball award: FB Marcel Reece
This one’s a given. The Raiders' fullback was named a second-team All-Pro by the Associated Press despite coordinator Greg Olson’s struggles in getting Reece involved.
Outside a Dec. 8 game against the New York Jets where he was the primary tailback, Reece averaged just 3.8 touches per contest. He still produced when called upon as a rusher, receiver and blocker.
He’s under contract through 2016, so the Raiders must keep trying new and inventive ways to get the ball in Reece’s hands.
On the rise award: WR Rod Streater
The second-year wideout flirted with 1,000 receiving yards, but couldn’t quite get there. He finished with 888, extending the Raiders' streak without a 1,000-yard receiver to eight seasons. Of anyone on the current roster, Streater has the best chance to end it. He proved a solid possession receiver and big-play threat with sure hands and consistent route running.
Here we go again award: RB Darren McFadden
This was supposed to be a career-defining season for McFadden, and in many ways it was. McFadden had to produce, especially in a contract year where the block scheme was built for his downhill rushing style. Instead, he got hurt early and often, missing six games and most of three others with injury. When he was in, McFadden didn’t produce and tied a career low with 3.3 yards per carry.
Best assistant: OL coach Tony Sparano
Sparano made lemonade out of a patchwork offensive line that was rarely healthy. Sparano got the most out of Barnes playing out of position, a veteran in Tony Pashos plucked off the scrap heap, and an aging veteran in right guard Mike Brisiel better suited for a zone-blocking scheme. The unit held strong despite some bumps along the way, and fared far better than expected blocking for the run and pocket passer Matt McGloin. Sparano deserves a heap of praise for solid work in adverse circumstances.
Best quote: QB Terrelle Pryor
Pryor wasn’t always good, but he was never boring. The athletic passer was entertaining on the field and off it, with some excellent press conferences that produced some colorful quotes. Here’s one of my favorites from a guy always quick to divert credit and shoulder blame. It came after Pryor was sacked nine times in a Week 6 loss to the Kansas City Chiefs:
“I deserved those hits (I took) because I made bad plays,” he said. “I didn’t get the ball out. On one play I called the wrong protection to the other side. When you make stupid mistakes like that, you deserve to get driven into the ground. I need to be on top of my game. I just wasn’t.”