Darren McFadden and Carson Palmer are 2 keys to the Oakland Raider success in 2012/2013 (Photo Courtesy: US Presswire)
The calendar has flipped to August, meaning all 32 NFL training camps are in full swing.
Now it's time to tee up the Oakland Raiders' issues moving toward the upcoming season:
1. Can multi-dimensional RB Darren McFadden stay 100% healthy or at least remain above 75%? He's the team's most explosive player and was leading the NFL in rushing through six weeks last year before suffering a season-ending Lisfranc (foot) injury. When he's on the field, McFadden's a gamebreaker. When he's not -- and he's missed 19 games in his four-year career -- the offense suffers, and that could be magnified now that backup RB Michael Bush has moved on to the Chicago Bears.
2. QB Carson Palmer hasn't been a Pro Bowler since 2006 and was spotty in 2011, though the deck was heavily stacked against him as he went from his couch to the Raiders lineup in a matter of days after the Cincinnati Bengals granted his trade wish last October. Palmer is now learning another playbook under new Offensive Coordinator Greg Knapp, and it remains to be seen how he'll adapt to some of the rollouts Knapp likes to employ. But as he enters his 10th season, Palmer should be a lot more effective -- questions about his arm strength didn't seem to be a major issue for Oakland -- assuming he and McFadden are finally in the lineup together along with promising but equally injury-plagued young WRs Darrius Heyward-Bey, Denarius Moore and Jacoby Ford.
3. In the nine seasons since the Raiders last had a winning record, they've never finished better than 18th in scoring defense. Dennis Allen, the team's first head coach with a defensive background since John Madden, promises to change that. Anticipate multiple fronts, zones and blitzes to supplant the fairly vanilla schemes favored by late Raiders patriarch Al Davis ... and expect a lot fewer mental mistakes from a team that set NFL records with 163 penalties for 1,358 yards in 2011.