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2013 Oakland Raiders: Five Players to Keep an Eye On

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After consecutive 8-8 finishes in 2010 and 2011, some figured the 2012 Oakland Raiders may finally snap that streak of non-winning seasons dating back to 2003.

But it was not meant to be and the Silver and Black dropped to 4-12, the eighth time in 10 years that the club had lost at least 11 games in a season.

Since finishing 11-5 and reaching Super Bowl XXXVII, the Raiders are a combined 49-111. Those numbers seem unfathomable.

But with the start of a new season comes the hope of a big-time turnaround.

So it is onto 2013 and here we will take a look at five players who could be critical to the team's success this upcoming season. While in some case the obvious will be stated, in other instances the focus will be on a newcomer to the team or a performer looking to rebound from a disappointing year.

So here are five players to keep an eye on this season when it comes to the Oakland Raiders:

QB Matt Flynn: It's been a strange year or so for the suddenly well-traveled quarterback, now on his third team in as many years. After throwing six touchdown passes in a Week 17 game in 2011 for the Green Bay Packers, Flynn never started a game for the Seattle Seahawks a year ago after signing with the team as a free agent. Now he's been reunited with general manager Reggie McKenzie, who also worked for the Packers. It is worth remembering that Flynn has made only two career NFL starts.

RB Darren McFadden: In 57 games in five NFL seasons, the fourth overall selection in the 2008 NFL draft has run for 3,334 yards and 18 touchdowns. But do the math and that means McFadden has been unavailable for 23 games during his five seasons in the pros. Is this the year the talented pro, who missed four games in 2012, finally stays on the field for all 16 contests? It's worth noting that only four teams in the league last season ran for fewer yards than the Raiders.

LB Nick Roach: The versatile defender played both outside and middle linebacker in his days with the Bears, the latter when Brian Urlacher was unavailable. It appears that Roach will line up in the middle for the Raiders but the team also signed free agents Kaluka Maiava and Kevin Burnett. The Raiders allowed 443 points last season and the defense was ranked 20th in the NFL in 2012 in total yards allowed per game, hence nine new starters on this side of the ball this season.

OLB Sio Moore: McKenzie added 10 players through the draft in April and he's hoping he gets lots from Moore. The Raiders used a third-round pick to secure the services of the former University of Connecticut standout, who totaled 72 tackles, 8.5 sacks and knocked down 11 passes last season. Oakland totaled only 25 sacks last season, second-fewest in the NFL in 2012, and Moore could emerge as a boost for a unit that must improve significantly in this department.

FS Charles Woodson: Talking about coming back home? Woodson was the fourth overall pick in the 1998 draft by the Raiders and after eight seasons in Oakland, he signed with the Green Bay Packers. Now he and his 55 career interceptions are back in the Bay Area and he's one of numerous new starters on a defensive unit that has struggled in recent seasons. Woodson brings his veteran savvy to the secondary and can also give 2013 first-round cornerback D.J. Hayden some pointers on that position as well.

So what can we expect from the Raiders in 2013? Can the club post its first winning season since 2002? And who else on the team will play an extremely pivotal role in the team's fortunes this season? With any luck, it figures to be an interesting season for the Silver and Black.

Russell S. Baxter has spent the last 40-plus years watching football. He is the founder of ProFootballGuru.com, writes for numerous websites and publications across the country and is blessed with an encyclopedic memory. Ready to talk NFL? Follow him on Twitter at @BaxFootballGuru.

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