Raiders Rookie Class to Play Prominent Role

Carr, Mack will be expected to lead transformation of offense and defense, beginning with season opener Sunday at Jets

The Raiders were busy acquiring veteran free agents this offseason, and the spending spree now gives them the oldest roster in the NFL heading into Sunday’s regular-season opener against the Jets.

The Raiders’ average age of 27 is No. 1 in the league, ahead of the Giants (26.7), Bears (26.7), Colts (26.6) and Chargers (26.6).

Yet while the roster is filled with such grayhairs as Charles Woodson, Justin Tuck, LaMarr Woodley and Matt Schaub, there’s also this:

When Oakland takes the field Sunday at the Meadowlands in New Jersey, it will have three rookies in the starting lineup and its whole 2014 draft class in uniform.

So, the 2014 season will be a mix of young and old, and the franchise is hoping the young base provides a springboard toward a better future.

No. 1 draft pick Khalil Mack will start at outside linebacker, No. 2 choice Derek Carr will be at quarterback and third-round selection Gabe Jackson is expected to start at left guard, because Khalif Barnes has switched to right tackle to take over for Menelik Watson, who’s recovering from a hip injury.

Much of what the Raiders accomplish this season will rest on two of those rookies, Mack and Carr, would could revitalize both the defense and offense.

On Monday, Raiders head coach Dennis Allen said he’s excited to have so many young players ready to contribute.

“I think that’s a testament to our scouting department and what (general manager) Reggie (McKenzie) has been able to do in the offseason,” Allen told Bill Williamson of “Throw in ‘Jelly’ (defensive tackle Justin Ellis) in that mix, too … (he) is a guy that we feel like is going to have an opportunity to really contribute, and guys like (cornerback-returner) T.J. Carrie. So there are a lot of young guys.”

The other drafted rookies to stick after training camp are cornerback Keith McGill, defensive end Shelby Harris and safety Jonathan Dowling.

The guy who’ll be under the microscope in Game No. 1, of course, will be Carr, who beat  out the veteran Schaub after Allen had said Schaub would be the starter. But Carr had a tremendous preseason, finishing it off with a terrific performance against the Seahawks Thursday when he threw three TD passes and led four TD drives.

“We’ve been watching this kid develop for a long time now,” Allen told reporters. “Thursday night confirmed a lot of things in our mind. We felt like it was time.”

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