WARNING A BOLD PREDICTION IS IN PROGRESS! The Raiders will make it to the AFC Championship game in 2010. No, I’m not delusional like Al Davis, but this prediction comes because of fate and history. I’m happy to let you know that my fate, is to become a billionaire, and the Raiders fate this year, is to make it to the AFC Championship game. The Raiders are the team of the decades, and one reason they took to this name was because of their success at the beginning of each decade. The Raiders have made it to the AFC Championship game every year that ended in a zero since 1960. It means nothing what I predict or what the shortcomings of the team are, it’s just destiny.
The additions we made this off-season in the draft, free agency, and coaching were all positive, which is shocking looking at their track record over the last decade. Realistically, I’d be happy with an 8-8 season, just showing the fans that we are going in the right direction, or any direction for that matter. The Chargers will most likely take the AFC West, but a 2nd place finish for Oakland is probably better than being a “grenade” of the league. The Raiders have their fans on the believer side for the first time since I was in college. It’s not that Mr. Davis didn’t try over the years, he was just short sighted, and refused to have a re-building year, even though we desperately needed big overhauls at times. Signing whoever to whatever ridiculous contract possible, and hoping to hit double zero on the roulette wheel is never a sound strategy. The last couple years we’ve gotten younger, and built up a solid core. We finally have a competent QB, and there’s even some experts thinking we have a chance of winning the weak AFC West. The Chargers are still clearly the favorite of the division, but there’s a lot of question marks in San Diego with their running game, Vincent Jackson, and Marcus McNeil still holding out. Will their offense be as dynamic? I have a hard time believing it will be, but it’s not going to disappear. The Raiders schedule is working for them as well, since they only face 4 playoff teams this year (SD is two of those games). It might be the most excited I’ve been about opening day in awhile, hence the ridiculously long preview.
I already talked extensively about the draft they had in this post here. It was a great draft, and each pick made the most sense of any draft we’ve had in as long as I can remember. I ended up watching the first half of both preseason games they played. Both times, the defense looked great. Not that I ever thought that was our weakness, but it looks improved. What was surprising is watching our rookie, Rolando McClain, control the field from the MIKE spot. He’s moving guys around, and pointing out receivers/blockers before the snap. I haven’t seen him get burned once in the plays I was zeroing in on him. He didn’t miss any tackles, and made some impressive plays in the open field.
Lamarr Houston, was our second round pick, and I already love the guy! Richard Seymour is even impressed with his abilities to play multiple spots on the D-Line. In Houston’s first preseason game, he got two sacks on Romo in the first quarter, ultimately being one of the keys to holding the Cowboys to 9 plays in their first three drives of the game. While I never get overly excited nor should I about preseason games, his performance was something to feel like we made a good pick with some true promise. Speaking of breakout preseason games, Kameron Wimbley, the unnoticed free agent acquisition had four sacks in the first half of our preseason game against the Bears. It made me excited at first, but then realized he was sacking one of the most sacked QB’s in the league last year, Jay Cutler probably isn’t overly impressive. I honestly didn’t know a lot about Wimbley, until I saw we acquired him from the Browns for a draft pick, and looked him up. He looks like he’s got a good motor, and doesn’t give up plays. He’s going to play mostly on passing downs, so it will be good to have him on the d-line rotating in and out keeping everyone a little more fresh. They should be better against the run this year, with a healthy (lost 30 pounds) and grossly overpaid Tommy Kelly, rounding out the line. They have a lot more girth and versatility than they’ve had in years past, so if they are still giving up big days on the ground it’s probably because they are behind on the scoreboard. I thought the past couple years our numbers in stopping the run were mostly because they’d be tired from being on the field after Jamarcus either turned it over or went three and out every time we had the ball. I guess we’ll see right away if they can stop the run as they face Chris Johnson on his attempt at 2,500 yards rushing this season.
Their secondary is still questionable. They have the best corner in the league in Asomugha. I get it that everyone and their mother thinks Revis is HANDS DOWN the best corner, but I’m standing by my statement. It’s truly impossible to really compare CB’s in this league. You’re either one of the elite or not, but here’s a telling stat of how much opposing teams respect Nnamdi Asomugha compared to Revis. In 2009, teams targeted Revis’s man 111 times, and only threw to Nnamdi’s receiver 27 times. The Raiders have said they are going to let Asomugha roam the field a little more instead of keeping him on one side. This should allow him to follow their best receiver all game, and also open him up on the blitz schemes. He’s a VERY good open field tackler. He doesn’t have that Neon Deion yipes when a collision is coming his way.
Stanford Routt and Chris Johnson are most likely going to man up whoever Nnamdi isn’t on, and they aren’t exactly shut down corners, but have improved over the last couple seasons, so hopefully that progression keeps on rolling along. I was actually hoping we’d draft or sign another corner, but oh well, maybe they are better than I think. Our safety positions are the biggest question in the secondary. Can Tyvon Branch build on a decent rookie season or will we be putting Hyrum Eugene back there? Will Michael Huff ever live up to being picked in the first round? I can’t answer either of these questions, and nothing I’ve seen gives me reason to be too optimistic. Hopefully they can cover receivers long enough for the D-Line to get to the QB.
The offense has taken a major facelift, and is going to be the deciding factor for this 2010 campaign. Hue Jackson seems to be our biggest acquisition according to some. He’s reportedly doing wonders taking over the offense, but it’s tough for me to agree until I see it in the regular season. It’s just nice to read positive things for once coming out of camp whether it translates to success or not remains to be seen. It’s really hard to find any negative comments about him from players, coaches, or the media about Hue, so that’s a good sign. He’s taken over a pathetic offense, and thankfully doesn’t have to rely on Jamarcus to screw up every play design. Instead, Hue has newly acquired QB, Jason Campbell. Campbell might not be the best in the league, but we’ve been praying to get anyone that cares, and can read at a third grade level. Fortunately it sounds like Campbell is both so far! I forgot what a hard worker at the most important position means to the overall team moral! I love the fact that his completion percentage was at an all time high last year, but the biggest question for Campbell is, who will be helping him on offense? He was sacked 46 times last year, and the Raiders gave up 49 sacks last year. I’m already scared for the beating he might take.
We really don’t know who will be Campbell’s go to guy yet, and really with Jamarcus manning the ship how could you? We saw Zach Miller lead the team in receptions the last few years. Mainly because Russell never threw to wide receivers, so there’s very small sample size to tell what’s going on with the WR core. Darius Heyward-Bey, our first round pick last year, seems to be improving from the reports I’ve read. I won’t call him a bust yet, but he needs to grab at least 50 balls this year for me to think he will be good in this league. Plus, who the hell sits out of practice for four days not named Haynesworth from fatigue in training camp!?! Not a good sign, and makes me still wish we picked Crabtree (at least he went to the Niners, who I no longer hate because they’ve sucked for long enough. Kind of the same way you might feel about the Raiders). I think the other receiver we drafted last year could end up being our go to guy. Louis Murphy has been a stud in a non-existent receiving core. If there’s a guy in Oakland to take late in fantasy drafts, consider taking a long look at Murphy. Chaz Schillens just had surgery, so can’t really expect much from him this year. Jacoby Ford looks like he could be a solid slot/stretch the field player. He hasn’t done or played a whole lot in preseason, so I’m not sure how they will use him.
In the backfield we have Michael Bush and Darren McFadden. We lost Fargas to Denver in free agency, but that’s okay, he was getting older and usually ends up on the IR more times than not. I really hope McFadden breaks out this year. We’ve been waiting, and waiting, and haven’t seen much from him. Some of that has to do with injuries, but even when he’s been healthy, I haven’t been too impressed. Hopefully he can stay healthy for a full season to show us what he’s really got. Michael Bush on the other hand, has been stashed away behind DMac and Fargas on the depth chart for most of his time with Oakland. This could be his year though. When he’s been given the chance, he’s produced. He’s racked up a few 100 yard games in limited times being the featured back. If DMac gets hurt, Bush might wrestle away that starting spot for good. On fantasy draft days, I’d honestly take Bush over McFadden.
The biggest weakness/question mark for this year is their O-line. Last year we suffered lots of injuries to the front line in an attempt to beat out the A’s and Warriors as the most injured franchise of the bay. They used 12 different starting lineups for the O-linemen in 16 games. That doesn’t exactly keep your QB upright or the offense fluent. They don’t really have any elite linemen. I like Satalle at center, but other than him there could be a hole at any given moment. It’s also tough to tell how good or bad they were when you have Jamarcus standing there holding the ball like it’s his first born son. Maybe some of those plays were three step drops and Jamarcus took five and stood there counting diamonds on his necklace, so the O-line wasn’t really to blame. Now that Cable isn’t calling the plays for the offense, I feel he should resort back to his old job a little bit more. Maybe give the offensive line coach some help in his real area of expertise to help get these guys on the same page!
Special teams have probably been our biggest strength over the decade of depression. Not something you want to brag about being your best part of the team. Granted the Raiders haven’t had a great kick returner (hopefully Jacoby Ford fixes that), but we do seem to block punts well which is underrated. Also, we have two of the highest paid kickers in the league. Janikowski might not be worth his contract, but since our offense was so bad, he was far and away our highest scoring player/best offensive player on the team. Plus he can make kicks from 60+ yards away. Lechler’s importance can’t be emphasized enough either. After moving the ball one or two yards on our way to a three and out, we can always count on Shane to boot the ball 60 yards the other way keeping other teams from having too good of field postion.
If you made it this far, thanks for reading the longest post I’ve written on the blog for awhile. I guess I had some things that were on my mind about the Raiders upcoming season, and it’s been so long since I’ve had any kind of hope I just kept going! Just remember this post when the Raiders are in the AFC Championship game this year!