GM Reggie McKenzie Has No Reason to Gut the Oakland Raiders

Carl CockerhamSenior Analyst IJanuary 20, 2012

GM Reggie McKenzie Has No Reason to Gut the Oakland Raiders

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    Now that Reggie McKenzie has become the Oakland Raiders GM and fired head coach Hue Jackson, we are all on notice. He is looking for his guy to hire as head coach, and we are now left to wonder who his players are.

    After being fired, Jackson told a CSN Bay Area reporter, "He's going to gut this place," according to NBC Sports. If that is indeed what McKenzie plans to do, I sure hope that it's the organizational side he's talking about.    

    I know that new GMs like to put their stamp on a team, but the notion that McKenzie is rebuilding is ridiculous to me. This is a team with a ton of young talent that needs only a couple of pieces and a change in defensive strategy to contend for a title.

    For goodness' sake, with all the injuries the Raiders had, they were within one game of the AFC West crown. There were some strategic mistakes made on defense, but McKenzie has new coaches on the way there.

    There is plenty right with the team, and gutting the team in total can end up being football suicide for McKenzie. You can tell from the last couple of years that the Raiders are on the brink of something big soon already.

    Turn the page for a look at how Jackson doesn't need to prevent that from happen.   

Defensive Secondary

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    As Reggie McKenzie brings in his own guy, who is likely on the Green Bay Packers staff, that will be a good thing. The Packers are a bump-and-run, man-to-man team, even more-so than the Raiders were in 2011.

    Defensive coordinator Chuck Bresnahan killed that Raiders defense by constantly running zone with man personnel. Now that we have him out of the way, one change that was made rather late doesn't need to be reversed.

    A day after the season, it was announced that Michael Huff had been moved to corner. That is a great move, and if Jackson had made it sooner, he may still have his job.

    This allows for shutdown strong safety Mike Mitchell, with his physicality and burn percentage of 34 percent, to start. It then becomes a must to re-sign Tyvon Branch to play free safety with all that speed and range.

    Youngsters Chimdi Chekwa and Demarcus Van Dyke should be allowed to grow behind Huff and Stanford Routt, who will be better next year going back to man coverage. It would also be nice to see Matt Giordano re-signed with the Raiders for depth if not anything else.

Defensive Front Seven

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    The front seven of the Raiders can be a dominant unit if the Raiders switch to the 3-4.

    Kamerion Wimbley and Aaron Curry are good at putting pressure on the quarterback, and that's what 3-4 outside linebackers do.

    Rolando McClain has yet to live up to his draft status because he is a natural, thumping, 3-4 inside linebacker. But for some reason, the Raiders have tried to turn him into a sideline-to-sideline middle linebacker.

    They say it takes three years to make such transactions, but that's not the case when you have a majority of 3-4 personnel. Tommy Kelly and the great Richard Seymour started their respective careers as 3-4 ends.   

    All the Raiders need is to add a linebacker to team up with McClain and a big, nasty nose tackle.

Find a Head Coach That Will Give Al Saunders a Chance

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    There has been lots of talk in the media about Reggie McKenzie liking the 3-4 defense, and that's a good thing.

    There has been just as much talk in the media of his love for the West Coast offense, and that's not so good.

    Raiders quarterback Carson Palmer isn't a fit for the West Coast offense, and Al Saunders has the best resume of any candidate out there. He is from the Don Coryell coaching tree and has consistently put together top offenses.

    His offense was ranked No. 1 with the Kansas City Chiefs from 2002-2005. Particularly if a defensive coach comes in to be the head coach, Saunders should need only an interview to impress and get the job.

    The Raiders would be unwise to let Saunders out of Raider Nation and start over with an offense that was already good.

Offensive Line

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    Now, if Reggie McKenzie wants to gut something, the offensive line is an area in need of such a thing.

    This offensive line needs to be rebuilt around Stefen Wisniewski at center and left tackle Jared Veldheer.

    I would love to see Bruce Campbell and Joseph Barksdale get an opportunity for a starting position on the line. But whatever McKenzie can find in the free-agent market or draft will do just fine with me.

    At his introductory press conference, McKenzie said, "I like big and strong."

    That was encouraging to hear.

Receiver Corps

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    All McKenzie needs to do with this Raiders receiver corps is let it get a year older.

    Darrius Heyward-Bey came on this year, catching 64 passes for 975 yards in his breakout season. 

    Rookie Denarius Moore showed himself to be a playmaker with a blindingly bright future. Jacoby Ford figures to be in the mix as well—I look at him as more of a slot guy, because starting him at receiver would take away from his kick returning—see Devin Hester.

    Louis Murphy is another deep threat that's nice to have around for depth, and Chaz Schilens may not be back. I was a huge supporter of his, but I have finally decided to give that one a rest.

    I don't really know what to think of keeping T.J. Houshmandzadeh around, but for the most part, the Raiders are set at receiver.

Tight Ends

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    Kevin Boss got $4 million this year and hasn't had the opportunity to give the Raiders much in the passing game. If they are going to continue to do things this way, the Raiders could use that money to help other areas.

    Brandon Myers did a good job this year and could very well start for the Silver and Black. David Ausberry is a converted wide receiver with 4.4 wheels that I can't wait to see next year.

    Richard Gordon is more of a blocking tight end that will be plenty useful if Boss isn't around. Otherwise, four tight ends doesn't make sense, especially when the Raiders were paper-thin on the offensive line this year.

    A decision needs to be made here. 

Running Backs

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    I'm looking forward to seeing what Taiwan Jones can do in a backup role when healthy. Michael Bush appears to be going, going, gone—I just wish that there was a way the Raiders could sign him and get something for him.

    I've heard one suggestion too many about Darren McFadden getting traded for draft picks. For those that have lost their mind like that: I found it; call me, and I'll return it to you immediately.

    McFadden did have a foot injury this year that kept him out of 10 games, but he's the best player on the team. You can't put that together with his prior injuries, saying, "He has issues with his feet," because this year is the first time he had a mid-foot sprain.

    Last time, it was turf toe, and that's a completely different type of injury than a mid-foot sprain is. The reason why the Raiders finished .500 in 2010 after all those sub-.500 seasons is because McFadden broke out and changed games.

    The reason why the Raiders started out 4-2 and went 4-6 from there is because McFadden wasn't there to change games. You don't try to trade a guy like that, because there is no one in the league like him.

    I could see if McFadden were an average back, but he's special.

    The NFL usually give those guys every chance to succeed.

Reggie McKenzie Already Likes Palmer

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    The first thing many wondered after Reggie McKenzie fired Hue Jackson was if Carson Palmer would be jettisoned with him. But at his introductory press conference, McKenzie spoke in support of the quarterback.

    With a full offseason and training camp, he should really be good to go for the Raiders in 2012. Another reason why Saunders should be brought back is so that Palmer can have blocks to build from last year.

    Behind Palmer should be Terrelle Pryor, and the Raiders should pick up a No. 3 in free agency. Jason Campbell is no longer under contract with the Raiders, so there isn't much to do there.

    Palmer, now healthy, should be able to show us what he can do next year.  

Overview

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    I really hope that gutting the Raiders isn't the plan that new GM Reggie McKenzie has in mind for 2012.

    Why start winning in 2015, when you can win now; just so you can say you built everything from the ground up?

    Deceased Raiders owner Al Davis actually had the Raiders rebuilt pretty well up to this point. McKenzie should just keep adding pieces and let Davis' team go out there and win games.

    He should simply hire his coach and just win, baby.