The Oakland Raiders are making great strides as they steadily progress in their rise to claim AFC West supremacy.
The release of DeAngelo Hall and Javon Walker was a great start toward rebuilding. Man, that bad taste is still there, though. Walker was basically paid millions to become the worst CB in the league, and he did the job well.
Owner Al Davis' decision to retain Tom Cable as head coach will be the pivotal reason for the success of next season. Cable's performance at the end of the season was no less than genius. He used Darren McFadden in various positions and ran the blitz that had been lacking.
I have no doubt that the Raiders' dominance over the Tampa Bay Buccaneers last season and knocking former Oakland coach Jon "Chucky" Gruden out of the playoffs gave Cable an edge when it came to holding the reins of the Silver and Black. Another factor could have been how the Raiders defeated the highly-touted defense of the Houston Texans.
Whatever the reason was, the "Cableman" sticking around can only build a positive environment in Alameda, since the players appears to like Tom Cable and have shown they will play hard for him.
The addition of Jim Michalczik was another great move. He brings new blood to the Raiders' offensive line. Michalczik helped turn around the Cal Bears in his seven years as assistant head coach and co-offensive coordinator. The Bears offense has been ranked in the Top Five in offense five of the last seven years.
The Cal Bears' offensive line protection has allowed its quarterbacks to produce four of the five highest TD passing totals in school history. This will be a huge factor, as Raiders QB Jamarcus Russell needs time to plant and throw the ball. Russell is a powerful QB and, so long as Michalczik and newly-acquired QB coach Jim Hackett work together, the offense will prosper.
Let's not forget the plethora of talented TEs and RBs surrounding JaMarcus. Higgins is a good wide receiver, as is rookie Chaz Schilens, but I feel we could use a veteran receiver, maybe Anquan Boldin, someone with heart.
Many of you may not like WR Ronald Curry, but he is a weapon and his catching ability is awesome. Heck, he may be one of the best receivers we have. The guy is a champion at heart and you never hear him complain. Curry may be next year's sleeper; recall how he defeated Denver 24-23 in Denver.
The next move should be the franchising of the best CB in the NFL, Nnamdi Asomugha. It appears that Nnamdi will be franchised, and with that move the Raiders shut down that side of the field.
Cable should be looking to build the defense. Everyone knows defense wins championships, but no team is worried about the Raiders defense, especially the line. I would like to see Tommy Kelly released and his money used to get another veteran lineman, either a free agent or a rookie like Terrance Taylor from Michigan State in the draft.
Taylor is six-feet, 319 lbs. and is a phenom. Of course, we could try to get Albert Haynesworth from Tennessee, but Taylor would be a good pick as well. I also would not be surprised if Oakland signs Julius Peppers, since Al Davis loves a veteran and Peppers plays hard.
The Raiders secondary is nearly fine right now; the re-signing of Chris Johnson was smart, since he was stellar last season and made three interceptions in his short tenure as CB, replacing the worthless DeAngelo Hall.
Gibril Wilson has also done well, and now the Raiders need to release/trade Michael Huff to get someone to improve the secondary.
You can be certain the Raiders will get a top wide receiver to complement the corps we currently have. The D-line will definitely see some changes as well.
You can be certain the Raiders will keep making good moves to become the sleeper team in the AFC.
The title is there for the taking, and Oakland is too proud to continue in a slump. Just win, baby. Go Raiders!