The 2007 season started with a lot of hope and promise of a new day in Oakland, as Al Davis named Lane Kiffin the new head coach.
That was last year’s story. This season started with a lot of talk this off-season of owner Al Davis sending Coach Kiffin a letter asking him to resign, followed by reports that he was on the verge of being fired. But as usual, time has proven that someone in the media heard it from one of my personal favorites—the unnamed source.
It happens often in the Bay Area press, just like watching a writer from SF Gate comment on the state of the Raiders franchise on the NFL Network. I’m guessing a writer from Oakland was unavailable?
This same writer, who shall go nameless, was nowhere to be found in the SF 49er State of the franchise report, perhaps due to the head coach being in the studio.
There will always be negative things written about the Raiders by media types who feel justified in saying such things. They remind me of the last two squares of toilet paper on the roll: They’ve shown up, they’re there to be utilized, but are they really helping?
Kiffin, the youngest head coach in the NFL, while still learning to lead a team, placed his mark on the Raiders, and created several positive changes in 2007. In his effort to re-build the team, the biggest moves he made were in assembling the coaching staff on the offensive side of the ball.
Even though his father Monte Kiffin has been a NFL coach for over 25 years, Lane wasn’t a household name. But I’m a huge USC Trojans fan, and I’m very familiar with Coach Kiffin and his coaching style, so I felt then and now that the hire was a good one. With time and development Kiffin will be a solid NFL coach.
The Oakland Raiders went through a difficult season in 2007, with a contract holdout by the No. 1 overall pick JaMarcus Russell, injuries, penalties, poor play, and several close losses. However, the Raiders showed a lot of potential & hope for the future.
The Oakland Raiders have been more active than the majority of the league in free agency, marking a clear statement that Al Davis is doing all he can to right the ship in Oakland. The team has been ridiculed for the amount of money spent during free agency, but in free agency every team overspends. The players brought in will help improve this team making the amount of money spent a mute point.
CB DeAngelo Hall was the exclamation point of the Raiders' venture into 2008 free agent class. Hall's signing prompted Kiffin to make a statement to the media for the first time this off-season: "We're very pleased about the acquisition of DeAngelo Hall to the Raiders. Following offseason signings of Tommy Kelly and Gibril Wilson, we feel that we've got one of the most talented defenses in the league."
The Raiders still have cap space at this time, despite having RB Lamont Jordan still on the roster—which is not in the team's plan for 2008. Prior to next month’s upcoming draft, here’s how the Raider defense will look:
LE Derrick Burgess
LDT Gerard Warren, William Joseph
RDT Tommy Kelly, Terdell Sands
RE Jay Richardson
WLB Thomas Howard
MLB Kirk Morrison
SLB Robert Thomas
LCB DeAngelo Hall, Stanford Routt, John Bowie
RCB Nnamdi Asomugha, Fabian Washington, Chris Johnson
FS Michael Huff, Stuart Schweigert, Rashad Baker
SS Gibril Wilson, Hiram Eugene
The next two moves I’d like to see the Raiders make would be to re-sign Asomugha and C Jeremy Newberry to long-term contracts.
In the upcoming NFL draft, I feel that the Raiders need to address the DE position in the first roundm by taking either Chris Long or Vernon Gholston. My reasons for saying that are: 1) the Raiders only have two DEs on the roster, 2) as of right now the team has a selection in rounds one, four, six, and two in the seventh, and 3) If the Raiders chose to select RB Darren McFadden—who is not my choice, but is a possibility—then the team will have to hope a higher-rated DE (such as Kenny Iwebema from Iowa or Jeremy Thompson from Wake Forest) drops to the fourth round, or that they can find a DE gem in rounds six, seven, or as an undrafted free agent.
Or, the Raiders can trade expendable players—such as CB Fabian Washington, FB Justin Griffith, FS Stuart Schweigert—to acquire picks in the second, third, or fifth round of the NFL Draft.
The Raiders will draft help for the Offensive Line, probably selecting a player or two from the 2008 Senior Bowl, due to the coaching staff working with them. There are currently 11 offensive linemen on the roster fighting for a total of 10 first- and second-team spots, with a few more being added in the draft as well as a few undrafted free agents being invited to camp.
I have faith that Tom Cable will handle all needed offensive line improvements. If Cable can work wonders with Robert Gallery, he will do the same with Kwame Harris.
The running game is set as of now, but I wouldn’t rule out an addition being made. The receiving corps is vastly improved from last year, and with Russell being present for all Organized Training Activities, passing sessions, 7-on-7 passing drills, mini-camps—and of course, training camp—he will have time to gel with his new receivers and master the playbook.
Like it or not, this is a different and far more competitive Oakland Raider team, which will surprise a lot of people this year. The Raiders will make noise in 2008.