Cleaning House: Oakland Raiders Who Should Stay or Go for 2013
After a blowout loss for the third straight week, the Oakland Raiders look like they will not be playing football in Week 18 this season. While they will likely pull out a few more wins in 2012, it is time to think about the future of this team and who should or should not be a part of it.
Is it time to change franchise quarterbacks? What about trading that injury-prone running back? Should the Raiders cut that old defensive tackle? Should Oakland keep the current coaching staff intact or clean house and start from scratch... again?
A look then at what Reggie McKenzie and Mark Davis should do in the upcoming offseason.
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In the Raiders recent crushing loss to the New Orleans Saints in the Oakland Coliseum, the Oakland fans began to boo Carson Palmer and even late in the fourth quarter the fans, those who stayed until the bitter end, began a chant of "Palmer sucks."
That chant could not be more wrong. Palmer will throw some interceptions, but with this roster who wouldn't? Terrelle Pryor would not have a Bruce Gradkowski-like impact on the team. Matt Leinart never looked all that great in his time with the Arizona Cardinals as their starting quarterback, so why should he replace Palmer?
Palmer has proven he is still a good QB as he is on pace to throw for well beyond 4,000 yards this season. He actually hit the 3,000 yard milestone in the loss to the Saints.
Palmer is the best-suited QB on the Raiders and I say he stays for 2013.
He's not the one dropping passes, blowing coverage assignments, missing tackles or changing the offensive blocking scheme. Give him a respectable defense so that he doesn't have to throw the ball 50 times a game because he has to play catchup before halftime.
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Darren McFadden is among the best running backs in the NFL when healthy, but that is just the problem. McFadden has not played a full season in his five-year NFL career. In 2011, he led the NFL in rushing yards through the first six weeks before going down with a season-ending foot injury.
McFadden is like the tree that falls in the forest. Is he is the best running back in the NFL, but can't stay on the field. Does he really have an impact on the game?
But look what happens when he goes down to an injury. The Raiders have not been remotely close in games since he went down with a high ankle sprain this season and the Raiders have had a one-dimensional offense since his latest injury.
The Raiders offense is night-and-day different when "Run DMC" is on the field and if Greg Knapp didn't go and screw up the blocking scheme, McFadden could still be thriving this year, but he averages about three yards per carry this season.
With so much to think about in the McFadden case, I can't make up my hand on what to do with McFadden. Either trade him for a package of good draft picks to help rebuild, or keep him and pray for his health and hope he returns to form when he is on the field.
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This is an easy one.
In 2011, Hue Jackson and Al Saunders were leading the high-powered Raiders offense with McFadden averaging over five yards per carry, Darrius Heyward-bey breaking out of his early career slump and Denarius Moore was emerging as the steal of the 2011 draft as a fifth round pick.
In 2012, with Greg Knapp leading the offense, the Raiders run game has disappeared. Most of the success that the top-10 pass attack has comes late in the games when the opponent play a soft prevent defense.
I just can't make a case for Knapp especially when Al Saunders is still a part of the Raiders coaching staff who spends game day sitting in the booth upstairs telling Dennis Allen whether or not to challenge the play.
I'm not asking for someone like Jon Gruden here, I'm just asking for anyone besides Knapp running the offense next year. I say give the offense back to Saunders since he is still with the team.
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The first head coach to be hired in Oakland after the Al Davis era, Allen inherited a team that had playoff talent, but a horrible salary cap situation and depth issues with a limited supply of draft picks to fill the holes.
Allen is also the first defensive-minded head coach in Oakland since the Madden days of the 1970s. With that in mind, the Raiders were expected to have a much better defense. That hasn't been the case either.
Allen is a step up from Chuck Bresnahan, but the Raiders defense is injury-plagued and deprived of depth in the secondary. Allen also has a young, inexperienced defensive coordinator in Jason Tarver calling the plays on defense. Allen does not call the plays on either side of the ball to keep an eye on the whole team.
The Raiders currently sit at 3-7 after two seasons of going 8-8. I think the coaching staff could use a good shakeup after the season, but not a complete overhaul.
Changing head coaches was one of the causes of Oakland's struggles over the last decade. I'm not giving Allen a vote of confidence, but I want to see continuity. I say keep Allen for 2013, but beyond that is a question mark depending on next season.
Richard Seymour and Tommy Kelly
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Tommy Kelly was given a $50 million contract by Al Davis as a part of the 2008 spending spree that also brought in DeAngelo Hall and Javon Walker.
The Raiders have a good young defensive tackle in Desmond Bryant who looks ready to become a starter based on the time he has been filling in for Seymour this season.
With Seymour being the veteran mentor and Bryant the younger (and cheaper) player of the group, I say that Tommy Kelly will have to go. The Raiders are in a tight salary cap situation and Kelly, despite his improvement over recent years, will have to be a cap casualty unless he restructures his contract, similar to why the Raiders had to let go of Kamerion Wimbley before this season.
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McClain has had a short, yet controversial, NFL career since being a first round draft pick in 2010. He has been involved in legal trouble and has had inconsistent play in the NFL.
That combination of legal trouble and poor play in the NFL aren't reasons why the Raiders picked him in the first round of the draft before there was a rookie wage scale to control how much of a cap hit he would be.
McClain will be due over $5 million in 2013 and, in a salary cap league, the Raiders will need more production than they have gotten from McClain as a middle linebacker to justify his salary.
The Raiders restructured Aaron Curry's contract this past offseason to give him a long-term deal in Oakland. That combined with the pleasant surprises that have been Miles Burris and Phillip Wheeler the Raiders should consider cutting ties with McClain and re-signing Wheeler after this season.
If the Raiders can keep Wheeler, I say let McClain go. Wheeler and Burris can handle the outside and Curry has experience as a middle linebacker.
If Wheeler chooses free agency, then the Raiders may be stuck with McClain next year just so they don't give themselves another problem going into 2013.
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The way the Raiders have played the past three weeks, I think you could put the entire 53-man roster into the slideshow. The Raiders are, like it or not, not going to be a playoff team this year. That doesn't mean they won't be good next year.
In the 2013 draft, the Raiders will not have to wait until the 95th overall pick to make a selection. The Raiders will have their first round pick for the upcoming draft. Reggie McKenzie was hired in part because of his ability to scout college players, especially undrafted free agents, during his time in the Packers front office. He will be tested in the 2013 draft.
The Raiders moves in the draft and free agency could change my thoughts on some of the players I just mentioned but this is just an early look at how to improve the Raiders going into 2013.