Much has been said regarding the rumors that have swirled around the Raiders this offseason. Let’s take a break from the annual firestorm and take a look at the Silver and Black from an X’s and O’s standpoint.
While JaMarcus Russell gained valuable experience under center in 2007, the fact that he missed his entire rookie training camp can not be ignored. His progress from year one to year two must be measured accordingly. Russell will continue to experience growing pains and make mistakes as a result.
His focus will be on making smart decisions with the football. Familiarity with the offense will help; look for Kiffin to encourage his young quarterback to utilize his tight end and running backs in the passing game to ease the pressure, while showcasing his arm strength deep downfield on occasion to keep defenses honest.
It is Russells’ ability to improve over last year’s performance that is the most important factor for the Raiders as they head into 2008.
Oakland significantly upgraded the secondary with the addition of Gibril Wilson at safety and DeAngelo Hall at cornerback. Wilson gives the Raiders a physical presence with sure tackling ability that they have lacked at safety, while Hall will combine forces with Nnamdi Asomugha for an elite man-to-man duo at cornerback.
The Raiders have still failed to fully address their needs in the trenches on defense. Regardless of how much faith they have in Tommy Kelly, they still have major question marks when it comes to stopping the run.
A talented Raiders’ linebacking corps suffers as a result of the lack of production at the defensive tackle position.
Their inability to pressure opposing quarterbacks must be addressed as well. An elite cornerback tandem will not match up with a talented quarterback who is comfortable in the pocket. Despite their ability to match up man-to-man at the corners, if there is no pressure up front the defensive backs will lost the battle every time.
The loss of Chris Carr to the Titans is offset by the addition of Hall. Hall can be used as a punt/kick returner if Al Davis deems necessary.
Before anyone insists that he wouldn’t risk injury to his precious cornerback, consider the fact that Charles Woodson was used as a return man and he will not hesitate to do the same with Hall if he feels that the team needs a spark.
Despite his play-making ability, I don’t think selecting Darren McFadden would be the best choice for the Raiders. Justin Fargas proved that he is more than capable of churning out the yardage. With LaMont Jordan and Dominic Rhodes in the stable, and a healthy Michael Bush waiting in the wings, I think the Raiders have sufficient firepower at the position.
If Al Davis insists on going offense, I think he needs to take a long, hard look at Jake Long. While he may not be the flashy/popular choice, adding bodyguards for the investment that is JaMarcus Russell would be an intelligent choice.
I suggest that the Raiders look to bolster the defense and add Chris Long, with Glenn Dorsey and Vernon Gholston as second and third choice respectively.