Adding To The Raiders Playbook: The Deep Ball Has Returned

A.J. DeMelloCorrespondent IMay 18, 2009

DENVER - NOVEMBER 23:  Quarterback JaMarcus Russell #2 of the Oakland Raiders delivers a pass against the Denver Broncos during week 12 NFL action at Invesco Field at Mile High on November 23, 2008 in Denver, Colorado. The Raiders defeated the Broncos 31-10.  (Photo by Doug Pensinger/Getty Images)

The deepest throw JaMarcus Russell connected on was in October of last year to Chaz Schilens in a 10-29 loss to Baltimore. It was a 60 yard pass that Schilens caught and shook a defender in the process, almost managing a touchdown.

If you count Johnnie Lee Higgins 84 yard receiving touchdown in a 23-24 loss to the Bills Russell's deepest ball, you're mistaken because Higgins took it the distance with his speed.

The Raiders haven't been able to find a steady deep threat since Randy Moss was in Oakland. That was fun for about seven games, until he became injured his first year and we didn't see him go over the middle anymore for deep balls. Well, we don't know yet if Schilens can become a deep threat, but at least he isn't scared of getting hit.

However, I am not suggesting that Schilens will be used as the Raiders deep threat this year, but that is also not to say that we could see him running a go route from time to time or a cross route over the middle, since he has a big frame, decent speed and isn't afraid to go over the middle.

The Raiders drafted Maryland speedster receiver Darrius Heyward-Bey seventh overall to become the deep threat JaMarcus Russell will reek havoc on opposing NFL teams with for years to come. Well, that's what they're hoping for anyways.

The Raiders should be able to go deep this year and make some plays, being that they have a poised tight end who is on the cusp of a pro bowl birth to command the double team, and a backfield that can make opposing teams defenses stay up all night over.

The Raiders will have Javon Walker back at full speed too. Although his first season here was a little disappointing, it was overshadowed with is pre-existing knee injury he decided not to get surgery on after the 2007 season, as well as the Raiders offensive tackles who were giving Russell no help early on in the season (not to mention Lane Kiffin was holding back on letting Russell sling it around during his stay in Oakland).

In no way, shape or form do I think Walker will be great this year and Heyward-Bey will catch umpteen deep balls for scores, but there is too much talent and creativity in front of the Raiders that not saying they'll be able to throw the deep ball would be ridiculous. It comes down to execution.

The point is, that the Raiders have the personnel to go deep at least a couple times a game. If Walker is and stays healthy, he is usually a top five receiver in this league. He can make some people eat their words this year since he has a big chip on his shoulder with how many people don't believe he can return to his old form of a physical receiver.

Darrius Heyward-Bey will could his shots maybe twice a game down-field. I expect the Raiders to gradually incorporate him into the offense with Javon Walker and Chaz Schilens being the opening day starters.

Just imagine this scenario: The Raiders have a three receiver formation set with Walker far right, Heyward-Bey inside to the right, and Schilens split out wide to the left. Darren Mcfadden and Zach Miller are in the backfield as the running-backs (with this set, Russell can choose to leave Miller in to block if a blitz is to occur, or motion him or Mcfadden out wide).

Miller goes in motion to the left, Mcfadden remains in the backfield. Russell drops back, fakes the screen to Mcfadden, rolls to his right and finds Heyward-Bey in single coverage down-field for a score as he uses his speed to get under the ball and run in for an easy Raider touchdown.

That is just one scenario. Michael Bush and Darren Mcfadden can also throw the ball, so that brings some much needed mixing up in the playbook as well. The Raiders did have Bush throw twice last year.

The Raiders also have Johnnie Lee Higgins, who can make plays in space and will be very involved in this offense as well. The critics and realists may shut down talk of a Raiders possible deep threat or even a Raiders mediocre passing game, but they refuse to realize the possibilities.

It's all up to Tom Cable and the Raiders coaching staff to put their players in position to make plays, and to make the Raider Nation jump out of their seats once again to an exhilarating, "Touchdown Raaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaiders!!!" call by none other than the voice of the Raiders, Greg Papa.