The Oakland Raiders, one of the most storied franchise's in the history of the NFL. One of the most loved by it's fans, and hated by everyone else's. The Silver and Black, the helmeted man with the crossed swords behind his head, the tradition, the envy, the commitment to excellence.
Every fan in Raider Nation wants to know if this is the year they turn it around. Every year we hope it is, but alas, we are once again disappointed.
This year, however, actually may hold some promise. We have come not to expect things that are not realistic, although it may be troubling to accept.
Is it realistic to think that these Raiders can win this division this year? The simple answer is no. The hopeful answer is probably not.
The San Diego Chargers are still better on paper, and frankly, have been better in execution of basic football.
So we always hope and are let down. We come to not hope for much at all. We are not deterred, we should be, but we are not. We should feel like Lions or L.A.Clippers fans, but we don't.
We see the potential. We see the last six years as rebuilding. We see it as an opportunity to take advantage of the Cream of the Round draft picks, if you will. What I mean by that is having the early pick in every round of the draft for the last six seasons.
In spite of what the experts say, we fans know that we have had some great later round draft picks. Johnny Lee Higgins, Trevor Scott, Kirk Morrison, Thomas Howard, Zach Miller, Tyvon Branch, Chaz Schilens, and Michael Bush just to name a few.
This team has so much young talent. Some might call it loaded. I read an article the other day, written by Jonah Lathbury, called Al Davis vs. Bill Belichick in the draft room. It was a very well thought out article that I recommend you read.
The simple fact I learned from this article is that Belicheat doesn't have many hidden gems. Al Davis has actually had better drafts when you really sit down and look at the picks. Davis just hasn't had the same head coach since 2000.
I don't think anyone in their right mind would look at this roster and not see the potential. I think if some of the more successful league coach's had this roster they might jump for joy.
So, the problem is not necessarily the players, but the way in which the head coaching position has been a revolving door. Not being able to find the right fit since the departure of the much loved human "chucky" doll, Jon Gruden.
Enter Tom Cable, a man who idolized the Raiders when he was growing up. Perhaps the only guy, in his right mind, who actually wants to work with crazy old Al Davis.
Here is a man who has genuinely turned this into a team over the 12 games he coached last season. He has more wins than any of those revolving door coach's other than Norv Turner. One more to tie, two more to pass, if you're wondering.
A guy who may be the skeleton key to fit all of our mental locks.
So with this glimmer of hope, this last light trying to shine through an abysmal, apparently never ending hole that this team is falling into, I give you 10 predictions that I, as a Raider fan, hope to see happen this year.
And some that i have no doubt will happen. Time is the ultimate truth of these predictions. If more than half come true I want kudo's. If less than half come true I want no credit. LOL! Enjoy!
Nnamdi is getting much deserved league recognition now, entering his sixth year with the franchise.
Nnamdi, if healthy, will make a return appearance in the Pro-Bowl at the end of the season. This will mark No. 2 on his resume.
He will make AP all-pro status for the third time in his career. He is a shut down corner in the prime of his career. A shining light in a franchise that has very little to show for itself.
JaMarcus Russell will hand the ball off at least 350 times this year.This is absolutely necessary if the Raiders want to win any games this year.
The running back position is one of the key positions on this team. We are loaded at tailback, and each of these backs should get their kings ransom of touches.
If I was the coach I would pass on 3rd-and-long only. I don't care if they put 11 guys in the box, these guys would probably still run all over the opposition.
Justin Miller and Johnny Lee Higgins will combine for at least five return game touchdowns. Miller was a fantastic returner when he was with the New York Jets, and he continued that trend in Oakland scoring on two kickoff returns and winning an award last year for special teams player of the month(December) .
Johnny Lee Higgins is a great punt returner, very quick and explosive. Us Raider Nation folk know all about him and his backflips. The special teams unit is looking solid with the return of several key role players
A 17-year veteran who brings much more than blocking to this once great franchise. Lorenzo Neal will have a huge impact on the field and off the field for these young Raiders.
He will take our yards per carry average up by at least a half a yard, and he will keep players head in it when they get down. He will provide much needed experience to a mentally underdeveloped team.
Anybody else notice that Chaz Shcilens is wearing a new number this year? What's that all about?
Anyways, the reason his pick is number six is because I am guaranteeing that one of our receivers, himself, Johnny Lee Higgins, DHB, Wlaker, Murphey, I really don't care who it is will have more than 22 catches this year.
Zach Miller may lead the team in catch's, but our receiver's, most likely more than one of them will get past that dreaded 22 mark by game 10 at the latest.
Robert Gallery has found a new home at Left Guard. He and the rest of this revamped offensive line will do a much better job this year than they have in years past.
The tackles will be Barnes and Henderson, the guards will be Gallery and Carlisle, the center Satele. The Oakland offensive line gave up 41 sacks last year.
This year I predict that they will give up less than 30. Jot it down where-ever you want and tell me at the end of the year if I was wrong, I honestly don't think I will be.
I predict we will split the series with San Diego this year. San Diego has been known for getting off to slow starts over the past few seasons. If we could get a win over them right out of the gates, that would set a great tone for the rest of the season.
If not, do not expect a blowout like the 41-14 beatdown Denver gave us to kickoff the 2008 season. If Oakland can stay in the game, they will be saved in the eyes of all the ESPN critics, and the fans.
If they don't open with a win at home, then they will win in San Diego.
JaMarcus Russell is not a bust. I'm with Warren Sapp on this one. When asked in one of his live online chats if he thought JaMarcus Russell was a bust he replied with a simple and straight forward "no."
I completely agree. He will be the starting QB, and he will be the starting QB for the next 10 years. He has tremendous upside. He showed us last year that he is careful with the ball playing all 16 games and only throwing eight INT's.
He had 5 TD passes in the last three games of last year, and has a very complimentary rushing attack behind him. I'm guessing 3100 yards, around 58% completion, 25 TD's and 12 INT's.
Big props to all the haters, can't wait to hear the comments on this one.
Top 10 defense. This defense is an under the radar type. Everyone is starting to take notice of No. 21. What about the rest of the defense?
Kirk Morrison and Thomas Howard are top notch linebackers. The guy on the other side of Nnamdi (Chris Johnson) is good too. He will get a lot of balls thrown his way this year because teams don't want to throw at 21, so I expect him to have at least six INT's.
The safeties will likely be a rotating bunch, although I expect the starter's to be Mike Mitchell at SS, Tyvon Branch at FS with Michael Huff and Hirum Eugene will play quite frequently to spell the starters.
The Defensive line is going to surprise to most people, whether or not Burgess is there. Expect Tommy Kelly to rebound after a dismal season. Terdell Sands arrived at mini camp about 30 pounds lighter, he's ready to regain 2006 form.
Gerrard Warren is a monster, he will be a household name by the end of the year. Trevor Scott is playing his butt off right now, and a lot of insider's are starting to buzz about him.
Jay Richardson should be a starting end and will help bolster the run defense with his big frame. This defense will be ranked in the top 10.
Coach Cable will be our coach in 2010. The Raiders are a better team under this guy. Heck, they are actually a team. It's been a long time since we could even say that much.
He gets Al, Al respects him, and it works. He has done so many interviews this offseason, if you still don't have a feel for what this guy wants to do, just Google him or something. Listen to him speak, he loves this team, he wants to see them succeed.
He wants to have this job forever, and his players respect him. he got to implement his own coaching staff. He got to draft players that he wanted. He has a team of players that he is satisfied with.
The 2009 Oakland Raiders will be at least 9-7 this year. Two wins vs. KC, at least one vs. Denver, and at least one vs. the Chargers included in this prediction.