Is it just me, or does it seem as though Al Davis is taking a backseat on this one? I personally believe he sees the positives in Tom Cable's work ethic, his demeanor and his passion for the organization.
There is no doubt what-so-ever, that Darrius Heyward-Bey is a straight-up "grade A" Al Davis draft pick. After him, however, it seems the rest of the draft belonged to Tom Cable and his staff.
In fact, if I was a betting man, I would put money on the concept that Tom and his staff went out and found Al height, weight, speed criteria type players who also had heart, character, and strong work ethics.
It seems as though Al has been absent from most of the mini-camps and OTA activities. If I'm not mistaken, he's been seen at only one.
All the signings and the releases this year seem to have Tom's spin on them too, right up to and including coaching staff. We all know of Al's long "love affair" with Rob Ryan, but as soon as Cable comes, all of a sudden Ryan is gone?
You have to respect Cable for the second half of last year, his coaching philosophy (Team First: just be where you are supposed to be, doing your job, and everything else falls into place), and you have to respect that he grew up watching and loving the Raiders organization.
There is no doubt that Al hired the right guy for the job. This man understands the way that Mr. Davis, as Tom always calls him, operates. He understands the owner, he respects the owner, and he plays to the owners heart strings.
While doing all of the above things, he still manages to get his job done like a good coach is supposed to.
He still manages to get what he wants out of the deal, as well as what Big Al wants.
Last but not least, he makes us think that Al Davis might not be so crazy, after all.
This is a look at Cable's accomplishments so far for this team; a list that I will hopefully be adding to by the time the playoffs roll around.
Turning to unsung CB Chris Johnson over All-Pro-caliber CB DeAngelo Hall was questioned by everybody—including the players on the roster.
Hall got torched by the Donkey's in the first game of the season, getting beaten for two TD passes and about 200 of Cutler's 300 passing yards in a 41-14 embarrassment on opening night MNF.
In the second game, the Broncos were not as fortunate. JaMarcus Russell went 10-11 152 yards and a TD pass to former Bronco Ashley Lelie, who had four catches for 92 yards. Russell had a rating of 149.7.
Not that he played bad in the first game, either—he had a rating of 111.1 and threw two TD's on Monday Night Football—it was that the whole team played better. The whole team did their job.
That's where Cable has been magical. Making the team work as a unit instead of as individuals.
Jay Cutler completed 66.7% of his passes in the first game and he only completed 43.2% in the second game—by far, his worst showing of the season.
His QB rating in the first game was 137.5. In the second game, it fell to 49.8—again, his worst of the season by far.
I have to believe that Tom cable was instrumental in this victory. I think this is when the team started to realize the talent that existed even in the back-up players on this team.
This is when they started to believe that they had potential.
This game was really a pivotal point in last season. This is the game where they really started to believe in each other. They went into half time in this game down 35-14. It's safe to say they were getting pounded, and the attitude was somber.
At halftime, coach Cable asked the team, "Is this really how you want it to go down?" He told them to look around the room. he told them to believe in each other, and reiterated that they needed to stay at home and do their jobs. He told them to believe in each other.
In his short halftime speech, a team began to emerge.
In the second half of the game, the Raiders lost 14-12. A far better showing than 35-14. Ironically the two TD's came from former Raiders LaMont Jordan and Randy Moss.
Oakland's 12 points came from two TD's (McFadden and Curry), one of which had a blocked PAT, and the other had a failed 2 point conversion. If not for that, it would've been a tied second half of football.
You could make the argument that the Patriots may have let up a little bit in the second half, or if you watched the game, you can say for sure that this was a turning point for the Raiders as a team.
Johnnie Lee Higgins returns a punt 80 yards for a touchdown, and catches another touchdown as the Raiders shocked the Texans and put an end to a four-game winning streak that was mounted by Houston.
"I feel like I'm explosive," said Higgins, "You never know what can happen. You know, it looks like he's tackled, it looks like he's down. Oh, he's gone. It looks like he can't catch it, like he can't do this. ... There he goes. So I look at myself, I always look at myself as a playmaker."
Russell goes 18-25 for 236 yards and two TD's. Justin Fargas and Darren McFadden combined for 136 rushing yards and the Raiders defense holds rookie Steve Slaton and the Texans runners to 90 rushing yards.
The win was the Raiders' first ever against Houston (1-3), it snapped a three-game losing streak and ended a four-game home losing streak.
For the first time in his career, JaMarcus Russell threw two touchdowns in back-to-back games.
Steve Slaton did not rush for 100 yards for the first time in his last four games. The Texans had won four straight for the first time in team history and were hoping for their first winning season. Oakland ended that hope by giving them their 8th loss.
The Raiders gained a season-high 362 yards, with 252 coming from players in their first or second year in the NFL. It's the first time since the 2002 Super Bowl season that the Raiders won their final home game.
This was one of the Raiders' best performances of the year. They scored touchdowns on the opening possessions of each half for the first time in more than seven years.
"You saw a lot of our young players show up and had an impact," coach Tom Cable said. "As I've said for a while, that's the future of our organization and that's the direction we're headed. It was a complete victory."
"I know what we're doing right now, but in the years to come how good can we be?" asked Russell. "I think out there those guys are showing it."
What you saw here, folks, was the essence of confidence building. A very young team, starting to grow together and have faith in each other.
Michael Bush went off, and set career-highs with 177 rushing yards and two touchdowns, one for 67 yards. Bush was just magnificent in a game where Justin Fargas and Darren McFadden weren't available.
"I knew it was all on me," Bush said. "I'm hoping that I made a statement."
Bush was the Raiders' last option going into the game, after being asked to play fullback earlier in the year. He came out of the game with the fans thinking that maybe he should be the first option at halfback.
The Raiders overcame a ten-point deficit, and made their final case for interim coach Tom Cable retaining his job.
"It's all I can do. It's the best I can do," Cable said. "I want to be the head coach of the Raiders, but it's not in my hands. But I certainly know I put this team together and got it going in the right direction, and today proved that."
The Oakland Tribune reported doctors advised Al Davis to not fly across the country because of some swelling in his leg. It was believed to be just the second time he has not attended a game since becoming a part of the organization in 1963.
Davis missed what Cable described as the team's "best effort from top to bottom."
"We went after the game that whole way," Cable said. "Our goal was to match the intensity of a team trying to get into the playoffs."
Russell threw for 148 yards and two touchdowns for the Raiders, who looked as though they were out of the game after being out-gained 168-21 in the third quarter. Tampa Bay went up 24-14 with a field goal and touchdown in the first four minutes of the fourth period.
Oakland finished with 192 yards rushing and converted 6 of 13 third downs. They scored 17 unanswered points in the final 11 minutes of the game. The Raiders D held the Bucs' running backs to 125 rushing yards.
Speed, speed, and more speed—such is the history of Raiders drafts.
This year, the draft had a different spin on speed though. The idea behind this year's draft was, "he's big, and he's fast, but more importantly, he's a team player who has a great attitude and works hard for every yard, tackle, or touch of the football."
It was more like an Al Davis draft, with a Tom Cable twist. Everyone expected Cable to want an offensive lineman to solidify the offseason acquisitions of C Samson Satele, OT Eric Pears, OT Kalif Barnes, and G Marcus Johnson.
Cable told everyone countless times leading up to the draft that they would pick players that they felt like they needed at positions they felt like they needed help at.
The most glaring position that everyone, including blind people, could see was WR. They addressed it right up front with the selection of the most controversial draft pick this year, Darrius Heyward-Bey.
This was obviously an Al Davis pick. Tom Cable said they knew who they were taking for a month before the draft, and were worried he wouldn't be there at 7. He was, and the Raiders received a boatload of critic responses.
Next came Ohio Bobcats safety Mike Mitchell, and thus, more criticism.
Mel Kiper, Jr. went so far to say Mitchell "was 73rd on his list of safeties," and that he "should've been an undrafted free agent."
The Bears and the Browns disagreed. The Bears were going to take him 49th, and when he wasn't there, they traded right out of the second round altogether.
It has been reported that the Browns were going to take him 3rd overall in the third round. This is definitely a Tom Cable pick.
This guy has immeasurable intangibles. He scoured the country to come up with this guy, and got him just in the nick of time.
Third came Matt Shaughnessy, a 6'5" 266 lbs DE from Wisconsin. Shaughnessy is the kind of player you could envision stepping out on the field in a leather helmet playing for George Halas. He earned All-Conference and All-Area accolades in each of his three final seasons, adding three more letters in basketball and two in track. Again a fast guy with smashmouth style. Cable's way of meeting Davis' criteria and providing his own team needs.
Louis Murphey was the 4th round pick. I think anyone could see this is Tom Cable's version of what a wide receiver should be. There couldn't have been much arguement here either as Murphey was a three year starter at Florida and a team captain with tremendous work ethic. He's a smooth route runner and projects as a solid No. 3 wideout. He's another speed player for the Raiders. They have Darrius Heyward-Bey for pure straight-line speed and Murphy gives them a good intermediate option.
Two picks later comes Slade Norris. One of seven Oregon State defensive players drafted this year. 6'2" 232 pounder who is expected to compete at SSLB. In college Norris played safety, LB, and DE. NFL.com says "Norris is a speed linebacker. He can play in space with his speed and he is another special teams demon. The Raiders have really built up their team speed in this draft." I don't know what they mean by "in this draft" but thats another discussion altogether. The point is that he is a team player with good special teams abilities if nothing else pans out. Team Player = Tom Cable, Speed = Al Davis.
Next was Stryker Sulak from Mizzou who had a lot of sacks in college and has a lot of speed (4.77-40, 4.58 shuttle). A tremendous DE prospect who flew under the radar in a Big 12 conference with a lot of big time offenses. Sulak is 6'5" and 251 pounds. He is a solid all-around athlete who competed in baseball, basketball and track at Rockdale High School and was a regional qualifier in the high jump in 2002. He is a very versitile athlete who could stand up and play LB as well. Versitility is something that was very common among all these picks.
Last but not least was a guy by the name of Brandon Myers, a TE out of Iowa. Brought in to be a suitable back-up to Zach Miller, and compete with current back-up Tony Stewart. Myers is more of a blocking tight end. He serves as an extra lineman more than as a pass catcher. Iowa does a great job of developing run-blocking tight ends. Myers should help the running game. he is also a great option in the red zone as he catch 5 TD's in just 21 catches as a junior. He also caught 4 TD's in his senior year, and is viewed by some as an ascending prospect. He is also very versitle as an athlete, competing on a prep basketball team that went 27-0 his senior year. He completed his prep basketball career with 2,198 points.
This draft was full of Al Davis' speedsters who could also do several other things on the field, and are tremendous assets to a team whether it be through their strengths as leaders or through their tremendous athleticism. All of these picks had versitility, team first attitude, and good heads on their shoulders. Al davis may have played his part in the draft, but Tom Cabe definately put on the finishing touches.
Tom Cable's had his spin on the offseason, as well. Bringing in veteran leadership early on to 1. create competition at different positions, and 2. provide good examples to a very green team.
Cable said early in the offseason that there would be no "big name" players brought in to disrupt the chemistry that the team developed in the locker room at the end of last season.
So far, he has kept his word, bringing in veterans who will push the starters to be better, and provide leadership, direction, and knowledge that a young team needs to be successful.
Perhaps the most impressive addition to the roster is multiple-time Pro Bowler FB Lorenzo Neal, a 17 year pro who has reached iconic status as a lead blocker and great receiver out of the backfield.
Brought in to start this year while Oren O'neal (ironically, "Lorenzo Neal" minus the "L" and the "Z") recovers from his knee injury suffered at the beginning of last year.
He was also brought in to provide tutelage to the young stable of halfbacks known as Shake, Rattle, and Roll, and furthermore to provide Oren O'neal with an iconic role model for the young FB to develop his game in the footsteps of.
Possibly, the next most important offseason acquisition is veteran QB Jeff Garcia, whose job it is to push JaMarcus Russell into the mold that fans and the Raiders organization expect from the big armed QB.
Jeff has been in the CFL and the NFL for 16 years, and has more experience than perhaps any other QB on the Raiders roster ever. He will push JaMarcus for that starting spot more than he has been pushed before, and light a little fire under his butt to get in that film room and weight room.
The addition of several young offensive lineman to create competition up front will be a significant upgrade from last years rag-tag front five. Samson Satele is a player Tom Cable called the best lineman in the draft two years ago.
He was absolutely elated when they traded for Satele. Samson started all 32 games of his NFL career so far, and helped the Miami Dolphins to a division championship last year.
OT Eric Pears has been solid for all of his time in Denver, and will be a guy that pushes Mario Henderson and new OT Khalif Barnes to work that much harder to keep their starting jobs.
New G Marcus Johnson is a guy that former Minnesota head coach Mike Tice said would be the next great Vikings lineman three years ago. Needless to say, Tice lost his job after that year, and Johnson lost his starting position, and never had an opportunity to get it back. There is no doubt this big young man will create competition with starting guards Robert Gallery and Cooper Carlisle.
The most recent acquisition is Greg Ellis. Ellis is expected to go back to a down lineman position, which is more natural for him than the OLB position he played in Dallas. He's expected to be a great fit at DE, and has already supplanted Derrick Burgess on the teams official depth chart.
Ellis should provide a great example to the two DE's drafted in 2009, as well as Trevor Scott, Jay Richardson, Derrick Gray, and Greyson Gunheim.
Other offseason acquisitions include DT Ryan Boschetti, DBs Jason Horton and Keith Davis, QBs Charlie Frye and Bruce Gradkowski, WR Sammie Parker, and HB Gary Russell.
Free agent rookies LB Fantz Joseph, DT Desmond Bryant, G Jonathan Compas, WR Shawn Bayes, S Jerome Boyd, WR Nick Miller, LB David Nixon, QB Danny Southwick, and FB Chris O'Neill will also do their part to create training camp competition.
The Raiders went perhaps further than any other NFL team would by releasing DeAngelo Hall midway through last season, and firing head coach Lane Kiffin four games into the year.
They furthered their removal of baggage by releasing WR Ronald Curry and S Gibril Wilson.
Javon Walker, Justin Fargas, and Tommy Kelly all restructured their contracts to make more cap room for other offseason acquisitions.
The Raiders resigned the standout special teams players that are Jon Condo, Sam Williams, Justin Miller, Shane Lechler, and Isaiah Ekejiuba. This will help keep the defense fresh when they need a breather, and provide excellent special teams play for the team this year.
A lot of people forget that there are three teams (offense, defense, and special teams) where you need to play well to win. The Oakland staff made a good move by resigning these key special teamers.
Thus far in his Oakland career, Tom Cable has got his swagger on, and the team looks to be in good shape heading in to training camp.
My guess after the end of last year, and all of the offseason mechanics, is that Al Davis trusts him, they have good communication going on, and Al is willing to take a backseat in this one, and just let Cable do his thing.
Raiders Nation, we have to love this way of doing business. Thanks Mr.Davis for letting the coaches coach.