Enter The Oakland Raiders, with a controversial draft overshadowing an otherwise professionally run offseason, the Raiders enter this year as a dark horse team in the AFC West.
Last year with the coaching carousel known as Lane Kiffin, the Raiders started the season off playing well under their potential getting blown out by the Broncos, running all over the Chiefs, Choking against the Bills, and fading away against the Chargers. Thus began the Cable Man era.
Through the rest of the season the Raiders would go 4-8, 3-3 to finish out the year at a less than stellar 5-11.
Last year the Raiders passing attack was dismal, ranking dead last. But they were 10th in rushing, with banged up RB's playing consistently against 8 in the box.
With the additions to the O-Line, DE Greg Ellis, QB Jeff Garcia, and FB Lorenzo O'neal, the Raiders are starting to get some much needed veteran leadership for their young talents.
On the offensive side, JaMarcus Russell needs to step up and be the team leader at the helm if the Raiders want any hopes for the season. Lucky for him, he has a 3 headed monster in the backfield to hand the ball off to in Darren McFadden, Michael Bush, and Justin Fargas. Look for Russell to boom or bust this year, and if he fails to badly he always has Garcia right there to take over (would ruin the team though).
The Raiders also drafted 2 WR's this year, one in Maryland WR DHB (trade down Al!) and Florida 4th rounder Louis Murphy. While everyone is watching Heyward-Bey, Murphy is quietly outperforming all the other rookies in Raiders camp and looks to be a gem of this years draft.
If Chaz Shillens can stay healthy for a season he can also prove to be a 7th round steal and give Russell some much needed help at the WR position.
Their only bright spot in the passing game is soon to be Pro-Bowler TE Zack Miller. Hopefully the Raiders get a WR with more than 22 catches this year.
Defensively, the Raiders have all the tools in the back 7 to hold their own with the best of the best with CB Nnamdi Asomugha blanketing any receiver within 10 yards of him.
However, the Raiders have had trouble stopping the run ranking 31st behind only the feeble Detroit Lions.
If the Raiders want to succeed in 2009, they are going to rely heavily on new DC John Marshall and his blitz happy schemes to stop the run this season.
Overall on talent alone the Raiders can win 10 games, but like their division rival Kansas City they need another year before they begin to reach their full potential. Watch out of those 2 teams in the future battling for the AFC West title.