A Look at the Oakland Raiders' Next Two Weeks
How many people want to see more Chris Johnson?!?
You, you, you, and me too!
This guy is going to be awesome this year. He played great in the 49ers game. We will really get a chance to see his skill set in week three preseason action, the game where the starters are likely to get the most reps.
We should be able to see if Johnson really has what it takes against Drew Brees and that potent New Orleans Saints passing attack. I can say he does at this point, but I of all people know that my mind can change in a jiffy.
So, Chaz Schilens is out, the "re-born" Javon Walker is in. Walker is claiming that this revolutionary surgery he had is the key to his injury woes. We shall soon see, as he will be back in uniform and eligible to play in the Saints game Saturday.
Some say that Walker has a mental injury he can't overcome, but I assure you, his mental toughness is there this year. He took a two and a half month voyage to Israel over the offseason, during which he really got in touch with his inner Javon.
If his knee is back to 100 percent, he could be the NFL's "comeback player of the year" this season. He said in a recent interview that he wants to show the league what third year quarterback, JaMarcus Russell, is really made of. Javon, himself wants to prove to Raider Nation, and the NFL, that he is worth the contract that he signed last season.
Speaking of out, Kirk Morrison, the fourth year middle linebacker is out also. I know what you're thinking, "Great, our best receiver is out, our best linebacker is out, and San Diego is first on the schedule. Fantastic!"
Not so fast my friend, Ricky Brown is Morrison's replacement. Brown has been nothing short of impressive this offseason. Last week, against the San Francisco 49ers, Brown compiled seven tackles and a huge interception.
Brown started last season at strong side linebacker. He has the quick foot speed, combined with good size, and strength to play that Mike position as well. I admit, I was not high on Brown (at all) last year. He played well, but injury hampered his season.
This year is a whole different animal for Brown. He is very impressive this year, and is showing up on a daily basis in practice and games, looking like he wants to be a starter on this squad this year also. Look for Brown to make a major statement in an attempt to solidify his case in these next two weeks.
This week versus the Saints will be the first week where the coaches have developed a gameplan going in. My best guess is that before this, they were just winging it, going with the flow; perhaps trying to get a good feel for their team versus live competition.
Raiders head coach, Tom cable, said after the Dallas Cowboys game in week one, that this game against the Saints would be where we would start to get a feel for what the running game of the team was going to really look like.
A fellow writer, Ramone Brown, suggested that it may not be a coincidence at all that this is the same week Micheal Bush will be starting halfback during the preseason. Hmmmm, very interesting Ramone, you sir, have peaked my interest.
This is a very fascinating position battle this offseason for Oakland fans. So very many articles have been written about the halfbacks.
Will the starter be Darren McFadden, 2008's fourth overall pick in the draft. A speedy "get to the corner" style of player who the Raiders have a lot of money invested in, and who, himself, bolsters a ton of talent?
Will it be the starter from the last two seasons, Justin Fargas. A guy who has proved himself worthy on his way to over 1,800 yards in those two seasons combined. A lot of the Fargas criticism I see and hear is based on his lack of ability converting red zone opportunities into touchdowns.
Which brings me to the touchdown conversion machine Michael Bush. 6'1" 245 pounds, not many people are going to keep this big guy out of the end zone. Bush is fast too, running a 4.4 40-yard dash. To add to that, he played quarterback in high school, and was a back-up quarterback for his college team, the Louisville Cardinals.
If it was you, who would you take? Fargas, the high energy, peer favorite, who has scratched and clawed his way up the depth chart? McFadden, the top draft choice, the blazing speed, the receiving abilities? Or, Bush, the bulldozer, the passer, the receiver, the size?
Decisions, decisions; I sure wouldn't want to be Tom Cable on opening week. It's a good thing he has a talented staff working with him to help him with the choices he is going to have to make after the week four preseason game against the Seattle Seahawks.
While we're on the subject of decisions, let's talk about the safety position for a minute.
I think Tyvon Branch is the strong safety who will start the year. Michael Mitchell has had his hamstring injury bothering him since mini-camps. Mitchell is not yet ready to start, although he will make the team, and may have major "impact" on special teams as a gunner, catch my drift?
No, the real battle is at free safety, between Hirum Eugene, and the player he replaced midway through last season, Michael Huff.
Many Raiders fans believe Huff is a bust. Nnamdi Asomugha, the great Oakland cornerback thinks Huff will have a breakout year. I, personally, still believe in Huff, who is going into his fourth year.
The bottom line on this is that Eugene has shown better work ethics up to this point. Huff, however, has realized that the curtain call could be approaching for him in Oakland. He has stepped up his game, and made a great interception on a Jon Kitna pass in week one of preseason.
He wasn't able to play against the 49ers, but he is expected to be available for the Saints game. He may get a opportunity to play some first team defense on Saturday. This should be a great battle, Eugene vs. Huff, and it will be another one of those things that is on Cable's mind leading into the season.
On another note, let's look at defensive tackle. I expect this is Terdell Sands' last preseason in Oakland. He tried to sell himself as re-dedicated with his thirty pound weight loss, and his statements to the media, but it hasn't worked. He just fell to third on the depth chart, behind William Joseph and rookie Desmond Bryant.
Bryant is the one I will have my eye on in the next to games. He is not that big as far as weight, but he is a wall of a man. All muscle, he benched 225 lbs. 35 times at his pro day workout, and has long arms and huge hands. Coaches are impressed, and with some good coaching, he could be a very talked about player in the next couple of years.
Ryan Boschetti is also making a statement. He looks great in an Oakland uniform, after playing most of his professional career on the Washington Redskins practice squad. Boschetti is one to keep an eye on if Gerard Warren continues to struggle with his overpenetrating on run plays.
Another position battle is for the third string quarterback. This battle has been very close since Charlie Frye was signed this offseason. It's ironic that Frye's future as a Raiders' quarterback will most likely be decided in Seattle, where he played last season.
I say it will be decided in Seattle because the starters will play most of the game in week three, and probably close to none of it in week four.
So far, Bruce Gradkowski and Charlie Frye have impressed me enough to say ditch Jeff Garcia. That's a tough one though, because Garcia does have a good resume, and a ton of experience as a clip board carrier.
Bottom line, Tom cable has got his hands full over these next two weeks. If I were him, and the decision had to be made now, this is how my roster would look:
QB- JaMarcus Russell, QB- Jeff Garcia, QB- Charlie Frye
HB- Michael Bush, HB- Darren McFadden, HB- Justin Fargas
FB- Oren O'neal, FB- Marcel Reece
TE- Zach Miller, TE- Brandon Meyers, TE Tony Stewart
WR- Chaz Schilens, WR- Javon Walker, WR- Johnnoe Lee Higgins, WR- Louis Murphy, WR- Darrius Heyward-Bey, WR- Nick Miller
OT- Mario Henderson, OT- Kalif Barnes, OT- Eric Pears, OT- Cornell Green
OG- Robert Gallery, OG- Cooper Carlisle, OG- Paul McQuistan, OG- Marcus Johnson
C- Samson Satele, C- John Wade
DE- Greg Ellis, DE- Trevor Scott, DE- Jay Richardson, DE- Matt Shaugnessy
DT- Tommy Kelly, DT- Gerard Warren, DT- Desmond Bryant, DT- William Joeseph
LB- Thomas Howard, LB- Kirk Morrison, LB- Ricky Brown, LB- Jon Alston, LB- Sam Williams, LB- Isaiah Ekejiuba, LB- David Nixon
CB- Nnamdi Asomugha, CB- Chris Johnson, CB- Justin Miller, CB- Stanford Routt, CB- Darrick Brown
FS- Hirum Eugene, FS- Michael Huff
SS- Tyvon Branch, SS- Michael Mitchell
K- Sebastian Janikowski, P- Shane Lechler
There you have "53 men committed to one purpose." Until next time ladymen and gentlefolks.
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