Since the Raiders beat the Bucs in Week 17 last season there has been an off-season of excitement, for good and bad reasons. Early in the off-season, with two days before unrestricted free agency, Shane Lechler signed a new contract. The next day Namdi Asomugha also re-signed for a contract worthy of a bailout for the auto industry. Then came some bad news, the #7 pick in the draft was somebody most football fans had never seen film of, Darious Heyward-Bey. This got worse when DHB struggled in OTA's and training with a bad hamstring and equally bad hands. Then he started making big catches in practices and people saw what exactly he could do when he got his hands on the ball and secured the ball. Another positive was watching Michael Crabtree holdout in San Francisco and considering re-entering the draft in 2010. The next draft pick was Mike Mitchell who was criticized so badly it eased the tension for Heyward-Bey. That was until we saw film of him knocking off helmets, forcing fumbles and stuffing running backs. Also, the Bears said they were targeting him which made him seem more desireable. Then in training camp a couple of bad news events, Tom Cable punching an assistant and Chaz Schilens breaking his foot. Both those events linger with the Raiders into the seson opener vs. San Diego. With a new defensive coordinator who wants to plug the run gaps and pressure QBs, now is the time to show what they can do. John Marshall has promised a better defense, time to live up to that.
Tonight the Raiders will either show a new and improved team that can compete for 16 games or they will continue to battle the Chiefs for 3rd place in the AFC West. JaMarcus Russell will either evolve into a franchise QB or continue to be turnover prone and an easy sack. The run defense will stuff LT and Darren Sproles or it will give up two 100 yard rushers in a single game. Now there is no turning back, there is no more time to tell the media that things are looking good when they asks questions after practice, now we can all see just how good or bad the Raiders will be.