What Needs to Change to Make the Raiders Competitive?
Although he has been a significant factor in dooming Oakland to yet another bad season, all of the blame for the Raiders' 3-8 record cannot be placed at JaMarcus Russell's door. It goes deeper than that, and a number of other players have underperformed too.
Oakland needs receivers who can get open and consistently catch the ball (besides Zach Miller). Louis Murphy and Darrius Heyward Bey have started most of the season, but both often run poor routes, are slow out of their breaks, and worst of all, drop a lot of catchable balls. Unfortunately, they don't look much better now than they did at the start of the season. Their receivers rank dead last in the league for yardage and receptions. That has to change.
The only genuinely good starters in this group are Robert Gallery and Mario Henderson at left guard and tackle, respectively. The remainder are average at best.
Cornell Green was brought in as a stopgap right tackle three years ago, and is still there as a starter.
Green's poor pass protection and numerous pre-snap penalties hurt the Raiders regularly. Against Dallas last week, Anthony Spencer got his first two sacks of the year and added three more quarterback hurries against Green. That isn't an accident. The Raiders need to invest in a solid right tackle if they are going to make this unit a success.
Samson Satele, acquired in the off season from the Dolphins at center has also struggled against more powerful defensive linemen. His tell tale head bob just before snapping the ball also allows opposing defenses to get the jump on the entire offensive line. He certainly does not continue the Raider tradition of such players as Jim Otto or Dave Dalby.
The last time the Raiders were in the top 10 in run defense, they made the Super Bowl (they were third that year). It has been their Achilles' heel ever since, never ranking better than 22nd. While the defensive line has improved this year, the linebackers haven't.
Kirk Morrison might be the leading tackler on the team, but many of those tackles are well downfield, and the statistic is misleading. He simply cannot shed blockers or hold the point of attack well enough to play the mike position. Many of the big runs that plague Oakland come right through him, and he may be better suited to the outside. The play of the others on the team has been spotty, with Thomas Howard as best of them on the weak side.
While Al Davis has found some late round gems, none of his recent high first round picks have produced. The last player that performed as advertised was Nnamdi Asomugha in 2003.
Robert Gallery might be a good guard, but wasn't the franchise left tackle the team drafted him to be. Darren McFadden, JaMarcus Russell, Michael Huff, and Fabian Washington have all disappointed so far. Prior to Asomugha, the last first round pick to produce well was Charles Woodson. That was 11 years ago.
Many might say that the problem is with Al Davis himself. That theory certainly has some merit, but I don't believe it. I do think he needs help with a quality GM though.
The Raiders have talent on their roster, but unless they can fill the gaping holes in it and learn to draft better, their record isn't going to improve much.
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