Oakland Raiders: The State of the Team, Part One (Offense)
Day-by-day, I will review every facet of the Raiders franchise and grade them with A, B, C, etc.
JaMarcus Russell had, frankly, a wasted season.
It is so frustrating, since he has the necessary tools to be a great quarterback.
What he lacks the most are pocket awareness and mechanics. A right DE literally could be within six inches of him, and he wouldn't notice until he's getting hit. His mechanics are horrible. He relies way too much on his arm (as evidence by throwing off his back foot), and falls apart when he feels pressure.
Bruce Gradkowski was excellent in relieving Russell.
He almost led a fourth quarter comeback against the Chiefs. If it weren't for Darrius Heyward-Bey's (DHB—more on him later) drop, I bet we would have won the game.
Gradkowski also led comebacks against the Bengals and the Steelers. Had he not gotten hurt against Washington (ending his season with two knee injuries), the Raiders probably would've won at least six games.
Charlie Frye was average in relief of Gradkowski. He threw too many interceptions, which really cost him versus the Browns.
The offensive line had its ups and downs this season.
Mario Henderson was probably the best overall lineman, but that isn't saying much. He struggled a bit against the faster defensive ends, which didn't happen a season before.
Cornell Green got old fast. He was called for so many false starts that people started to lose count.
Robert Gallery just never got on track. He had an emergency appendectomy in the offseason, which put him behind in training camp. Gallery also had some other nagging injuries. Then, around midway through the season, he broke his fibula to end his year.
Samson Satele was a disappointment. He was traded for Jake Grove to be the starter and got beat out by Chris Morris. Satele still started the rest of the season after Gallery got hurt, because Morris moved to Gallery's spot at guard.
Carlisle was very shaky at the guard spot himself. Even a guy like Langston Walker (a natural tackle) played some at guard last season because of injuries.
Darren McFadden (DMC) was, again, a major disappointment. No one had more to gain than McFadden.
Hurt much of last season, DMC had a respectable performance against the Chargers.
But that was pretty much it.
He isn't breaking any tackles, and isn't getting around the edge on defenders. He did get hurt for a couple weeks this past season, which probably set him back in his development.
Like all young running backs, DMC had trouble holding onto the ball (five fumbles, three lost). But the Raiders also learned that McFadden is actually pretty effective when lined up at receiver (21 total catches.)
Michael Bush had some excellent games but, ultimately, didn't get the playing time to be effective.
Fargas was steady throughout the season. You could always count on him to run hard, but he needed too many attempts to be effective (averaged 3.7 YPC).
Fullback Lorenzo Neal was cut in the preseason.
And Oren O'Neal was cut during the season.
Marcel Reece is classified as a fullback, but was used specifically in the passing game.
Overall, the running game was a disappointment. It was, regretfully, neglected in the preseason.
Zach Miller once again showed why he's one of the best pass-catching tight ends in football. He caught 66 balls for 805 yards.
Miller never got into a rhythm with Russell.
In fact, during the first 10 weeks, Miller caught 29 balls. In the seven weeks after that, he caught 37 balls.
Miller still has a little way to go in the blocking area, but he's certainly not bad. He has a minor problem with holding, also.
But if he continues to improve his pad level when blocking, Miller could challenge Antonio Gates for the best overall tight end in the AFC West (even though Gates is rarely asked to block).
Brandon Myers never really got playing time. Considered a good blocker, he showed some pass-catching skills as the season progressed.
DHB was a major disappointment.
We knew it on draft day.
But it's not DHB's fault that Al Davis picked him at No. 8. Heck, it's not even his fault that his hands are made of iron.
Regardless of whose fault it is, DHB was like a ghost.
You wouldn't even have known he was on the field. That is, except when he dropped passes (and more passes).
Not only that, Heyward-Bey didn't even get many targets. He's a poor route runner, and not physical enough at the line of scrimmage.
Of his many faults, speed is not one of them. If I had seen a guy (without watching game tape) 6"2, 215, who runs a 4.3 40, I might've drafted him right there on the spot.
Kind of like Al Davis did.
The only difference was that Al Davis saw what he was like at Maryland (not one 50-catch season).
Louis Murphy was a pleasant surprise. He caught 34 passes and was fairly polished as a route runner. But, like DHB, he dropped a fair amount of passes.
Chaz Schilens' season never really got started. He was excellent in the preseason and had shown great chemistry with Russell. But he broke his foot (badly) and was out for the first nine weeks of the season. He did catch the game-winning pass from Russell at the end of the Denver game.
Todd Watkins was used as a spare WR at times.
Training camp wonder Nick Miller broke his ankle and never saw the playing field.
After restructuring his deal, Javon Walker was only used in three games last season. Even when he did play, he didn't catch a single pass.
Even though the WRs were better this past season, they still have a lot of room to improve.
Overall, the Raiders need to focus on getting a T in the draft—preferably Anthony Davis. We could also use help at the G spot. Other than that, the Raiders will continue to ride their young WRs and RBs.
Best player in 2009: Zach Miller
Most potential in 2010: Chaz Schilens
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