The Oakland Raiders put the rest of the AFC West and NFL on notice during draft weekend.
The message was clear: "We're back."
While many skeptics will be quick to dismiss the idea of the Raiders reaching the playoffs in 2010, it really isn't that far fetched anymore. Their schedule isn't as brutal as last years, and their division is still weak outside of the Chargers.
Let's take a look at why the Oakland Raiders can make a surprise playoff push in 2010.
Jason Campbell was acquired from the Redskins during draft weekend. This could signal the end of the JaMarcus Russell era in in Oakland. The Raiders will say there is a quarterback competition, but the chances of anyone but Campbell starting is 10 percent.
Campbell gives the Raiders a solid starter, that has the type of skill set that fits the offense perfect. He has the big arm and he takes care of the ball in the red zone. Campbell should give the Raiders consistent play behind center.
The addition of Campbell should be good for an extra three wins for the Raiders. While he may win the Raiders more games, it's safe to say he won't be losing any games for them as well.
One of the biggest reasons for the struggles of Russell and the running game was the offensive line. Russell's work ethic was always in question and when you match up lack of preparation with a bad offensive line you get exactly what happened last year.
Coach Tom Cable will be spending more time with the offensive line to ensure that they are ready to play every week. The Raiders should benefit from keeping Khalif Barnes and Langston Walker as well as benefit from releasing Cornell Green, the penalty machine.
They also injected youth to the offensive line.
They drafted Jared Veldheer in the third round and Bruce Campbell in the fourth. If Khalif Barnes and Robert Gallery can stay healthy the Raiders line is suddenly a much improved and deeper unit from what they had last year.
This one is simple. Two's company and three's a crowd.
The Raiders parted ways with fan favorite Justin Fargas this offseason. While it may be hard to digest for most fans, it was done for the right reasons.
Michael Bush and Darren McFadden are ready to take over. These two young backs both have playmaking abilities and need more touches throughout the season to really get into the flow of things. They should be the strength of the offense with a better offensive line.
Starting two rookies last year was bad news for the quarterback, but it will be good news for the quarterback this year. The experience gained by Louis Murphy and Darrius Heyward-Bey was valuable. If Chaz Schilens can stay healthy you are looking at a young, hungry, and explosive group of receivers.
Nothing against Cable, but when you wear too many hats sometimes it makes you less effective as a coach. Playcalling wasn't Cable's strength, which is why that was delegated to new offensive coordinator Hue Jackson.
Jackson will bring in a new attitude to the offense and will be a great mentor for all the young players on the offensive side of the ball. He came from Baltimore where he helped develop Joe Flacco. If he can bring the same toughness to the offense that the Ravens had, the Raiders should improve in scoring and in time of possession.
The Raiders defense will be one of the best defenses in the NFL in 2010. Perhaps the biggest reason is not who they added on defense, but who they added on offense.
Because the Raiders addressed their offensive line, offensive coordinator, and added a veteran quarterback, the defense will actually get help from the offense in 2010.
This is a very talented unit with super stars like Nnamdi Asomugha and Richard Seymour, but they have a lot of talented youth injected in the unit as well. Rolando McClain and Lamar Houston will make an immediate impact to help stop the run.
Quentin Groves and Kamerion Wimbley will also add value to the defense. This was an already talented unit last year, but was on the field far too much. With a much improved offense, this defense just became one of the scariest units in the NFL.
Cable has made it clear that he wanted to change the attitude in the Raiders locker room. He wants hard working players that will fight with everything they got not only for the logo on their helmet, but for the guy next to them.
You can tell that there is a positive attitude among the Raider players and they are ready to end this seven-year skid. Believing you can do something is half the battle and the Raiders are halfway home to the playoffs.
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