For football fans, the offseason is long and tedious. We are provided with two pacifiers: the NFL Combine and the NFL Draft.
For Oakland Raiders fans these pacifiers are a time that we get ridiculed by the press for our draft picks, for overspending on free agents, and for the franchise's overall decision making—at least during the last few offseasons.
This year is very different.
The feeling is not one of anguish, but of hope and expectations. The Raiders have made some decisions that have this team going in the right direction—they are putting together a winning team.
This change all started last year.
During training camp Coach Cable wore a T-shirt that had the following statement: "Wanted: 53 men committed to one purpose."
The media was speculating that the Raiders were going to fire him. The great part about this was that Coach Cable stood his ground and continued to do his job. The team witnessed this and realized the only way to deal with adversity is to face it head on and give it all you have.
Coach Cable stayed with the team, which created continuity for the players and coaches. The organization then added to his coaching staff; they brought in Hue Jackson as the offensive coordinator and Mike Waufle as the defensive line coach.
The offense was very stagnant last year, but Hue Jackson is known for developing quarterbacks and receivers, and Coach Waufle directed one of the best defensive lines in Super Bowl history.
The Raiders then brought in some very specific free agents: returner/wide receiver Yamon Figurs, linebacker Kamerion Wimbley (acquired for a third-round pick sent to Cleveland), QB Jason Campbell (fourth rounder to Washington in 2012), and linebacker Quintin Groves (fifth rounder to Jacksonville).
Yamon Figurs was brought in to help improve the return game.
Wimbley and Groves were brought in to tighten up the run defense. These moves will give the Raiders the options of showing a lot of different fronts.
Quarterback Jason Campbell will challenge for the starting job. He has constantly improved every year in the NFL, even though he has had more offenses to learn than any other quarterback in the league. This move, by far, is the one that can turn the team’s chances of winning around. Hue Jackson can really help this kid to develop into a Pro Bowl quarterback.
The draft for the Raiders was special. Here are the picks:
Round 1/8 – Rolando McClain, LB, 6-3, 254, Alabama
Round 2/49 Lemarr Houston, DE, 6-2, 305, Texas
Round 3/69 – Jared Veldheer, OT, 6-8, 321, Hillsdale
Round 4/106 – Bruce Campbell, OT, 6-6, 310, Maryland
Round 4/108 – Jacoby Ford, WR, 5-9, 181, Clemson
Round 5/138 – Walter McFadden, DB, 5-11, 175, Auburn
Round 6/190 – Travis Goethel, LB, 6-2, 240, Arizona
Round 7/215 – Jeremy Ware, CB, 5-10, 180, Michigan State
Round 7/251 – Stevie Brown, S, 6-0, 211, Michigan
Rolando McClain will be a starter from day one. This kid will have a bit of a learning curve in the first few games, but should come on strong by the middle of the season.
Lamarr Houston is moving to left defensive end and is going to cause all kinds of trouble for opposing teams to block because of his speed, versatility, and size.
Adding arguably two of the most athletic tackles in the draft in the third and fourth rounds was absolutely fantastic. The thing that really excites me about this is that they will both have an opportunity to contribute this year. I think these two guys will be starters in a year or so and will be the bookend tackles that every team envisions.
Jacoby Ford will be a special returner and could develop into a great slot receiver.
One of the biggest steals was cornerback Walter McFadden; he adds depth and could see time as the nickel or dime cornerback.
The Raiders then brought in some very good unsigned rookie free agents. Fullback Manase Tonga is an absolute BEAST. This guy will have a chance to not only make the team, but could even take over the starting job.
This is the offseason that could be the start of something very special for this team. The offensive and defensive lines are both improved, the linebackers are improved, the return game has been improved, and, most importantly, the quarterback position has been improved.
The autumn wind is beginning to blow again. NFL Beware!