The first mini-camp for the Oakland Raiders is right around the corner. Speaking with fans throughout the Bay Area, they are very excited about the upcoming season.
This is a four-part series about the 2010 Oakland Raiders. It will focus on the following:
3. Special Teams
There will be a follow-up four-part series once the final 53-man roster has been determined.
The Oakland Raiders offense was not very good in 2009. They finished 31st in points scored (12.3 per game), 31st in yards per game (266.1), 29th in passing yards per game (159.8), and 21st in rushing yards per game (106.3). They also surrendered 49 sacks last year, which saw Bruce Gradkowski and Charlie Frye go down with injuries.
The offense only scored 17 touchdowns. The quarterbacks were responsible for 18 interceptions. The Raiders averaged 28:17 possession time per game. What does all of this say? The Raiders offense was well below average.
With that said, we will take a look at each position group and what we can expect for the 2010-2011 season.
Projected Starters: LT Mario Henderson, LG Robert Gallery, C Samson Satele, RG Langston Walker, T Khalif Barnes
Backups: RG Cooper Carlisle, T Jared Veldheer, T Bruce Campbell, T-G Erik Pears, G Brandon Rodd, C-G Chris Morris
Departures: RT Cornell Green (Buffalo Bills)
The offensive line was very inconsistent last year and played average at best. This was a real weakness for the team. They surrendered too many sacks and did a below average job of blocking for the running backs.
The Raiders drafted two very athletic tackles in Jared Veldheer and Bruce Campbell. Coach Tom Cable stated that Veldheer would work at LT and Campbell would get work at RG and RT. The Raiders reacquired Langston Walker last year, and he played pretty well at RG.
Analysis: This is the one area that the Raiders have to improve immensely. I think both kids that the Raiders drafted will be able to start contributing from the beginning of the season. There will be lots of competition in training camp for starting positions, with left guard the only spot that seems to be locked up.
Projected Starter: Zach Miller
Backups: Tony Stewart, Brandon Myers
Zach Miller is the starter and is one of the best young tight ends in the league. He has the knack to find openings in the defense and make plays. Last year Miller did suffer two concussions and missed a game because of it. This is something that the Raiders have to monitor closely, as they cannot succeed without him.
Tony Stewart is a good backup and core special teams player. Brandon Myers is a very good blocking tight end and has flashed the ability to catch the ball.
Analysis: The Raiders have a good group of tight ends. This is a position of strength on the team.
Projected Starters: RB Michael Bush, FB Oren O’Neal
Backups: RB Darren McFadden, FB Luke Lawton, FB Marcel Reece
Departures: Justin Fargas
The running backs were one of the most disappointing areas on this team. They have some very talented players, but their performance was not up expectations. The Raiders released Justin Fargas in the offseason.
There will be a great battle in training camp for the starting position between Michael Bush and Darren McFadden. This could be the year that McFadden or Bush takes his game to the next level. Regardless of who the starter is, both of them should see plenty of action.
The fullback position is really up for grabs. Oren O’Neal had a horrible knee injury and did not fully recover last year. He has a chance to reestablish himself this year and take the job. Luke Lawton is still serving a two-game suspension and may be cut in the offseason.
It has been reported that the Raiders have signed undrafted free agents Manase Tonga from BYU and Chane Moline from UCLA. This has not been confirmed by the Raiders. If this is true, both of these guys could make a push for the starting position.
Analysis: This is a position that needs someone to step up and take the starting position. In order for the running and passing game to really produce, the fullback has to be able to clear the way for the running backs and be able to pick up the blitz in the passing game.
Projected Starters: Chaz Schilens, Darrius Heyward-Bey
Backups: Louis Murphy, Johnnie Lee Higgins, Todd Watkins, Nick Miller, Shaun Bodiford, Paul Hubbard, Yamon Figurs, Jacoby Ford, Jonathan Holland
Departures: Javon Walker
The numbers for the receiving corps were terrible last year. This was one of the worst units on the team partly because of the quarterback play.
There is talent in the group. Rookie Louis Murphy had a pretty good year, and Chaz Schilens played well after returning from a broken bone in his foot. Darrius Heyward-Bey, their first round pick, had a horrible year. He was injured and missed the final five games of the season.
The Raiders drafted Jacoby Ford out of Clemson. Ford is small (5’9”, 185) but can flat-out fly. He had the fastest time of all wide receivers at the NFL Combine. The Raiders will look to use him in the slot position. He is a raw route runner, but he could turn into a real deep threat.
Analysis: Grading this unit is hard because they had to deal with subpar quarterback play. I think if they get some consistent quarterback play, they can be a good unit. Heyward-Bey had a problem with drops last year but spent the offseason working on his game at the Raiders facility, which shows he is dedicated to becoming a better player.
Projected Starter: Jason Campbell
Backups: Charlie Frye, Kyle Boller, Bruce Gradkowski, JaMarcus Russell
Departures: J.P. Losman
The quarterback position was a sheer disaster last year. JaMarcus Russell came into camp overweight and out of shape. During the season he lost his job to Bruce Gradkowski because of poor play. Gradkowski sparked the team to wins over the Bengals and Steelers.
In the offseason the Raiders traded for Jason Campbell and signed Kyle Boller. The consensus is that Campbell will assume the starting job and Russell will be released. That will be determined if Russell refuses to rework his contract. He has lost the confidence of the team and may not be able to get it back unless he shows them he has dedicated himself to becoming a true NFL starting quarterback.
Campbell has started for five years and has improved each year. He is a leader and will upgrade the position greatly. If Campbell continues his development, the Raiders could find themselves challenging for a playoff spot.
Analysis: The Raiders brought in a quarterback that could lead them to a winning record. Russell could do himself a favor, take a pay cut, stay with the Raiders, and learn from Campbell how to become a NFL quarterback.
With Campbell at the helm, this team will be a challenge for anyone. They have some talent on offense and with consistent quarterback play could develop into a very good offensive squad.
Later this week we will take a look at the defense.