Holla at me: RAIDER NATION!
It's easy to remember a teams superbowl season; All you need to do is watch the N.F.L. Network. However, how many people remember the season that "jump started" that teams superbowl season?
You know the season I'm referring to, it's the one that puts the league on notice because it says this team is on the rise! Furthermore, there's nothing that (the other teams) can do to stop it;
It's the season in which the team may only go 8-8 or 9-7 but it's not about their record. What that season is all about is instilling confidence! Confidence in the fans, confidence in the players, and in the organization that not only can they win but, that they will win!! Then BANG a year or two later that team is your Superbowl Champion!! (see earily 80 49ers or late 90 Pats for examples)
Could this be that season for our Raiders?
Is this the year when the guys in our locker room look around and say "you know... we're really not that bad, we could become Champions!"
Is this our time?
With the draft and our first mini-camp behind us I've been hearing a lot about what is "expected" from this Raider team; I've been hearing that they are "expecting" this team to win the division and make a playoff run.
However, The Raiders haven't won more than 5 games in at least 3 or 4 seasons. Therefore, I find it difficult to picture our team suddenly going to 10 or 12 wins. I feel this is putting way too much pressure on them. As I said this could be, and reallly should be the "jump off" season for the team. What this season is not, is a superbowl run season and here (in my view) is why.
First, let's talk about the draft for a moment.
I've been wondering what's going on? Since when do we (in the nation) care about what these so called "experts" have to say? They give the team a good draft grade and all of a sudden we're all ears?!? How many times have we seen these "experts" say this guy or that guy was a "can't miss" and how many times has that guy or this guy turned out to be a BUST!?!
answer: Too Many Times.
Conversely, how many times have we seen guys who were over looked by those same so called "experts" get drafted LATE (or not at all) and turn out to be a stars!?!
answer: Too Many Times.
So, the "experts" feel that The Raiders had a good draft - I say so what! - The truth of the matter about the media is that they love to build you up just so that they can tear you down later! We in the Nation should know that these "experts" don't want to see our team return to it's rightful place! They would rather spend their time bashing out team! Which is exactly what they're going to do if things don't work out the way they perdict; All they are going to say (so that they don't look like fools) is that "Things are crazy in Oakland..." "They have an out of touch owner.." "They need to.." this or that blah, blah, blah.
The truth is that it's going to take about 2 years before we can REALLY see if the guys from this years draft are going to turn out to be RAIDERS!! and that brothers and sisters doesn't do much to help the team RIGHT NOW.
Speaking of right now....
Well Raider Nation, we asked for it and we got it; JaMarcus Russell is no longer on the roster; Which (amongst other things) means that the team will save some money and the "chemistry" in the locker room should get a boost as well.
However, As I said before I get the impression that expectations are a bit too high, and I don't want there to be a feeling of disappointment if the team doesn't make some sort of a "dramatic" turn around.
As I stated, I do feel that the "attitude" and the record of the team should improve, I however have my excitement tempered, for a number of reasons but, for the moment let's stay with the quarterback.
I'm not going to get into J.R.'s stats- we know them - Let's talk about Jason Campbell for a moment; I've done some digging on him and this is what I've heard: The fans in Washington are not all that sad to see him go. The story on him goes like this: "He's got talent but...." or they say "He would be a great quarterback if only...." I've heard this from one fan after another, and I'm sure I'm not the only one; So, sorry Nation I'm not 100% sold on Mr. Campbell. Most of the people in Washington talk about Jason the way people in the Nation used to talk about JaMarcus, and I don't know about you but that doesn't fill my black heart with confidence.
The way I see things the main difference between him and J.R. is attitude. We all know that Jason has the desire to play but is this REALLY going to translate into a significant number of more wins for the team? Think about it for a moment: most guys in the league have that desire to win but the bottom line is that desire is not what really gets it done.
The key to being sucessful in the nfl (especially on offense) is execution! This is something (from what I've heard) that Jason Campbell has struggled with. Moreover the reality is that while people in the nation may be happy to have him on the roster the bottom line is he's still just a step or two above being a rookie.
He's coming to a new team (like a rookie) and he's going to have to learn the offense (like a rookie). Jason, unfortunately (unlike a rookie) has the baggage that comes with him going through several different coordinators and offenses to work through, so it's not like he's coming to our team with a clean slate for us to work with. Nor is this like the Brett Fave or even the D. McNabb situation.
There we have guys who've been playing for such a long time at a high level that really they have no need for, or don't need to be involved in much "practice" before their ready to take their "new" team to the next level.
Hue Jackson and the rest of the staff are going to have their work cut out for them. They are going to have to work with Jason and help him un-learn what he's been though before we can put our "stamp" on him and this is going to take time; One of my questions is this: What is he going to do under pressure? Will he remember what he's been taught by our staff or will he revert back to his old habits?
As I stated sure, he has the desire to play; However, are his stats really all that much better than J.Russ? (really?!?) I hate to repeat my self but as I said this is not a Fave or a McNabb situation, that would be a different story; Then we would have a guy who has been a starter, led his team to Division and Conference Championships and has played in a Superbowl.
In Jason campbell we get a guy who has started in the league, he's won some games but really has not done all that much in his career. Jason, like many players who come to Oakland is looking for a second chance. He's trying to revive his career, by no means is this guy a PROVEN WINNER! So, while I will say he's an upgrade over J. Russ - I'm not ready to call him our "savior", at least not this first season.
Now let's talk about the men who protect the quarterback for a moment;
As we saw last season, when Brucie G came into the game: We had a quarterback with desire, and we had a man that the team could "rally" around only to see him get BOTH knees hurt, and before that he was pretty much running for his life play after play during every game he was in (if I'm wrong about this please say so).
We did draft some linemen - however, the guys that we drafted are "projects" which means that they are not going to give us an instant return on our investment; They are good people - and guys who (according to the "experts") should turn out to be good players. However, what does that do for us this season? I don't expect any of the O-line men that we drafted this year to be an immediate impact player (do you?)
That means we are going to have to work with the talent pool that we presently have. I don't know about you Raider Nation but for the most part I feel that our O-line is suspect (and I'm being kind here). These guys did not protect Bruce (as I said, this guy got both knees hurt). These guys could not protect Charlie (who also got hurt) and J.Russ did not even want to line up behind them, which was part of the reason for the drama between him and the line in the first place!
Are these guys going to be able to protect Jason Campbell? Sure he's a bit more mobile then J.R. and maybe even Bruce (and he's going to need to be) However, with a new quarterback he's got a thousand things to worry about. He's going to have to make sure we have the right play called moreover, he needs to make sure he KNOWS the play that is called. He's going to need to make sure that the other players are lined up where they need to be, he's going to have to read the defense ect. ect. Does he really have the time to worry about his protection?
Moreover, don't you think our opponents are going to attack Jason? What would you do as a defensive coordinator facing a team with a brand new quarterback? I don't know about you but, I'm going to blitz the hell out of this guy!! I want to see if he can make quick decsions or not; Maybe I can force him into some bad plays and get some turnovers!!
Trust me when I tell you that this O-line will be under pressure because people will be looking to attack the quarterback. Would you want to be the man lined up behind these guys? Can our O-line protect Jason and give him the time that he is going to need to execute our Offensive game plan? I just don't know if these guys are going to be able stand up under the pressure that other teams are going to put on them.
Which brings me to the rest of the offense.
One of my favorite writers here, Elias Trejo recently wrote an article about who is on the "hot seat" this season. I want to piggy back off of that thought right now because I feel that the wideouts (whom he didn't mention) and the R.B. (whom he did) are going to have to play a huge role if the team is going to be sucessful this season.
The best thing for a new quarterback and an offensive line that struggles with pass protection is to have a strong running game, complimented by a dependable receiving corp. Which brings us to our next set of questions: Will McFadden and Bush be able to handle the load? Furthermore, can our receiving corp be counted on to come up with the clutch catch?
This Raider team, unlike many we're used to will have to be a run first throw second team; With that in mind, we all know the story of McFadden. He was drafted #4 overall to be (in my view) the second comming of Marcus Allen and, as I told Elias he's been playing more like Debbie Allen.
For the Raiders to take things to the next level he (McFadden) is going to need to have a solid year this season. In harmony with his play will be that of Mr. Bush, who is going to be needed to play the role of "hammer" and beat down the defense so that as the game wears on it will be eaiser for McFadden to use his elusiveness.
However, we will still need to thow the ball. We will need to make teams pay for trying to make us one dimensional, and for the constant blitzing I believe we will see. Here is where we are going to need our wideouts to come up with some clutch plays.
As of late the blame for our wideouts lack of production has been placed at the feet of our prior quarterback, their youth, and with injury; Well this season, those excuses do not apply.
JaMarcus is gone. DHB is no longer just a rookie and Chaz should be just fully recovered. Therefore, the question now becomes can these guys make plays when we NEED them to make plays? Can DHB fill the long vacant shoes of Cliff Branch (the original speed thrills)? Will Chaz be the Timmy B for the next millineum? Will we have a solid #3 guy to turn to? This seasons stats and results will go along way to determining the answers to these (and other) questions.
Speaking of other questions; What about the other side of the ball?
There are numerous questions on defense.
Will The Raiders be able to stop other teams from running them into the ground? On third downs will this defense be able to get off of the field? What are we going to do about the safety position? Who is going to play on the other side of Namdi? Are we going to be in a 3-4 or a 4-3 or both?
So many questions, that I wish I had the answer to (but don't) unfortunately the only way for us to get the answers to them it to wait, and watch the season unfold. We should play better and we should get the benefit of playing in a "weaker" then usual AFC West.
Speaking of the A.F.C. West:
Denver: Who knows what's the story with the donkey's (and who really cares?) They got rid of their quarterback and their "star" wide out. They drafted Tim Tebow? ect. ect. I'm not expecting too much competition to come from them this year.
The Chiefs: Another team that is in flux but we should be able to handle them.
The Charges: As for the "super-chokers" they still have Phill Rivers at q.b. and have drafted a runner that they (and others) feel could be rookie of the year (we'll see). Moreover, they haven't made too many changes and should be the team in our division that gives us the most problems. I would not be surprised to see us come in second after them.
Overall, (in my view) not a bad year. I don't see a Division Championship (this year) but, I do see 8 or 9 wins, and maybe a wildcard birth; Not a bad season. Just what the football doctor ordered. The type of building block a team needs to catapult them to bigger and better. The perfect way to get back to a "committment to excellence"
Will that be the theme of this years team? Can The Raiders find a way to "just win (again) baby!" so many questions and so few answers.....
Raider from birth.