For Oakland to get out of their seven-year slide, several key factors have to come together.
The defense has to stop the run.
The WR corps has to step up.
The RB tandem has to hold onto the ball and run as they were drafted to.
The QB has to stand up and take control of the team.
The first phase was given some good looks from the draft. First out of the gate, the Raiders picked up Rolando McClain, who took to the Raiders in a hurry. Willing to step up and become a rock for the Raiders defensive line, he asked for a playbook and tapes—and a good guess says he had them before the Raiders traded for Jason Campbell.
The next pickup had Raiders all over him—including the watch.
LaMarr Houston, a defensive tackle, was coming from Texas and showed good ability while the Raiders felt lucky he was still on the board. Trading down twice, they snatched him at the 44th position, then waited.
By the third day, Oakland decided to take a few fliers, one on a prospect Travis Goethel and two defensive backs, Walt McFadden and Jeremy Ware.
The last pick, a long shot for the club, would be Stevie Brown, another linebacker.
How does this bode well for the Raiders?
First, the Raiders took players in a smart, orderly fashion. The players picked on defense can either contribute right away, as in Rolando and LaMarr's case or could be looked at as long-term players in the future.
Several players could make the team as either special teams/return players or have spots taken on the practice squad.
What will become a litmus test of sorts, it is how well the Raiders play through their first six games.
Looking at the Raiders' games, you have Tennessee to lead-off the season. If Chris Johnson is playing, this will be a good test.
Next up for the Raiders would be St. Louis with Steven Jackson.
The third game would feature Arizona who would be bringing Beanie Wells and Tim Hightower.
The fourth game has the Texans, but with this club you could have one of three different RBs to work with—Steve Slaton, Ryan Moats,,, or Ben Tate could be in this pattern.
San Diego, of course, makes the Raiders grin—LT is gone, Darren Sproles isn't a full-time back, and the rookie Ryan Mathews is unproven as of yet. Depending on what he looks like by this game, it could be a piece of cake or a nightmare.
Lastly, we have the "Bay Area Battle" with the 49ers.
Frank Gore would be a challenge for anyone given he's run off 1,000-yard seasons four straight seasons. While he hasn't reached his 1,695 yards set in 2006, last season saw him average 4.9 yards per attempt.
Oakland, meanwhile, hasn't been idle either. Looking at starting with a 4-3 format, but entertaining the idea of switching to a 3-4 at times, might keep the defense fluid enough to stop running backs.
It should also be noted that the Raiders will have Kamerion Wimbley from Cleveland, returning defensive end Richard Seymour and Trevor Scott, who seems to get better each year.
Thinking ahead a little bit?
Can't hurt to be this optimistic. Go Raiders.
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