Things to Watch in Oakland for 2008
The Raiders have been probably the busiest team in terms of free agency during this off season, and certainly spent the most money in doing so.
How far all that money will influence the ticks in the win column this year is difficult to say, but there are quite clear strengths and weaknesses on this team for the coming season, making some predictions possible.
This is what we are going to see from Raider players in 2008………
· Oakland is going to have a very strong running game with 3 good tailbacks and a second year in Tom Cable’s zone blocking system.
· Darren McFadden will be as advertised, breaking some big gains and winning the hearts of the Raider Nation.
· JaMarcus Russell’s off season dedication will pay off, and he will have a solid first season as starter. He is however, basically a rookie, so don’t be surprised when he screws up a time or two.
· The offensive line will struggle to pass protect at both tackle positions.
· Paul McQuistan will outplay Cornell Green, Mario Henderson, and Kwame Harris if given a chance to start at tackle (on either side).
· Zach Miller will have a breakout year. He might not be a deep threat, but this kid can play.
· Michael Huff does a much better job at free safety than he did on the strong side, and starts to make the kind of plays that justify his number 7 selection a few years ago.
· Gibril Wilson is the safety Oakland have needed ever since Rod Woodson retired.
· Tommy Kelly’s play at the 3 technique position on the defensive line will be the biggest single factor in the performance of the defense.
· Derrick Burgess will be back to his pro bowl best, registering double digit sacks this year.
· Oakland will still lose games through an inability to defend the run. Don’t underestimate this problem, it’s still big.
When you look at the schedule that the Raiders have, and the millions that have been paid out to improve this team, there is really no excuse for finishing less than .500 this year. Their opponents in the AFC West (Broncos, Chiefs) are on the decline which makes things easier.
Kiffin might be young, but he has this team on the right track, has a sound tactical mind and the courage of his convictions.
It isn’t a great reach to see the Raiders claiming a wild card spot.
All the best,