The carcass is the dry remains of a once mighty nation that Ezekiel described as dry bones in the valley, who once had sinews, who once had flesh, who once had purpose, possibility, and potential. But most importantly, the Raider Nation once had defense. And for the past few years the nation had been disconnected from its tough, gritty, kick-butt tradition—until now.
In 2009, the Raiders pass defense ranked seventh—thanks to Nnamdi Asomugha, arguably the best shutdown corner in the NFL. But there is another primary reason the pass defense was ranked so high: The run defense was so poor, ranked 29th, that opposing teams just ran over the Raiders defense.
In addition, the Oakland Raiders defense was 23rd in the NFL for points against, averaging 23.7 points/game, and gave up 155.5 rushing yards per game. The dry bones, that were last year's Raiders defense have reassembled, and are now a unit—living, breathing, and learning to play as one.
Richard Seymour, John Henderson, LaMarr Houston, and Rolando McClain will assure that the run defense is much better in 2010. Trevor Scott, Matt Shaughnessy, Kamerion Wimbley, and Quentin Groves should be excellent at pressuring quarterbacks and containing tight ends and running backs in the pass defense.
Wimbley will start at strong side backer and Groves will play both linebacker and end. Expect Trevor Scott’s sack numbers to be double-digits this year.
The new additions to the defensive line and linebacker corp will force teams into more 3rd-and-long situations which will play into the hands of the secondary, so expect many more interceptions this year.
When a team has a poor offense, its defense remains on the field for prolonged periods, which I assert, is one of the reasons the Raiders defense was ranked 29th against the run. But with the upgrades on the offensive side of the ball, the Raiders defense will be fresher in the fourth quarters this year.
No nation can thrive divided as individuals; only by working together as a whole. And now the Raiders Nation is whole again. And that's the byproduct of wise management, veteran leadership, aligned with talented youth with open ears—who all put aside vainglorious wants and focus on the needs of the team.
And many observers have witnessed this including ESPN NFL analysts Mark Schlereth and John Clayton, who both proclaimed: The Raiders defense will be improved in 2010.
Look for rookies Lamarr Houston and Rolando McClain to make a big splash in their rookie seasons. In addition, I’m predicting that they both will be competing for Defensive Rookie of the Year honors.
Regarding McClain, I've followed this guy throughout his high school and college careers, as I am an Alabama native—and I must say that he was the most instinctive linebacker I've seen, at the college level, since Ray Lewis.