Despite a dismal 2009 campaign that saw the Oakland Raiders go 5-11 and finish third in the AFC West Division, there is a feeling of optimism and anticipation as the 2010 regular season approaches.
The Raiders made several off season moves that strengthened weak spots in the team, and the emergence of some veterans has the fan base excited that this year will be the one that will return the silver and black to respectability. Here's why.
The addition of Jason Campbell, and the subsequent departure of JaMarcus Russell, should prove to be a huge plus for the offense. Campbell is a veteran with leadership skills as well as athletic ability, and is known as a smart, professional quarterback. Russell? not so much. His departure is the textbook definition of "addition by subtraction."
The arch rival Denver Broncos, an 8-8 team last year, have suffered considerable injuries to both their offensive and defensive units. The Broncos backfield is so depleted that they recently signed former Raider Justin Fargas, who was cut by Oakland after failing a physical in the off season.
Linebacker Elvis Dumervil, the anchor of the defense who recorded 17 sacks last season, will likely miss the entire year due to a chest injury. The Broncos have also had significant injuries to their wide receiver corps, including Jabar Gaffney.
Factor in the enigmatic Kyle Orton, who will start at QB for Denver, and the Raiders have an excellent chance of finishing ahead of the Broncos this season.
The emergence of Michael Bush in the Oakland backfield, while bad news for former first round draft pick Darren McFadden, should be a big help to an offense that struggled to score points in 2009.
Guard Robert Gallery is back from a major leg injury last season as well, and will be opening holes for Run DMC and Bush on an improved offensive line.
The San Diego Chargers, considered to be the class of the division after a 13 win season in '09 that saw them score more points than any team in the AFC, will start 5'6" Darren Sproles at tailback. After splitting carries with the departed LaDanian Tomlinson last year, Sproles will be expected to carry a much heavier load on his small frame in 2010, and when he needs rest the Chargers will have to depend on rookie Ryan Mathews.
The Kansas City Chiefs, with one of the worst defenses in the NFL last season, will be starting several young players and are not projected to win more than 4-5 games this year. On the offensive side of the ball, they will again go with unproven Matt Cassel at quarterback, who learned that life is a little different in KC than it was in New England last year.
There definitely seems to be reason for the optimistic outlook in Oakland this year. The fans as well as Mr. Davis are expecting big things. Just win, baby!
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