Oakland Raiders NFL Season Preview: Seven Predictions For 2010
Al Davis has has likened the 2010 Oakland Raiders team to the one which won the Superbowl in 1980 with Jim Plunkett leading the way.
It has to be said, for a 5-11 team the Raiders have a lot of sports writers (even ESPN!) singing their praises and predicting a Silver & Black revival.
But what can we realistically predict for the 2010 season?
Given the moves and acquisitions in the roster (not to mention some addition by subtraction), I think there are a number of conclusions we can come to with some degree of probability.
Here are my top seven, both good and and bad.
Michael Bush Leads The Raiders In Combined Yardage
Michael Bush may have been a fourth round pick, and Darren McFadden may have been a high first round pick, but Bush is the guy who will get it done for the Raiders.
Bush has excellent agility and quick feet for a 245 lb back, and he has shown consistently that when he is given the opportunity that he can get the job done. He showed that in week 15 last year against the Broncos with 18 carries for 133 yards and a touchdown.
That wasn't the first time he has had a big game when Oakland needed him to.
He is also a useful receiver out of the backfield.
But the difference between the two is not just in performance but in durability. Bush has a more physical, punishing running style, and yet doesn't get hurt. As much as I like McFadden, I don't think he is capable of going sixteen games as an every down back.
Michael Bush will get the lion's share of the work at running back, and McFadden will in the end be a second option and more of a situational player.
Louis Murphy Outperfoms All Raider Wide Receivers
Chaz Schilens may have the look of a number one receiver, with all the physical talent in the world.
Darrius Heyward Bey is a number seven overall pick a year ago who has had a phenomenal off season and is vastly improved.
But Louis Murphy will lead the Raider's receivers in both receptions and yardage in 2010. Why? Because he is more productive and more durable than both of the other two. Murphy is a talent who has produced on the field, and produced the big plays consistently.
Schilens and Heyward Bey at this point are simply potential.
Louis Murphy is production.
He can get the job done and stay healthy, that's why he will perform the other two.
Jason Campbell Is Competent, Not Exceptional
Many people are already anointing Jason Campbell as the saviour of the Raider Nation.
I think that view is a little overblown (apart from the fact that Campbell isn't JaMarcus Russell), as Campbell has never been a Pro Bowl type quarterback, just a hard working, solid type player.
I like Jason Campbell, and I am glad he is with the Raiders. His preparation, his personality, and the way he plays suits the way this team has been put together by Tom Cable. But for those expecting Campbell to be the next coming of Kenny Stabler, I think you may be a little premature.
Campbell is in yet another new system, has a patchwork offensive line and an inexperienced receiving corps. That doesn't usually lead to quarterbacks setting passing records.
What Jason Campbell will give us though, is solid and competent play at the quarterback position. That is something we never had with Russell at the helm.
The Starters On The Offensive Line Will Change During The Season
The offensive line is the one area where I think the Raiders are still weak.
Robert Gallery is a stud at left guard (if he can stay healthy), but outside of that no player stands out.
Mario Henderson has been inconsistent at left tackle, though will be given another year to prove himself at the position (which I thinks he deserves). I have never been a fan of Langston Walker at right tackle, as he suffers from a lack of mobility in pass protection, and Samson Satele has been a disappointment at center.
Cooper Carlisle is winding down his career, and doesn't show well against the bigger, stronger defensive tackles in the league.
This group leaves a lot of room for improvement, and there are players not starting right now who could be knocking on the door quite soon.
Khalif Barnes was a decent tackle in Jacksonville, and is another option at guard or tackle, and the Raiders drafted two very talented players this year in Jared Veldheer and Bruce Campbell.
Veldheer appears to be a little further along, getting second team reps at left tackle, and also being tried out at center. He certainly looked good at both positions against Dallas. Campbell has tremendous potential, and is backing up Cooper Carlisle.
I predict that regardless of injury, the starters om this unit will change.
The Raiders Will Have a Top 15 Defense
After languishing at or near the bottom of the league against the run for years, the Raiders finally decided to make a meaningful investment in their front seven.
There are now just too many talented players in this group for them to perform badly, and I really see a revival of the Raider's defense in the 2010 season. The defensive line mauled the Cowboys and dominated the game last week, and that is something we haven't seen for many years from a Raider line.
Lamarr Houston and Matt Shaugnessy are strong at end, and moving Richard Seymour into the middle to play next to Tommy Kelly was a great move. There is also strength in depth with Desmond Bryant and John Henderson.
Overall number eight pick Rolando McLain leads a revamped linebacking corps,with the talented Trevor Scott and Kamerion Wimbley on the outside.
With Nnamdi Asomugha and Tyvon Branch in the secondary, this should be a very good unit indeed.
Oakland Will at Last Beat The San Diego Chargers
The last time the Raiders beat the Chargers was Sept 28th 2003, when Rich Gannon at quarterback. That is a long time not to win against a team you play twice a year.
Not surprisingly, the Raiders haven't won the AFC West in that time, because if you can't win your divisional games, then you can't win the division full stop.
But I truly feel that whilst the Raiders are a team on the rise, the Chargers are in decline.
They may still have Philip Rivers, but LT is gone, Shawne Merriman isn't the player he was, and there seems a general discontent on an aging team. Vincent Jackson and Marcus McNeill are in the middle of a bitter contract dispute, which has motivating them to hold out through camp, and these kind of problems don't bode well for them in 2010.
A key development is that whist Oakland has a strong young defensive line, the Chargers are having big problems on their offensive line. You can't bank on Philip Rivers if you can't keep him upright.
This is the year that the Raiders beat the Chargers.
The Raiders Will Go 8-8 Or Better
The Oakland Raiders will return to respectability by going at least 8-8 in the coming season.
I think there are still some elements missing for them to be contenders for the AFC Championship, but this team is on the up and will break their seven year cycle of eleven losses or more.
It will help that their divisional opponents are in a poor state (Denver, Kansas City), or are in decline (San Diego), but the fact is that Tom Cable has put together a team and a coaching staff that pulls together, has a hard work ethic, ad actually a lot of talent.
They will contend for the division title, and possibly get a shot at the playoffs.
But make no mistake, the Raiders are back.