As the opening of the 2010 football season approaches, it appears as if the Oakland Raiders are on the fast track to accomplish something that they haven't done since 2002, have a winning season.
In the offseason, the Raiders have made many vital moves that have changed the entire atmosphere in Oakland, where the Commitment to Excellence has appeared to have returned to the home of Silver and Black.
The one opponent that seems to have plagued the Oakland Raiders is not a team or a referee. It is clearly injuries.
You can watch tape to prepare for a team, but this opponent is so unpredictable, you never know what it's going to throw at you. It has taken down some of our best players in preparation for this season. Here are just a few key players who are facing and trying to defeat...Injury.
Chaz Schilens is without question, the best possession receiver in the Raider arsenal. The only problem is, he has yet to play an entire season for the Raiders where he has been productive.
He played only eight games last season do a foot injury. He had additional surgery to "clean up" the foot after the initial operation. Now we are looking at another injury to his knee that may have been caused by him over-compensating for the injury to his foot.
The window for his return is questionable. He may return by the season opener against the Titans. Schilens is crucial to the offense of the Raiders. Although Murphy has shown that he could possibly be a go to guy, with a healthy Schilens, we have a very serious threat to NFL secondaries.
Darren McFadden is definitely the most talented running back on the Oakland Raiders. This may come as a surprise but being that injury has gotten the best of him so far, his accomplishments have been overshadowed.
People tend to forget the early comparisons that were made to Marcus Allen when he was drafted in 2008. In his second game he rushed for 164 yards on 21 carries. It was in this game that injury reared it's ugly head and caught hold of McFadden's toe on one foot and later grabbed the other. It didn't let it go for the rest of the season. Injury also hit his shoulder in the same year.
The following year, injury caught McFadden's knee which took him down for a month in the first half of the season and he never was able to catch his rhythm again.
This year McFadden is in battle once again with his nemesis, but this time, it's a hamstring. Though he is scheduled to play his first preseason game on Saturday, he has missed a good portion of training camp.
If McFadden has health on his side this season, the thought of his quickness and Bush's power coming out of the backfield will be a matter of in-depth study for defensive line coaches and a reason to celebrate for Raider's fans.
After watching nine dismal games last season and listening to a cacophony of jeers from Raider Nation, Bruce Gradkowski stepped in and brought with him a brilliant light to a dark situation. His passion for the game and leadership qualities re-energized the Raiders towards the end of last season.
He won in his first start against the Bengals and threw for two touchdowns. That matched the total JaMarcus had for the year up to that game. He again showed his greatness against the Steelers by throwing three touchdowns and becoming the AFC Player of the Week.
Once again, injury found it's way through the line and took down Gradkowski with partially torn MCLs in both knees. While on his road to recovery, injury proved that it wouldn't go down easily and tore Gradkowski's pectoral muscle in April of this year. After battling back from that, Gradkowski was hit right where it hurts...in the groin by injury again.
I will go as far to say that if Gradkowski had been able to defeat injury, Campbell may not have been traded for. Gradkowski became a shining star in the locker room and was one of the first Raiders to really begin the turn around of the team.
Campbell will do well in Oakland, but it's great to know that Bruce has his back and it will be great to see him for the remainder of the preseason.
There are several other noteworthy players that have succumb to this opponent (Satele, Heyward-Bey, Seymour, Johnson), but in all things, there is a positive and negative side to it.
The downside to this issue is that, our top players on offense have yet to play together at the same time. With that being said, Campbell's timing with Schilens has yet to be established. Without DMC coming out of the backfield, it is hard to determine the attention he would draw, let alone how our new offensive coordinator, Hue Jackson, could use him in game situations. That could be a minor issue early on.
The upside to all of this is that it gives the Raiders an opportunity to see how deep their team really is. The fact that players are playing for a position on the team, it has shown that we have several players who could make an impact right now and in the future. More importantly, the key players mentioned here, are healthy now (except Schilens) and will be expected to get the job done when their number is called.
Given all of the positive things that have taken place since the end of last season, the Raiders are definitely not the team they were a year ago. This is quite evident in training camp as well as in the preseason games. I know it's just the preseason but in the same breath, I know that even in training camp and preseason last year, the Raiders weren't where they are right now.
The fact that they have done as well as they have without all of their weapons is a testament to the talent not only on the field, but how good the coaching staff is.
The Raiders are indeed back, and once they defeat injury, the rest of the league should be on guard. Yes injury plays in every game, but I think it has been getting the best of the Raiders for some time now. I think this too like many other things associated with the organization, is about to change for the better.