10 Questions Oakland Raiders Must Answer Before Season Opener
There is a lot of optimism about the Oakland Raiders for the 2010 season. The Raiders and many members of the Raider Nation believe this is the year they return. They have their eyes set on a playoff run and possibly the AFC West title.
The media, who like to make the Raiders the butt of all the jokes, are actually saying good things about them. Most of them think the Raiders at the very least will end their streak of losing 11 games.
There are also many doubters out there who think the Raiders haven't done enough to make themselves better.
Regardless of who you are or what you think there are still plenty of questions the Raiders need to answer to make the next step and become a contender.
Let's take a look at 10 questions the Raiders must answer before the start of the season.
Can the Raiders Stop the Run?
Every off season the Raiders feel like they are going to turn things around, they also make it a goal to stop the run. Needless to say they have failed and turning things around and stopping the run.
Once again stopping the run is their focus and it should be. The Raiders will face Chris Johnson in their opener, the man who just ran for over 2,000 yards last season.
So far in the preseason the Raiders haven't showed they can stop the run like they need to. They have let Matt Forte and Frank Gore break off big runs and average a ridiculous yards per carry average.
If they want to be taken serious during the season, they can't allow running backs to run free. Johnson could very well be their biggest test of the season, so they need to be ready from the get go.
Can They Protect Jason Campbell?
Last year the Raiders offensive line allowed the defense to hurt Bruce Gradkowski and Charlie Frye during the season.
The Raiders offensive line must do better to protect the quarterback. If Jason Campbell can't get the protection he needs, Oakland may be seeing more of what they did against the 49ers when Campbell went down with an injury.
The Raiders drafted two rookie linemen this off season, but their impact won't be felt for a while. The pressure is on Mario Henderson and the rest of the offensive line to provide the protection Campbell needs to take the Raiders to the next level.
Can the Running Backs Stay Healthy?
Darren McFadden and Michael Bush both have the ability to become superstars in the league. They are both physically gifted and young. The problem with these young backs are injuries.
The Raiders released Justin Fargas in the off season to give McFadden and Bush more carries. Perhaps they jumped the gun on that move.
Already in the preseason McFadden has missed time with a minor injury and Bush has a broken thumb on his left hand.
It will be vital for the Raiders success that these two guys stay healthy. The Raiders are trying to build a bully with their running game, but if they don't have any healthy runners it will be hard.
Are Their Young Receivers Enough?
Darrius Heyward-Bey and Louis Murphy started as rookies last season, and so far I would have to say that they look better than last year.
Chaz Schilens is said to be the most talented receiver on the roster be he looks just like he did last year, injured.
Fans and local beat writer have all suggested that the the Raiders need to add a veteran receiver to help the young receivers out and give Campbell a proven option.
The Raiders have refused to add anyone, which should be a big vote of confidence to the young guys, but are they enough?
The same rules still apply for every quarterback, you need protection and you need weapons to be successful. Can the receivers deliver the goods and make Oakland passing game respectful?
Is Jason Campbell the Answer?
The Raider Nation is very excited about Jason Campbell. So is Al Davis, who recently compared Campbell to Jim Plunkett.
Campbell has yet to win anything to be excited about in the NFL. He was a former first round pick for the Washington Redskins and failed to deliver the wins a first round pick should.
Many blame his leadership and ability while many blame Dan Snyder and his East Coast version of the Oakland Raiders.
Campbell has a lot to prove, but he is a big reason why many feel the Raiders can become a solid team in 2010. Then again, after having JaMarcus Russell as your quarterback anyone seems like a major upgrade.
How Much Does Richard Seymour Have Left in the Tank?
I'm a big fan of Richard Seymour, I feel he brings a lot to the team off the field. His leadership and the example he sets for the younger players are perhaps where his biggest impact may be felt.
Last year was a down year for Seymour as far as production goes. He only recorded four sacks, but he did join the Raiders late in the off season.
He turns 31 in October and if you look at the history of a defensive lineman's production in their 30's, it isn't all that much to be excited about.
Seymour must show the world that his four sack season was not something that will be happening again. He must produce Seymour type numbers if the Raiders hope to stop the run and turn the corner on defense.
How Good Is Nnamdi Asomugha?
I feel that Nnamdi Asomugha is the best cornerback in the league, but not many people will agree and I don't blame them.
The Raiders, up until this up coming season, have not let Asomugha take on the opposing teams best receiver the whole game. For that reason people think Darrelle Revis or Champ Bailey are the best cornerbacks in the league.
This season Asomugha will have his opportunity to silence the critics, as it appears he will be lining up against the opposing teams top receivers.
If the opposing teams top receivers get lost in Area: 21 then the Raiders will have a solid opportunity to boast a top 10 defense.
Is Rolando McClain Ready to Handle the Load?
Everyone, including myself, is very excited to have Rolando McClain in the silver and black. He was brought in to lead the defense as a rookie and to help stop the run.
McClain is a beast and he has all of the tools to become a superstar in the league. That said, the kid is still a rookie and has a lot on his plate.
He replaces Kirk Morrison, who was not only a fan favorite but also led the Raiders in tackles almost every year he was on the squad.
McClain will make mistakes his rookie year and he will make plays. He has a lot of pressure on him to make an impact right away as he is the quarterback of a defense that needs to stop the run and bring the Raiders back to glory.
Can the Raiders Linebackers Cover the Pass?
Kamerion Wimbley, Rolando McClain and Trevor Scott make up a new linebacking unit for the Raiders. Their strengths are supposed to be getting to the quarterback and helping stop the run.
Perhaps their biggest weakness is pass coverage. Scott, Wimbley and McClain are all big players who aren't the fastest or best at pass coverage.
This unit must show they are capable of covering tight ends and running backs, or the Raiders defense could have a very long season.
If the linebackers can play solid against the run and the pass, there is no way the Raiders don't compete for the AFC West title.
What's Different From the Last Seven Years?
This one goes out to all the players, coaches and members of the Raider Nation. What is different from now and the last seven years?
Raider fans have always talked up the Raiders every off season. Claiming with each new season that the Raiders are on the rise and that the silver and black are back.
Each season has shown to be nothing but false hope and all talk.
The team can't win more than five games, the fans don't seem to care as much. The stadium is always empty and many fans have jumped ship and joined other teams.
If Cleveland Browns and Buffalo Bills can sell out stadiums even though they struggle, why can't the Raiders?
It's gut-check time for everyone associated with the Raider Nation. The attitude has to change from top to bottom.
The fans need to start showing up to the games, the players need to start playing like wearing the silver and black means something.
If this is truly the year the Raiders turn things around, the fans and players need to talk less and do more.
There will be haters and doubters, but with every losing season and every game that doesn't sell out, Raider players and Raider fans don't have much they can say.
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