Oakland Raiders: Can Still Win the AFC West Without Asomugha and Miller
The Oakland Raiders are in training camp for the first time in a while without Nnamdi Asomugha and Zach Miller. Many Raider fans are sick with Raider owner Al Davis for allegedly letting them go after overspending before the lockout.
If Davis is over the cap and no one but he knows it, he can and has always massaged the cap to get his men. I believe Asomugha wanted a supposed guaranteed title contender and Miller wanted Tom Cable.
I guess Shane Lechler was right about the hiring of Hue Jackson leading to free agents leaving. We all knew that Gallery was leaving and didn't mind but Miller's departure along with Asomugha's has led Raider Nation to hit the national disaster warning button.
In a previously written article, I revealed how Asomugha is the most replaceable All-Pro player in the NFL. Miller is a very good tight end but he's not special so we need to stop acting like the Raiders lost Tony Gonzales.
What have the Raiders won with these two men?
There's no such thing as a team not being able to win because they lost two players they never won with. The Raiders can still win the AFC West and if they don't, it won't be because they lost Asomugha and Miller.
Turn the page to sea how and why.
I've already said that Asomugha is replaceable and he already has been replaced. Stanford Routt finally gets it and he was second in the league among corners in burn percentage with 39.4 percent.
If Asomugha was thrown at enough, he would have tied Routt for second place in the NFL. To me, the tie breaker is Routt was the one lined up on the opposing team's best receiver as Nnamdi stayed on one side.
The game plan for the opposing team was usually to get their best receiver away from Asomugha. They didn't fare too well as they tried it over and over again with Rout being thrown at 99 times in 2010.
Rod Woodson will make Routt even better and have him follow the opposing team's best receiver in 2011.
Look what Woodson has already done for Asomugha.
Pass Defense: Chris Johnson
The Raiders were ranked No. 2 in the NFL in pass defense in 2010 with Asomugha. As I've already shown you how Asomugha has been replaced, the problem would be the corner on the other side.
You have to replace the man that replaced Asomugha because whoever does, will get picked on like Routt did That's not a problem because Chris Johnson did well opposite Asomugha after the Raiders cut DeAngelo Hall in 2008.
He has battled nagging injuries since but managed to also be in the top 10 in burn percentage at 40.5 percent in 2011. A healthy Johnson being coached by Woodson will lead to him having his best year in the NFL.
The Raiders will still have a top three corner tandem in the NFL.
Pass Defense: Michael Huff
Safety Michael Huff has excellent man coverage skills and really came on as a safety last year. Now he's back and he's been talking to the media about his plans on being a nickel corner in 2011.
That would be using Huff to his full potential while Demarcus Van Dyke and the youngsters develop. Huff won the Jim Thorpe award by playing corner and free safety then was mysteriously turned into a strong safety when he arrived in Raider Nation.
No wonder why he signed a four year contract for $32 million!
He can lock down a slot receiver, break on the ball from center field to get interceptions, and blitz. If he lines up on the slot, he just might improve on the four sacks he had in 2010.
That's three players in one!
Defense: Richard Seymour
Richard Seymour has a motor that never quits and that's rare for a man over 300 pounds. He's also powerful, quick off the ball, and has an assortment of moves that get him past the man in front of him.
This makes Seymour tough to deal with in both running and passing game. He takes two and sometimes three blocker to keep his numbers quiet but that opens up things for linebackers to make tackles and defensive line mates to get sacks from one on one blocking.
The Raiders were already No. 2 in the NFL is sacks in 2010 and the run defense will improve in 2011 All that is needed is a healthy Travis Goethel or free agent at outside linebacker as Rolando McClain is now ready at middle linebacker.
Seymour has kept his level high while raising the level of the rest of the defensive line.
He's worth every bit of that $15 million he will get this year and the next.
Defense: Kamerion Wimbley
You can say what you want about his contract but Kamerion Wimbley is a straight up beast. The former first round pick had 11 sacks in his rookie season then simmered down the next few years.
Then he comes to Raider Nation and gets 9 sacks in a system where outside linebackers don't blitz a lot. He does put his hand on the ground on third down so you can say he had nine important sacks.
Yet Raider Nation seems angry about Wimbley getting so much money while Miller and Asomugha are gone. I don't think Wimbley's contract had anything to do with the other leaving but his value is greater.
While his sack numbers dropped in Cleveland, he improved in coverage and against the run. Many don't realize that his sack numbers dropped because the Browns had no one else that could rush the passer.
So opposing teams slide the protection his way as he was the only guy they worried about. Now he's with a great defensive line so he won't see a double team plus a back chipping.
Wimbley didn't get lucky in 2010.
He's simply on a defense where he's not the only dangerous one.
He will have double digit sacks in 2011 if healthy.
Miller Loss Isn't That Bad
Before it happened, I had always thought that losing Zach Miller would be devastating to the Raiders. Now that it has happened, I have found reasons to believe that just isn't the case.
He was a great blocker but you can't tell me that a tight end that had 685 yards is a devastating loss. You especially can't and shouldn't try to tell me that such a tight end is worth almost $7 million a year.
That's Antonio Gates, Vernon Davis, Dallas Clark and Tony Gonzales territory. Miller is good but he's not special and he's not a game changer aside from the one play he made against the Philadelphia Eagles in 2009.
He only made the Pro Bowl because Gates was hurt, Clark was hurt, and Gonzales went to the NFC. The Raiders have been so bad in recent years that when a player is pretty good, it's mistaken for greatness.
I made that mistake too.
Miller may be great one day but as of now, he has done nothing to be considered great. Don't blame the quarterbacks he played with either because Gonzales had 1,000-yard seasons with guys like Tyler Thigpen.
In fact Miller himself had his best season in 2010 with Jamarcus Russell and Bruce Gradkowski.
I do see losing Miller as a possible setback but replacing him won't be as difficult as you think. Kevin Boss has been spotted around the Raiders' facility but they may not even have to go there.
If Miller did stay, I was ready to predict that he could possibly lose his job in 2012 or 2013. This is because Raider owner Al Davis has struck again with a late round gem by the name of David Ausberry.
Ausberry came out of college as a 6'4" 245 pound receiver that never found his niche in Lane Kiffin's offense. But as a USC fan, I know he has great hands and ran an electronically timed 4.46 40-yard dash.
Raider quarterback Jason Campbell told Vitto Tafur that Ausberry is "real fast" and "can be something special." http://twitter.com/#!/VittorioTafur
My question was his ability to block but according to Vitto Tafur, he has looked good when blocking. http://twitter.com/#!/VittorioTafur
Raider offensive coordinator Al Saunders' vertical offense hasn't always depended on a great tight end. Don't get me wrong, Saunders has done great things with Kellen Winslow and Tony Gonzales.
But he won a Super Bowl with the Rams and they were called "the greatest show on turf." I obviously remember Marshall Faulk, Torry Holt, and Az Hakim but don't remember who their tight end was.
This year in Oakland, I expect Louis Murphy and Chaz Schilenz to break out to fill the roles of Holt and Hakim. I'm not expecting the greatest show on turf just yet but they will be explosive in the passing game in 2011.
Jacoby Ford, a burner that established himself as such last year, has a broken hand now but will be back in time to take Hakim's burner role. The crazy thing is Murphy and Schilens are burners themselves with sub-4.4 40 speed.
The Raiders depended on Miller before, having no receivers and you see how that worked.
It will be different in 2011.
Offense: Darren McFadden
Darren McFadden has the same skill set as Marshall Faulk but he bigger and faster. Not having a great tight end gave Marshall Faulk to set the record for total yards from scrimmage and have 1,000 yards rushing as well receiving.
I'm not going to predict that for McFadden this year but I can't help but think it may be possible. According to Jerry McDonald McFadden is beasting out again in training camp so he's definitely ready to so something.
He does have help in the backfield running the ball with Michael Bush so that will hurt his chances. He also has help in the passing game from Marcel Reese, a fullback that's a former receiver with 4.4 wheels.
That's even more slack that can be picked up for not having Miller.
The Next Plunkett
I thought it was funny to see Raider Nation react so strongly when Davis called Campbell "the next Jim Plunkett." I think that Davis is right on with this one as Raider Nation would charge me with blasphemy even though I agree with the owner.
Sure, he got off to a rough start as he had new parts to get used to but showed what he could do down the stretch of the season. Many said, " that was because of the running game" and Jason Campbell is just a game manager."
I believe he will do a little bit more than that but what do you think Plunkett did?
He was no Dan Marino or Dan Fouts, he managed the game and made plays when they were there or when he needed too. His first Super Bowl win came with a quarterback rating of 72.9 and his second with a rating of 82.7.
Let's not forget that he had Kenny King and Marcus Allen running the ball too.
Campbell will be as solid as the Raiders need him to be in 2011.
He has no choice with all those weapons.
The AFC West
The Kansas City Chiefs are the only ones in the division that have actually improved enough this offseason. But I favor the Raiders in the matchup because the defense showed they could stop their running game last year and the Chief didn't do the opposite.
They picked up Kelly Gregg this offseason but he's on the back nine of his career and they lost Mike Vrabel. They drafted Johnathan Baldwin and picked up Steve Breaston to go along with Dwayne Bowe but they don't scare me against the Raiders' secondary as is.
It's going to be pretty hard for Chief's quarterback Matt Cassell to throw the ball from his back. The Chief's offensive line was unable to keep the Raiders' front four off of Cassell and did nothing to improve things by cutting Pro Bowl guard Brian Waters.
The first problem the Chargers have is a head coach (Norv Turner) that should have stuck to offensive coordinator. Ryan Mathews, who was supposed to easily replace LaDainian Tomlinson, couldn't pass the conditioning test.
The Charger draft nose tackle Corey Liugett but that won't be enough to stop the Raiders' running game. Malcolm Floyd appears to be headed to Baltimore right now and Legadu Naanee also looks to be finding greener pastures.
Darren Sproles found those greener pastures in New Orleans and the only reason why they have Vincent Jackson the franchise tag.
Why can't the Chargers keep anyone happy?
The Broncos did get Von Miller to rush the passer but what about stopping the run?
Ty Warren and his bad hip aren't enough even if he is healthy.
The Raider got the best defensive lineman they had for their glory years.
The Broncos are done for a while.
The Raiders can still win the AFC West because they lost players that they can afford to lose. If they were huge impact players, the Raiders would have been winning before McFadden emerged along with Kamerion Wimbley and Jason Campbell coming to Raider Nation.
Those guys are still here and there are people in place to take over for those we lost. This article is in no way to take shots at the players that chose to go somewhere else because I loved them when they were here.
But right now, as Richard Seymour says: "I'm concerned about the Raiders."
If the Raiders don't win the AFC West, it won't be because they lost Miller and Asomugha to free agency. It will be because of the Jared Gaither debacle and no improvement in the run defense .
Close to 100 percent of the teams that are good in both of those areas are in the playoffs. The Raiders haven't won anything since 2002 because of the weakness they've had in those areas during that time.
That loses games more than anything.