Oakland Raider head coach Hue Jackson has constantly spoken of "building a bully" this offseason. The main philosophy of owner Al Davis is, "While other offenses take what the defense gives them, we just take what we want."
It sounds like the philosophy of the head coach and the owner are right in line with each other. The personnel in Oakland seems to be getting close matching the philosophy of the coach and owner.
So how close are they?
Well, the last "bully" the Raiders truly had was the 1983 team that won the Super Bowl. So I will now do a player comparison between the 2011 Raiders and the 1983 Raiders to see just how close they are.
Turn the page to see it.
Have you ever been in a group of people and sized them up to see where you think you stand among them? There's always that crazy guy that you say, "I have to leave that guy alone because something really bad can happen here."
Alzado was definitely one of those guys, and it added to the Raider mystique in 1983. On the field, he played the run well, took double teams and rushed the passer well when he did get one on one situations.
When it comes to leadership, he came to a younger defensive front a few years after going to a Super Bowl with Denver. It has also been universally recognized Raider legend Howie Long was majorly influenced by Alzado.
Alzado's volatile temperament and total disdain for opponents spread to Long, driving him to get more out of his talent. Sometimes an older player has more impact on a younger player than any coach ever could.
It turned out pretty well for the Raiders in this case.
Richard Seymour maybe the most dominant defensive lineman of this era of NFL football. He came over from the New England Patriots, where he won three Super Bowls, and took leadership of the Raiders' defensive line.
Seymour had just five sacks in 2011, but statistics are not the measure of his impact. He took the opposing offense's double team and allowed his fellow defensive lineman to make a living on single man blocking.
He has been an impeccable influence on fellow defensive tackle and rookie potential superstar defensive end Lamarr Houston. The Raiders now have of the best defensive lines in the NFL, as the Raiders were No. 3 in quarterback sacks.
Seymour, a better player but not as volatile as Alzado, has brought back the old Raider mentality. When taunted after a big play by Ben Roethlisberger, Seymour refused to take it laying down and served his own justice.
Now that's G!
That's also Raider football!
Seymour is in the process of passing that down to Houston!
Howie Long broke in with the Raiders in 1981, and the Raiders got nothing out of him in his rookie year. Alzado arrived in Raider Nation, took Long under his wing and Long got on the field more to improve his sack total to 5.5.
In his second year under Alzado's influence, Long earned the starting job and was lights out. He tied for No. 9 in the NFL with 13 sacks in his breakout season and went to the Pro Bowl.
What's most impressive about Long's season is the way he was able to do what he did. Long lined up at defensive tackle and end, so opposing offensive linemen didn't always know where he was coming from next.
A versatile Raider legend was born!
Lamarr Houston was a second round pick with tons of ability just like Long but that's not all. He also looks like he's been shot out of a cannon getting off of the ball when it is snapped.
Houston is solid against the run, and like a young Long, he simply tries to beat up his man to get the quarterback. That approach got him five sacks in 2010, but some work on his pass rushing moves will double that total in 2011.
Houston, also like Long, may be the steal of the his draft.
He stands 6'3", weighs 305 pounds and almost everyone had Houston behind Ndamakong Suh, Gerald McCoy, and others. Davis saw his 4.8 40-yard dash speed and thought that base end is a good fit for him.
Seymour saw his talent and was so impressed, he went to camp early in order to show Houston the ropes as soon as possible. Houston did show flashes in 2010, but 2011 should be the year he shows that he is a beast.
This is a superstar waiting to happen.
Matt Millen was an angry man in the middle of the Raiders' angry defense in 1980 as a rookie and in 1983. He came from Linebacker University (Penn State), so his transition to the NFL was was seamless.
He was very physical from his inside linebacker position and he knew what he was doing. Therefore, he was able to take leadership over a group of veteran defensive players with the veterans responding to him.
The result was an NFL that had a hard time running on the Raiders' defense in early 80's. Hall of Fame Redskin running back John Riggins couldn't get going against the Raider defense in Super Bowl 18.
Having Millen was a big part of why.
Rolando McClain went to the Raiders from the new Linebacker University (Alabama). But he didn't have anywhere near the imediate success that Millen had in his rookie year.
However, he is physical and a student of the game, so he was able to take leadership over the defense. McClain did make an imediate impact, but there were a few factors that prevented him from having the success of Millen.
One, the Raiders had a surrounding cast that could support Millen so he didn't have to be perfect. Then there's the fact that McClain had to make the transition from inside linebacker to middle linebacker.
He seemed to start to put it together as the season went on, but he had just Kamerion Wimbley by his side.
Millen had Hall of Famers Rod Martin and Ted Hendricks flanking him.
The Raiders committed robbery in 1983 when they traded for one of the all-time best cover corners in Mike Haynes. He bumped, ran and blanketed his way down the field to total 46 interceptions in his career.
Haynes had a great corner on the other side of him, but quarterbacks usually opted not to throw at him. Like a current Raider we all know, it was the threat of an interception and the fact that his man simply wasn't open.
No one could do it better in his day.
Nnamdi Asomugha is that current guy that we all know.
The question is, will he stay with the Raiders?
If Asomugha does stay, the Raiders will have the best cover corner in the game today. Like Haynes, Asomugha is tall, graceful, can run, can jump and loves to put hands on opposing receivers.
Putting hands on opposing receivers is what makes the 6'2", 210 pound Asomugha a "bully."
Lester Hayes was on the other side of Haynes and went to the Pro Bowl being there in 1983. The Raiders actually had two shut-down corners at the same time, just like 1976 with Skip Thomas and Willie Brown.
So where did the other team throw?
They didn't throw anywhere successfully.
That's why they held the NFL's best offense to just nine points in Super Bowl 18.
Hayes was another Raider corner over 200 pounds that "bullied" receivers by putting hands on them.
That is the tradition of the Oakland Raiders.
At 6'1", 200 pounds, Stanford Routt is a big corner that loves to put hands on receivers in the Raider tradition. He has world-class speed to go with it and has developed his coverage skills to become one of the top corners in the game today.
He was tied with his teammate (Asomugha) for third in burn percentage among corners. The Raiders' pass defense ranked No. 2 in the NFL with Routt and Asomugha patrolling the Raider secondary.
How many guys in the league can handle getting picked on with Asomugha on the other side?
Keeping this corner tandem together could take the Raiders back to the "bully" days.
The Raiders ran a 3-4 in the early 80's, so Greg Townsend started out as a DE/OLB. He came in as a defensive end pass rush specialist on third down, nickle situations.
Townsend's rookie year was in 1983, and the fourth round pick chipped into Super Bowl cause with 10 sacks. Townsend would continue on with the quarterback pressure to end up with the Raiders all-time sack lead (109)
Put him together with Long and Alzado to complete the package to "bully" the quarterback.
Like Townsend, Kamerion Wimbley showed he could rush the passer right away in the NFL as a DE/OLB. He had a 11 sack rookie campaign, but it was with the Cleveland Browns instead of the Raiders.
His sack totals would then fall off due to a lack of other players on his team that could rush the passer. The Raiders would trade for the former first round pick, put him with Seymour and Co. and watch him flourish.
In 2010, (his first with the Raiders) he finished the season with 9.5 sacks as a DE/OLB. He was a 4-3 outside linebacker, so most of his damage came with his hand in the ground, as he was a third down pass rusher.
I can't wait to see what he can do to with Seymour and an emerging Houston.
Look out, quarterbacks!
I don't have an order, but there are three all-time fastest players.
You can go into times and races all you want, but what matters is how fast a man runs in a football game. Those three men again with no order are Darell Green, Deion Sanders and Cliff Branch.
The Oakland Raiders have historically been a team that likes to go deep and always has blazers on the team. Davis loves to give these fast men opportunities, but not all of them end up being good football players.
Branch is a speedster that worked out for Davis and made his share of big plays to help the Raiders get to the Super Bowl in 1980 and 1983.
So how does the 5'11", 170 pound Branch factor into the "bully?"
He helped the run game by keeping safeties back because Branch scared defenses with his ability to go over the top.
You saw it.
He scared people.
That's what "bullies" do!
Jacoby Ford is looking to become the modern day version of Branch that Davis has been looking for for decades. No one in the league seems to be able to run with him, and he will go up and get the ball wherever it is.
Ford's speed keeps opposing defenses in fear of the deep ball so they can't keep eight in the box for the Raiders' No. 2 ranked running game.
That is one portion of the "bully" helping the other.
The other part of the "bully" Ford represents is having the ability to do want you want when you want to do it. No one in the league can run with Ford, and if opposing corners backpedal before the snap count, Ford will simply take the ball away from whoever is there.
I can't wait to see what Ford does with his opportunity in 2011.
On third down and in the red zone, Todd Christensen was the quarterback's best friend. He always got open to present a target underneath if the deep ball wasn't there as well.
But don't get it twisted; Christensen could get deep on the right guy covering him.
Christensen was the perfect tight end to have on a team with deep threats to stretch the field because he moved the chains. He was the first tight end in NFL history to catch over 90 balls with 92 during the Super Bowl run in 1983.
He also had over 1,200 yards and had 12 touchdowns on his way to the Super Bowl and the Pro Bowl. Christensen was exciting on third down with incredible catches when you'd swear everyone in the stadium knew the Raiders were going to him.
He helped revolutionize the tight end position.
Regardless of what the rules are for free agency, I fully expect the Raiders to do what it takes to keep Zach Miller. He is very much in the mold of great tight ends in Raider lore before him and has been the Raiders most consistent offensive player since 2007.
Again, third down and in the red zone is his home with the running game deep threats in their places. Miller is coming off of his first Pro Bowl, and more of the same will be expected of him in 2011.
Al has to keep him.
Quarterback Jim Plunkett is the ultimate Cinderella story.
He was drafted in the first round by the New England Patriots labeled as a Heisman trophy flop when he could turn around a horrible team. Plunkett was then traded to the 49ers, failed there and was out of football for a couple of years.
Davis then signed Plunkett in 1979, and he sat on the bench all year long. It wasn't until starting quarterback Dan Pastorini broke his leg in 1980 that Plunkett got his opportunity, and Plunkett ran with it to the Super Bowl.
After winning the Super Bowl, Davis decided to go with Marc Wilson at quarterback in 1982 and it didn't work. After some controversy, Plunkett became the starter again in 1983 and he took the Raiders to another Super Bowl.
His big arm allowed him to get the ball down the field to the Raiders speedy receivers. His ability to make plays out of the pocket sometimes bought him extra time, and his leadership made those around him better.
Jason Campbell is a Cinderella story waiting to happen.
Many of you have said, "He's no Plunkett! The Raiders need to get a quarterback in the 2012 draft." I have to agree with Davis believing he is the next Plunkett, because if you thought he was, he wouldn't be.
No one thought Plunkett would be a two time Super Bowl winner when he first arrived in Raider Nation. Down the stretch of the 2010 season, Campbell showed his big arm to get the ball down the field and ability to make plays out of the pocket.
He is starting to show his leadership this offseason.
In a sport that features the quarterback, Marcus Allen was the the driving force of the Raider offense. Allen seemed to have a sophomore jinx going in to the 1983 season with a 3.8 rushing average per carry.
But he did have 1,014 yards with nine touchdowns and added 590 yards receiving for two more touchdowns on 68 catches. However, it was the postseason that Allen did his major damage in with an eight yard per carry average.
His totals for the post season were 466 yards and four touchdowns.
Allen had 191 of those yards and two of those touchdowns in Super Bowl 18, where he was the game's MVP.
How about that 74-yard touchdown run in the Super Bowl?
Darren McFadden is a potent offensive weapon, just as Allen was in his day.
He can break one big at any given time and catches the ball well out of the backfield.
Campbell will manage the game just as Plunkett did with McFadden being the driving force Allen was. Many of you will say, "You can't win like that anymore because this is a quarterback driven league."
The NFL has always been a quarterback driven league, and look at the last 10 Super Bowl winners. Seven of them had game managers for quarterbacks or were pretty run heavy.
Tom Brady puts up these big numbers now, but he was a game manager that made plays when necessary when he won those three Super Bowls. He went on to set records and was beaten by the Giants and their run heavy offense and game managing offense.
You can run and win.
The Raiders seem to have many of the pieces in place to become that "bully" they want to be. The only questions there are is the offensive line and one of the outside linebacker positions.
Trevor Scott is healing well from his injury, and Travis Goethel looks to be on the mend at outside linebacker, too.
I love 6'3", 315 pound Stephen Wisniewski coming up to give the Raiders some size at center. Daniel Loper will do well like he did last year at guard, and Bruce Campbell will give the Raiders more size at the other guard.
The big questions are at tackle.
Is Langston Walker done?
Will recent draft pick Joseph Barksdale play right tackle?
Is Jared Veldheer really the man to protect Campbell's blind side or will he moved to right tackle?
Will the Raiders bring in a free agent left tackle?
These questions will determine how well the Raiders do this year.