Oakland Raiders: Can the Offense Be the NFL's Top Ranked Unit in 2011?

Carl CockerhamSenior Analyst IMay 9, 2011

Oakland Raiders: Can the Offense Be the NFL's Top Ranked Unit in 2011?

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    Hue Jackson earned the head coaching position with the Oakland Raiders by taking the No. 31 ranked scoring offense to No. 6. last year.  Jackson now has a year under his belt and Raider Nation and looks to make another push upward on offense.

    He looks to have something to work with these days as the core of the offense looks pretty promising. There are also a few young players that showed they have it in them to step up in 2011.

    Some work was also done in the draft that should be a big benefit to the Raiders' offense. Going into free agency, they are a piece or two short of what could be the NFL's top ranked offense.

    Turn the page to see how this mix could turn out to be the top ranked unit in 2011.

Offensive Coordinator: Al Saunders

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    Hue Jackson proved himself to be a great offensive mind in 2010.

    He did have some badly called games in 2010, but so did the late Bill Walsh during his time. But now, Jackson will have the help of newly hired offensive coordinator Al Saunders.

    Two great minds are better than one.

    Plus, he is a mentor of Jackson, so he will likely have answers when Jackson doesn't.  

Quarterback: Jason Campbell

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    Yes, I'm saying it.

    Jason Campbell is now the Raiders' franchise quarterback and will finally have his breakout year in 2011. A lot of the local media and fans may disagree, but I saw everything I needed to see from him last year.

    Campbell threw for only 2,387 yards, 13 touchdowns, with eight interceptions and a rating of 84.5.

    Those aren't very sexy numbers, so what did I see?

    The bottom line is he is the first Raider quarterback to have a winning record in eight years (7-5). What I liked is the fact that he was able to overcome so much to play well down the stretch of the season.

    First off, he had to learn his sixth playbook in as may years, but this time, he had to learn new teammates as well. Then he caught  a stinger on his throwing shoulder that lasted a good four to six weeks. 

    While trying to negotiate that, he was benched by a coach that didn't want him and replaced by a fan favorite.  While the fan favorite didn't nothing to show why he should play, Campbell never complained.

    He stayed on the grind and played very well down the stretch of the season.

    He was even able to overcome the Raiders' horrendous pass blocking, rediscovering the legs that helped him lead Auburn to an undefeated season in 2004. 

    That's how you win over a locker room!

    Deion Sanders always says on NFL Network, "I want a guy that's been through something!"

Running Back: Darren McFadden

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    In 2010, Darren McFadden broke out, with emphasis on broke.

    He led the NFL in rushes over 20 yards and had his share of break aways in the passing game. It all amounted to 1,664 total yards, 1,157 rushing with 10 total touchdowns.

    After two frustrating seasons with injuries, how did McFadden finally break out?

    He broke!

Running Back: Michael Bush

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    The Raiders have their break away threat, so how about a guy that can kill the clock for you?

    Bush is that guy that can grind it out for you, picking up those short first downs and touchdowns. Bush is 6'2", 245 pounds of thunder to McFadden's lightning but don't get it twisted.

    He can break a long run on you and catch the ball out of the backfield.

Fullback/Deep Threat: Marcell Reece

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    Marcel Reese is a luxury item of a fullback.

    He's no Lorenzo Neal, but the man gets the job done as the lead blocker in the running game. Then his 4.4 40-speed makes the former receiver a matchup nightmare for linebackers.

    This does nothing but enhance the Raiders' vertical game and keep opposing defense's coverage honest.

Tight End: Zach Miller

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    Zach Miller has been the Raiders' most consistent offensive player since joining the Raiders in 2007. He has been the quarterback's best friend on third down as well as a good run blocker.

    He is coming off of his first Pro Bowl birth and may have had more with a decent quarterback his first three years. Now he has a quarterback to get him the ball with a running game and sprinter receivers to stretch the field.

    This should mean a big year for Miller!

No. 1 Receiver: Chaz Schilenz

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    There has been a lot of talk about the Raiders having their sights on the likes of Steve Smith, Chad Johnson or Vincent Jackson. However, I don't believe Davis is willing to dump anymore money into the receiver position.

    Maybe Jackson.

    But one guy I believe in that the Raiders already have is Chaz Schilens.


    He's always hurt.

    Not this time because he's had an offseason surgery every year that he's been in the league. 2011 will be the first time since joining that he's had a clean bill of health going into.

    Remember, it took McFadden a while to break the injury bug and Schilens has the ability to do so as well. He is 6'4", 225 pounds, runs good routes, catches everything and can jump out of a stadium.

    Those are ingredients for a good possession receiver.

    But he's still in the mold of a Raider deep threat because he has 4.33 40-speed.

    I believe 2011 is the year he stays healthy enough to put it all together.

Deep Threat: Louis Murphy

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    Louis Murphy performed well as a rookie, especially in the clutch as a rookie in 2009. In 2010, he was on pace to be a 1,000-yard receiver through the first few games.

    What happened?

    He ended up with a shoulder injury that made it difficult for him to raise his arms to catch a football. After a few dropped passes, Murphy was forced to sit out a few games and slowly worked his way back to being a target for Campbell.

    The former fourth round also has the ability to break out and become a star.

    I like his chances of delivering.

Deep Threat/YAC: Jacoby Ford

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    I absolutely cannot wait to see how 2011 shakes out for Jacoby Ford.

    The man showed big flashes when he did get an opportunity for the Raiders this year. He is already an important man because he will get the Raiders good field postion and quick touchdowns on special teams.

    As a receiver, I haven't seen any weaknesses.

    His 4.28 40-speed already makes him a deep threat, but he also has good hands to make any catch. He has great burst and acceleration that he may use to get good separation from defenders.

    To top it all off, he can run underneath routes and take it to the house after the catch. His running after the catch is going to be just another way the Raiders can beat you on offense.

    Davis made up for his miss on Darrius Heyward-Bey with Ford.

    He's a football player and just happens to be faster than Heyward-Bey.

Deep Threat: Darrius Heyward-Bey

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    Heyward-Bey hasn't done much in his first two years with the Raiders, but this is year three. I can't tell you that I really believe he is going to break out this year, but he has and will continue to improve.

    Does this mean he's going to live up to his contract?

    No, but he will at least give the Raiders another deep threat.

    That makes him another weapon.

Offensive Line: Stephen Wisniewski

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    The Oakland Raiders were No. 2 in the NFL in rushing in 2010.

    But the running game did struggle against teams that were strong up the middle with larger nose tackles. 2010 center Samson Satele is a very undersized center that struggled against larger nose tackles so an upgrade was needed.

    That's why Stephen Wisniewski was the Raiders first pick in the second round of the draft. At 6'3", 315 pounds, Wisniewski is not only larger than Satele, but he is also known as a technician.

    This will serve him well against those larger nose tackles.

    The Raiders now appear to have their franchise center for the next 10 years.

    What if Wisniewski doesn't perform up to the hope Raider Nation puts into him?

    Offensive line coach and uncle and Steve Wisniewski won't allow that!

Offensive Line: Bruce Campbell

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    Ezra Shaw/Getty Images

    The Raiders had another undersized man in the middle with Cooper Carlisle at right guard. Former Raider head coach Tom Cable cited problems with technique as the reason for his unwillingness to play him.

    But he allowed a rookie from a Division II, III or IV school to come in and start at center and left tackle. Campbell is stronger, more athletic, has long arms and experienced better competition going into 2010 but didn't sniff the field.

    To top it all off, the undersized, zone blocking Carlisle did nothing but get pushed back along with Satele. Still chance to play left tackle or guard while Veldheer was giving up sacks and Carlisle got pushed back.

    No wonder Cable got fired!

Offensive Line: Daniel Loper

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    Daniel Loper was a good offseason re-signing for the Raiders.

    When starting left guard Gallery was injured, Loper went in, and the offense didn't miss a beat. I'm sure the contract he got was a reward for the quality efforts he put forth when subbing for the injured Gallery in 2010.

    And Gallery had the nerve to ask for $8 million.

Offensive Line: Jared Veldheer

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    With the middle of the offensive line now solidified, the tackle position is what needs to work. Veldheer is a holdover that did nothing to show that he was a cornerstone left tackle, leading the NFL in sacks allowed per start.

    Some say he just needs to get in the weight room because he struggles with power rushers. But the truth is he struggles with anyone that can rush the passer period.

    But he is a murderous run blocker and Langston Walker appears to be out of the picture, so he should move to right tackle. I believe Veldheer will flourish on the right side as the left side appeared to be a little much for him last year.

    He will definitely get push on his side in the running game. 

Offensive Line: Left Tackle ?

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    An elite left tackle is needed in for the Raider offense to roll the way it's suppose to. This is going to be the most important position for the Raiders to fill because the Raiders feature a vertical passing game that requires the quarterback to hold the ball a beat longer.

    Watching Veldheer play left tackle last year led me to believe that we have that guy yet so what do they do?

    Depending on the CBA, there are a few guys that the Raiders could grab in free agency. Jared Gaither has to be the number one man on the list because he knows Al Saunders' offense and has a good rapport with him.

    But guys like Matt Light and Willie Colon could also be there.

    Light could be a great stopgap guy until the Raiders draft a left tackle in 2012.


Offensive Line: Joseph Barksdale

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    Al Messerschmidt/Getty Images

    Joseph Barksdale is a guy that can very well figure into things in 2011 on the offensive line. Jackson has gone on record to say that Barksdale will get a shot at right guard or tackle.

    He was a good performer in the SEC in 2010, so the transition shouldn't be too much for the kid. He could very well snag one of the aforementioned positions as a starter.

    He will at least give the Raiders good depth on the offensive line.


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    Jason Campbell will be in the same offense for the first time in his NFL career in 2011. He has a plethora of weapons with all the speed and game breaking ability you need.

    They also appeared to have gotten more physical up front in the draft for a team that was already No. 2 in rushing.

    The only question is left tackle.

    If the Raiders don't get one in free agency, Veldheer will really have to step his game up in 2011. For the Raiders are just an elite left tackle away from becoming the NFL's most explosive offense.

    The Raiders' offense jumped 25 spots from 2009 to 2010 in scoring offense.

    They have but five more spots to go.