Going into the 49ers' game last Friday night, there was no doubt in my mind, or the minds of many of those who've been following the Raiders over the past few months, that the Raiders were a much better team than we'd seen over the past five years.
Unlike past seasons, they didn't disappoint, as they showed most of the Bay Area that what many of us have been saying was at least partly true, they WERE better. The question now becomes: Will they stay that way?
The news coming out of camp is filled with injury after injury of key performers that the Raiders can't afford to lose. The head coach has been quoted as saying that he doesn't have enough depth and that the team isn't very good right now.
What's a fan to think?
Some go about their business and blindly believe that the Raiders will be good or bad this season, regardless of the news. Others, like myself, seem to continue living this roller coaster of dread/optimism that has its ups and downs, corkscrews, and flips.
Then there are those in between, who vary on their opinions, which hover around the middle of all of the predictions.
Starting with special teams, here are just a few of the injuries to keep track of. Sebastian Janikowski is having his annual hamstring problem, and Shane Lechler has just developed a quad injury to keep him company.
Not to be outdone, rookie safety and starting kick returner Tyvon Branch just had an operation on his thumb and is now wearing a cast. Looks like special teams is doing well, doesn't it?
On offense, starting left tackle Kwame Harris has a shoulder injury which is forcing Mario Henderson into the starting left-tackle spot. The problem with that is, for all of the fear about Harris protecting the $60 million dollar man, JaMarcus Russell, Henderson is much worse.
Luckily, Ronald Curry, Drew Carter, Justin Fargas, and the injury prone Javon Walker seem to be healthy for the moment. Backup offensive tackle, Mark Wilson, broke his leg early in camp and has since been cut.
The defensive news is what really troubles me. Terdell Sands has already had to drain his ailing knee a couple of times, Tommy Kelly is coming off of surgery on one of his knees, and most of the secondary is banged up.
That combo of DeAngelo Hall and Nnamdi Asomugha that Raider Nation has been dying to see is hobbling at best. Hall has a sprained or broken hand, depending on whom you talk to. If you talk to Kiffin, it's fine. If you talk to Hall, it's broken. Go figure, Hall is already disagreeing with his coach.
Nnamdi Asomugha, the best corner in the league, now has a foot injury. X-Rays were negative, but so were the X-Rays on DeAngelo Hall's hand. You get my drift?
Luckily, the Raiders have Stanford Routt, who isn't injured. The problem is, nobody else on the roster can cover a fifth-string NFL receiver. Nobody, unless of course they put Michael Huff in the corner and move someone else into the free-safety spot.
Hey, isn't the free-safety spot one of the Raiders problems from last season? Yeah, and if Huff isn't playing there, it will be a problem next season too.
Am I wrong to feel worried?
I picked the Raiders to go 11-5 this season, with the caveat that I could change my mind as the season approached.
After Favre signed with the Jets, the number dropped to 10-6, and without Asomugha or Hall, it plummets to 5-11. I don't think I'm wrong to be worried, but I might add that I'm also not jumping ship either.
The Raiders have 25 days to right the wrongs that are currently causing this pessimism. I'm hoping that the whole team, from the owner on down to the ballboys, gets better over those next three-and-a-half weeks.
For better or worse, I'll be cheering them on when they meet the Broncos on Sept. 8, and I'd really enjoy starting off the season over .500.
Being over .500 would make it a first in a really long while during the regular season, and Raider Nation deserves at least that for all of the pain they've been through since the silver and black made it to the Super Bowl.
Rob Calonge is a community leader for the Oakland Raiders on Bleacher Report and writes for MVN's Thoughts from the Dark Side at TFDSsports.com - an independent Oakland Raiders media site.
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