Redemption: The Top 10 Reasons Behind the Resurrection of the Oakland Raiders
The Oakland Raiders have quickly emerged as a dominating force in the AFC and one of the biggest surprises thus far in the NFL season. They're contending for the AFC West division lead with Kansas City and are coming off of two monstrous wins against Denver and Seattle.
To those wondering why the Raiders have been succeeding as of late, I have put together the reasons behind the resurrection of the historic franchise.
10. The Home Town Crowd
As corny as it may sound, there is no argument to this matter:
The Oakland Raiders perform at their best at home and when their fans are there to support the team 100 percent.
The "Black Hole" hasn't had much to cheer about for most of the past decade, but now the fans are coming alive and the team is playing great football. The Raider Nation has always been one of the most loyal fan bases in the NFL, and now they're starting to show it once again.
I'm looking forward to a sellout on Sunday against Kansas City for the AFC West!
I'm going to lump this one, as this could easily be three of the reasons for the Raiders' success.
Tom Cable has come alive as head coach and isn't afraid to shy away from tough play calls. Take a 4th and 1 TD pass in the first half of the Seattle game for example. While many of us at home watching thought that for sure the better choice was to kick the field goal, Cable proved us wrong, and the Raiders got seven out of it.
92 points in the last two games? Yes, you're reading it right, and offensive co-ordinator Hue Jackson is a big part of this giant offensive outburst. He's made the Raiders already great running game scary good, utilizing all of his possible weapons: Darren McFadden, Michael Bush, Marcel Reese, and reverses to Darius Heyward-Bey and Jacoby Ford don't hurt either.
Speaking of those two, they really stepped up last game and I look for them to continue. Jackson has stepped up in the face of injury and has found suitable replacements for injured receivers Louis Murphy and the boy made of glass, Chaz Shilens.
8. Marcel Reece
Yes, Marcel Reese, the FULLBACK. Yes, fullback!
No, you're not losing it, Reese has been a factor as a rusher, but even more so as a receiver, catching 109 yards on only four receptions in the past two games and a touchdown in each of them, giving him three touchdowns on the season. Reese is a unique component that allows the Raiders offense to be that much more versatile and explosive, a fullback that can go deep!
Run, Marcel, run!
The entire defense has really come alive. It really feels great to say that once again!
The Oakland Raiders defense has truly become a black hole once again.
John Marshall's defense has been all blitz, all the time. And why not? The Raiders have 12 sacks in the past two games and have only allowed 17 points in that span. I say keep on blitzing! Good on Marshall, although, with the two games previous to Denver, it was easy to say that an adjustment needed to be made. I think that's effectively been done.
Rookie linebacker Rolando McClain has really played well this season, and has stepped up in a leadership role at an important defensive position from a leadership standpoint. He has 40 tackles, the third highest total on the team. Keep it up!
A special shout out to the defensive line, led by the veteran Richard Seymour and Tommy Kelly. They have been truly dominant. Seymour has a total of 4.5 sacks thus far this season, leaving him only behind the Lions rookie phenom, Ndamukong Suh. Three of those sacks have been in the past two games! Kelly added two more sacks in that span and alone these two players have almost half of our sack total.
In the secondary, with the injury to Chris Johnson, (the corner, not the running back), Michael Huff and Mike Mitchell have really stepped up to fill the void.
Huff is among the league lead in tackles by a defensive back and Mitchell has been stepping up as of late to add a spark to the secondary. Add that to a rising star, young safety Tyvon Branch, and you're looking at potential in a position that the Raiders have been lacking for a long itme.
I feel obligated to bring up the number again, so I will. 17 points allowed in two games. What more needs to be said about this stellar defense?
And of course, the Raiders secondary would be nothing without arguably the best corner in football, Nnamdi Asomugha.
5. Nnamdi Asomugha
The aforementioned Nnamdi Asomugha deserves his own page, as he has been that good.
Asomugha is just simply always there. He has shut down the likes of Larry Fitzgerald, Malcolm Floyd, Michael Crabtree, Eddie Royal and Mike Williams to name just the latest on a long list of receivers that have felt the Awesome-ugha wrath. His coverage is near-flawless, almost like an art form. Take notes Revis, this is how you become great.
But possibly the most valuable thing about Asomugha is his ability to make everyone around him better. The veteran corner is surrounded by young defensive backs, such as Michael Huff, Mike Mitchell, Tyvon Branch and Chris Johnson, to name a few. Asomugha's veteran presence has allowed these players, among others, to step out of their shells and play great defense.
Lets just hope he can go Sunday against Kansas City, after going down in the second half of the Seattle game with an ankle injury. Though it's looking like the Raiders D will be without their best player. Cross your fingers, Raider Nation!
4. Jason Campbell
With all the Quarterback controversy in Washington with Donovan McNabb, JaMarcus Russell and Mike Shanahan, it feels great to have this guy on our side.
Going into Week 7 against Denver, Campbell had been underachieving at best, coming off of a 10.7 passer rating in San Fransisco, and despite being Al Davis' prized signing over the off-season, was looking at being replaced by Kyle Boller as the starting quarterback.
Can you imagine?
It was a game time decision to put Campbell under center, and thank god they did! Campbell exploded against Denver for 204 yards and two TD passes, a 127.9 passer rating, and the most impressive statistic, no interceptions!
Though apparently that was not enough, as once again there were talks of replacing Campbell with Boller for Week 8 against Seattle.
Good idea to keep him under center because you shouldn't mess with a good thing.
Campbell continued his excellence against Seattle, with 310 yards, two more touchdowns, a 120.9 passer rating, and yes, still no interceptions!
Campbell is playing smart football. I'm interested to see how Tom Cable handles what is quickly becoming a quarterback controversy, as Cable still sticks by his starting quarterback, Bruce Gradkowski.
For once I have myself saying, Al Davis, don't let Cable screw this up!
3. The Offensive Line
The aforementioned Campbell owes some of his success to the resurgence of the once nimble offensive line.
Insert Jared Veldheer, take out Mario Henderson and reintroduce Robert Gallery to the line. Sounds simple enough, and yet, look at the difference! They have been flawlessly protecting the quarterback, giving Campbell time to really run his offense and creating holes for Darren McFadden to run through.
Hands down, this was the Raiders' biggest problem coming into this season, and if they keep playing great, then we're looking at a completely different Raiders team.
Veldheer was a huge question mark coming into this season, and up until recently, had been the target of critical acclaim. However, with the return of Robert Gallery, the rookie Veldheer has stepped up in the left tackle position to protect the quarterback.
Hats off to the O-Line. Keep it up! Jason Campbell will appreciate it!
2. Overpowering Offense
92 points. two games. Is there more that needs to be said?
Yes, yes there is.
Led by Darren McFadden, the Raiders offense has exploded as of late. Don't get me wrong, this isn't only because of McFadden. Actually, it's quite the opposite. Every single component of the Raiders offense has been clicking, and how glorious it has been!
Campbell has proved his worth behind center. He has put up 514 yards and four touchdowns in the past two games, with no interceptions and two straight games with a passer rating over 120.
I know I've repeated those statistics at least three times, but they're just awesome. What comes to mind most is the no interceptions stat, which has allowed the Raiders to maximize their offense.
Michael Bush has been seldom mentioned, but he will get his worth now. He is the two in the best 1-2 running back tandem in football. (Yes, better than KC's.) He ran for 50 yards and a TD in the game against Seattle and has effectively taken his share of touches this season, especially when McFadden went down for two weeks. Keep it up!
Marcel Reese, the fullback that can go deep. It runs off the tongue a little. I love this guy, he can really play football. He's fast, he's agile and it's no wonder that Al Davis wanted him (see: Darrius Heyward-Bey, Jacoby Ford, Louis Murphy, etc...)!
He has rushed effectively, but what really catches my attention is his 109 yards receiving and two touchdowns in the past two games. Look for him to throw the Cheifs defense a few curveballs this Sunday.
I have nothing but praise for the offensive line, as I mentioned last slide. But hell, lets recap a little.
Jared Veldheer is really evolving into a great left tackle and has done a great job protecting Campbell's blindside these past few weeks. Robert Gallery and his veteran presence can be thanked in part for that, and the resurgence of the rest of the line as well. They have also been allowing McFadden, Bush and Reece to run effectively, creating holes and protecting their running backs. Great job boys.
Zach Miller has been great. One of the most sure handed, reliable tight ends in football. He has been bothered by injuries the past few games, but he will never be an afterthought in my mind. Look for him to also have a great bounce back game against the Chiefs and their very dismal pass defense.
The receiving core, aside from Reece and Miller, still leaves a bit to be desired. Darrius Heyward-Bey finally joined the party on Sunday against Seattle, as did Jacoby Ford, but they can still be better. Look for them to either step-up or shut-up, especially since they're replacing Louis Murphy and Chaz Schilens, who are both out due to injury.
If the offense continues at this pace, the only thing that can be said is look out AFC! The Raiders offense has woken up!
1. Darren McFadden
Are you surprised?
Darren McFadden has been the Raiders' MVP for the first half of the season. He leads the league in yards per game and has scored six touchdowns, four of which came on the ground and another two in the passing game.
And that's only the beginning.
Darren McFadden has almost 1000 total yards in six games played. 668 yards rushing and 217 yards receiving. That averages out to 111 yards rushing and 36 yards receiving per game and 147 total yards per game. Simply stellar.
Darren McFadden is quick to find the holes, whether they're there or not, and is able to turn a sure loss of yards into positive yardage. He's able to single-handedly change a game, and give the Raiders a chance to win.
McFadden's worth was proved when he was unavailable for two games and the offense suffered horribly, even failing to put up a touchdown against the 49ers. If that doesn't get him early consideration for MVP, then I don't know what would!
McFadden is fast. McFadden is smart. McFadden is powerful.
And that's just his natural ability. Added to his recent disappointing, injury rattled seasons, McFadden is now hungry, healthy and ready to prove all the naysayers wrong!
Add all that together and Darren McFadden is on his way to solidifying his spot on top of the NFL as one of the best running backs in football. Yeah, I said it. And if he keeps up his current pace, or anything close to it, he will be a candidate for NFL MVP. You heard it here first! Run DMC!