Well, it was good while it lasted this season.
For a week.
Here we are again in Raider Nation, the wind taken out of our sails.
The piss taken out of our vinegar.
Now, the Raiders (5-6) will face the surging San Diego Chargers (6-5).
As a fan, I will not rule out the possibility of an upset by the Raiders. As a writer, I do not expect it to happen. If the Raiders lose to San Diego, it will all but end the once glimmering hopes for the postseason.
It is hard to say or speculate as to what happened with the Raiders in the two weeks after defeating Kansas City. Whatever it is, the Raiders are once again playing like lifeless hacks.
Perhaps, it was overconfidence.
Perhaps, they were over-hyped by destroying teams like Denver and Seattle.
They have also had injuries to top players in previous weeks and would still win. Thus, I do not buy the notion that the Raiders are simply reeling from injuries.
The frustrating part is that, the Raiders have an otherwise solid foundation of players that could use some minor tweaking: right guard, center, blockers and a veteran wideout.
A consistent quarterback would likely be the difference-maker for the Raiders.
This progress however is contrary to previous years, in which the Raiders were a bundle of retreads and prospects that left much to be desired.
The Raiders have done quite nicely in the NFL draft in finding current or future starters: 2007 (Zach Miller and Michael Bush), 2008 (Darren McFadden and Tyvon Branch), 2009 (Mike Mitchell, Matt Shaughnessy, and Louis Murphy) and 2010 (Rolando McClain, Lamarr Houston, Jared Veldheer, and Jacoby Ford).
The Raiders have also added a number of valuable contributors or raw prospects in those drafts to boot: Trevor Scott, Brandon Meyers, Desmond Bryant, Nick Miller, Bruce Campbell, Walter McFadden, Stevie Brown and Jeremy Ware to name some examples.
The Raiders have also done well in free agency and trades by adding Richard Seymour, Kamerion Wimbley, Quentin Groves, and Marcel Reece.
Fortunately, the Raiders selected promising offensive lineman Bruce Campbell in the 2010 draft, who is slated to be the future at right guard. Yet, the potential of center Samson Satele seems to have bottomed out.
I expect that Campbell will be a significant upgrade over current starter Cooper Carlisle. Satele has been okay at center, but the position needs competition and depth. Nevertheless, Satele is slated to be a free agent, and so, that could be a prime opportunity for the Raiders to upgrade.
Fullback Marcel Reece has shown flashes of brilliance as a blocker, but I remain convinced that he should specialize as a pass-catcher, where he has made some electrifying plays in recent weeks.
Part of the problem for the Raiders in recent weeks has been lackluster blocking from the backs. The Raiders could allow Reece to specialize as a tight end and call-up rookie Manase Tonga and see what he can do as a blocker.
He certainly appeared to be a promising blocker during the preseason. Considering that, every rookie from the Raiders 2010 draft has started or has made significant contributions, I would like the odds of Tonga being the next on the list.
The Raiders should either upgrade at wideout through free agency, or hire a new position coach for the wide receivers, such as Tim Brown.
The 2011 free agency is expected to include such wideouts as Santonio Holmes, Vincent Jackson, Davone Bess and Donald Driver, amongst others.
The Jets could tag Holmes, but I added him because his position with the team remains somewhat unclear, despite the big plays he has made this season.
Jackson is likely to leave the Chargers for the highest bidder, after his lengthy and futile holdout with San Diego. Jackson though would fill the role long expected from the injury-prone Chaz Schilens.
Driver would be a solid veteran presence for a promising group of young wideouts: Louis Murphy, Jacoby Ford, and even the much-maligned Darrius Heyward-Bey.
The Miami Dolphins committed big money to wideout Brandon Marshall and might be unwilling to commit big money to Bess. Bess grew up as a Raider fan whose favorite player was Tim Brown.
Speaking of free agency, one hitch in any plan to upgrade at wideout is that tight end Zach Miller is slated to be a free agent.
Coaches and Quarterbacks
The bottom line is that the Raiders still lack a legitimate quarterback. Jason Campbell has his moments as does Bruce Gradkowski, but neither of whom have been consistent. Yet, both would likely benefit from better blocking and receiving.
The problem is that, there are few options to fix the quarterback situation in the offseason.
Most of the aforementioned quarterbacks are either injury prone (Pennington), system quarterbacks (Orton), retreads (Collins, Hill) or unfulfilled potential (Smith, Moore, Edwards).
Another hitch in any effort to fix the quarterback situation is Raiders head coach Tom Cable. I can give him credit for a number of things about the Raiders with him at the helm, but he is not a quarterback guru.
However, Raiders offensive coordinator, Hue Jackson, is a quarterback guru who groomed Joe Flacco for the Baltimore Ravens, so I would like to see what Jackson could do with a smart quarterback that is not injury prone. Without a top pick in the draft though, that might not be in the cards.
The scary thing is that, Collins seems like the best choice.
The only answer at head coach I would like if the Raiders fire or demote Cable, is that the new coach would retain the current coordinators, Hue Jackson and John Marshall.
Stanford's Jim Harbaugh is a top name as a possible head coach in the NFL. He has previously rejected head coach offers from the Raiders, but that was then, this is now. The overall Oakland personnel have improved significantly since then.
The other possibility is to re-hire Jon Gruden. All that I would want Gruden to do is bring a more efficient offense (that has the talent to be that) and to groom a quarterback. Gruden originally developed Gradkowski as a sixth round pick in 2006, so there would be some continuity there.
Al Davis was willing to admit his mistake in firing Art Shell by rehiring him 12 years later. Al Davis traded Gruden to Tampa Bay over eight years ago, so I suppose then that it is possible that Al Davis could once again admit a mistake.
But not likely.
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