Wishful Thinking: My Hopes and Fears for the 2011 Oakland Raiders Roster

Erik SpanglerContributor IJanuary 15, 2011

OAKLAND, CA - JANUARY 19:  A Raiders fan holds up a mock Vince Lombardi Trophy prior to the AFC Championship game between the Tennessee Titans and the Oakland Raiders at Network Associates Coliseum on January 19, 2003 in Oakland, California.  The Raiders defeated the Titans 41-24, sending them on to the NFL title game for the first time since 1984.  (Photo by Stephen Dunn/Getty Images)
Stephen Dunn/Getty Images

Let me start by saying that my worst fear of all is that there will be no football in 2011. 

With that proclamation out of the way, I would like to give you all some insight into what moves I would like for us to make in free agency, versus my worst fears for each position.


Wish: Jason Campbell.  I watched this year as Jason had his ups and his downs.  I was a firm believer in dearly departed Tom Cable's statement that we were "a quarterback away from the playoffs."

Campbell gives us that quarterback.  Although his delivery and decision-making seems to be a bit slow at times, his innate ability to fool the cameras with play-action makes him a viable option at QB. 

That play-action obviously works best when we have a consistent running game, but that is on par with the team concept.

Fear:  Alex Smith or Matt Leinart.  These guys both had the skill sets to get them drafted in the first round of their respective draft.  The problem is, it never panned out. 

Smith is a lost cause in my eyes, and taking him for anything other than a decent backup would be a mistake by any team (except the Vikings or Panthers, maybe?). 

Leinart is another story.  I was a strong proponent for drafting Leinart when we took Michael Huff, and was more than a bit upset to see us pass him over.  I think he still has some upside, and could become a starter in this league at some point. 

I am not prepared to watch another QB go through growing pains though, at least not until we have a winning season.

Running Back

Wish:  Darren McFadden.  Anyone who watched NFL football this year knows that McFadden finally pulled his weight this season.  He missed a couple of games and was dinged up in others, and still went over 1,000 yards on the season. 

D-Mac ran over, under, around and through defenders like it was his job (it was).  In order for the Raiders to maintain their identity, McFadden needs to be in our backfield, and he will be.

Fear:  Injuries and the loss of Michael Bush.  McFadden still hasn't had a full year of health with Oakland.  That is scary. 

The fact that our other standout back, Michael Bush, is headed to free agency and will certainly receive a better offer (like say, a starting job?) is even scarier. 

We need a viable second option at running back to be successful, or at least for insurance purposes.

Wide Receiver

Wish:  Sidney Rice.  I love the youth on our squad at the receiver position.  Rice would keep with that theme, while also adding a big, dominant receiver to the outside. 

I can see Rice and Murphy lined up on the edges, with Jacoby Ford picking up the slot position.  Can you say a defensive coach's worst nightmare? 

Rice has speed and ups, and he attacks the ball.  Injuries could be a concern, but in this sport, they always are.

Fear:  R.M. or T.O.  I will not speak their names.  Both of them are cancerous, and neither did anything in 2010 to make me think that has changed. 

R.M. will not be back in Oakland, but I am afraid you can only dangle T.O. in Al Davis' face so many times before he takes the plunge...please don't, Al, please don't!

Tight End


Fear:  See above mentioned wish.  Without Zach Miller on our offense, I sense a significant drop off of third-down conversions.


Wish:  Vonta Leach.  I am sure Houston won't let him go, as Arian Foster just had a tremendous season running down Leach's paved roads, but I can hope.  I like Reece, but he cant break bodies like Leach, seriously. 

I will be content to keep Reece, providing we take full advantage of those hands of his, but I would love to have a full time, hard-nosed, linebacker-smasher on staff.

Fear:  None.  This is one of the few positions that I don't feel are in jeopardy.  Keeping Reece is not a question, so we will have quality at the position regardless of what happens.

Offensive Line

Wish:  Complete Reconstruction.  I may have some argument on this, but I think Veldheer did an outstanding job against some elite pass rushers this season, especially considering that he wasn't very highly touted coming out of college. 

He does need some improvement, but he won't get it on the bench.  His run blocking was simply amazing. 

I like Veldheer for the RT job. Put him there, and bring in someone like Gaither for LT and some other quality veterans with a penchant for putting defensive linemen on their backs. 

Veldheer will learn even quicker with experienced, proven players lined up beside of him.

Fear:  No Changes.  Something has got to give.  The run blocking was awesome this year, but our pass blocking definitely left something to be desired.  It has to be fixed, and I am almost positive that is a personnel problem, not coaching.

All right, I am gonna tie this one up.  Defensive Wishes vs. Nightmares to follow shortly. 

Let me hear your thoughts!!!


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