The 2010 NFL season is behind us. The Raiders finished with their best record since 2002 but still finished third place in the AFC West. That wasn't enough for Al Davis to bring back coach Cable. Enter Hue Jackson. Hue Jackson's Raiders will have a different look than the Tom Cable led Raiders.
Obviously the established starters will keep their positions but the Raiders do have a lot of young talent on the roster and you can expect a few of these guys to receive more playing time and maybe even become a starter for the Oakland Raiders.
Hue Jackson wants his Raiders to be a "bully." He wants his Raiders to be a physical team that scores points and beats you up on defense. Last season's squad was, for the most part, put together by Tom Cable. Well, we now have a new sheriff in town and you can expect some changes.
Lets take a look at some of the Raiders' untapped talent and whether or not some of these guys will become starters in 2011 under new Head Coach Hue Jackson.
Mike Mitchell was a surprising second round pick in the 2009 NFL Draft. He has the body of a LB and the speed of a DB. This kid, like Herm Edwards calls them, is a "thumper." I'll admit, I never even heard of him when the Raiders drafted him. After watching his highlight reel, I saw why Al Davis wanted him wearing the Silver & Black.
This kid flat out brings it on every snap. He never shies away from contact. His coverage skills aren't where we want them to be but with another off season with the Raiders he can improve in that department. In 2010 he got a fair share of snaps but was behind both FS Michael Huff and SS Tyvonn Branch on the depth chart.
Both Huff and Branch are solid safeties but both have tons of room to grow. Huff is solid in coverage but needs to improve his tackling. Branch is solid in the box but, like Mitchell, needs to improve his coverage skills. If Mike Mitchell can make a few strides towards becoming better in coverage he just might take one of these guy's starting positions. The question is which one will/should he replace?
Heading into the 2010 NFL Draft a lot of so called experts had the Raiders using their #8 overall pick on LT Bruce Campbell. He was a workout warrior at the combine and his numbers were so good that everybody thought Al Davis would fall in love with him and take him with the Raiders' first pick.
Well they were half right as Al Davis did end up drafted the Maryland LT. He just happened to get him in the fourth round. Upon joining the Raiders he was moved to RG so he could compete for playing time. Coach Cable favorite Cooper Carlisle ended up landing the starting job at RG but was viewed by many as the weak link in the offensive line.
A lot of us fans wanted to see what Campbell could do but Tom Cable kept him either on the sideline or inactive on Sundays. Is Bruce Campbell really that bad or was it more of Cooper Carlisle being one of Cable's favorites? I think it was more of the latter.
Now that Hue Jackson is in charge we might get to see what Bruce Campbell can do. He is a physical freak. Easily one of the strongest most physically gifted offensive linemen in the NFL. Hue Jackson wants to build a "bully" and I think Bruce Campbell fits the bill.
Is Bruce Campbell going to finally get a shot at being a starter? Maybe moving him back to tackle might be a better fit for him? What do you think? Will he capture a starting position on the O-line in 2011?
Jacoby Ford was the biggest surprise of the 2010 season. The fourth round pick from Clemson gave the Raider Nation some of the most exciting plays we've seen in a while. This rookie has already established himself as one of the NFL's best kick returners. His three kick returns for touchdowns led the league.
On offense he provided the Raiders with a deep threat that the defenses had to respect. He pretty much won the Chiefs game all by himself. He opened the 2nd half with a kick return for a TD to put us back in the game after trailing 10-0. In overtime he hauled in a deep pass to set up the game winning FG but before that he made a spectacular catch to set up a game tying score.
The Raiders don't have a clear-cut #1 wide receiver. Chaz Schilens is the closest thing we have to a #1 but he just can't stay on the field. DHB and Louis Murphy both have flashed at times but DHB is still too inconsistent and Louis Murphy battled a collarbone injury for most of the year.
Jacoby Ford has what it takes to be a starter. He has the speed to scare defenders, good hands, and became a solid route runner as the season progressed. Some may think the way he is being used best fits his ability but I think he can be the primary return man and start at WR. Some may think he is too small but they said the same thing about Carolina's WR Steve Smith. He's pretty good and I think Ford can be even better.
What's your take on Ford? Should he be a starting WR or should he just be a return man and backup WR?
McFadden, Ware, and Brown were all rookies last season. Each one of them have the physical ability to be a starter in this league. McFadden got a chance at a lot of playing time against the Dolphins but was exploited in that game. I don't think that performance reflects his actual ability as a cover corner. Heading into the game he likely didn't expect to get much playing time but an injury to Chris Johnson forced the rookie in the game. I think he would have played better had he practiced all week as the starter.
Jeremy Ware saw more and more playing time as the season went on. He showed he can hang with the big boys when he got a chance. He had a key interception in the first win over the Chiefs. With another off season under his belt he may be able to challenge for the CB spot opposite Nnamdi. Who knows?
Stevie Brown quickly became a fan favorite of the Raider Nation. During the preseason he showed a nose for the ball. He was always around the ball when he was in there. Initially he didn't make the 53-man roster much to the dismay of the fans. We thought he was better than Hiram Eugene and deserved more of a shot than Eugene did. During the season he was activated from the practice squad and showed he can hold his own in the NFL.
What do you think the future holds for these three youngsters. Do you think one of them has a shot at cracking the starting lineup? Can McFadden or Ware climb the depth chart and become a starter next season. Can Stevie Brown improve and take the FS job from Michael Huff? I guess we'll find out.