2011 NFL Offseason: Are the Oakland Raiders Climbing Back Atop the NFL?

Aron YohannesContributor IJanuary 25, 2011

Darren McFadden gained a total of 1, 664 yards this season.
Darren McFadden gained a total of 1, 664 yards this season.Ezra Shaw/Getty Images

Coming into this season, I had very high hopes for the Oakland Raiders and their quest to return to the NFL playoffs.  But considering the horrible management and long lusting seasons from the past several years, many people thought something was seriously wrong with me. After finishing the season at .500, including a 6-0 record against AFC West opponents, the Oakland Raiders are progressing.

After firing head coach Tom Cable, former offensive coordinator Hue Jackson has been promoted to take over the team. With Cable taking a job in Seattle as an offensive line coach, one player in particular to watch this offseason is lineman Robert Gallery, a close friend of Cable. But who knows, many players may choose to follow their once-beloved head coach or return to Oakland with Jackson.

Here is a breakdown and summary of the good (and bad) things that happened for the Raiders during the 2010 season and what they should be concerned about:


Darren McFadden:

What an outstanding year for him, after nearly being listed as a bust for the early stages of his young career. The former Razorback finally showed his potential after being plagued by injuries the first two years of his career and playing behind Justin Fargas.  McFadden finally was able to prove his worth while finishing the season with 1,664 total yards and 10 touchdowns. Michael Bush also stepped in as the running back when McFadden suffered an ankle injury. Bush, who is a free agent this offseason, would gather much interest in the market if he does not re-sign with Oakland.

Rookie play:

For the first time in a while, a Raiders' rookie draft class actually managed to play very well in a season. With improving play from Rolando McClain, Lamarr Houston and Jacoby Ford, The Raiders and their fans must be feeling hopeful after the production from this draft class in only their first NFL season.


Big Plays:

Boy did this kill Oakland once again this year. A main issue the Raiders need to resolve is the defense giving up the big plays at the wrong times. For example, Maurice Jones-Drew, enough said about that. Oakland needs to find a way to prevent this quickly.


Ford was a huge surprise for the team this season and with a lot of work on his polishing, he could be a big playmaker in the NFL. But other than Ford, this year was a horrible year for the Raiders' receivers. All of the offseason hype about Darrius Heyward-Bey was shot down, while Chaz Schilens was held up due to injury and Louis Murphy took steps back this year. Both Murphy and Heyward-Bey will be entering their third NFL season next year, which is the usual year in which NFL players make their biggest improvements. So they can certainly redeem themselves heading into 2011.


Other Notes

QB Play: The Raiders also struggled with consistent play at the quarterback position from Jason Campbell, but as the season progressed he seemed to become more comfortable in the offense. This year also helped many of us realize that Bruce Gradkowski is nothing more than a backup for the team. Bothered by many injures and inconsistency, he just isn't what the Raiders need right now.

Special Teams: The Raiders greatly improved in this area this year. Shane Lechler continues to build his outstanding career as a punter in the NFL, and Ford returned three kickoffs for touchdowns this season. Great job.

Offensive Line: This might confuse you, but the Raiders had the second best rushing attack in the league. That deserves a lot of credit to their offensive line.