Oakland Raiders: Raider Players Who Could Break Out Under Al Saunders
Jacoby Ford had a great rookie season. Under Saunders, 2011 could be even better!
Now that Hue Jackson is the head coach, Al Davis has hired Al Saunders to be the offensive coordinator for the Oakland Raiders.
Saunders brings 40 years of coaching experience, including many years as a wide receiver position coach.
The wide outs coached by Sauders have had some the best seasons in history. The Super Bowl XXXIV champion St. Louis Rams crew of Isaac Bruce, Torry Holt, Az-Zahir Hakim and Ricky Proehl set records for team receiving that may never be topped.
So, who will be the breakout players for the Raiders under Saunders?
With Saunders' history, coaching background and offensive philosophy, it's likely to be the wide receivers, quarterback and tight ends.
Let's have a look at the Raider players that could have breakout years playing for Al Saunders...
Louis Murphy stands to gain a lot of experience and skill under Saunders.
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Coming from the University of Florida, Louis Murphy had a respectable rookie season. In 2010, his growth continued, but he still has some holes in his game.
In Saunders' system, Murphy could wind up playing a huge role in the offense.
His size and speed make him a great fit for the down field passing game Al Davis and Hue Jackson are asking Saunders to create.
Don't be surprised if Murphy has a monster year in 2011.
If he can remain healthy, Chaz Schilens could become a household name in Sauders' offense.
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The only thing that has kept Chaz Schilens from being an elite player in the NFL is injury. Playing in Saunders' offense provides Shilens a golden opportunity.
Schilens has all the tools to be a true No. 1 wide out—except durability.
All that needs to happen for Schilens to breakout is for him to remain healthy. Assuming that can happen, the targets will be there under Saunders for him to shine bright.
Let's watch him closely to see if he and strength and conditioning coach Brad Roll can do what is needed to keep Shilens on the field all year so he can take advantage of gifts.
Jacoby Ford had a mini breakout, but under Saunders he could make the Pro Bowl!
Jacoby Ford has already made himself known to Raider Nation and NFL fans in general with a solid rookie campaign.
Under Saunders, Ford could find himself in the role of "X-Factor."
I believe Saunders understands that getting the ball to Ford quickly, and in space, gives the Raiders a great shot at making big plays with run after catch.
I expect Ford to build on his rookie season and only get better and better as the 2011 season wears on.
Nick Miller wasn't being used properly in 2010. Sauders should change that.
Like Ford, Nick Miller is an "X-Factor" type player. Having him play outside the numbers against bigger cornerbacks is not the best situation for him.
Saunders should be looking to use Miller in more of a "Wes Welker" role. Quick screens, swing passes and smoke routes will allow him to get the ball quickly, use his incredible "quick-twitch" athleticism to make the first defender miss and get big gains.
We should watch the way in which Saunders uses Miller and Ford. If done correctly, these two players can give defensive coordinators and secondaries fits all season long.
Zach Miller could finally get the recognition he deserves under Saunders.
It's not like Zach Miller hasn't already broken out. He was selected as a replacement for his first Pro Bowl in 2010. However, playing for Al Saunders could make him a legend.
If you look back at some of the tight ends that have played in a Saunders offense, you'll understand just how good this will be for Miller.
Tony Gonzales became a Hall of Fame lock under Saunders. Chris Cooley went from a no-name player to a Pro Bowler executing a Saunders offense.
This bodes well for Miller.
I fully expect Miller to be a Pro Bowler in 2011; not as a replacement, but as a starter.
Brandon Myers should really benefit from Sauders' offense.
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As teams begin to game plan against Miller and the wide receivers, Brandon Myers can become a nice option for Jason Campbell to target.
Saunders has a history of using two tight end sets in the redzone going all the way back to his time as the head coach of the San Diego Chargers from 1986 to 1988.
I don't expect Myers to be a Pro Bowler, but I do expect him to have the best year of his career.
It's not very glamorous, but I just love this picture!
Marcel Reece had a couple of fantastic games in 2010, but almost disappeared in others.
Saunders uses his fullbacks much like Jackson did last year. They are expected to not only lead block and pass block, but also to run and receive the ball.
If Reece can continue to show his athleticism, he will become a real weapon for Saunders and the Raider offense.
Will he be Pro Bowl worthy? I doubt it, but he can make a difference for the Raiders.
The Entire Offensive Line
The offensive line should see some new players playing in 2011.
Yes, I'm fully aware that Saunders is not the offensive line coach, and whomever Davis hires to coach this squad will have a huge effect on how well they perform, but look at it this way:
Saunders is an extremely experienced coach. I have every confidence that he will immediately identify the strengths and weakness of this unit with the intent of designing and calling plays that put them in the best position to succeed.
There is likely to be a lot of turnover in this unit with a lot of new faces cracking the starting lineup. These personnel decisions will be made primarily by Saunders and Jackson. Both of these men will attempt to put the best starting five on the field at all times.
Under Jackson, the offensive line improved as the year went along. I think we can expect that trend to continue under Saunders.
Jason Campbell may be the biggest beneficiary of the Raiders' new look offense.
The individual player with the best chance at a breakout year under Saunders may be Jason Campbell.
Campbell came to Oakland with much fanfare and high expectations. He showed flashes of living up to all the hype, but fell short in some cases.
In the high flying, Don Coryell inspired offense brought in by Saunders, Campbell is likely to feel right at home. After all, this is the same style of offense being run when he took the Auburn Tigers to a 13-0 mark in 2004.
Pound it up the gut, then play-action deep ball passing fits Campbell's skill set to a tee.
Look for Campbell to have a legitimate shot at a Pro Bowl season in 2011.
There You Go...
Is there anything better than football and Raideretts on a beautful day?
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This list represents the Raider players I expect to benefit the most from Al Saunders taking over the offensive coordinator duties.
I realize that I could have simply said, "The entire offense will be better and could breakout under Saunders in 2011," but what fun would that have been?
I also realize that neither of the halfbacks are on this list. The fact is, Darren McFadden has already broken out, Michael Bush isn't likely to get enough touches to have a breakout and Al Saunders' offenses aren't known for their running back play.
Although I wasn't sold on the decision to let Tom Cable go, I am extremely optimistic about the road Mr. Davis has this team on since then.
I believe the hiring of Al Saunders could be the off-season coaching move of the century. Expectations are high, but they are very attainable in my estimation.
How did I do? Who did I miss? Who do you expect to really shine in 2011 based on Saunders running the offense? Let me hear your thoughts in the comments.
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