Oakland Raiders: 10 Things That Will Make the Raiders an Elite Team Again
Early in this offseason, Al Davis has already made a lot of changes to the Oakland Raiders' coaching staff in an attempt to find the combination that will bring the Raiders back to the top of the NFL heap.
The resigning of Richard Seymour to a multi-year deal, bringing back an old friend in Chuck Bresnahan to coach the defense and hiring a legend like Rod Woodson to coach the cornerbacks are all positive steps toward achieving the team goals.
That said, a lot of holes remain, both in terms of talent and coaching for the Raiders to become what they really want to be—an elite, Super Bowl contender/champion.
Let's take a look at some of the changes many feel still need to take place for the Raiders to reach their full potential...
Better Offensive Line Talent and Play
Probably the most maligned and criticized squad on the Raiders was the offensive line—rightfully so. To address this, Davis has hired Raider great Steve Wisniewski and long-time NFL coach Bob Wiley to coach the line.
This should help, but won't fix things entirely. There are still some talent issues there.
I believe that Jared Veldheer can work into being a solid, if not great, left tackle. Robert Gallery is pretty good but needs to improve his durability. These minor issues can be fixed.
The center, right guard and right tackle positions were downright pathetic at times. The run blocking was pretty good, but most of the pressure and sacks on the quarterback came right through one of these three positions.
I'm going to say something I've said countless times in the recent past—Cooper Carlisle is the worst starting offensive lineman in the NFL. He must be replaced. Daniel Loper has played well in relief and deserves a shot at the starting lineup.
Samson Satele has decent technique and understanding but is simply not strong enough to stand up to big, bull rushing nose tackles. He too must be replaced by either a free agent like Olin Kruetz or a solid rookie like Stefen Wisniewski.
Langston Walker has been a good Raider for many years but was never that great to begin with. It's time to move him into a backup role and see what Bruce Campbell can do in his place.
Hopefully, Jackson and Davis see the deficiencies at these positions and make the correct changes. If not, all the other changes are pointless as winning begins up front—so does losing.
Sign a REAL No. 1 Wide Receiver
One of the positions in most need of upgrade is the wide receiver spot. The Raiders haven't had a true No. 1 guy since Tim Brown and Jerry Rice were in town.
Chaz Schilens has all the tools to be that guy but can't stay on the field long enough to make an impact. Louis Murphy can be a solid No. 2, Jacoby Ford should turn into one of the best slot players in the league and Darius Heyward-Bey still has a lot to learn.
I believe the best thing for the Raider offense is to sign a veteran free agent that is already proven as a No. 1 target. There are several good choices available this offseason.
Chad Ochocinco (Johnson) may be released by the Bengals, Steve Smith (Giants), Sidney Rice, Santonio Holmes and Malcom Floyd are all free agents and have all been No. 1 guys for their current teams.
Chances are, most of these guys will be resigned by their current team, but there are many more solid wide receivers available.
Here is a list for you to decide who you'd like to see wearing silver and black next season. FootballsFuture.com.
More Consistent Quarterback Play
Acquiring Jason Campbell for a fourth-round pick in the 2012 draft was a great deal and a dramatic upgrade over "that other guy."
Last season, Campbell had moments of greatness, but also some moments that made Raider Nation wonder if he was worth keeping.
As the season progressed, Campbell seemed to settle into the Hue Jackson-created offense and played fairly well, limiting his mistakes and moving the offense.
That trend must continue if Campbell is to lead the Raiders to the promised land of a Super Bowl championship.
With Jackson taking over the whole team and Al Saunders taking over the offense, Campbell will have some continuity for the first time in his career. This more than anything should allow him to become even more comfortable and produce an even better year in 2011.
Better Third Down and Redzone Offense
Last season, the Raiders finished in the bottom three in both third down and red zone efficiency. This cannot be the case in 2011 if Oakland expects to return to elite status.
Moving the ball up and down the field at will between the 20s only to settle for field goals will result in the same as the 2010 season—mediocrity.
With Al Saunders now in the offensive coordinator role, he and Jackson will be responsible for improving the Raiders' ability to sustain drives and punch the ball into the end zone when they get inside the opponents 20-yard line.
Looking back at the history of the Oakland Raiders, you'll find that this team has been penalized more than any other.
In the 1970s, guys like Otis Sistrunk, Ted Hendricks and Jack Tatum were pushing the limit of the rules and being penalized for unsportsmanlike conduct and personal fouls frequently. The more recent Raider teams are being penalized just as much, but not with "intimidation penalties" but with mental errors like holding and false start.
The difference between the championship Raiders of yesteryear and the Raiders of recent history is the old teams overcame the penalties with stellar play. The recent teams couldn't execute well enough to overcome the stupid, mental errors they made.
New head coach Hue Jackson needs to coach this team in such a way as to do one of two things: 1. Reduce the penalties altogether. 2. Get the team playing well enough to overcome their mistakes.
Without a remedy here, all the other improvements are useless.
More Aggressive Defensive Play-Calling
Over the last few seasons, John Marshall acted as defensive coordinator for the Raiders. Unfortunately, his play calling was often vanilla and passive causing the Raiders to look good against the pass but terrible against the run.
This offseason, Al Davis let Marshall go and brought back a familiar face.
Chuck Bresnahan has be rehired as "defensive coach." Most believe that title will change to defensive coordinator if Mr. Davis is unable land the coach he really wants.
Bresnahan was the defensive coordinator for the Raiders the last time they had a winning record during their Super Bowl run in 2002.
Bresnahan led the Raiders defense to being the sixth ranked defense in points allowed, third against the run and 11th in total yards allowed.
If Mr. Davis can't find the coach he really wants, Bresnahan needs to be ready to lead this defense.
Improved Tackling Fundamentals
The scene of an opposing running back being held in check for most of the game, then breaking a big run late due to bad tackling played out far too often in 2010.
Players leaving their feet, lowering their head causing them to lose sight of the runner and trying to tackle guys at the shoulders was commonplace for Oakland defenders.
Raider great Greg Biekert being promoted to linebacker coach should help that unit, and Rod Woodson coaching the secondary will improve the tackling on the back end.
With Bresnahan overseeing the entire defense, the Raiders have the coaches in place to fix the tackling in 2011.
Continue To Acquire High Character, High IQ Players
Rolando McClain, Lamarr Houston, Jeremy Ware and Jacoby Ford were some of the rookies drafted in 2010 that paid big dividends for Oakland. They are all hard-working, high-football-IQ, quality character players.
Richard Seymour, Kamerion Wimbley and Quentin Groves are veterans brought in that exemplify hard work and class.
You add those players to the high-motor, hard-working men like Tommy Kelly, Michael Huff, Tyvon Branch, Matt Shaughnessy, Marcel Reece, Darren McFadden, Michael Bush, Jason Campbell and Trevor Scott and you get a solid core of players that can make this team great.
Bringing in selfish, low-class or lazy players now will undo all the progress made in the last season.
Raider Nation should hope Davis and Jackson can hit a home run in the 2011 offseason just as they did in the last few.
The addition of Richard Seymour in 2009 helped the Raiders almost immediately. His veteran leadership instantly wore off on the rest of the team, and the Raiders played harder as a whole.
Michael Huff and Nnamdi Asomugha stepped up in 2010 and helped fire the team up each and every game. Asomugha is a free agent and Huff is the center of rumors that have him being released or traded due to his high salary.
It's possible that neither of these players will be back with the team in 2011.
If this is the case, other players will have to join Seymour and take the reigns of leadership to give this team the direction and personality of a champion.
Better Fan Support
Attendance was up slightly for Oakland in 2010 but only slightly. This is not good enough. The coliseum must be filled to capacity for every home game and the television blackouts must end.
Ending the blackouts will create more fans, satisfy the ones that can't be there and let the players feel like they're playing for something more than money.
That's only part of it.
The atmosphere in a full stadium is much different than a partially full stadium. The players can look into the stands and be reminded of why they do what they do, who they're playing for and will have their spirits lifted when things begin to go bad.
Fixing the attendance is squarely on the shoulders of Raider Nation. Al Davis is doing everything he can to get the right players and coaches, the players are working hard and trying to win, the rest is up to the fans—make it happen.
Essentially, it all boils down to one thing: Keep on making the right decisions with respect to personnel and coaching. The Raiders are on the right track in getting quality talent and that must continue.
The coaching changes could make the difference in the fundamental breakdowns and discipline fans witnessed in 2010. Hopefully, all the changes won't affect the continuity and chemistry that Tom Cable built during his tenure.
If the new talent, (both rookies and veterans) can fit in, work hard and gel with the current core and a few more players can assume leadership roles, the Raiders have a great shot at becoming great once again.
If the fans want the most out of this team, they too need to be involved by attending games and ending the blackouts. This will give the players a sense of pride and more reason to play hard every down.
The underlying theme here is that Oakland is greatly improved over recent years, and they have proven they can win. It will be up to Davis, Jackson and the fans to continue to build and mold this team into the great team Raider teams' fans remember, expect and deserve.