Oakland Raiders: Filling Holes Left After 2011 NFL Draft
The 2011 NFL Draft is over and new Oakland Raider head coach Hue Jackson, along with a newly revamped coaching staff, look toward continuing the turn-around set in motion during the 2010 NFL season.
The draft addressed some serious needs, but fell short of fixing everything. There are several positions that are still somewhat lacking and some that are extremely short on depth.
There is much more to a winning program than having a few super-stars or getting that big-name player to be your savior. Talent is important, some would argue that depth and chemistry are equally critical, if not more so.
Stay with me here...
The Center Position Seems to Be Sewn Up
Stefen "The Legacy" Wisniewski was selected by the Raiders with their first pick in the second round of the draft.
According to his uncle, Raider legend Steve Wisniewski, Stefen is further along in his development at this point than Steve was himself.
If this is true, the center position should be locked down for several years, but Wisniewski can't fix the offensive line problems on his own.
Assuming Wisniewski takes over the center spot, as most would agree is the case, where does that leave Samson Satele?
Decide on the Starting Guards
With Robert Gallery likely moving on, the left guard position is up for grabs.
Daniel Loper seems to be the logical choice to take over there. Loper played well in his limited opportunities while Gallery was injured.
Satele showed improvement at center over the course of last season, but never really "got it done." He lacks the physical size and strength to stand up to the huge nose tackles of the many 3-4 defenses the Raiders faced.
A good spot for Satele may be to take over for Cooper Carlisle, (the worst starting lineman in the NFL) at right guard, but there will be competition there.
Second year player Bruce Campbell is likely to make a serious run at the starting line up, as is the versatile second-year man Alex Parsons.
A lot of questions to be sure, but a lot of talent to shuffle around and make things work.
Right Tackle Is Now an Open Competition
With the emergence and development of small-school phenom Jared Veldheer, the left tackle spot is decided already, but the story is different on the right side.
Last year, Langston Walker was a stop-gap measure at right tackle, nothing more; Khalif Barnes never asserted himself and Mario Henderson showed too much inconsistency to be the solution on the right side.
The Raiders drafted LSU tackle Joseph Barksdale in the fourth round of the draft. Barksdale is slated to compete with veterans Henderson and Barnes for the starting right tackle job. Bruce Campbell may be competing with them three as well.
Whomever wins this position battle will be relied upon to improve the right-side pass protection over the pathetic display of last season.
Find "The Guy" at Wide Receiver
Most would agree that Chaz Schilens has all the tools to be the No. 1 receiver on the Raiders, but injuries have plagued his short career.
For the first time since he was drafted, Schilens enters a season healthy and he stands ready to take the mantle of No. 1 receiver. The depth chart behind Schilens has some questions however.
Louis Murphy, Jacoby Ford, Nick Miller and Johnnie Lee Higgins will be pushed for playing time by five other, virtually unknown players—including fifth round pick Denarius Moore and seventh rounder David Ausberry.
It seems to me, and a lot of Raider Nation, a veteran receiver to take over as the primary receiver is needed to take the Raider offense to the next level.
There are several options out there. Steve Smith (Carolina) and Chad Ochocinco want out of their current teams.
Vincent Jackson has been a thorn in the Raiders' side for years, but would he be the right fit? Santonio Holmes and Sidney Rice are likely to be resigned by their current teams.
So, who does that leave? Allow me to make some suggestions that wouldn't cost the Raiders a proverbial "arm and a leg."
James Jones, Malcom Floyd, Steve Breaston and Lance Moore are great talents that shouldn't break the bank.
Build Depth at the Quarterback Position
Few would argue that Jason Campbell is the best option at quarterback for the Raiders.
Once he got comfortable in Hue Jackson's offense, Campbell led the Raiders to their first non-losing season in nearly a decade.
The problem is, there is virtually no one behind him.
Bruce Gradkowski is a fan favorite, a tough competitor, and a good leader, but he appears to be made of glass.
Kyle Boller had his chance to be a starter in Baltimore, but failed miserably—just as he did in his very limited action for Oakland in 2010.
A quality back-up must be brought in by this team. Unfortunately, unless the team knows of some small-school phenom that wasn't drafted, I have no idea who it could be.
If free agency ever takes place, pickings at the quarterback spot are sure to be very slim.
Manese Tonga Is a REAL Fullback—Use Him!
Marcel Reece is a unique player that offers a great threat on offense, but he is not an actual fullback.
It's time the Raiders coaching staff realize that a fullback is more than an offensive weapon, he's supposed to be a mauling, mean-spirited lunatic that craves contact. That is not Reece.
Manese Tonga has all those qualities and he's already on the roster. He still has to learn all the ins and outs of the position, but he can't fully realize his potential on the practice squad.
Get the kid on the field already!
Re-Sign Zach Miller—PLEASE!
For all practical purposes, Zach Miller was the Raider offense for two seasons until Darren McFadden and the rushing attack finally broke out.
Losing this player would have grave consequences for the team.
Brandon Myers is a very good No. 2, but isn't capable of being the primary tight end.
Second-year man Kevin Brock has never played a down, and rookie Richard Gordon was drafted in the sixth round to be the No. 3, but is by no means ready to play on a regular basis.
Re-signing Miller is likely more important to the team than Nnamdi Asomugha.
Yes! I said that!
Add Some Youth and Depth at Defensive Tackle
Richard Seymour is a fantastic player and an even better leader, but he's 32 years old and not getting any younger.
John Henderson is also a solid, older player. Injuries are starting to take their toll on this 32-year-old.
Tommy Kelly is underrated, but he too is starting to get long in the tooth.
Desmond Bryant is a great young talent, but still isn't quite ready to be a starter.
In the immediate future, these three will not be able to handle the load and abuse by themselves. There needs to be a fourth man in the mix to keep these men fresh.
Build Some Depth at Linebacker
Kamerion Wimbley and Rolando McClain played pretty well last season. However, there wasn't a lot of depth at linebacker.
Trevor Scott showed a talent for his new position, but got injured. Travis Goethel recovered from injury, but was relegated to special teams.
Thomas Howard was demoted to a situational player, Ricky Brown still can't stay healthy and Quentin Groves played with a lot of speed and passion, but made a ton of mistakes.
Ultimately, it's tough to judge this squad due to the passive philosophy formulated by ousted defensive coordinator John Marshall.
With the Raiders resigning Chuck Bresnahan to run the defense, the linebacker play should become a lot more aggressive judging by the defense he coached that went to the Super Bowl after the 2002 season.
Having Greg Biekert, a true Raider, as linebacker coach should help immensely as well.
Al Davis needs to find some good young talent to fill in at outside linebacker and some to back up McClain in the middle should an injury rear it's ugly head.
Resign Nnamdi Asomugha—Assuming the Team Can Afford It!
Of course keeping Nnamdi Asomugha would be the best thing for the team, but at what cost?
The likely demand for the best cornerback in the league is certain to garner ridiculous sums of money from other teams.
If Asomugha decides he wants to stay and work with Hall of Fame cornerback, and new cornerback coach Rod Woodson, then money won't be an issue.
However, it's going to be very difficult for him to turn down the exorbitant dollars that are going to be thrown at him from every direction.
Here's hoping for the best.
Move on from Michael Huff
I like Michael Huff as much as the next guy. He's solid in coverage, a great leader and the kind of guy that improves morale in the locker room, but let's be honest—he has some serious holes in his game.
As I stated above, Huff is one of the best cover-safeties in the league, but he couldn't tackle a Girl Scout in a phone booth!
Harsh, I know, but truthful.
Stevie Brown and Mike Mitchell have both proven to be good young talent with a nose for the ball.
With instruction from Rod Woodson, Kevin Ross and the legend that is Willie Brown, either of these two could start for the Silver and Black—and cost a lot less.
Huff deserves a chance to start, and to make some money—just not for Oakland.
All in all, the Raiders have once again put together a solid offseason. The draft wasn't as good as the last one, but it was still decent.
I gave last year's draft class an A- minus overall, this one gets a B- or C+.
Needs were met and depth was created at some critical spots, but there is only one clear-cut starter in this group, (Wisniewski) as opposed to 2010 in which the Raiders found three impact players in Rolando McClain, Lamarr Houston and Jacoby Ford.
Still a good class considering there wasn't a first-round pick. However, I feel as though the coaching changes will be even more noticeable than the players that were brought in.
Maybe the best move of this offseason was Al Davis going against the grain (again), and re-signing players like Kamerion Wimbley when all the other teams were shying away from spending money with the lockout looming.
Assuming the lockout ends, Davis will once again look like the genius he is.
In the end, this team is better now than this time last year, both on the field and the sideline. 2011 should bring even further improvement for this storied franchise.
What do you say? Where am I right? Where am I wrong? Speak up in the comments.
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