It’s no secret that Al Davis is the most senile owner in professional sports. His refusal to hire a GM and hand over the reins has resulted in one of the most miserable decades for a franchise in NFL history.
Not exactly. Despite Cable’s ability to, “just win” (well, sort of…) not only football games, but the allegiance of this players, Davis insisted on firing him after the season. In the aftermath, there were multiple Raiders who complained publicly about the decision.
Despite the encouraging progress of the 2010 Raiders, Davis has found a way to nearly dismantle a team that seemed to be headed in the right direction. He fired his head coach, and two of the Raiders’ best offensive players (Zach Miller and Robert Gallery) followed him to Seattle. Both explicitly mentioned Cable when asked about their decision to leave the Silver and Black.
But Davis didn’t let everyone go; he managed to make Stanford Routt, an above-average CB, one of the highest paid in the league. He hung on to Richard Seymour, which is a good thing. But then he signed Michael Huff to a contract about twice as large as his on-field accomplishments deserve.
Oh yeah, and Davis, notorious for his defensive back fetish, let the best cover corner in the league sign elsewhere for a contract only slightly larger than Routt’s.
This offseason has been a mess for the Raiders. They lost their best offensive and defensive players to free-gency and signed no one of significance in return. Despite major losses in the free-agent market, (and the lack of a first round-pick) the Raiders managed to have an excellent draft, and the 2011 season will largely depend upon the performance of a few of those rookies.
It is entirely possible for this team, despite their owner’s best efforts, to finish the season above .500 and compete for a playoff berth. Here are a few predictions for the upcoming season, some optimistic, others not so much.
Jared Veldheer showing Julius Peppers what's up.
This is perhaps the boldest prediction you’ll find here. The personnel will be similar to last season, but the scheme will be quite different.
Rather than rely on the zone-blocking scheme favored by Tom Cable, Hue Jackson hired Bob Wylie and former Raider Steve Wisniewski to install a power-blocking scheme better suited against the 3-4 fronts sported by all three of the Raiders’ AFC West opponents.
Jared Veldheer emerged last season as a promising young LT, and Daniel Loper stepped in to perform extremely well when Robert Gallery missed time due to injury. Rookie Stefen Wisniewski should be a mauler from the start at Center, and lining up against Richard Seymour for the duration of camp certainly won’t stunt his development.
There should be ample competition on the right side of the line. The Raiders retained last year’s starters, Cooper Carlisle and Khalif Barnes, though I’d be surprised to see them both hold their positions throughout the year.
My guess is that, before long, freakish Bruce Campbell will emerge as a solid RG, and rookie Joseph Barksdale will compete for the starting RT spot. Throw in Langston Walker on the ground and you have a line with surprisingly reasonable depth.
The big question here is RT, but I truly believe that if the Raiders can find a RT who can hold his own in protection; the offensive line will be one of the strengths of this young team.
A sign of things to come.
That’s right. It’s been at least a decade since the Raiders have been even mediocre against the run. This year, however, will be different.
They have one of the most talented (and underrated) defensive lines in the league. Not only with Richard Seymour and Tommy Kelly at DT, both of whom had phenomenal seasons in 2010, but perhaps, more importantly, DE’s who can plug holes just as well as chase the quarterback. Scouts are very high on both Matt Shaughnessy and Lamarr Houston, two of the most underrated young defensive linemen in the league.
Not only is the line better than it’s been in recent memory, but the Raiders also sport a pretty stellar group of LB’s behind them. Rolando McClain played well as a rookie last year—at times showing flashes of brilliance, at other times looking like, well, a rookie.
Having a season under his belt will no doubt help him transition to the every-down defensive playmaker that we all expect him to be. Throw in Kamerion Wimbley, an underrated Quentin Groves, the unknown Travis Goethel and you’ve got a formidable front seven (with room for rotation).
Expect the 2011 Raiders to finally stop the run. If for no other reason than they’re due.
Get used to it.
Not only did Davis give up the best corner in the game without acquiring a reasonable replacement, he also inexplicably re-signed Michael Huff, one of the worst coverage safeties in the league.
Like last year’s team, this group will be able to put pressure on opposing QB’s, and when successful, will enjoy reasonable success against the pass. But if the other guy has time to look downfield: ruh roh.
Stanford Routt showed signs of improvement last year but is far from a No. 1 CB. He lacks the lockdown skills necessary to make the Raiders’ pressure-system work. He will make some plays, don’t get me wrong. But you should expect to see him on a number of highlight reels, just not the way you want him to be.
Chris Johnson is spotty. At times, he plays like a shutdown corner, then gives up a bomb down the sideline. He and Routt both play this way. If Raiders’ opponents would simply throw the ball downfield every play of the game, they will eventually rack up Deangelo Hall-esque yardage.
While I love Tyvon Branch, Stevie Brown and Chimdi Chekwa for reasons to be named later, this pass defense is simply too hit-or-miss to be relied upon over a 16-game season. Throw in the Michael Huff factor, and well, just expect a lot of highlights…
Guy in front: good safety. Guy behind: bad safety.
Branch has been the shining star of the Raiders’ secondary ever since he was drafted (aside from, well, you know who) yet has received little attention for his efforts. He actually took a couple steps backward in 2010, at times struggling in coverage, but opponents won’t be so lucky this time around.
He is excellent against the run (and always has been) and will cut out the mistakes in coverage that popped up periodically last season. You heard it here first: if he can be so lucky as to get a few balls thrown his way early on, Branch will finally receive the attention he deserves and may even make the Pro Bowl. He’s that good.
Yes he's a Buckeye; don't hold it against him.
Whether it’s Stanford Routt’s spot or Chris Johnson’s, it’s going to happen. My guess is Johnson’s. Chekwa was the guy that everyone said should have been drafted when the Raiders took speedster Demarcus Van Dyke in the third round.
Fortunately for all parties involved: he was still around in the fourth when the Raiders snagged him about a round and a half later than he should have gone. Chekwa has the size and skills necessary to be a shutdown corner in the league. He also has the pedigree of playing under Jim Tressel (that cheating bastard) and an Ohio State defensive scheme not all unlike the Raiders’.
Chekwa will struggle at times, as all rookies do but expect him to quickly ascend the depth chart to a spot he will hold for years to come.
please please please please please stay healthy please
This isn’t such a bold prediction, as the 2010 team had the second-best rushing attack in the league.
Assuming that Darren McFadden can stay healthy, he should push 1,300 yards. And assuming he can stay healthy, Michael Bush may score ten or more touchdowns. Throw in the dynamic rookie Taiwan Jones, who will be used in specialty situations (barring major injury to the two big guns) and you have a backfield as talented as just about any in the league.
Is he slipping or kicking or both?
And, hopefully, he will make a lot of them. This is partly because of his incredible range but largely to do with the fact that the 2011 Raiders will struggle converting in the red zone.
Losing Zach Miller is no small variable here, and though Kevin Boss should see plenty of targets near the goal line, don’t be surprised when Janikowski leads the league in made FGs.
Victory dance after setting new record.
Yep. This is the year. Ever since Se-Bass became the first kicker ever drafted in the first round (good work, Al), it has only been a matter of time. Anyone who has watched the tubby, bar-brawling Pole kick in pregame warmups has known as much.
The guy knocks down 60-yarders like a line of Jägerbombs and would do it with a cigarette in his mouth if you’d let him. Remember a couple years ago when Lane Kiffin sent him on to attempt a 76-yarder? Well, that didn’t work out so well; so don’t expect a 76er any time soon. But he’ll finally break the record this year. And then he will get in a bar fight. And win.
Kid n Play Sack Dance: Worth the fine
Not only is the line better than it’s been in a decade (and extremely underrated) but ever since Rob Ryan took his bend-and-occasionally-break defense out of Oakland, the Raiders have shown a shocking ability to blitz the passer, and yes, even tackle him on occasion.
Don’t expect anything less with sack artist Kamerion Wimbley returning alongside Matt Shaughnessy, Lamarr Houston and Trevor Scott. Tyvon Branch will even get a few.
Hue Jackson is: Wolverine!
I like Hue Jackson. He was great as Wolverine and really surprised everyone with his song-and-dance opening when he hosted the Oscars. What can I say? The guy has skills. Wait. Wrong guy? You're kidding.
In all seriousness, though: Hue Jackson likes to talk. He’s a cross between Mike Singletary and Rex Ryan—friendlier than the former and sexually aroused by feet less than the latter. But he talks. A lot. Most of which is entertaining and fairly insightful.
But it will be interesting to see how the heart-on-the-sleeves coach meshes with the Fort Knox secrecy that has been the Raiders modus operandi for decades. Inevitably, there will be a fantastic sound byte from Jackson’s mouth that will be repeated in beer commercials for years to come.
Remind you of another 99 who used to wear the Silver and Black?
Yep. The guy is for real. He’s like a young Warren Sapp but with more versatility and a slightly-less-incredible-ability to get at the passer.
He is going to have an enormous coming out party in 2011, and I can’t wait to watch it unfold.
The guy should have been drafted in the third round, but the Raiders somehow managed to get him two rounds later. Already the coaches and players rave about his ability to make plays downfield.
If he’d had a decent QB at Tennessee, he would have developed a national profile. Fortunately for the Raiders, he didn’t. But he will soon. Expect him to lead the team in receiving yards and touchdowns. I’m serious.
Taking down MJD.
Though nobody had heard of him before or has heard of him since, the 2010, sixth-round pick won the starting job out of training camp last year over Quentin Groves and Trevor Scott.
He was hurt, though, before he had a chance to make an impact but expect him to be at full strength in 2011. He will most likely share time with Groves early on, but it won’t be long before he separates himself as the superior run defender.
A little Hawkeye-on-Hawkeye violence (hard to watch, I know)
As much as it pains me to admit this, it’s true. Kevin Boss isn’t as good as Zach Miller. Not even close, really. But rookie David Ausberry has been impressive in camp, and if he can learn to block just a bit, might just develop into a solid pass catching option to complement Boss.
Neither Boss nor Ausberry can block as well as third year TE Brandon Myers, however, who will emerge as an early down mainstay for the Raiders offense. Not only is he the best blocker of the three, but he’s an underrated pass catcher with a knack for finding seams.
Should he be given the chance to play, I think Myers will surprise a lot of people in 2011, just as he did during his senior year at Iowa when he more-than-adequately replaced Tony Moeaki and received first-team All-Big Ten honors.
What you can't see is the shank buried in his right side.
Yet again. It seems that no matter who the coaches or players have been, the guys wearing Silver and Black always manage to find themselves flagged more than their opponents.
As a lifelong Raiders fan, I blame two things: 1) Al Davis’s allegiance to the Dark Side 2) The Raiders are, year-in year-out, whether winning or losing, complete bad asses.
Sure, they somehow manage to lack the discipline that should be instilled within them by their coaches. Sure, they’re probably unfairly targeted at times league officials.
But the Raiders are the Raiders. Which means they’re going to bite you. And eat your children. Or at least make you consider packing your jock with brass knuckles. Not only is this what we love (or hate, if you’re a pansy) about the Raiders, but it’s the spirit that Hue Jackson has explicitly stated he wants to restore. So don’t expect fewer penalties this year. But who cares? Just win, baby.
Another year as the saddest demon in all of hell.
2011 will be the season when the Raiders finally finish with a winning record. Unfortunately, it won’t be enough to win the division or snag a playoff berth. Believe me, I hope I’m wrong about that.
But the 2011 team will rely heavily upon the production of youngsters, especially rookies, and have yet to demonstrate a clear ability to move the ball through the air and convert red-zone opportunities.
If they can manage to do these things, well then, hey, the sky’s the limit. But until I see it on the field, I’m not expecting playoffs just yet.
dear god help us
It's only a matter of time...
Good luck sleeping tonight.