Raider Nation rejoice.
All things considered, the offseason, which initially seemed like a one-way revolving door out of Oakland during its “official” early stages, actually produced some pretty interesting developments.
While the loss of integral players the likes of Nnamdi Asomugha, Zach Miller and Robert Gallery cannot be overstated, the Raiders have added (or retained) some crucial pieces that should prove to be key contributors for years to come. Here now is an assessment of the Oakland Raiders' offseason.
No matter how the Raiders choose to frame it, losing arguably the best cornerback in the game is an undeniable blow.
But the front office was willing to bite the proverbial bullet on this one. Retaining the services of the All-World cornerback, as optimistic an option as it seemed on the surface, was, in actuality, but a pipe dream. The writing was on the wall from the onset of the offseason that the two sides were willing to part ways. And part ways they did.
The question now begs to be asked: How exactly will the Raiders compensate for such a loss?
Simply put, there are no simple answers. The process of finding the team’s next shutdown corner may indeed be a long and arduous one. But having the team’s young cornerbacks be guided by Hall of Fame defensive backs such as Rod Woodson and Willie Brown is a good start. And, lest we forget, Stanford Routt was recently awarded a very generous contract. This season he will have the opportunity to prove that he is a worthy successor in the long lineage of great Raider cornerbacks.
Of all of the team’s defections, the departure of Pro Bowl tight end Zach Miller was undoubtedly the most painful to absorb. The unexpected loss of Miller signifies that Jason Campbell has essentially lost his most reliable weapon in the passing game.
The rest of the young receiving corps is promising but not yet reliable. Unless they make strides by leaps and bounds this year, the running game will be severely hampered by the lack of a legitimate threat in the passing game.
Robert Gallery had developed into the team’s most solid offensive lineman, but his frail health prevented him from truly being the O-line’s anchor.
Indeed, the team had grown accustomed to Gallery missing significant playing time, so his loss shouldn’t prove to be too great a disruption to the O-line. This isn’t to say that the offensive line isn’t the Raiders’ Achilles’ heel, because it undeniably is. It simply means that the loss of Gallery won’t set them as far back as it would have had he been a more regular contributor.
Nevertheless, the Raiders will likely have a fluid, interchangeable offensive line yet again this year, which will stunt the potential development of a reliable, cohesive unit.
The Raiders just signed the cornerback in order to shore up a secondary unit that was hit hardest by the departure of the team's best player, Nnamdi Asomugha.
Sheppard, a former two-time Pro Bowler, excels in man-to-man coverage, the coverage scheme of choice in Oakland. Furthermore, he will provide a veteran presence, an invaluable asset to such a young group of cornerbacks.
The Raiders wasted no time in addressing the loss of their Pro Bowl tight end by signing Kevin Boss, formerly of the New York Giants.
Replacing a Pro Bowler isn’t uncharted territory for Boss. In 2007, the then-rookie Boss filled in admirably for an injured Jeremy Shockey during the Giants’ surprising Super Bowl run.
Indeed, he is a legitimate threat in the passing game, as well as a solid contributor in the running game, what with his stout run blocking. Ultimately, the transition from Miller to Boss should be a seamless one for Hue Jackson’s offense.
In spite of what the Todd McShays of this world may opine, the Raiders' selection of Pryor during this past week's supplemental draft was a low risk/high reward master stroke.
In forfeiting their third-round selection in next year's draft for the right to select Terrelle Pryor this year, the Raiders essentially secured their potential franchise quarterback of the future at a bargain basement price (relatively speaking, of course).
Though unpolished, Terrelle Pryor's upside far outweighs the question marks that may surround his readiness to play the game's most pivotal position. The Raiders now have the luxury of developing him at a leisurely pace, insofar as Jason Campbell, Trent Edwards and Kyle Boller don't all simultaneously morph into the second coming of Todd Marinovich.
By all accounts, the Raiders may have landed themselves a bona fide diamond in the rough in Denarius Moore, their fifth-round selection this past April.
Moore, a wide receiver from the University of Tennessee, has been dazzling teammates, coaches and reporters alike throughout training camp, and his stellar production at practice seems to be carrying over into real game situations.
Thus far in the preseason, Denarius Moore has arguably been the most productive member of the Raiders’ offense. Considering that the odds are growing increasingly remote of one day seeing a healthy Chaz Schilens contribute to the offense, the emergence of Moore is a very welcome development.
Moore should fit in very nicely with the young nucleus of promising Raiders wide receivers, consisting of Louis Murphy, Jacoby Ford, Darrius Heyward-Bey (yes, I’m giving him the benefit of the doubt) and, if he could ever get healthy, the aforementioned Schilens.
Technically, Jackson is a holdover from the previous coaching staff.
Nevertheless, as evidenced by the Cowboys' late season bloom last year, once Jason Garrett was finally handed over the reins, the influence that Jackson will now have as the head man should be worlds apart from the little influence that he must have wielded last season. It conjures up this famous LBJ quote: "The difference between the Senate and the House is the difference between chicken salad and chicken sh*t". This year, as opposed to last, Jackson will be able to fully stamp his personality and attitude on every facet of the team, chicken salad and all.
Was replacing Tom Cable, following the franchise's most successful season in what seems like forever, a wise move on the part of Davis & Co.? It's debatable. Nevertheless, the insertion of Hue Jackson as head coach will invariably give the squad a different energy, a different swagger. And perhaps Jackson’s brash, in-your-face, up tempo style is exactly what the Silver and Black needs to finally get over the mediocrity hump.
The return of Michael Bush will be a definite boon to the offense.
Bush was a restricted free agent, so the odds of his leaving were relatively slim, though not completely outside of the realm of possibility. So the Raiders did well to secure him for at least another year.
He is a very nice complement to starting running back Darren McFadden. Individually, either one of them could be a featured back on most NFL teams. Together, however, they form a redoubtable backfield tandem. As such, Michael Bush will be a crucial component to Oakland’s success on the offensive side of the ball.
Michael Huff has finally come into his own these past couple of seasons. Coming off of an All-Pro selection, the prevailing thought was that the native Texan would bolt Oakland for the purportedly greener pastures of Dallas.
Against all odds, however, Huff opted to re-up with the team that drafted him with the seventh overall selection in 2006. Michael Huff will be the anchor of a young and inexperienced secondary that will be seeking to build a new identity. His return should lessen the impact of Nnamdi Asomugha’s departure on this group.
The Raiders could have, and should have, addressed a couple of problem areas, but failed to do so. One such area is the offensive line.
As was stated earlier, the offensive line is in a state of flux. The departure of Robert Gallery, the team’s most reliable lineman, has only accentuated the precarious state of the O line.
The Raiders had the opportunity to sign Jared Gaither, the behemoth offensive tackle formerly of the Ravens, to help rectify this problem area. Gaither had flown into town, met the coaching staff, and it was widely reported, by “reliable” media outlets no less, that a deal between Gaither and the Raiders had been struck.
But, alas, this did not come to pass. It seems that the Raiders had a last minute change of heart, and now Gaither will be suiting up for the rival Chiefs.
Another area that has yet to be addressed is outside linebacker.
Travis Goethel, the presumptive starter at the position opposite Kamerion Wimbley, was lost for the season last week. The Raiders had the opportunity to bring back Kirk Morrison, a Raider Nation favorite, not to mention an Oakland native, but they inexplicably beat around the bush and now he’s a Buffalo Bill.
So for now and until further notice, the Raiders will have to rely on untested and/or overmatched players to man this position.
Finally, the Raiders should consider signing a veteran wide receiver.
The team has a bounty of young, promising wide receivers. A veteran presence would invariably help fast track these youngsters’ development. No one can deny that Oakland’s stable of wide receivers is arguably one the fastest, most athletic receiving corps in the league, but playing the position entails so much more than mere speed and athleticism.
A veteran presence would help Oakland’s receivers have a better understanding of the position’s finer points, and a greater appreciation for its nuances. For what it’s worth, T.O. in silver and black would be a pretty intimidating sight for opposing cornerbacks...
No, the Raiders didn't make a splash this time around as they were wont to do in years past. But that's not necessarily a bad thing.
Truth be told, with the exception of the Richard Seymour acquisition two years ago, they've have had a bad track record of late when trying to make a splash in the offseason (The Raiders' 5 Worst Offseason Moves of the Past Decade). Perhaps it's best that this time around the front office opted for a more low-key, understated approach.
All things considered, the optimism in the Raider Nation this year is actually warranted, cautious as it may be. Will the Raiders sweep their division again? Probably not. Will they surpass last season's eight-win tally? Perhaps. Will they finally make the playoffs again? I would surmise that the odds are split on that one.
Nevertheless, with their offseason moves, they've at least indicated that they've recommitted to progressing in the right direction. Considering their recent history, a "Commitment to Progress" is the next best thing to a "Commitment to Excellence."