The 7 Most Valuable Players on the Oakland Raiders Roster
Having gone undefeated against the AFC West in 2010, there seems to be some light shining now in the Black Hole.
Despite the loss of Nnamdi Asomugha to free agency over the offseason, and in part because of the release of former No. 1 overall draft pick JaMarcus Russell last season, the Raiders, like the Detroit Lions in the NFC, have made the jump from league laughingstock, to maybe not Super Bowl contenders, but at least to the short list of teams on the rise.
Now let's take a quick look at the playmakers on the Raiders roster who are bringing back hope to this storied franchise.
A fullback makes the MVP list? Calling FB Marcel Reece a fullback doesn't really tell the whole story.
Having played WR at University of Washington, NFL GMs were unable to find a position to peg the 6'3", 240-lb Reece, and he went undrafted out of college.
The Raiders picked Reece up in '09 after the Dolphins released him, and he has developed into a multi-faceted threat that really isn't duplicated on any other team in the NFL (the kind of positional misfit Patriots head coach Bill Belichick usually scoops up out of anonymity and makes a star).
Coach Hue Jackson is unafraid to split him out at WR or jam him down the middle on third and short. QB Jason Campbell looks to him for pressure dump-offs as well as long-hitters. Reece keeps defenses guessing all game long.
Rookie Denarius Moore, in his first career start last Sunday against the Bills, had five receptions for 146 yards and a TD.
Too early to be a MVP?
Not on a team who already has two injured starters at WR (Jacoby Ford and Darrius Heyward-Bey). Those injuries gave this training-camp phenom some regular season action, and Moore proved he was able to translate his acrobatics from the practice field to game day.
Let's be honest, if it wasn't for the fact he is a kicker, there is simply no question the "Polish Cannon" would be the Raiders MVP.
Already the Raiders franchise leader in points scored, Janikowski, in the Monday Night Football opener in Denver, hit a 63-yarder to tie the NFL all-time record for longest field goal. He is far and away the most powerful placekicker in the NFL, and also among the most reliable from short as well.
Given play-calling responsibility last year in his rookie season, clearly the Raiders' coaching staff saw LB Rolando McClain as a defensive leader on the team.
With few people feeling confident in the Raiders defensive backfield after the free agent loss of Nnamdi Asomugha, the linebacking corps must step up and do their part this year if the Raiders want to continue to make progress. No one is more important in making that happen than defensive captain and middle linebacker Rolando McClain.
With young DE's Lamarr Houston and Matt Shaughnessy anchoring the Oakland D Line, and DT's Tommy Kelly and Seymour filling the gaps, opposing QBs better watch their backs in '11.
Averaging over five yards per carry again this season, after averaging 5.2 per carry last year, there is no question Darren McFadden is now a member of the NFL's RB elite, and the keystone to the Raiders offense.
McFadden is a big play threat and capable receiver as well. If he can stay healthy in 2011, it will take a lot of pressure off QB Jason Campbell.
There certainly is no "player" in the Oakland Raiders organization more influential to their success than Owner/GM Al Davis.
Feeling revived by the success of the Raiders monster 2010 draft class (Jacoby Ford, Lamarr Houston, Rolando McClain and Jared Veldheer all immediately becoming impact-players), the 82-year-old Mr. Davis may have earned himself a one-year pass from long suffering and frustrated Oakland Raiders fans.
But after years of gross mismanagement by Davis, there is only so long that this goodwill is going to last.