Oakland Raiders are on the Right Path, Forget what you've heard

Jeff Little@@JeffLittle32Senior Writer IMay 12, 2009

ALAMEDA, CA - MAY 08:  The Oakland Raiders huddle together during the Raiders minicamp at the team's permanent training facility on May 8, 2009 in Alameda, California.  (Photo by Ezra Shaw/Getty Images)

The Raiders are putting together a competitive nucleus. Following free agency and the draft, the Oakland Raiders still had holes to fill on the roster at defensive tackle, linebacker and fullback.

The Raiders have been besieged with criticism after drafting WR Darrius Heyward-Bey in the first round and then Safety Michael Mitchell in the second round. Both are talented players and the criticism is more of where the players were drafted than the actual players.

WR Darrius Heyward-Bey will unfortunately be the most scrutinized player from the 2009 draft not named Matthew Stafford. Heyward-Bey and Michael Crabtree will be compared to each other their entire careers.

The decision was made to provide QB JaMarcus Russell with more weapons to open up the passing game, which is needed, but stopping the run in my opinion is just as big a need. The Raiders have a lot of speed and young talent at WR, and a total of 11 players at the position. Several of them will not make the opening day roster. A serious question at the position has to be will Javon Walker?

Don’t be surprised if someone in the Bay Area just happens to chart both Darrius Heyward-Bey and Michael Crabtree’s receptions, yards per catch, yards gained after the catch, total yardage, touchdowns, and dropped passes side by side.

Seeing as he was the first wide receiver drafted and selected in the top 10 to be a number one or go to wide receiver, he will have to put up consecutive 80-catch seasons or better to avoid people glossing him with the bust label. I don’t feel that it is right or fair, but seeing it happen will not surprise me.

He is a talented player that provides QB JaMarcus Russell a deep threat that fits the Raiders scheme and possesses all the tools to be a playmaker in silver and black.

The Raiders made a huge pickup in signing veteran fullback Lorenzo Neal; his blend of experience and toughness will make him a leader on this young team as well as vastly improve the Raiders running game. He has blocked for a total of 11 1,000-yard running backs in his career.

Check out the clips for reference, but disregard the bolts shown.



Several people in the media have taken their shots at Al Davis and the Raiders for the draft as opposed to taking a wait-and-see approach before dooming the drafted players to failure. The fact of the matter is that the draft is in the rearview mirror at this time.

So after the draft, the Raiders signed a group of undrafted free agents to fill the above mentioned needs on the roster in LB Frantz Joseph, DL Desmond Bryant, S Jerome Boyd, LB David Nixon, G Jon Compas, WR Nick Miller, WR Shawn Bayes, and TE Chris O’Neill.

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http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=nNstliEo4Hs    LB Frantz Joseph

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=U-IEZJdPEAM  SS Jerome Boyd

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=kRhZCByOJYw  OLB David Nixon

The only exception was the defensive tackle position, although Desmond Bryant has played both positions on the D-line. This position has been neglected by the Raiders for far too long. To be specific, the Raiders have drafted a total of five defensive tackles in the last 10 years, and none of them are still on the roster.

Coincidently, at a need position, the Raiders have had the top defensive tackle prospect in the draft fall to them for the second year in a row, and Al Davis declined to fill the need—in any round. This means that the Raiders are content with the four defensive tackles currently on the roster.

Head Coach Tom Cable stated the team has good defensive tackles, and at issue is that they haven’t played like it. The statement made could be debatable, based upon past performance, but the need to stop the run isn’t. The Raiders brought back Tommy Kelly, Gerard Warren, William Joseph, and Terdell Sands.

The Raiders are content with the players at the position and these five veteran players are being counted on to get the job done. Terdell Sands reportedly appears to be a lot lighter than last year. My biggest concern on the team is the defensive tackle rotation. If the defensive tackles hold up, the defense has a chance to improve. We’ll have to use a wait-and-see approach on the matter.

The Raiders did add one defensive tackle via free agency, Ryan Boschetti, a little-used undrafted free agent out of UCLA, formerly with the Washington Redskins. He is a tenacious player with size and talent that will not be outworked by anyone.

The Raiders have ranked at or near the bottom of the league at stopping the run for the last six years. This trend has to stop and it appears to be a top goal for the coaches on the defensive side of the ball.

The intriguing news for Raiders fans is it's been rumored that new defensive coordinator John Marshall, through scheme and technique, will address their issues stopping the run and play a more aggressive approach.

This could mean several things, but just to know that the team has decided to stop playing with a conservative approach and plans to dictate to the opponent how the game will be played as opposed to the opposite happening.