The Oakland's team that returns to camp, for the most part, will have a leg up on the players in uniform.
After all, Oakland's players have last year's playbook, and a majority of Oakland's coaching staff is new to the team.
Gone is the Rob Ryan method of stall tactics. All the present defense did was prevent the team from winning. Not all of it could be blamed on Ryan, as the players needed to stop the run that did not exist...or would DeAngelo Hall stop a receiver from making the big play?
Gone, is Greg Knapp, and the questions of who is calling the plays. Overplaying the running game, risking injury and then when the running game is gone, and switching to all passing plays, isn't a case of coaching, it's a case of desperation.
About the largest hole, it will be on special teams. Johnnie Lee Higgins bloomed in the return game, we had Chris Carr for a short time, and you can't forget about the punting and occasional clutch kicking that will be missed.
So, what changes can be expected on the field in 2009?
For one, expect the deep threat. JaMarcus Russell is rumored to be able to throw deep but hasn't had the WRs to exploit this ability. A number of his passing plays that scored last year came from short to mid-field bullets, that the WR broke free with. Getting Darrus Heyward-Bey will bring back memories of Willie Gault or Cliff Branch.
Secondly, imagine a three WR-TE set. You could line up four different depths and let JaMarcus Russell pick a defense apart. At short range, you could see the Raiders hit Zach Miller. Out at 15-20 yards, find Chaz Schilens. Twenty to thirty yards, find Higgins waiting, and if he's open, Darrius Heyward-Bey could be streaking for the end zone. About the only thing that will be needed is to have Russell practice at red zone, as a number of times they would get into touchdown territory, only to settle for three.
Scrapping the Wildcat. I know, last year it caught most of the teams off guard. This year, after a year of everyone watching tape, not a lot of teams will fall for it. A few deep sacks, after several bungled attempts at this offensive action, will put this package in the ground.
On defense, a lot of plays are up in the air. With Gibril Wilson gone, in comes Michael Mitchell or Al Davis's hope for Jack Tatum II. It's anyone's hope that Michael Huff makes good with his one last chance, or they'll ditch him before the season starts.
Our Cornerback defense is an obvious weapon, as it forces other teams to play either the run or risk an interception.
On the line, a lot of people have asked why don't the Raiders blitz as often as the good old days, with Alzado, Howie Long, and company?
If we can play with our safeties up and force the pocket, a player or two should be able to penetrate the pocket. As simple as it sounds, however, the hard part, last year, was getting the player down.
With little updates on the line, I would expect the Raiders defense to remain static up front...but hopefully, Derrick Burgess can get some talking time with John Marshall on this.
So, it could be said that Oakland's players are going to be the best teachers...and the coaches can help fine tune issues as they occur.