Oakland Raiders Positional Battles: Let the Competition Begin

Pat CowanCorrespondent IJune 27, 2009

OAKLAND, CA - OCTOBER 19:  Brett Favre #4 of the New York Jets is sacked by Trevor Scott #91 of the Oakland Raiders during an NFL game on October 19, 2008 at the Oakland-Alameda County Coliseum in Oakland, California.  (Photo by Jed Jacobsohn/Getty Images)

It's been a strange offseason in Oakland. In the past, superstar/prima donna's with character issues have found a huge payday waiting for them in Oaktown.

After they would sign, we would sit back and watch their lackluster efforts for an entire season, their inflated salary and reputation guaranteed that, despite their hideous numbers, they would start every week. 

After that player retires or moves on, they don't miss the opportunity to throw the organization under the bus to explain their poor performance during their stay. The next year, another high profile player would be plugged in and underachieve like the one before.

The collateral damage was evident in the players who were drafted. Behind these prima donnas, the players were learning nothing about what it took to be a starter in the league, how hard they would have to work to achieve success.

And so it went for six long years...

In the last six years their have been only three exceptions. Nnamdi Asomougha, Justin Fargas, and Robert Gallery (whose numbers are Pro Bowl worthy, yet somehow Gallery still carries the bust label).

Not only did all three work their asses off to shed the bust label, but they became an example of the toughness that it takes to turn a franchise around, but it still wasn't enough.

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Tom Cable became a coach through the same diligence as Asomougha, Fargas, and Gallery showed. With Pro Bowler Shane Lechler on special teams, a common thread was now shared in all three phases of the game, as well as the coaching staff.

Already, in OTAs, the competition is fierce. Defensive tackle Terdell Sands has heard the footsteps of offseason acquisition Ryan Boschetti and drafted "tweener" Matt Shaugnessy. Sands showed up at OTA's in the best shape in years.

Micheal Huff seems to be making a valiant effort, but to no avail. He still is a step behind and will likely not see the field in Oakland. Incumbent Hiram Eugene, along with Tyvon Branch, are looking over their shoulders at Mike Mitchell, whose college highlight reel consists of almost seven minutes of attempted murder on anyone who touched the ball.

Controversial draft pick Darrius Heyward-Bey and fourth rounder Louis Murphy have given Javon Walker a wake up call. Walker is finally taking the steps to return to prominence and should be healthy for the first time in years.

Quarterback Andrew Walter has shown nothing but contempt for the Silver and Black since being benched in '06, and with the signings Jeff Garcia, Charlie Frye, and Bruce Gradkowski, JaMarcus Russell no longer can afford to think that he is irreplaceable at any point.

The offensive line was the biggest focus in the free agent market. Khalliff Barnes and Eric Pears Will, at the very least, provide the depth that the line has been lacking, but Cornell Greene, Mario Henderson and Cooper Carlisle will have to have a great camp if they intend on retaining their starting roles.

It's been a long time since the Raider fans have looked at a roster with this much depth. For once we can look beyond the starters to the developing talent. Injuries are a part of the game and to know that their are players that can step in and be effective has given Raider Nation a comfortable feeling.

Cable has collected a team of overachievers and talent that has been hidden in obscurity. Cable has created an atmosphere that will hold the players accountable in their  preparation.

Cable has a passion for football and bleeds Silver and Black and the players that have lost their love for the game will have to dig deep and find it again or give way. No more free rides.

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