As per the usual the Raiders were one of the more entertaining franchises to follow in 2008.
And again, it wasn't for their successes on the field, but rather their ageless owner and his usual entertaining moments.
The main topic at hand was the job status of coach Lane Kiffin, who Davis generally despised and attempted to get rid of in a variance of methods one would expect to see on a re-run of Seinfeld.
Ultimately, the coach was fired, a press conference was issued from the mysterious Davis himself, and even more people began to wonder out loud just what direction this once proud franchise was taking under his watch.
The enigmatic Raiders started the season in much the same manner they had started the past several seasons. Blowing games in the waning minutes of the game, like they did against Buffalo and San Diego, or flat getting blown out, like they did in the opening game against Denver and contests against New Orleans and Baltimore.
The Lane Kiffin saga would finally end after the loss against the aforementioned Chargers and interim head coach Tom Cable would take over the rest of the way.
Despite the drama that never disappointed the casual onlooking fan, the Raiders did for the first time since the Jon Gruden years, show signs of progress as a team under Cable.
Jamarcus Russell, with all his critics, managed to string together a 2-game winning streak to close the season with victories coming against upstart Houston and Gruden's Tampa Bay squad. But despite these efforts, Russell's play still was extremely up and down and at times seemed very held back by offensive coordinator Greg Knapp.
In the last three games of the year, Russell would throw for six touchdowns to only two interceptions. However in the other 12 games he would start in 2008, Russell would only account for a very pedestrian seven touchdown passes with six interceptions.
The young Raider quarterback may have been restrained by his coaching staff because of the lack of weapons the team would have at wide receiver.
Free agent acquisition Javon Walker would be one of the worst free agent signings in recent memory, possibly only overshadowed by his teammate DeAngelo Hall, and Johnnie Lee Higgins would lead all Raider receivers with 366 yards on just 22 receptions.
Or to put it even worse, first round pick Darren McFadden's 285 yards on 29 grabs would outshine every Raider wide receiver but Higgins in the receiving category. It should be no surprise the Raiders passing offense ranked dead last in the league a season ago.
Needless to say, without tight end Zach Miller (778 yards), the Raiders passing game would be one of the worst offensive units in recent memory. Which in a way makes what they did rushing the football so impressive.
With a less than stellar (and that's being extremely kind) offensive line, the three headed monster of Justin Fargas, Darren McFadden and Michael Bush were able to rush for 1773 yards combined and 8 touchdowns.
With all their struggles on offense, it should be no surprise that the Raiders defense was on the field way too much and as a result, would break down over the course of a 60 minute ball game. Nmandi Asomugha continued to showcase himself as the leagues premier shutdown corner, but the rest of the Raider defense was marginal at best in 2008. The defense would wind up finishing the year 27th overall, giving up 24 points a contest. And while the Asomugha lead secondary would finish 10th overall against the pass, teams would have little reason to throw the ball against the Raiders as their run defense ranked 31st overall in the league last year with only the 0-16 Lions claiming a worse effort at defending the run.
2009 Free Agency Additions:
FB Lorenzo Neal (Baltimore)
DE Greg Ellis (Dallas)
OT Khalif Barnes (Jacksonville)
QB Jeff Garcia (Tampa Bay)
S Keith Davis (Dallas)
WR Will Franklin (Detroit)
RB Gary Russell (Cincinnati)
OT Erik Pears (Denver)
DT Ryan Boschetti (Washington)
G Marcus Johnson (Minnesota)
QB Charlie Frye (Seattle)
QB Bruce Gradkowski (Cleveland)
2009 Trade Acquisitions:
2009 Offseason Departures:
S Gibril Wilson (Miami)
C Jake Grove (Miami)
WR Ronald Curry (Detroit)
S Rashad Baker (Philadelphia)
FB Justin Griffith (Seattle)
LB Robert Thomas (Washington)
WR Ashley Lelie (Unsigned)
OT Kwame Harris (Unsigned)
QB Marques Tuiasosopo (Unsigned)
DE Greg Spires (Unsigned)
2009 NFL Draft:
1-7. Darrius Heyward-Bey, WR, Maryland
2-47. Michael Mitchell, SS, Ohio
3-71. Matt Shaughnessy, DE, Wisconsin
4-124. Louis Murphy, WR, Florida
4-126. Slade Norris, OLB, Oregon State
6-199. Stryker Sulak, DE, Missouri
6-202. Brandon Myers, TE, Iowa
Amazingly enough, Tom Cable was retained by Al Davis, maybe more or less because no one else wanted the job and Al just gave up, nonetheless Cable inherits the daunting task of trying to turn around a franchise that has finished with no more than 5 wins in a season
since they were decimated by the Buccaneers in the Super Bowl.
In an effort to jump start a cumbersome passing attack, the Raiders used their first round draft pick on wide receiver Darrius Heyward-Bey, a pick that was criticized heavily by roughly everyone but Raider fans themselves. Heyward-Bey will definitely give the Raiders a target that has speed to burn, but he is still an incredibly raw player and when the only other wide receivers added to the worst passing offense in the league were Louis Murphy, a fourth round selection out of Florida, and Will Franklin, a free agent acquisition from the 0-16 Lions - well, it's hard to really peg what exactly the Raiders would like to do here. It should be noted tight end Zach Miller is quietly establishing himself as one of the more underrated players at that position, and could very well be the only reliable passing target the Raiders have on the roster.
Jamarcus Russell should remain the starting quarterback for now, but will be pushed in camp and the preseason by veteran Jeff Garcia, formerly of the Buccaneers. Russell or Garcia will likely lean heavily on the rushing attack of Justin Fargas, Darren McFadden, and Michael Bush yet again. The rushing attack could even be more formidable with the addition of blocker Lorenzo Neal. In addition to signing Neal, the Raiders also let Kwame Harris go unsigned in free agency and will replace him with former Jags left tackle Khalif Barnes.
Defensively, as mentioned previously, the Raiders strength is in their secondary where Nmandi Asomugha and Chris Johnson are a very effective tandem. The Raiders also signed Keith Davis and used their 47th overall selection on Michael Mitchell out of Ohio to fill the vacated hole left behind by cap-causality Gibril Wilson.
Mitchell's pick, much like Heyward-Bey, came as a shock to many as he was not even projected to go higher than Round Six by many draft pundits, and some even had Mitchell go undrafted.
However, the Raiders weakness defending the run could be a major issue yet again. The $67.5 million dollar combo of Tommy Kelly and Terdell Sands has been nothing short of a disaster and the Raiders did not really address this in the offseason.
Derrick Burgess is aging and was said to be on the trade block leading up to the draft, and he may very well lose his starting spot to Trevor Scott. Late free-agent addition Greg Ellis will likely line up at the other defensive end position.
The linebacking corps will be lead once again by underrated standout Kirk Morrison. Thomas Howard, Jon Alston and rookie Slade Norris round out the rest of the Raiders linebacking crew.
|Mon 9/14||San Diego|
|Sun 9/20||at Kansas City|
|Sun 10/4||at Houston|
|Sun 10/11||at NY Giants|
|Sun 10/25||NY Jets|
|Sun 11/1||at San Diego|
|Sun 11/15||Kansas City|
|Thu 11/26||at Dallas|
|Sun 12/6||at Pittsburgh|
|Sun 12/20||at Denver|
|Sun 12/27||at Cleveland|