Trenches Will Elevate Oakland Raiders to AFC West Crown

Dondi Raider@dondiraiderContributor IAugust 25, 2009

DENVER - NOVEMBER 23:  Defensive tackle Tommy Kelly #93 of the Oakland Raiders defends against the Denver Broncos during week 12 NFL action at Invesco Field at Mile High on November 23, 2008 in Denver, Colorado. The Raiders defeated the Broncos 31-10.  (Photo by Doug Pensinger/Getty Images)

In less than a month, the NFL will find out just how much better the 2009 Oakland Raiders are compared to last years’ model. 

The first two preseason games have offered us a glimmer of what will be.  Let’s take a look at the trenches staring with our defensive line.

Our DT’s are better than last year, much better.  Before you go quoting rushing stats of the cowgirls and the whiners, take a laxative.

Let’s start with Kelley.  Last year he had two major obstacles in his way of being the dominant player he will be in '09.  The first obstacle was physical.  He was coming off a blown out knee, which everyone knows takes more than a year for a full recovery for a typical player.  How much longer to recover for a 300lb tackle? 

His second obstacle was psychological twice over.  He had to overcome the mental aspect of blowing out a knee along with the pressure of becoming the highest paid DT in NFL history at the time.  Granted he looked 2008 (average) vs the cowgirls, but he made some highlight plays vs the whiners. 

If you look at the whiners’ first scoring drive to the one yard line, Kelly was NOT ON THE FIELD.  Only when they had first and goal did Kelly come back in.  The D tightened, push back and forced a three rather than seven.

Onto our other big ugly: Warren.  That boy was nonstop pressure, flying around the backfield in both games while he was playing.  By the way, he too joined Kelly on the sideline for the first whiner drive and also returned in time to keep them out of the end zone.  He was our best DT last year and with Kelly’s improvement, he will be that much better in 2009.

The depth will be better with Bryant and Joseph getting more reps and Sands shown the door.  Enough said.

At DE, Ellis is a huge improvement over an injury riddled Burgess and Kalimba Edwards.  Ellis is a true professional, who is LOVING his rebirth at DE after his stint as a 3-4 LB for the cowgirls.  His play thus far is sweet to watch...he’s pressuring the QB’s and should easily surpass his predecessors in that department.

Opposite Ellis, the three youngsters—Scott, Richardson, Gunhiem—along with rookie Shaughnessy, will improve with experience and having a tutor like Ellis.  Let’s not forget that we have a new DL coach in Dwayne Board, who has been successful in his previous coaching experience.

Moving to the other side of the ball, the offensive line will be outstanding!  Two games ONE sack (do not count JaMarcus falling down on his own as OL issue)!!!  They have handled the blitzes very well compared to last year resulting in a legit NFL passing game.  The run blocking will also turn it up a few notches from 2008.

Super Mario has been just that—super.  Gallery is a pro bowl season waiting to happen.  Satelle is beginning to figure out the ZBS.  Carlisle is steady, again.  Cornell Green and his penalties will be long gone as soon as we get Kalif Barnes back.

Depth is much better as evidenced by the sack stat mentioned earlier.  Mc Quistan is back from IR along with Pears, a former starter from the donks for a huge upgrade there alone.  Wade basically had a year off last year to heal his body and Morris is just getting better all the time. 

It also happens to be the third year in Cables’ ZBS—finally some continuity. 

Clearly upgrades across both lines.  It’s been said that the trenches determine who wins most games.  If this holds true, the 2009 Oakland Raiders should be just fine.


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