Shoulder pads to build on
The 2009 season was difficult for Raider fans to endure. The quarterback play was horrific for nine games. The offensive line was fragile and inconsistent. The defense couldn't stop the run or tackle in the open field.
It wasn't a total loss though. There were some bright spots as well. We witnessed the emergence of some good young talent and the maturation of some others.
Zach Miller is an elite receiving TE in the league and seems to improve by the minute. He once again led the team in receptions and yards. If he continues to mature at his current pace, he will reach the stratosphere!
Mentioning him with names like Dave Casper, Kellen Winslow Sr., and Tony Gonzalez seems a little crazy this early in his career, but it is not out of the realm of possibility with this guy.
Decent size, great hands, a willingness to learn and most importantly…a HUGE heart, all contribute to the making of a big time player. There is no doubt in my mind that he will continue to grow and produce.
He could use some improvement with his blocking skills and identification of the defense before the ball is snapped. That will come with time; time to better understand angles and being able to read what the defense is trying to do to him.
As long as he gets help from the quarterback play, offensive line play and game planning, he should be starting Pro-Bowls in the near future.
Michael Bush is blossoming into a reliable and quality back. His vision to see and exploit running lanes has improved over what he showed in college and there is no doubt that he is willing to finish his runs and deliver punishment.
He still gets a little lost in a clogged line and seems to not know when to give up the hole and look to bounce outside or find a cut back lane. He is either waiting too long and gets swallowed in the pile, or bails too soon and misses an opportunity.
His pass blocking is a little suspect and his reads on option/outlet routes needs some work as well. With time I’m sure all of these minor issues will improve because he has shown the effort and desire to be great.
I like his progress and I’m certain he will become an elite back in the NFL before too long. In fact, with some patience from the fans, coaches and himself, he could be dominant. Check that…WILL be dominant!
Louis Murphy started strong then hit a bit of a wall, but fought through the all the turmoil and nearly broke out. He will only get better as time goes on and should have a chance to break out next year.
Early on, he showed good technique catching the ball with his hands away from his body and made decent reads. When he got his reads and routes right, he got open and for the most part, caught the ball.
Having to learn the playbook may have caused his fundamentals to suffer a bit in the middle of the season. He began allowing the ball to get to his body and running before correctly securing the ball.
He’s not quite as explosive as I expected him to be in the open field with the ball in his hands and unfortunately, as Russell floundered, so did Louis’ production. After the change at QB, he reemerged.
The game in Pittsburgh was a sample of what we should be able to expect from him in the near future. He hasn’t started all that strong, but once he figures it out…look out! Let’s hope he gets the consistent coaching, (and QB play) he needs.
If he does, he could be a force to confront for opposing secondaries!
Chaz Shilllens was lighting it up in the preseason. He showed the ability to make catches in traffic, take the hit and hang on to the ball. He also displayed a rare knack for making the circus catch.
When he has the ball, he doesn't like to go down. He works hard to get extra yards. That shows a fire that can't be coached.
He has field awareness is far beyond his experience and understands where he is supposed to be on any given play. He makes good reads and adjustments, never catching the ball short of the marker on third down.
I see him as a future Herman Moore or Jimmy Smith type player. The type of player that isn’t a real deep threat, but you better cover him because he’ll catch everything you throw to him and move the chains.
If he can stay healthy, he could become a great possession receiver.
Remember, the performance all of these players hinges on the quarterback and offensive line play. If those two areas are not addressed in the off-season, all this talent will be wasted...yet again.