Oakland Raiders: Are We There Yet?

Carl CockerhamSenior Analyst IJune 19, 2010

OAKLAND, CA - JANUARY 03:  Nnamdi Asomugha #21 of the Oakland Raiders sits on the bench against the Baltimore Ravens during an NFL game at Oakland-Alameda County Coliseum on January 3, 2010 in Oakland, California.  (Photo by Jed Jacobsohn/Getty Images)
Jed Jacobsohn/Getty Images

The Oakland Raiders version of "Are We There Yet?" is a drama about Raider Nation's journey to get there after seven horrible years. It's far from Ice Cube's sitcom.

However, the happier part of the drama is coming. I've seen many articles of how the Raiders have come back into prominence.

I'm guilty of joining this party as I wrote articles arguing we could win the AFC due to weaker competition. I have since settled down a bit.

The Chargers are still the clear-cut favorites to win the AFC West. But they have two important players likely to sit out next season until Week Ten.

Meanwhile, the Raiders have had a great offseason. The draft and free agency has given them just about everything they could want.

I say just about because the Raiders still have issues. Raider Nation has rightfully celebrated the Raider's recent aquisitions and improvement but they are not there yet.

What still needs improving?

Not the kicking game but let's take a look at the team and see.

The defensive secondary is now solid. It just might end up being a special unit.

Nnamdi Asomugha is the best corner in the game period. He was thrown at only 28 teams last year and he's still in his prime.

Chris Johnson will be on the other side at corner. He will come back with a good year after courageously fighting a knee injury last year.

Huff has stayed the course and had a breakthrough year at his natural position of free safety. He should have a breakout year as he returns at free safety.

Tyvon Branch was a beast last year leading all safeties in tackles. He is also fast with improving coverage skills. That will serve him well this year.

The Raider linebacking corps has been revamped. First round pick Rolando McClain is the run stopping portion in the middle.

Both linebcker spots are occupied by hybrids that fit Defensive Coordinator John Marshall's elephant scheme. That's a scheme that has a defensive end stand up and possibly switch responsibilities with the outside linebacker.

2008 late round gem Trevor Scott is due to break out this season in his first year as a starter. In only 6 career starts he has amassed 12 sacks.

Add former first round pick Kamerion Wimbley to the fold. His sack totals have dropped  since his 11 sack rookie year but he still puts pressure on the QB. Not being his team's lone pass-rush threat should bring those sack totals right back up.

Former Jaguar Quenton Groves was brought in from Jacksonville for depth. It is reported that he is explosive coming off the edge as an end. Perhaps that's where he'll spend most of his time.

Speaking of defensive end, the Raiders will be led by Richard Seymour. He plays the run well and can rush the passer from the edge or inside at tackle.

The men put around him should keep the double and triple-teams away. Look for a better statistical season from him.

That leads us to the Raider's latest big free agent signing. "Big" John Henderson is now in Oakland to help the Raiders stop the run. Enough said.

Then there is Tommy Kelly. He's been a bit of a disappointment since he got that big contract but should do at least some damage now that he has help.

Be on the watch for Lamarr Houston. Houston was a defensive tackle that had better production than early first round pick Gerald McCoy in the same conference. The athletic Houston will be moved to end. 

The aforementioned Groves along with Matt Shaughnessy will give the Raiders depth at defensive end. The Raider's defensive line is now a well assembled group.

On offensem the Raiders' receivers are a young but explosive group. The three main wideouts are all 4.3 and under in the 40 yard dash.

Chaz Schillens is the best one of the group. He's 6'4, 225 lbs and he's physical. He has reliable hands as well. Staying healthy is his only question mark.

Louis Murphy did have some trouble hanging on to the ball but he did improve. He was also a big play waiting to happen last season. Raider Nation should be excited to see what he does this season.

Darrius Heyward-Bey appears to be new and improved in OTAs and mini-camps. Many called him a reach as he looks to prove them wrong with newly found hands to go with that blazing speed. With a name like Heyward-Bey, where else should he play?

The "Jam Master Jay and Run-DMC" backfield is now intact. Running backs Michael Bush (Run) and Darren McFadden (DMC) should provide thunder and lightning. Jason Campbell (Jam Master Jay) will give the Raiders a legitamate NFL quarterback.

We're almost there but it stops at the offensive line. All the weapons I just covered won't get a chance to do much until this unit is fully fixed.

The Raiders appeared to have addressed it during the draft but did they really?

Projects can work out great but we have a team ready to go somewhere now. We need lineman that can play now. Otherwise, "Jam Master Jay and Run-DMC" will be broken up. Literally.

Left tackle Mario Henderson has mixed reviews (one good year, one bad). Raider Nation needs a man that we know will protect "Jam Master Jay's" backside!

Robert Gallery can be a Pro Bowl guard if he can stay fit. His injury was partly the cause of the offensive line's struggles last season.

Center Samson Satele came in and struggled last year. It was attributed to the complications of the zone-blocking system. He also struggled with large nosetackles.

What will he do when he sees Aubrayo Franklin of the 49ers and Casey Hampton of the Steelers. If the Raiders make the playoffs, he will probably have to see Haloti Ngata.

Copper Carlisle looks to be about done. I wouldn't be surprised if he's cut in training camp.

Raider Nation is more than happy to see the departure of Cornell Green. He is now Buffalo's problem.

We actually got a former second round pick and homeboy to come back and replace him. The 6'8 360 lb Langston Walker is back home and reports are that he looks good.

I don't know what that means without pads on but he was solid in Buffalo. Walker was then mysteriously cut after being moved to left tackle. He actually played well at guard in relief of the injured Gallery late last season.

Bruce Campbell is a fourth round athletic freak much like Gallery. I'm sure he is ready to come in and do better than Carlisle did last season. If not, the Raiders have already moved Khalif Barnes to guard.

This leaves us weak at two important positions on our offensive line. Unnecessarily,as there are two unhappy rival players who can be snapped up.

Jared Gaither is a perfect fit at left tackle. The athletic 6'9, 340 lb beast was moved to right tackle as Michael Ohr was by the Baltimore Ravens.

Gaither only allowed 7 sacks in 27 games at left tackle. Only one of those was considered to be a one on one whuppin' by the defensive lineman.

He was also dominant in the running game. He was the point of attack on 300 running plays and won his block on 255 of them for 85 percent.

I thought that Davis was sure to get the Outland Trophy winner when he came out in the supplemental draft in 2007. He had the size and physicality that Davis loves but it didn't happen.

It's not too late Al! The Ravens can't ask for much on an unhappily tendered player. They need secondary help so Stanford Routt with a late round pick makes sense.

Then there is Pro Bowl guard Logan Mankins. The Raiders have options at guard but the 6'4, 310 pounder can play center. He can handle large nosetackles too.

Mankins appears unwilling to suit up for the Patriots again so a fourth rounder is probably the most they could ask for him. That would even things out for the Randy Moss trade.

If Mankins and Gaither can't fit the zone-blocking scheme, change the scheme. Last year proved that players trump scheme on the offensive line. The Raiders are already going to power-blocking for some of the plays anyway.

The Oakland Raiders are almost there!

They're just two players away.


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