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Oakland Raiders Turn Corner in 2010

Derek Estes@NotacowCorrespondent IAugust 18, 2010

"Praise from an enemy is the most pleasing of all commendations," Sir Richard Steele.

Well, if that's true, the Oakland fans had better listen up.

Because first off, I’m a Raider Hater.

And it’s not just because I’m from the Midwest, or because I think spiked shoulder pads clash with my shoes.  I’m a all-out, dyed-in-the-wool, to the core Raider Hater.

No, seriously.  I was dancing in my living room when Marcus Allen became a Chief and think Al Davis should be hosting “Tales From the Crypt” instead of running a NFL team.  Second dates have been cancelled because they were Oakland fans.  For crying out loud, I made a Chiefs blanket for my son this spring, and won't even be born until October.

So when I say the Raiders are turning the corner and will be a threat in the AFC West this year, I want you to understand my full meaning.

Oakland has been the joke of the NFL the last few years. Even when Detroit went through their 0-16 season, I’m betting Lions players looked in the mirror and said, “Well, at least I’m not playing for the Raiders.” Between the revolving door of coaches, Randy Hanson's broken jaw, and a laughable history in player management that has netted only four Pro Bowl players in the last seven years, Oakland has been the poster child for dysfunction the better part of the last decade.

But that’s all starting to change, and teams on their schedule should pay heed to the Silver and Black. 

Oakland has done well locking in the talent already on their roster.  Regardless of the money spent on him, cornerback Nmandi Asomugha is one of the best cornerbacks in the league, and an amazing personality to boot.  Robert Gallery, while a bust at tackle, has been a solid performer at guard. Linebacker Thomas Howard has been a reliable tackling machine on the outside, though it looks like he might shift to a reserve role as 2008 6th round pick Trevor Scott pushes for the starting role.  Scott, a former defensive end, put up an impressive 43 tackles and seven sacks last year, despite only starting six games (Thanks, Raider fans; this guy wasn't even on my radar until now). And while Darren McFadden has yet to produce as expected, former fourth-round pick Michael Bush has shown flashes of talent to make teams regret passing on him in the 2007 draft.

Then, in true Davis fashion, Oakland attacked trade options over the last two years.  Richard Seymour's price tag may be coming due soon (a 2011 first round pick), but Oakland can certainly cash in on his aggressiveness and experience now. 

And draft day should have been trade day, as Oakland parted ways with linebacker Kirk Morrison, but added linebacker Kamerion Wimbley and quarterback Jason Campbell in the process - all for the combined price of one third and one fifth round pick.  Wimbley was one of the best players on Cleveland's subpar roster, while Campbell became the goat in Washington despite an 86.4 quarterback rating and 20 to 15 TD/INT ration in 2009. Even without going into the whole failed JaMarcus Russell experiment, Campbell has a great arm, starting experience and, most importantly, something to prove.

The 2010 Draft brought more than a handful of trades, though. Denver and Oakland almost crushed my joy in the draft this year by picking Tim Tebow and Rolando McClain.  But while Tebow will likely need a few years to produce in the league, McClain is a complete prospect who will contribute big on the field this year. A proven defensive field general for the Crimson Tide, McClain controls the middle of the field with authority. And coupled with Wimbley, Scott, and Howard, Oakland could very likely have one of the best linebacking corps in the league this year.

Oakland didn't stop there, either. Lamarr Houston has all the tools to dominate at defensive end, particularly while playing alongside Seymour. And with offensive tackles Jared Veldheer and Bruce Campbell tagged in the third and fourth rounds, Oakland put together a stellar top end of their draft.  Veldheer is considered a prospect with a huge upside, while Campbell projected well above his fourth round selection.

The biggest thing going for Oakland right now, though, is the increasing quality of character and leadership, and I've got to say it's killing me right now.  Asomugha is one of the most active humanitarians in the NFL today; his selection as the Walter Payton Man of the Year is only a matter of when, not if.  Seymour not only has Super Bowl experience, but was one of the leaders of a true NFL dynasty in New England.  McClain was a team captain for Alabama and has turned heads with his maturity throughout his career.

I'd almost say I could find myself rooting for Oakland with the type of people they've been bringing in... but I'm pretty sure Hell would freeze over first.

The Raiders still have a ways to go before they find themselves playing games in late January.  But for the first time in a while, the light is at the end of the tunnel for Oakland fans.

The Commitment to Excellence is back in Oakland, and the rest of the NFL should beware.

(Photo Found on ESPN.com)

 

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