Oakland Raiders: Nnamdi Asomugha, 9 Other Raiders Who Will Make or Break 2011
After the previous seven years of futility, 2010 was a year that showed the Raiders just might turning the corner. They finished the season at 8-8 and seemed to be only two plays away from a 10-6 record and the playoffs.
A third play could have had the Raiders at 11-5.
The Raiders got some break through performances in 2010 by players they had big hopes for. They also got some solid performances by young players while there were other players that were slowed by injuries.
2011 is a year of big hopes for the Raiders coming off a .500 season with a bunch of young players. There are a few Raiders that it looks like these big hopes are hinged upon.
Turn the page to see who these Raiders are.
Jared Veldheer as of now seems to be the entrenched starter at left tackle for the Oakland Raiders. This is a real make or break situation as left tackle is a huge key for the Raiders if they want to get their vertical game off.
In 2010 Veldheer got plenty of praise while showing no signs of becoming a franchise left tackle. Sacks allowed isn't an official stat but there are some that have him giving up 10 sacks while others have him at 7.5.
The fact that he had only 11 starts tells me that Veldheer had a horrible rookie season in 2010. Mario Henderson either allowed one sack less or 1.5 more sacks in five more starts in 2009.
Veldheer was often the beneficiary of chipping and an extra tight end on his side at that. Many in Raider Nation want to give him a pass for being a small school rookie but there are no handicaps in football.
He can develop his feet but his arms aren't going to grow any longer as he will have to face the speed of Clay Mathews Jr. and the length of Julius Peppers in 2011. Johnathan Ogden had short arms too but he was a much more fluid athlete with much faster hand punch than Veldheer so he didn't get his hands slapped down.
I have suggested the Raiders bring in a more proven guy for left tackle and move Veldheer to center. This is because the Raiders need a guy to dominate his man to give quarterback Jason Campbell extra time to find his vertical routes.
But as off now, Veldheer is make or break for the Raiders at left tackle in 2011.
The Raiders have allowed too much pressure up the middle as well as outside over the years. The running game even suffered in 2010 as Samson Satele was often seen being pushed into the backfield.
But in 2010, the Raider's running game made a big resurgence and Satele was given credit for improving. The Raiders at this time are rumored to not being too concerned about the center position because of Satele's improvement.
I can't get myself to be that excited about Satele for 2011 in his make or break position.
Because the nose tackles of the AFC West weren't very good last year.
Three of the worst games the Raiders had on offense in 2010 were against the Dolphins, Steelers, and 49ers.
What did these three teams have in common?
They had big, beastly nose tackles.
Satele didn't fare too well against Casey Hampton, (Steelers) Paul Soliai, (Dolphins) and Aubrayo Franklin (49ers) In 2010, he will see Soliai again along with Vince Wilfork, (Patriots) B.J. Raji, (Packers) and Shaun Rogers (Browns).
We can't forget that the AFC West teams will be drafting nose tackles this year.
Satele is looking like a huge make or break next year.
Every first round middle linebacker is a make or break player on a given football team. The fact that the Raiders have been around the bottom of the league in run defense for the last eight years intensifies it.
McClain has so far at least brought a physical presence to the Raider defense that is was lacking. In the process he had to learn the middle linebacker position in the 4-3 defense as well as the NFL game.
McClain did show signs of getting it down the stretch of his rookie season. However, the Raiders were No. 29 against the run for the second straight year so his improvement is needed for the Raiders in 2011.
Stopping the run will be vital the Raiders in 2011.
Stanford Routt is big time make or break for the Raiders in 2011.
His new contract says so in itself.
If he replaces Nnamdi Asomugha, the pressure will be on him to replace a legendary Raider corner. If Asomugha stays, the pressure will be even more intense as he will continue to be picked on.
Routt was up to the task in 2011 as his burn percentage was tied with Asomugha for third in the league at 39.4. He had the most attempt towards him with 99 than anyone in the top 10 in burn percentage.
He gave up only one more touchdown than Darrelle Revis after being thrown at almost twice as much.
After showing he's worthy of playing opposite Asomugha in 2010, 2011 is make or break.
One of the reasons for the Raiders' turnaround in 2010 was their ability to pressure the quarterback. They sacked the quarterback 10 more times than in 2009 to tie for second in the league in that category.
This led to a jump to No. 2 from No. 7 in pass defense and and to No. 11 from No 26 in total defense. Kamerion Wimbley is a former first round draft pick that seems to have reclaimed his career in Oakland to help make that happen.
He led all 4-3 outside linebackers in sacks with 9.5 despite the Raiders' get there with four strategy. Wimbley was also solid in setting his edge in the run game as well as in pass coverage for the Raiders' defense.
The Raiders have just used their franchise tag to keep Wimbley for around $11 million in 2011. For that money, the Raiders need for Wimbley to play as he did in 2010 and his 11 sack rookie year.
What he did in between times will not safice.
Whoever plays corner with Routt for the Raiders will depend on his pressure.
The Raiders haven't went out and got a possession receiver yet so Chaz Schilens is a make or break player. Schilens is 6'4", 225 pounds, runs a sub 4.4 forty yard dash, can jump out of a stadium, and catches everything.
So what's the problem?
His health has been the problem.
He has missed the better part of all three of his NFL seasons due to injury.
The good part of this for Schilens is that this is the first offseason since he's entered the league that he doesn't have to have surgery. I can't help but think that will help him stay healthy in 2011 as it was usually lingering affects from offseason surgeries that held him down.
If Schilens can stay healthy in 2011, look for the Raiders to have the top offense in the league. He will set the Raiders off with a possession receiver to go along with the tight end, deep threats, and running game.
Don't forget he's a deep threat too.
The "Awesome one" has always been there for the Silver and Black and has been the best football player on the team over the years.
So why is he make or break?
He is make or break because he is a free agent that absolutely needs to be signed by the Raiders. If the Raiders are to go to the playoffs and do any damage, Asomugha will have to play and play well for the Raiders.
Taking receivers away in a quarterback driven league is key.
Raider owner Al Davis needs to open up that checkbook!
Darren McFadden finally stayed healthy just enough to play like an elite running back in 2010. He was fourth in the league in rushing and second among running backs in total yards despite missing 2.5 games.
McFadden will get his chance in to prove that he can stay healthy in 2011 and that 2010 was no fluke. This man is a special talent that rarely comes along and can carry any NFL offense on his back when healthy.
Sure, the quarterback is the most important player on the team but McFadden and all of his skills is still a Raiders' make or break player on offense.
McFadden is the best player on the Raider offense but Jason Campbell is the number one make or break player.
Why is that?
The NFL is a quarterback driven league.
Also, no one player can screw up an NFL team like a quarterback can.
But that doesn't appear to be what Campbell is going to do as he got used to his surroundings and improved throughout 2010. 2011 will be Campbell's first year with the same offensive system back to back years if there is one.
Add to that the fact that he gets a familiar face in Saunders from his days in Washington.
It's right there for Campbell to show why Davis traded for him.
In 2009, the Raiders were No. 31 in total offense and points scored.
Enter Hue Jackson and the Raiders make a meteoric jump to No. 10 in total offense and No. 6 in points scored. This jump is what got Jackson his well deserved promotion from offensive coordinator to head coach.
So what makes this make or break?
The pressure will be on to replace Tom Cable as he was somehow given credit throughout the media for the Raiders turnaround. All of the coaching changes the Raiders have gone through since Jon Gruden will also have Jackson under the heat lamp.
Then when a coordinator takes over as head coach, the unit he was in charge of usually suffers. Plus you have to wonder if Jackson's improvement of the offense is a flash in the pan type of deal that the league will catch up to.
But this make or break isn't much to worry about.
Al Saunders has come to the Raiders to coordinate the offense while Jackson takes over the team.
Players like Zach Miller and Richard Seymour are players that you know are going be there when it matters. Therefore I'm not putting them in the make or break category as they have done well in the Raiders dark days.
Michael Huff is a player that started to catch on in 2010 that the Raiders just might lose as well. But he is replaceable enough to leave of the list as free safety isn't a make or break position for the Raiders anyway.
The aforementioned players on the list have made a big impact just in last year's season or have yet to make that big impact due to injury. A lot of these players are hugely compensated to go with the hopes that are tied to them.
One thing is for sure.
The aforementioned players must come through for Raiders to succeed in 2011.
What is success?
Playoffs and beyond!