Oakland Raiders and Changes: Out With The Old, in With The New...Better?
What a year it has been.
Last year, about this time Oakland was preparing for a season with its hopes hinged on Jamarcus Russell, a late addition of Richard Seymour, and Darrius Heyward-Bey.
As it was, Russell was busy with a drink, or drank, Richard started strong but couldn't lift the defense, and Darrius was suffering, both of his own curse but also with Russell's poor passing ability.
A year later, changes came across the board, from the quarterback change, a new coach in Hue Jackson and a solid draft, Oakland stands a chance to finally turn the page.
Tom Cable Delegates, Hue Jackson Joins The Raiders
When Tom's coaching started to suffer from being over-extended, some consideration was merited to hiring a coach that would both help the offense, but fire them up.
Hue Jackson fit this mold perfectly, verbal and fiery at times, Hue's previous work saw him help Joe Flacco turn from a rookie to a great starter on a team not known for offensive ability.
There also lies the question that if Cable does bungle early in the season, Hue is simply waiting for his turn to move up the chain, should it occur.
Jason Cambpell Traded For, JaMarcus Russell Self-Destructs
Last year, the wheels came off, when Russell again stumbled out of the gate.
Well, for a more proper term, stumbling would mean he went forward...he fell down.
After struggling for several weeks, Tom Cable finally pulled the plug on the Russell Experience and in the offseason the Raiders looked around for several candidates for quarterback including Donovan McNabb.
As it was, by not landing McNabb, the Raiders got the quarterback they wanted, when ex-coach sent Oakland Jason Campbell for a song.
Some might wonder, if part of the McNabb chase was what brought about the trade, giving the Raiders first dibs to Jason, but for whatever reason, the Nation was happy.
Russell was given a short time to try and prove he knew what it meant, being directly challenged in the OTAs after the draft.
Russell lasted three days, and was cut...now he is facing legal issues back home, and Jason has been aiming the team in the right direction.
Oakland Puts Together A Serious Draft, Addressing Most Needs
When April came around, no one knew where the Raiders were going with their picks. Some felt the Raiders would go with Bruce Campbell, a talented but raw offensive tackle, or maybe Jacoby Ford, a speedster that screams Al Davis pick.
As it was, Al Davis got both players...but the Raiders picked both players back in the fourth round.
Oakland shocked people, by making a good choice in the middle, finding Rolando McClain, to help the team against the run. Then they backed up that pick, with Lamarr Houston in the second round, another solid pickup. A third round pick, Jared Veldheer, will start this season, at center.
When it was all said and done, the Raiders drafted and filled in a majority of need positions, and only had one player not make it to the final 53....Stevie Brown is sitting on the Practice squad, waiting to be pulled up.
Oakland Changes With It's Picks, Removes Some Old Favorites
Sometimes change is painful, given in Oakland.
Kirk Morrison, a fierce but undersized player had served Oakland well for several seasons, leading the team in tackles. However, what the stats would fail to show, is that often Kirk would get overpowered, making the tackle three to five yards later, if at all. It also showed in the second-place tackler, was Tyvon Branch.
Kirk played up near the line, Tyvon Branch is deep in the secondary...if Kirk is the first point of contact, Tyvon Branch has to pick up the slack.
Kirk was dealt to the Jacksonville Jaguars, for a fourth round draft pick this year...the Raiders turned this selection into Jacoby Ford.
Speed Kills in Oakland...But In This Case, Speed Shifts to a Higher Gear
Jacoby Ford, termed an 'Al Davis pick' came to Oakland with people trying to figure out what he could do.
Speed. Lots of it.
How about returning kicks or punts?
Last season Johnnie Lee Higgins was looking to build on a strong 2008 season, but in the season opener against the Chargers, he got his bell rung, and hasn't looked the same since. He doesn't seem to accelerate, he seems timid at times.
Could we use him as a WR?
Of course. In training camp he was slowed with an injury, but still performed well, making random catches in a few games.
Ford could be a good weapon in several fields...Johnnie Lee Higgins made the roster..but it's a question on just exactly what either player will do at this stage.
Front and Center
Oakland must feel pretty good about this kid, giving that he went from a Division II school to the starting center in short order.
It also must say something about Oakland, when they released Chris Morris, who started some games last year and Samson Satele was demoted, besides being injured.
Originally thought of as a offensive lineman that would challenge Mario Henderson, Jared showed a talent for adjusting, something that always goes over well for the Raiders.
Will Jared be a long-term solution for the team? Only time will tell.
Some Things Stay The Same
When there is no problem, there shouldn't be any concern, right?
Oakland felt there was no problem with Shane Lechler or Sebastian Janikowski, after all Shane chased the NFL Record around all last year, just falling short.
Seabass in his own right kicked one from over 60 yards out...still don't know how he didn't make the Pro Bowl.
As it was, bringing in Swayze Waters, to handle punting and kicking duties during training camp. He did get spelled from time to time, giving Seabass his opportunity to have some fun...a 57 yard field goal was fun to watch.
Sure enough when the time came for cuts, Waters was out...Oakland still corners the market here.
What Has The AFC West Done Lately?
What may bode best for the Raiders, isn't what they have done, but rather what the other three teams in the AFC West have done to themselves.
First, the Chargers. Oakland had two close games last year, with Darren Sproles beating us late with a touchdown. This offseason, the Raider-killer LT is now on the east coast, while several players have been holding out. One in particular, Vincent Jackson still remains out and there is no end in sight. Some also wonder if the team that Norv Turner adopted is showing it's age...if it does, Oakland might be ready for them.
Second, no team has done more to destroy themselves than the Denver Broncos. Going to last year, new coach McDaniels traded out Jay Cutler, dealt with an unhappy Brandon Marshall and started the season at 6-0.
After falling to 8-8, many wonder what went wrong. As it was, McDaniels wasn't done damaging the team, as they got rid of Marshall, drafted creatively, hanging McDaniels future in Denver on Tim Tebow, who isn't even the starter.
A major injury to Elvis Dumervil, this team looks like the Raiders in 2003...injury-riddled, but long before the season.
Kansas City, hoping to rebuild New England in their own image continued to import, grabbing coaches and looking for more ideas to embrace the ideas that Belichick has done so well for the Patriots.
Now, if they could only talk Robert Kraft into giving them the actual coach and team.
Kansas City did update their Safety position nicely, but it's a guess on if this team will get out of the basement.
After four preseason games, cutting down to 53 players and having the schedule as they do, I see Oakland going 10-6. However to do that, three things have to happen.
They have to win at least one against the Chargers. Home or Road, it doesn't matter.
They have to sweep KC, no question. They play KC the last week of the season, so it would be a nice finish and might even get the Raiders into the playoffs for the first time since 2002.
They have to sweep Denver. Given that Denver's best defensive player is out for the year, Jason Campbell should be safe.
NFL Schedule For 2010
9/12 @ Tenn
9/19 St Louis
9/26 @ Arizona
10/10 San Diego
10/17 @ 49ers
10/24 @ Denver
11/7 Kansas City
11/21 @ Pittsburgh
12/5 @ San Diego
12/12 @ Jacksonville
1/2 @ Kansas City