Oakland Raiders: Players to Watch Monday Night vs Denver Broncos

Jimmy HalCorrespondent IIISeptember 9, 2011

Oakland Raiders: Players to Watch Monday Night vs Denver Broncos

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    As Monday Night Football approaches, you can feel the autumn wind breeze. The Oakland Raiders are coming off their most productive season in 2010 and are now trying to prove it was not a fluke. As fans, optimism has never been higher. You can feel the silver and black in your blood boiling for a Bronco beat-down on the national stage. It doesn't get much better than this moment right now.

    The Raiders had some offseason losses and some preseason struggles, but we still feel as if this team is on the verge of a playoff berth, and we all know that if you can get into the playoffs, you have a chance for that championship ring. How great would it feel for the Raiders to open the 2012 season as NFL champs and have Al Michaels announce that game. Maybe I'm getting ahead of myself, but revenge would be sweet.

    Regardless of how this season ends, if the Raiders are going to make a playoff push, they are going to need key players to step up and be a legitimate impact for the team, and their auditions start on Monday Night Football.

Darren McFadden

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    There is not much to say about Darren McFadden. So it would be a waste to spend so much time on this particular slide. What McFadden did to the Broncos in 2010 will go down in Raider history right along side Ronald Curry's one handed grab in the snow of 2004.

    I'm not worried about McFadden in this game too much in terms of production. I think Hue Jackson is going to use McFadden in a way that gets Denver off guard. My only question is: how long will it take for McFadden to really get started?

    With no preseason carries, McFadden is coming into Week 1 completely fresh. Will his first hit shake him up? Or will he embrace the contact like he did all season during 2010?

    Denver has improved defensively, but I think they still are vulnerable against the run and their secondary is beginning to age with Champ Bailey and Brian Dawkins, though they are still formidable foes.

    McFadden may have a big day in the air as well as the ground.

Jared Veldheer

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    With the exception of Jason Campbell, I think Veldheer may be the most improved player from last year coming into 2011. I have never seen a player who struggled against speed rushers decide to add fifteen pounds to his frame and, instead of losing speed, seem to get faster.

    Veldheer was a bright spot in the preseason. He handled his side of the line the way top-notch left tackles should, with strength, speed and, most of all, discipline.

    There has been some mixed emotions amongst fans when it comes to Veldheer. Some believe in him, and some are skeptical. Though Veldheer gave up quite a few in limited starts, in my opinion he showed an upside that we have not seen at that position in quite some time. The kind of upside Mario Henderson was supposed to have, and Kwame Harris before him.

    Now Veldheer will face a number of top tier pass rushers, and it starts Monday Night. Broncos defensive end Elvis Dumerville is coming off injury and is looking pretty good. I do not think Dumerville will be Veldheer's greatest challenge in 2012, but he will be his most unique.

    At 5-foot-10, Dumerville has an advantage over the 6-foot-8 Veldheer when it comes to leverage. Is his technique good enough to make up the difference, and can Veldheer's new found strength help him handle the versatile Von Miller?

    We will find out.

Chris Johnson and Demarcus Van Dyke

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    Defensive back Chris Johnson is back in the starting lineup and should help this secondary tremendously. Johnson is in a unique circumstance coming into 2011. So far it seems like Standford Routt is getting the Asomugha treatment. So, can Johnson step up in 2011 the way Routt did in 2010?

    If so, than we should be in decent shape this year. Quarterbacks aren't going to shy away from Routt all year the way they did Asomugha, so Johnson is not going to get all the heat, but he still is going to need to make some big plays when they present themselves.

    The reason I put Demarcus Van Dyke on this slide is because I think we will see him quite a bit Monday night. I think Johnson is going to do well, however, coming off of injury, I don't expect him to be on the field every snap. So Van Dyke will have his name called in the lights.

    We all know Van Dyke was a reach; he probably couldv'e been a fifth round pick. But, despite his preseason struggles, you can see why Al Davis took the shot.

    Van Dyke's problem is not his coverage skills; he can cover quite well. He just needs to play the ball, not just the receiver. I can still see Larry Fitzgerald's one-handed catch. If Van Dyke turned his head and defended the pass, he could've came up on a nice interception and maybe even a short return.

    He has promise, he just needs to stop being afraid to get beat.

Rolando McClain and the Linebackers

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    Rolando McClain has what it takes to be a great middle linebacker in this league. I know many think the Raiders should switch to a 3-4 scheme because that is what McClain played in college, but I think he is such a smart player that he would be great in any scheme.

    Now that McClain has the speed of the game down, I think he is going to take his game to the next level and really assert himself as the leader of this defense.

    The question is, what about the other linebackers?

    Ray Lewis, Patick Willis, Brian Urlacher. All of them are considered the best linebackers in the game. They have one thing in common, great linebacker play around them.

    Kamerion Wimbley is a great pass rusher, and I think he will continue to be great in that category. But his run defense needs work. And if Quinton Groves continues to struggle, I will go out on the limb and say the Raiders draft another linebacker with their first round pick. This defense can no longer be so bad against the run. With Denver having a Knowshon Moreno with a chip on his shoulder and waiting to unleash Willis McGahee, the Raiders will get their dose of the run game.

Chaz Schilens

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    This is my message to Chaz Schilens.

    This is it Chaz. You want to be this team's best receiver? This is the time to show it. In the lights with the world watching. You scared us with your Week 1 preseason injury, but it looks like after some rest and a week and a half of hard practice, you are ready to go.

    You are going to have a favorable match up, because Louis Murphy is out, so Champ Bailey will most likely guard Darrius Heyward Bey and the other corner (what ever his name is) will most likely be on Jacoby Ford. This is it. Fans know what to expect from most of the Raiders offensive weapons except you, other than the fact you can get injured.

    What are you going to do? Because there is another receiver on this list who has something to prove himself.

Darrius Heyward Bey

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    I'm not going to bring up his struggles because I'm tired of hearing them. It is time for Darrius Heyward Bey to show up, period.

    When I compare Darrius Heyward Bey's numbers to any other receiver on this roster, there is nothing about them that makes me think he can't be what his other receivers are.

    Yes, his teammates have been more productive, but nothing to the point where I would say DHB can't catch up. In my opinion, if DHB had one solid 35-40 catch season, which is quite possible this year, I would definitely put him up there with Murphy and Ford. The chances of that happening are not as bad as some may think.

    I think that says a lot about this receiving corps as a whole. They are talented, but not there yet.

    The biggest difference between DHB and Murphy, Ford and even Schilens are the big moments.

    We all remember Murphy's game against the Chargers Monday Night and then against the Steelers in 2009. We all remember Ford in the AFC West showdown vs the Chiefs. Where do we remember DHB?

    In the Seattle game in 2010? Honestly, the Raiders would've won that game anyway.

    DHB's preseason definitely showed improvement, and you could see his connection with Jason Campbell grow, which is why I think he has the potential for a solid season. But now, this is when it counts.

    I said DHB needs big moments right? What is bigger than Monday Night Football?

Stefen Wisniewski

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    I am still in love with the Raiders 2011 second-round pick.

    A great pick-up for a position of need. What better way to fill a need than a player with Silver and Black in his blood. It seems like Wisniewski will be playing his uncle's old position and trying to live up to it. Though I think Wisniewski's potential would be better fulfilled as a center, I understand why left guard was the ultimate decision.

    It seemed like Wisniewski caught on fast at center and was able to make all the reads and make the calls. However, with Samson Satele returning, it made sense to go with experience over promise. With the lockout, you have to go with the guy who has done it before.

    Maybe Wisniewski wins the job later in the year, or waits until training camp next year. But Wisniewski should be successful wherever he plays.

    On Monday night, all I am looking for is if the bright lights are too much for him. Are his nerves going to get the best of him? It seems like the left side of the line remains the better part of the line. Can Veldheer build the kind of chemistry with the "Wiz Kid" that he had with Robert Gallery? Only this time, Veldheer is the vet. How will that play out?

    We will see.

The Rest of the 2011 Draft Class

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    The 2011 draft class has some big shoes to fill after 2010. I wonder if Hue Jackson lets this class get in some time depending on how the game is going.

    I already told you about what I expect from the "Wiz Kid" and DVD. But what about after that?

    I am not expecting a lot of playing time for these guys, but I think there are some overall questions.

    How well does Joe Barksdale play filling in for Khalif Barnes from time to time? Because Barksdale was pretty close to being a starter. Remember, experience over promise.

    After Denver gets slashed by Run DMC and bashed by Michael Bush, does Jackson let Taiwan Jones finish them off?

    Denarious Moore has been rookie of the year so far, but how big is his presence in the regular season?

    How did Richard Gordon even make this team? He better destroy somebody on special teams.

    Do we see Chekwa at all? Probably not.

    Does David Ausberry get any touches? Brandon Meyers is number two on the depth chart, but you would think the Raiders would want to compliment Kevin Boss with a speedy tight end.

    All these questions may not get answered Week 1, but I do think that has to be on the minds of many heading into the regular season.

Jason Campbell

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    It starts and ends right here. Hands down the most improved player heading into 2011 is Jason Campbell.

    No, not because he put up huge numbers in the preseason. But because he operated this offense with something that he did not have last year. Something that can only be described in one word: Swagger!

    Campbell just looks different out there. You can tell by the hustle this team has to the line of scrimmage when he is in command. A kind of hustle you didn't even see when Bruce Gradkowski was at the helm.

    A lot has been made about Campbell finally being in the same offense for two consecutive years. Is that really the answer? Has that change made that big of a difference?

    It just makes you wonder. Was Campbell really that bad of a leader in Washington, or did he just focus so much on learning a new offense every year that he couldn't expect others to follow him if he wasn't 100-percent sure what he was doing?

    Now it seems like he is sure. And 2011 is when he proves he can put a team on his back.

    I'm not expecting a 40 TD pass season, but Campbell definitely has this Raider fan behind him.

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