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Friday September 5, 2008 8:11 pm

NFL Preview: Oakland Raiders

Posted by Raymond Leon Categories: NFL,

JaMarcus Russell hopes to live up to the Oakland Raiders expectations

2007 RECORD: 4-12

Overview: Overall, the Oakland Raiders have nowhere left to go but up. The team has made significant changes in their coaching staff, player personnel, and overall style of play. The team that showcased a gun-slinging offense that was led by Rich Gannon is seemingly long gone. In his sophomore year, head coach Lane Kiffin led the Raiders to only four wins, but ended the season as the sixth-highest rushing team in the league. Things are finally looking better for what seemed to be an endless black hole.

Offense: The Raiders new offense is led by QB JaMarcus Russell.  Period.  According to Kiffin, he has built the offense to be led entirely by the second-year quarterback.  How will the 2007 first overall pick respond?  Kiffin can only hope for the type of production Russell gave during his last season in LSU when he helped lead the Tigers to a Sugar Bowl win, as well as being named the bowl’s MVP.  However, a controversial holdout during training camp going into his 2007 rookie season put Russell behind the learning curve and he’ll have to catch up in 2008.  Again, the question is - can he do it?  This year, the ever-exciting possible touchdown-in-a-can, Darren McFadden of Arkansas joins the silver and black. McFadden was an exciting player to watch in college and should fit nicely in Tom Cable’s Zone Blocking scheme. The arrival of Javon Walker has brought a new wave of controversy to the new drama-free Raiders. When Walker was vacationing in Las Vegas, NV, police found Walker unconscious in an alley. Walker was beaten and robbed, and then rumors circulated that he wanted to retire from football. The offense will be more productive overall and with fresh new receivers, including the up-and-coming Drew Carter, perhaps teams will plan to expect more when facing the new Oakland Raiders.

Defense: The Raiders made many changes in the offseason in regards to their entire team. One area of the team that escaped the wrath of free agency (at least for a little while) was the defense. This offseason the team welcomed one of the league’s premier cornerbacks in DeAngelo Hall. When asked about his new CB tandem, defensive coordinator Rob Ryan has responded many times saying that without a question “They’re the best in the league.” Although the Raiders have bolstered up an already potent secondary with the additions of Hall and free safety Gibril Wilson formerly of the New York Giants, they have tried to fix a major problem in the center of the defensive line by re-signing Tommy Kelly and changing his position to a down lineman in an attempt to fix a major hole left by the retired Warren Sapp. The Raiders have a hybrid defense, often running many variations of both the 3-4 and the 4-3, but are almost always exclusively in man-to-man coverage. They have the personnel to perform such a feat, so why not? Middle linebacker Kirk Morrison is definitely the centerpiece, excuse the pun, of the entire defense. Morrison has evolved as an awesome pick-up for the Raiders and brought back speed and tenacity to the Raiders D. If the Raiders can find a way to stop the other team from running, then they will have the tools to completely shut down the opposing offense. By far, the Raiders’ defense is the strongest part of this entire team.

Rookies: The Raiders pretty much traded away all of their draft picks in 2008, with the exclusion of five. By far the most significant addition to the team would have to be Darren McFadden. McFadden is an explosive player from the University of Arkansas and brings many things to the table, including but not limited to, running the ball both inside and outside the tackles, an awesomely accurate throwing arm, and blazing 4.33 forty yard dash speed. With the holdout of JaMarcus Russell in the beginning of 2007 I would have to include him in the group with the rookies, mainly because he lacks crucial game experience and will have a drastic learning curve to begin the season.

Prediction: With the additions that owner Al Davis has spent his millions and millions of dollars on, I believe that the Raiders are a better team all-around. As a fan of both the Raiders and of the sport of football itself, I believe that the Raiders are more focused on the improvement of the team as a whole than they have ever been since the departure of Jon Gruden. The improvements that the team have made are tremendous in the rehabilitation of what many around the league have referred to as a broken franchise. My prediction is that the Raiders will finish 10-6 (a little optimism never hurts.)



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