Anyone who knows me knows that when it comes to sports I am first and foremost a Raiders fan. To be completley frank, I enjoy all sports, but football is my one and only true love. It's not just the hitting and ferocious nature of the sport. But its' the strategy of it all. In no other sport do you have 11 guys playing against 11 guys all at the same time. And there is so much creativity to both sides of the ball. You can line up in any formation on either side of the ball and make it into whatever you want. That and the whole synergy of seeing 11 guys working together as one unit is only surpassed by an orchestra. All other sports are about the one on one battles and this is truly about 11 guys trying to beat 11 guys.
So with my love for football comes my love of one of the great NFL organizations, the Raiders. Sure they have been a joke for most of the past decade, but with that they are still one of the most storied franchises in history. There are numerous hall of fame players and coaches, not to mention the GREAT John Madden. So with that, here comes my thoughts on the 2011 version of the team.
Coaching - Most people, both fans and observers, were very unhappy with the firing of Tom Cable. I'm not going to sit here and tell you it was a great move, but at the same time I understand it. Tom Cable, was and is, a great player coach. He really knows how to motivate players and get them to buy into a system. He definitely did a ton to turn around the feeling of hopelessness that existed in most players when he arrived. Having said all that though, I do not believe the man had really great mind when it came to putting together an offensive playbook. Under his tenure, the Raiders had one of the most vanilla offenses since Art Shell. The players knew this, other teams knew this, and Al Davis knew this. Because of this reason he brought in Hue Jackson to be our Offensive Coordinator last year, it was widely speculated that the whole OC thing was just a test drive after being burned on Kiffin. And the test drive went wonderfully last year. We had an offense that was actually able to score points and something that we could rely upon to bring us back if the defense faltered. So the reward for such improvement? A head coaching gig! And thus far in training camp he is brining intensity and a playbook that is far more advanced than anything in recent memory. The players are responding, and from what I have read look spectacular. Sure its just training camp, but even with that, the Raiders have not looked spectacular in training camp since Gannon left. I think we have pretty good chances this year with Hue Jackson at head coach.
Quarterback - Here we go, is Jason Campbell good enough? I don't have any earthly idea. I know that when the running game is on he's a dangerous player. I know we have a stacked backfield. I know we have a rookie Wide Receiver who is blowing up camp (more on that later) but I don't know if Jason Campbell is the man. I think he's probably good enough to get the job done, which to be honest is good enough for me. I've seen enough bad Raider quarterbacks to be happy with one who does just okay. I loved Gradkowski, but I understand why he had to go. He really got in Jason Campbell's head, and he was injury prone. So not a viable starter, and probably making your real starter uneasy. We did bring in Trent Edwards, who still has a ton of tread on him and might be able to turn the corner with good coaching. We'll see, that's all I can say about that.
Running Back - Wow, we are stacked. When I say stacked, I mean stacked, like we have to cut someone. Darren McFadden, nuff said right? Right, except that he's put on 10lbs of solid muscle and he has higher goals than last year. A motivated Darren McFadden?? Even better. Michael Bush just res-signed and he is a starter on most other teams, great insurance policy. And then there is the rookie, Taiwan Jones (Made in Taiwan? No idea). This guy runs a 4.28 40, and has size to boot. Being that he's just 3rd string (presumably) there is absolutely no pressure on this kid. So they can just throw him out there for fun and see what he does. I expect that he will score some pretty fun to watch touchdowns during this season.
Wide Receiver - Scary unit the past few years. Chaz Schillens looked to be great a few years ago, but then 2 years if injuries have really knocked him off the map. Jacoby Ford was great last year, and is looking great again, except he fractured his hand. Receivers kinda need those... Louis Murhpy has been looking good in camp, but he has really never put together a solid season. Darrius Heyward-Bey, why is he still on the team? You got me, Al Davis loves him for some reason, and that's about all that he brings. There are others who might shine but, there is a rookie who IS shining. Denarius Moore. Every single practice this kid has made highlight reel type plays. Again, its only training camp, but if he can translate anything into a real game, well then I think that we might have a top 10 offense this year. That would give us a 3 receiver set with Denarius playing human highlight reel, Jacoby Ford playing slot, and Louis Murphy providing automatic first downs. Even the NY Jets with their loaded secondary would have difficulty with that. Keep in mind that Darren McFadden is also an outstanding receiver and that we just signed Kevin Boss from the Giants. The same Kevin Boss who has a super bowl ring with them and was good enough to replace head case Jeremy Shockey. I think I like the setup we have, barring no injuries.
Ok I'm not going to cover all of the units. That would be the most ridiculously long post ever and I'm sure I've already lost some of you. Let me just say that I am so happy that the Raiders have gotten out of the Free Agent gamble that they played for so long. Were developing players from the draft and getting high quality free agents at bargain prices. Thank you so much Al Davis for not letting our franchise continue to be the joke that it once was!
That's all for now, hope you enjoyed! GO RAIDERS!