Thursday, August 25, 2011

NFL 32 in 32: Oakland Raiders

Last year, the Raiders surprised many people with their resurgence, especially in their own division. They did not lose a division game last season, but only won 2 games out of 10 outside of their division. That was not enough to keep Tom Cable around, as Hue Jackson replaces him. There hasn't been much change in Oakland, so will this team be able to take the next step towards the playoffs?

What's New: Very little. Some additions include TE Kevin Boss from the Giants as former TE Zach Miller departed for Seattle, T Stephon Heyer from Washington, and SS Matt Giordano from New Orleans. They did not even have a first round pick in the 2011 Draft (the pick was used to get Richard Seymour), so C Stefan Wisniewski was their first pick in the draft at position 48. Most of the essential team remains from last year, of course sans all-pro corner Nnamdi Asomugha. Along with the new coach Hue Jackson, the Raiders have a lot of work to do to replace some of the departed players from a season ago, like G Robert Gallery and WR Jonnie Lee Higgins, and use what the roster has to their advantage.

Biggest Strength: If there is something that Al Davis loves in a player, it's speed, and the Raiders roster is chock full of fast players (see the Terrelle Pryor choice in the supplemental draft). The running back group is fast, the wide receivers and tight ends are fast, and the linebackers and corners are fast. The running game is very good with backs like Darren McFadden, and Michael Bush. They maintained one of the better running games in the NFL last season, and there is no reason to see why they won't this year as well.  The wide receivers are fast, with guys like Darrius Heyward-Bey and Louis Murphy, plus the new addition at tight end in Kevin Boss. On defense, guys like Richard Seymour and Rolando McClain will have to anchor the defense that lost it's best player in free agency.

Biggest Weakness: Their QB situation is unsettled, and the choices aren't amazing. Jason Campbell is the incumbent, and both Kyle Boller and Trent Edwards have tried to unseat him. All 3 options are not amazing, and Jason Campbell is still the best option. The offensive line is a problem area, even though they have good individual talent. The overall group will probably allow a large number of sacks this season, and that is not something the Raiders need. Aside from the big players on defense, the depth is not impressive, and the secondary is of course, markedly worse than a season ago.

Outlook: Not good. There are too many questions, and not many of them were addressed in the offseason. Due to the plethora of major losses in terms of personnel, and a new coaching staff, the learning curve will be pretty large. The AFC West is a tough division with both San Diego and Kansas City posing threats, so don't expect much out of the Raiders this season.

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