Thursday, August 03, 2006

Raider Rants

There has been plenty of dirt kicked on the Raiders grave over the past few months. Some of the gloomy predictions have been focused on the wisdom of bringing Art Shell back as Head Coach and Tom Walsh as the Offensive Coordinator. This has led to numerous articles wondering whether or not these guys can coach and adjust to the “new” football being played in this decade. There has been debate about whether Shell/Walsh can install an offense that will be effective against a zone blitzing defense. Football enthusiasts have doubted Aaron Brooks' ability to lead the Raiders. There has been many media experts predicting another miserable 4-12 season. The amount of bulletin board material is enough to re-wallpaper the entire locker room.

I'm genuinely concerned about the following as it relates to the 2006 season:
- Our reconfigured O-line gelling in time for the opener on 9/11.
- Our inexperienced defensive unit's ability to stop the run & create turnovers.
- A lack of depth at the running back and defensive tackle position.

Having voiced my concerns, here is my general take on the state of the Raiders union:
- The players have been positively influenced by Shells leadership. The team has completely bought into the “Raider Way” program excluding Jerry Pouter. The effort and team bonding in training camp has been tremendous. I don’t put much stock into what the “experts” are predicting. Some of these same journalists predicted that the Seahawks wouldn’t qualify for the playoffs last year. All of the ranting and raving about team records, playoff contenders, and power rankings don’t add up to a hill of beans. Once the regular season gets underway you can toss your Street & Smith magazine in the trash can. Whatever happens in the 60 minutes of game action and what the scoreboard says when the clock hits 0:00 is all that counts.

- The productivity of the offense doesn’t rise & fall solely on the shoulders of Tom Walsh or any 1 individual. Ultimately Art Shell is responsible for the offensive game plan and the offensive unit is responsible for executing the plan. Art Shell & Al Davis have endorsed Walsh. Enough said.- The Raiders offense will be running a stripped down, no frills attack with a basic philosophy. You won’t see a lot of motion by the receivers, trickery or gadget plays nor will you see lateral blocking schemes run by the O-Line. It comes down to the offensive lineman bloodying their opponents nose and the skill players making plays. The core of this philosophy is each man is responsible for winning his individual battle. It consists of running downhill, between the tackles and striking for long completions. How will this offense succeed? It will succeed by each player being accountable for his assignment and winning the individual battle. It will succeed by the individual’s talents being fully utilized which includes the freedom to improvise, adapt, and execute. It will succeed by the players’ exerting their collective will and effort and ultimately dominating the action.

- Giving players like Moss and Brooks the green light to team up on broken routes, if/when protection schemes break down, or improvised routes will produce the type of results that will make the highlight tapes of ESPN. Show me a CB or Safety that can stop Moss if the ball is thrown in his general vicinity. If Moss is involved on a consistent basis in the passing offense he will more often than not make plays regardless of the coverage. Throw the ball deep. Throw the ball up high and let him go get it. It boils down to Brooks trusting Moss and letting it fly. Name a DB that can out run, out jump, or out muscle a healthy, involved Moss. This stripped down offense probably sounds archaic to most of the NFL couch surfers. Even if the game has evolved over time it still comes down to the basic fundamentals of blocking, tackling, catching, passing, and running.

- As long as there is an aggressive, play to win effort demonstrated on a consistent basis by the players, I for one can live with the results in the 1st year under Shell's watch.

In an attempt to update my Six Ultra Key Positions post I have come up with my new Raiders Big 5. This is a slight variation of the ultra 6 which focuses more on the Raiders who need to make the biggest positive impact.

Raiders Big 5:
QB Aaron Brooks – Needs to develop a rappport with the offense and earn a leadership role by his performance. For the offense to make a leap in productivity, Brooks needs to make plays with his legs, arms, and mind. Ball security and sound decisions will be the tipping point.

LT Robert Gallery – Needs to play at an All-Pro level and completely seal off Brooks blind side on passing plays.

RB Lamont Jordan - He is the motor to an effective power running attack. Jordan must be a work-horse, stay healthy, and handle blitz pick-ups proficiently. With very little RB depth, it is absolutely critical that Jordan remains healthy.

DT Warren Sapp - The voice and Master Sergeant of the D, Sapp needs to have a solid, productive year by disrupting the interior of the offensive line, getting in the backfield, and holding down the fort against the opponents rushing attack. His ability to rally the troops will be especially vital this year when you consider that 9 of the 11 starters have 3 or less years of NFL experience. I have taken the liberty of booting Radio Gibson from the 1st team depth chart and replaced him with future Pro Bowl invitee Michael Huff.

SS Michael Huff – Aces are wild with Huff Daddy. He has all the earmarks of a difference maker; exceptional physical talents, savvy football intelligence, and maturity beyond his years. Huff’s versatility is the “X” factor on our D. He is the type of player who will raise the level of play of the entire secondary.

Hidden Gems:
DE Kevin Huntley – A very intriguing prospect who has had his moments in training camp. At 6’7”, 270 lbs., Huntley has the ability to ruin the QB’s sight line and knock down passes at the line of scrimmage. It is interesting that an unknown player with zero NFL experience like Huntley is being given every opportunity to shine. He is already slated on the 2nd team depth chart.

FB Joe Hall – Another intriguing prospect. At 6’2” 290 lbs., is he the battering ram FB that blasts the MLB and clears Jordans initial path to chewing up yards? Is it the equivalent of having an O-Lineman who can run in the backfield? Hall’s size & blocking abilities seem ideally suited to the offense that the Raiders are implementing.

Time to Step Up:
C Jake Grove – With the emphasis on a “ram it down your throat” running attack, Grove plays a pivotal role in calling out the offensive line adjustments. Jake needs to blast off the ball and get nasty.

DE Tyler Brayton – Penciled into the starting lineup going into the exhibition season. Brayton needs to develop a go-to pass rushing move and hold up at the point of attack on running plays to allow everyone to rally to the ball.

DT Terdell Sands – Will be rotated regularly with Sapp and Kelly and plays a crucial role in improving the team’s run defense. Sands needs to effectively clog the middle to allow the LBs to make plays.

SLB Sam Williams – Is this the year that Williams gets through an entire exhibition season in 1 piece? After 3 injury marred seasons it is time for Williams to start earning his keep. Less ginger bread cookie and more iron man Wiliams would be nice.

CB Nnamdi Asomugha – It is time to start playing a more aggressive brand of coverage and using his above average physical tools to create turnovers and handle his assignment. It is my hope that Huff’s presence will free up & unleash Nnamdi to take more chances and in turn get his fair share of interceptions.

Quote of the Week:
“I think Art is starting to get something I had when I was young and that is I was going to dominate it, no matter what it is. I was just going to get it done and I didn’t worry about all these other things. I wasn’t going to go the way of society wanted me to go or the culture want me to go. I was going to win.” Al Davis at 8/1 press conference


Blogger The Analyzer said...

Throw Gallery under your time to step up section too. He needs to prove he was worth the high draft pick.

5:52 AM  
Blogger Raider Take said...

Nice breakdown, including the executive decision to demote Gibson in favor of Huff!

The Raiders' linebacker depth chart looks a little weird to me right now, not that I have any great solutions. Thoughts?

On a side note, that pennant at the top of your post brings back memories. We had the same one in our garage in the 70s. I'd forgotten that that's actually an official team "Raiders" font on the pennant; my ticket package this year came with team letterhead using that font. Goes with the whole retro vibe of the Shell regime. They should make some new gear with it.

8:18 AM  
Blogger The Analyzer said...

I posted this article on my site and raider take as well. It is a definition of Raider Hating.

QB rankings

11:01 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...


Great analysis. I love the Raiders but I am having trouble seeing better than 8-8. The only area of the team that is above average is the wide receivers (and Porter is acting like a punk). Everywhere else is either young & inexperienced (secondary), a question mark (offensive line) or downright scary such as the (efensive line) Are you not particulary scared about the D-Line, with the exeption of Brugress the cupboard is bear. Terdel Sands? I was hoping for GRady with the running teams in the AFC West. I would like to hear your thoughts on the D-Line specifically. Sorry to be some neg but I am trying to mentaly prepare myself for the season. On the positive side it appears Shell will change the culture and install some toughness and desire----this is a key ot the rebuilding.

Keep up the great articles

7:24 PM  
Blogger Calico Jack said...

Anonymous 7:24 -

You raise some very valid concerns. Here's my take on some of your points:

- I like our young secondary. Huff looks to be a special player. Stu has been making steady progress. Fabian held up well under fire last year and should continue to develop. Nnamdi might be a more natural FS and needs an infusion of aggressiveness. I think he will play better with Huff covering his back. BTW, the league average for interceptions is 15. Make a mental note: The Raiders should have 5 interceptions by week 6 if they have turned the corner.

- There is no doubt that our D is very wet behind the ears in terms of experience but I like the improved athleticism, speed, and versatility. We actually have depth at LB for the 1st time in quite some time with the additions of Howard, an injury free Williams, Bing, and FA Robert Thomas. We no longer have fish out of water like Brayton trying to cover TEs or RBs. Howard, Bing, Morrison match up much better on RB coverage responsibilities. Huff gives us the flexibility of playing him in the slot, on the line or in deep third depending on the opponent's personnel. He truly is the X factor.

- The O-Line is a work in progress but I like that the deck has been reshuffled. I like Sims move to the interior, Grove & Gallery finding their long-term true homes at (C, LT), and the addition of McNasty. The RT position is up for grabs. I personally like Chad Slaughter better than Langston Walker because of his mean streak. (Did you seem him manhandle Strahan last year?)The real question is how fast can the O-Line get up to speed & gel. Their in good hands with Shell, Slater & Eatman.

- The D-Line's question marks pertain more to the DTs than the DEs. I love our DE depth (Burgess, Johnstone, Brayton, Hamilton, Huntley). We have 2 proven performers at DT in Sapp and Kelly. Sands needs be the anchor in the middle that we can count on to stuff the run and clog the middle especially in our division. Hawthorne is a major question mark who has the dreaded "potential" tag because of his stellar career at UWisconsin. I do think that Rashad Moore will be a pleasant suprise and be useful to spell Sapp & Kelly in a limited number of plays per game.

- I have no clue how steep the learning curve will be for our players with less than 2 years of experience. No question 2006 will be a bumpy road but I am thrilled at how Shell is shaping the team in his/Raider image and how the players have responded to his leadership. Everyone seems to be singing from the same sheet of music. Of course I want our Raiders to win as many games as possible. However if I see a team that plays with heart, determination, effort, passion and makes steady progess in Year 1, then I will be even more optimistic for our future success.
Calico Jack

8:33 PM  
Blogger Stick'em said...

CJ: I can prognosticate the success/ failure of the '06 Raiders with one glance from behind the eyepatch:

It all depends upon the offensive line.

Gallery (RG -> RT -> LT)
Sims (LT -> LG)
Grove (RG -> C)
McQusitan (LT college -> RG)
Walker (LG -> RT)

All have some settling in to do now the O-line musical chairs has stopped. How quickly they gel and seize their new positions with familiarity will determine everything.

2:30 PM  

Post a Comment

<< Home