Tuesday, July 17, 2007

Silver & Black Customs

A quick shout out of THANKS to my man "Raider Tom" who built me this custom JRuss 6" figure! This baby is going to be proudly showcased on my desk at work!

If you are interested in having Tom customize one of your favorite players or seeing his fine work, go to this link.

For all of the old school Raider fans, I highly recommend getting the Lester Hayes figure. Tom brilliantly captures the essence of "The Judge" in his classic BumpNRun, press coverage. Very sweet, indeed. For more on Tom's craft, check out my interview from last year.

Tuesday, July 10, 2007

Raiders Sign A Beast

The Raiders signed today 9 year vet Strong Safety Donovin Darius to a 3 year/$7.1M contract. Double D has been injury plagued the last 2 season but if healthy, he should provide solid run support and veteran leadership. DD's tackling prowess & physical nature is his true calling card.

It will be very interesting to see how Defensive Coordinator Rob Ryan incorporates DD into the defensive backfield. Last year's safety starters, FS Stuart Schweigert & SS Michael Huff, played solid, consistent football but the knock on both was their inability to be "playmakers". Neither player tallied a sack, interception, or created a fumble. Many in the Raider Nation view Schweigert as a poor tackler and Huff as more of a true Free Safety. Before training camp has started and with DD's recovery from a calf injury uncertain, speculation is running rampant that Schweigert will be the odd man out. Safeties such as veteran Jerrod Cooper, Rookie Eric Frampton and 2nd year man Darnell Bing will need to scrape and claw to make the final 53 man roster in a special teams capacity.

One defensive scheme and personnel package that I anticipate being used frequently in obvious passing downs is the "Big Nickel" or "Wolverine" D. In this package, Rob Ryan will use 3 safeties and 2 cornerbacks. DD would be in the box while Huff & Schweigert would bracket one half of the field in coverage. Having a deep, talented group of players in the defensive backfield will create a fierce competition plus allow Rob Ryan to become the mad scientist ... mixing and matching his defensive personnel packages to negate an opponent's strengths and tendencies. For example, when the Raiders square off against teams with talented Tight Ends (ie. San Diego's Antonio Gates & KC's Tony Gonzalez), Ryan will be able employ Huff vs. the Tight End in coverage. Against teams with strong run tendencies, DD is a very nice piece to have supporting the front 7. As the 8th man in the box, DD will do what he does best ... hit like a ton of bricks.

6 pack of questions to ponder ...

(1) Will DD's health be an issue?
(2) If healthy, will DD earn the starting SS position with Huff sliding over to FS?
(3) Will DD provide a sorely lacking intimidating presence to the Raiders D?
(4) Will Rob Ryan cut DD loose on safety blitzes to create more sacks & turnovers?
(5) If demoted to a part time player, how will Schweigert respond?
(6) Will Cooper be cut? Will Bing or Frampton be designated to the practice squad?

"Raise the Black Flag, load the cannons, and welcome the new Raider marauder, Donovin Darius!"

Wednesday, July 04, 2007

Happy Birthday Al

Happy 78th birthday to the Raider Godfather, Al Davis! This American icon, maverick & football legend still has the passion & desire to hoist another Lombardi Trophy high in the air. With the sun starting to set on Al Davis' full life, I would love to see him make at least 1 final strong push to realize his dream of Raider glory. Dreaming about a 4th Super Bowl victory on the 4th of July only seems fitting. Enjoy the fireworks and your independence, Al!