Sunday, April 27, 2008

Let Er Rip

On draft day, the Raiders were given the choice of 2 distinct paths. The fork in the road came as soon as the Falcons turned in their draft card to select QB Matt Ryan. One path, Glenn Dorsey Road, was to add a cog to our run D which was considered "safe, sensible, solid" by many arm chair GMs like myself. The other path, Darren McFadden Avenue, was to select a dynamic playmaker that would add a whole new dimension to the Raiders offense. As you know by now, the Raiders swung for the fences with the 1st round selection of Darren McFadden aka Run DMc.

A new day and exciting era in Raider football is upon us. The big play running threat of Run DMc coupled with a franchise QB in JaMarcus Russell who can stretch the field vertically gives the Raiders offense in 2008 the capabilities to be highly explosive, balanced, and diversified.

Darren McFadden had an amazing 3 year career at Arkansas where he compiled 4,485 rushing yards (5.9 average per carry) and scored 40 touchdowns in 37 games played. Here are the notes from McFadden's scouting report:

Darren McFadden Height: 6-1 1/4 Weight: 211 40-Time: 4.33

An outstanding natural athlete...Has very good size...Excellent timed speed with a burst...Has great vision and instincts...Big play threat who can take it the distance at any time..Elusive with nice feet..Quick and agile...Real strong...Tough and loves contact...Runs hard and does not go down easy...Has decent hands and can be a weapon in the passing game..Plays with a nasty demeanor..Extremely productive.

Has some off-the-field and character questions...Legs and lower body are a little thin....Might run too high and open himself up to big hits...Could still improve as a blocker...Does not have a ton of experience as a receiver...Did not really play in a conventional offense in college and shared the workload...Ball security is an issue.

Burst onto the scene as a true freshman...The Heisman Trophy runner-up as both a sophomore and a junior...In the summer of '06 he dislocated his toe (which later required surgery) while trying to kick someone during a fight outside a night club at 4am...In January of 2008 was handcuffed during a disturbance outside of a bar shortly after midnight because according to the police report he was agitated and provoking aggressive behavior inciting the incident....Often worked as a shotgun quarterback in the Razorbacks "Wildcat" package and showed the ability to throw the ball...Pure football player with all the physical tools who is as good or perhaps an even better prospect than Adrian Peterson was coming out...A rare talent who should rank amongst the top running backs in the NFL very early in his pro career.

It is thrilling to realize that JaMarcus Russell has all of the tools and weapons at his disposal to be very successful. In the passing attack, Javon Walker and Drew Carter are both athletic, fast, big receivers. Ronald Curry is an excellent possession receiver. TE Zach Miller should be able to build upon his productive rookie season (44 receptions) and provide a nice security blanket for Russell. In the backfield, we now have an electric, home run hitter in Run DMc in combination with the tough, hard charging Justin Fargas. Dominic Rhodes can be utilized in some special offensive packages. What role, if any, Michael Bush plays in 2008 is unknown. Bush could be used possibly in some red zone packages as well as short yardage plays. Lamont Jordan will be cut on June 1st.

Although RB wasn't a "need" pick for the Raiders, I understand how a special player of McFadden's caliber should not be passed over. When you review the Raiders offense of 2007, it becomes quite clear that one of the missing components was a big play, game changing element.

2007 Offense Scoring
28 TDS (11 rushing TDs #19 ranking; 17 receiving TDs #24)
17.7 pts/g #23 ranking

With McFadden in the backfield, the Raiders opponents will need to be on their guard to contain our rushing attack. If the opponent's D sticks 8 men in the box and the rush ends aren't pinning their ears back to rush the passer, it clearly will open up the passing game. Give me play action pass with Walker/Carter in single coverage and Russell pulling the trigger and I will love our chances to have an explosive, unpredictable offense. Let er rip!

Thursday, April 24, 2008

CJ's Top 10 Mock Draft

Calico Jack's Top 10 Mock Draft

I know there are thousands of mock drafts floating around cyberspace. Everyone is an armchair expert on the draft this time of year. My intentions for this post were simply two fold ... first, for fun's sake and secondly, to be on record with my picks for the draft. Nothing more, nothing less. Truth be told ... I could whiff on 8 of the 10 picks and be quite pleased knowing I hit my mark on #1 and #4.

#1 Miami Dolphins: Jake Long (OT, University of Michigan) > Jake signed for 5 years, $57.75M, $30M guaranteed. Jake's contract averages $11.55M per year in comparison to Jamarcus Russell's $10.15M per year contract.

#2 St.Louis Rams: Glenn Dorsey (DT, LSU) > The Rams pick will shape and shift the top half of the draft. Although Chris Long & Vernon Gholston are possible selections here, neither grades out as high as Dorsey.

#3 Atlanta Falcons: Matt Ryan (QB, Boston College) > If Dorsey was available at #3, Ryan would not be the selection. The Blackbirds are in a MAJOR rebuilding mode and need to develop a QB for the long term.

#4 Oakland Raiders: Chris Long (DE, University of Virginia) > Son of Howie (SOH) fills 2 vital needs for the Raiders defense. As an everydown DE, Long is strong at the point of attack which will improve the Raiders biggest weakness, run defense. Chris is a relentless, tireless pass rusher who will be a nice bookend for Derrick Burgess. The best thing about SOH is that he is a "throw back" football player loaded with all the important intangibles to be highly successful: stong work ethic, unbelievable motor, toughness, goal oriented, and very coachable. The Raider Nation will be grinning from ear to ear if SOH dons the Silver and Black jersey in 2008!

#5 Kansas City Chiefs: Vernon Gholston (DE, Ohio State) > With the departure of DE Jared Allen, the Chiefs desperately need to replace him. Gholston has the skill set to become a terrific pass rusher in the NFL.

#6 New York Jets: Darren McFadden (RB, Arkansas) > Run DMc is a big play, offensive game changer who should be a regular on ESPN highlights. If the Raiders didn't have Michael Bush in the wings, McFadden very likely would have been our selection. The Jets game in Oakland this season will have added intrigue as it pits Long vs. McFadden.

#7 New England Patriots: Branden Albert (OG/OT, University of Virginia) > When was the last time UVa had 2 picks in the top 10? If Albert doesn't land here, my guess is Leodis McKelvin (CB, Troy St).

#8 Baltimore Ravens: Leodis McKelvin (CB, Troy St.) > The Ravens were hoping Matt Ryan would fall into their lap but will have to settle for the best QB available in the 2nd round.

#9 Cincinnati Bengals: Sedrick Ellis (DT, USC) > A high value, need selection which is the best of both worlds. The Bengals D is a mess and Ellis will be a solid piece in their rebuilding efforts.

#10 New Orleans: Dominque Rodgers Cromartie (CB, Tenn. St) > New Orleans could be a major wild card on draft day. There were plenty of rumors on the net about the Saints desires to move up to #2 or #3 to snatch up Glenn Dorsey. If the Saints sit tight at #10, I expect the Saints to take Cromartie to improve their secondary.

Tuesday, April 15, 2008

2008 Raiders Schedule

To the delight of the fans, the NFL announced the 2008 schedule today! Here is a link to the Raiders schedule:

You've got to hand it to the strong arm of the NFL marketing machine to continually keep the league's business front and center 12 months of the year. It is amazing how a league with 4 months of regular season games has such strong exposure 24/7/365. Think about it ... from January to December the league is on the minds of professional football enthusiasts.

January >>> Playoffs & SuperBowl
February >>> Pro Bowl & NFL Combine
March >>> Free Agency
April >>> Announcement of schedule plus the draft which is a cottage industry upon itself
May >>> Mini camps
June through July >>> Training camps and personnel moves
August >>> Exhibition season
September through December >>> Regular season games

Like many Raider fans, as soon as the schedule comes out I'm excited about picking which games to visit Oakland. I start looking at the matchups and dates to come up with a short list of possible games to select. My short list this year although subject to change consists of week 4 vs. SD, week 13 vs. KC, and week 15 vs. New England. The divisional games always are a high priority for obvious reasons.

A few observations and notes on the Raiders 2008 schedule:

* Besides the usual divisional foes, the Raiders are lined up to play the AFC East (New England, NY Jets, Miami Dolphins, Buffalo Bills) plus the NFC South (Tampa Bay, New Orleans, Atlanta Falcons, Carolina Panthers).

* This year's schedule seems favorable overall in a number of ways. There aren't any back to back east coast swing games. There aren't any road games where weather should be a factor excluding the possibility of snow flurries for the game in Denver on 11/23.

* The Raiders only face 3 teams that made the playoffs in 2007 (SD, New England, Tampa Bay).

* The Raiders have the 3rd easiest schedule based on their opponents winning percentage in 2007. The Raiders opponents had a combined record of 112-144 for a .438 winning percentage.

* The Raiders have 2 prime time games; MNF vs. Denver opener and NFL Network Thursday night matchup at divisional rival SD Chargers.

* Lane Kiffin will get to match wits in a battle of his offense vs. his father Monte's Tampa Bay defense.

* The only real downside to the 2008 schedule that I noticed was having the bye week so early in the season (week 5).

* Although the schedule for each team follows a predetermined formula, I find it rather odd that for the 3rd consecutive season, the Raiders will host the Houston Texans.

* Along those same lines, for the 3rd consecutive season, the Raiders are squared off with at least 1 SB participant from the previous year; 2006 (Pittsburg, Seattle); 2007 (Chicago, Indy); 2008 (New England).

* It will be very interesting to see some of the other teams high draft choices fare vs. the Raiders. Teams like Miami (#1 pick), Atlanta (#3 pick), KC (#5 pick), NJ Jets (#6 pick) and New England (#7 pick) are all on the 2008 docket.

The beauty of being a true fan is that when the official schedule comes out it marks a clean slate, a fresh beginning, and a brand new season filled with hope.