Tuesday, July 28, 2009

Number Crunching on Run DMc

The upcoming 2009 season has consumed my thoughts. The one guy on the Raiders' squad who I sincerely believe is on the cusp of stardom is running back Darren McFadden. In his rookie campaign, Run DMc gave the Nation a brief glimpse of his talent in game #2 at Kansas City. In this early season contest, McFadden demonstrated his big play ability, breakaway speed, and dynamic playmaking skills. Of course, as we all know, late in the game he suffered his first turf toe injury and he simply wasn't the same player for the remainder of the season. Although he battled 2 turf toe injuries and played fairly well at less than 100%, his inconsistent reps. prevented him from getting in a true rhythm.
Going into the 2009 season, these are the numbers I project for #20:

Based on the Raiders getting approximately 60 offensive snaps per game, I predict the Raiders will run the ball about 33 times per game (33 runs to 27 passes or a 55% to 45% run pass ration).
With McFadden as the lead back, I'm guessing that he will get 288 carries for the season (18 rush attempts per game average which is 55% of the rushing load).
Since the Raiders passing attack is a work in progress with the development of Russell and some of the younger WRs (DHB, Murphy, Schillens, JLH), I would anticipate McFadden being an integral weapon in the passing playbook. Split out wide, set in motion, circling out of the backfield, delayed screens are some of the ways the Raiders will utilize McFadden's skills and to create favorable matchups. A conservative estimate of the number of balls thrown to McFadden should fall in the range of 3-6 per game.
Number Crunching / Predictions:

Rush Attempts Per Game: 18
Rush Attempts Season: 288
Yards per carry: 4.5
Total Rushing Yards: 1,296 yards
Rushing TDs: 6
Receptions: 64
Yards per reception: 9.0
Total reception yards: 586
Receiving TDs: 4
Total TDs: 10
Total Yards: 1,882
To top it off, I expect McFadden to have 2-4 pass attempts out of the wild cat formation. There is no doubt in my mind that the Raiders coaching staff needs to use McFadden in a variety of creative ways to be the engine to the offense. Mixing and matching the RBs, using different formations and sets, and forcing the opponent to account for McFadden are some of the keys to a successful season. I'm really excited about the Raiders developing their core skill players on offense. The Raiders 2009 offense has the potential to become a special unit and McFadden is the fulcrum for making it a reality. I don't discount the fact that Russell needs to play an instrumental role in the offense's success. Yet, I firmly believe that the dynamic playmaking ability of McFadden will make Russell's transition into a franchise type QB that much easier.

Tuesday, July 21, 2009

Training Camp Questions

All of us are itching for the Raiders to get into gear, throw on the pads, and get training camp underway. Here are a few questions to contemplate before training camp opens in 8 days:

(1) Will any of the rookies emerge in training camp and make an impact in the 2009 season?

My hunch is that WR DHB will be given every opportunity to earn reps. as a #3 WR and big play threat. SS Mike Mitchell aka Eminem will make an instant impact as a special teams contributor and earn a starting role by week 8. The consensus from OTA reports and mini camp is that WR Louis Murphy is a special and talented player who could be the wild card in the WR corps. TE Brandon Myers fills the role of the blocking TE who allows TE Miller to release as a pass catcher.

(2) Who will be the recipient of Mitchell's first KO blow in camp?

The Raider Nation is eagerly anticipating the intimidating presence of Mitchell in the secondary. I'm guessing that Shillens will be the WR who is lit up first on a crossing pattern by Mitchell. Raider snot bubbles are worth the price of admission! It has been far too long since we've had the type of hitter that causes opponent's WRs to get alligator arms.

(3) Who will earn the SLB and LT positions?

The lead candidates are Jon Alston and Mario Henderson but until they put the pads on, you just never know. These are 2 critical positions that the Raiders need to lock down. It has been countless years since we've had high performance and stability at these important positions. Alston is competing with Ricky Brown while Henderson is going up against veteran FA acquisition Khalif Barnes.

(4) How strong of a relationship will develop between HC Cable and QB Russell?

The tide of the Raiders will rise or fall depending on the performance and leadership of these 2 men. One could argue that the Head Coach and QB are the 2 most important leaders of a team and have the lion's share of responsibility and impact. There is no doubt in my mind that Cable and Russell's careers depend upon each other. Cable needs to calibrate his use of the carrot and the stick with Russell to maximize his development. Russell needs to take heed and become a true franchise QB.

Onward & Upward ... Calico Jack

Saturday, July 11, 2009

Garcia The Firestarter

The goals of Al Davis signing Jeff Garcia to a contract are two fold:

#1: Sign a veteran QB to act as a capable backup and insurance policy in case JaMarcus Russell gets injured.

#2: Allow Garcia's competitiveness to light a fire under Russell's ass and push him to greater heights.

The season hasn't started and in my humble opinion, both goals have been realized. For starters, Garcia is a much more accomplished and established backup than Andrew Walter or Tui could ever hope to be. But more importantly, the signing and presence of Garcia has been a huge boost and instigator to get Russell to take the next steps in his career progression. I hope Russell feels threatened by Garcia. I hope Russell senses Garica breathing down his neck.

There has clearly been an added dimension and focus to how Russell has reacted this offseason. Players on the offensive unit have remarked to the media about Russell's improved command of the huddle in OTAs. Russell took it upon himself to organize and pay for WRs to join him in Alabama to work on their timing and build a rapport. Russell has even been confident enough about his offseason conditioning that he has made a friendly wager with his head coach about coming into camp at a designated weight.

Although Russell is only 23 years old, he isn't naive. He is aware of the statements Garcia has made to the press about being the guy who gives the Raiders the best chance to win. I love it. Russell is a prideful, confident, talented QB. The signing of Garcia gave him that little extra juice to start doing all of the extra things required of a franchise QB.

Monday, July 06, 2009

Dash, Smash, and Crash (Video)

The original video is labeled as "Smash (Bush), Slash (Fargas), and Dash (McFadden)". I took some creative editing liberties and changed it to "Dash (McFadden), Smash (Bush), and Crash (Fargas)". First, I changed the order to reflect what I consider the true depth chart which is McFadden as the lead back, Bush as the #2 back, and Fargas at #3. I also changed Fargas nickname from "Slash" to "Crash" since one of his real nicknames is "Crash Test Dummy".

This video showcases each RB's different skill set and running style. The engine to getting the offensive unit's RPM up is clearly the 3 headed monster. I eagerly anticipate Cable using McFadden and Bush in a variety of creative ways in both the running game and passing attack. It will be interesting to see how the carries are distributed amongst the 3 backs. One offensive scheme that I think could be very effective is a 2 back set of McFadden and Bush in the backfield with the option of putting either RB in motion. In my view, it is critical to the Raiders overall success in 09 that McFadden is on the field as much as possible. His big play ability and multiple skills (run, catch, pass, decoy) forces the opponent to account for him and adjust their focus accordingly. This creates a multiple of opportunities for the other offensive skill position players.

Friday, July 03, 2009

80 Years Young

Not enough room on the cake to stick 80 candles but nevertheless, "Happy Birthday Al!" If you were to go back as far as his days in high school in Brooklyn, Davis has been involved, immersed, fascinated, and in love with the game of football for 67 consecutive years. It is rare to find someone who has kept a singular focus and passion burning so bright for so many years in a truly remarkable career. In case you were wondering what I got Al for his BDay, see below!