Tuesday, April 27, 2010

New Era - New Signal Callers

With JaMarcus Russell about to get his departure ticket punched in a matter of days, the Raiders start 2010 with some very important new signal callers.

The addition of Offensive Coordinator Hue Jackson dialing up plays from the sideline adds a fresh new dynamic to our offensive sets. Incorporating the spread offense and a more creative call sheet plus utilizing RB Darren McFadden in a diversified package should give the offense more big play opportunities. Head Coach Tom Cable can now concentrate on managing the game, personnel, and coaching staff without worrying about play calling.

The trade for QB Jason Campbell, who will be communicating the calls in the huddle and making the necessary adjustments at the line of scrimmage, gives the offense a more reliable decision maker. Instead of the playbook being contracted ("QB Playbook For Dummies"), it now can be expanded for a QB who has adapted to 8 different OC's over the course of his college and pro career.

#8 pick MLB Rolando McClain aka "double nickel" has an unbelievably high football IQ. “The day after they drafted me, I called to ask for a playbook and some DVDs to look over,’’ McClain said. “I didn’t waste any time.’’ With McClain barking out the defensive calls and orchestrating the defensive alignments on the field, the defensive unit should be more cohesive and in better position to make more plays.

Jackson, Campbell, and McClain all play a pivotal role in 2010 in terms of impacting the final tally on the scoreboard and most importantly, the wins and losses column.

Sunday, April 25, 2010

Fixing, Upgrading, Wheeling & Dealing

Over the course of the past few weeks to include of course the 2010 NFL Draft, the Raiders organization has followed a simple, sensible blueprint for improving the team.

1. Acquire young NFL vets to address needs and upgrade the talent level.

Instead of over-spending on older players on the downside of their career, the Raiders picked up QB Jason Campbell for a 2012 4th round pick, LB Kamerion Wimbley for one of their extra 3rd round picks this year, and DE Quinten Groves for a 5th round pick.

2. Improve our run defense.

The Raiders run defense was ranked #28 in ypc (4.5) and ranked #29 in ypg (155.5) in 2009. The additions of 1st round selection Rolando McClain (Alabama) and 2nd round pick Lamar Houston (Texas) helps our interior run defense.

The center-piece to our improved interior run defense falls on the broad shoulders of McClain whose football IQ is off the charts. He is a born leader and field general that will help orchestrate better team defense. Here are a few attributes listed in McClain's scouting report:

Rolando McClain, 6-4/256

• Huge frame for ILB
• Very long arms
• Good level of production
• Comfortable in coverage
• Excellent tackling technique
• Stacks and sheds blocks well
• Very good pass rusher
• Love his timing on blitzes
• Nice agility; smooth change of direction
• Highly experienced
• Takes good angles to the ball
• Stays in control
• Vocal leader
• Intelligent
• Doesn't take plays off
• Outstanding instincts

Here's the draft analysis on Lamar Houston, 6-3/305:

"The hulking interior defender is an exceptional athlete with outstanding strength and power. He is capable of stacking blockers at the point of attack, but also possesses the quickness to play as an up-field penetrator. Given the Raiders' woes on defense, the addition of Houston will undoubtedly shore up some of the problems." inside.

My guess is that Richard Seymour will see his fair share of snaps playing DT and Houston will be used both as a DT and DE. Our projected front 7:

LDE-Shaughnessy/Houston; UT-Kelly/Houston; NT-Bryant/Seymour; RDE-Seymour/Richardson

WLB-Scott/Howard; MLB-McClain/Nixon/Goethel; SLB-Wimbley/Brown

3. Upgrade our QB play
Jason Campbell is quite simply the "Anti-Russell". Campbell is everything that a fan should expect out of a professional QB with the key word being 'professional'. No one has to worry about whether our new starting QB is well prepared, knows the playbook, and in top shape. Campbell is an athletic, durable QB who started in all 32 Washington games over the past 2 seasons. He is an accurate (64.5% in 2009; 61.2% career) passer with good mobility.

4. Add talent, depth, and competition at OLine.

This remains a work-in-progress. Although we drafted 2 OTs with a ton of "upside" and athletic talent in Jared Veldheer and Bruce Campbell, both of these prospects would seem to be 2-3 year projects.

Round 3, Pick 5 (69) - Jared Veldheer, OT,6'8" 312, Hillsdale

Pick Analysis: "The Raiders go with small-school standout Jared Veldheer to compete for time at offensive tackle. Though he dominated inferior competition in college, his impressive performance in pre-draft workouts showcased his immense potential as a pro."

Round 4, Pick 8 (106)- Bruce Campbell, OT, 6'6" 314, Maryland

Pick Analysis: "The Raiders pick up the most athletic offensive tackle from the NFL Scouting Combine with their selection of Bruce Campbell. Though many expected the team to nab him in the first round, the Raiders patiently waited to acquire him with the 106th pick. While he is raw in several aspects of his game, Campbell's outstanding athleticism gives him a chance to develop into a solid player in time."

5. Improve our KR/PR abilities.

Last season the Raiders return units were horrendous. Our KR unit ranked last with a 18.2 yards per kick return average. The Raiders PR unit ranked #29 at 4.9 yards per punt return. 4th round pick, Jacoby Ford (Clemson), should be able to create a spark on special teams and improve our field position. He is also a good prospect to be a slot WR.

Round 4, Pick 10 (108) (From Jaguars) - Jacoby Ford, WR, 5'9" 186, Clemson

Pick Analysis: "The Raiders continue their tradition of selecting outstanding track athletes with the addition of Jacoby Ford. The former track All-America has exceptional speed and quickness, and gives the team a versatile receiver/returner. With his explosiveness, Ford could develop into an impact player for the Silver and Black."

Rebuilding instead of reaching ... what a wonderful concept.

Tuesday, April 20, 2010

Raider REM Sleep

It's a big week in the NFL with the schedule coming out today and the draft coming up on Thursday. It looks like the Raiders caught a couple of advantageous breaks with the 2010 schedule.

The ideal time to have your team's bye week are weeks 8-11 due to the grind and brutality of a 16 game regular season. Fortunately, the Raiders' bye week is week 10. The other component to the 2010 Raiders schedule that works to our favor is the limited amount of traveling for road games. Besides the opener at Tennessee, the Raiders don't travel any farther than Denver in the 1st 10 weeks. The other early road games are at Arizona, at San Francisco, and at Denver.

With the way that the draft boards seem to be lining up and the unsettling draft rumors, I am feeling a bit nauseous. It is looking like the 3 best OTs (Okung, Williams, Bulaga) will be taken by the Skins, Chiefs, and Seahawks. Instead of reaching for workout warrior and gold medal winner in the Underwear Olympics (Bruce Campbell), I would love to see us trade down or do a "mini-reach" for one of the following prospects:

- Mike Iupati, G, Idaho
- Maurkice Pouncey, C/G, Florida
- Derrick Morgan, DE, Georgia Tech
- Rolando McClain, ILB, Alabama
- Dan Williams, DT, Tennessee

My dream case scenario is that either Washington, Kansas City, or Seattle goes in an unexpected direction and bypasses an OT for another positional player. If one of the top 3 OTs falls in our lap, I would be thrilled, elated, and relieved. If this doesn't happen, I would at least take comfort in knowing that we picked up one of the above 5 listed prospects who have been highly productive college players and won't be considered a project like Bruce Campbell. Not only had Campbell only started 17 games but he has an injury history and very raw technique. The best that the team could hope for out of Campbell is that he becomes a more refined player by 2012.

Last but not least ... another wonderful early Christmas present for the Nation would be Davis hiring former 49er GM Scot McCloughlan. McLoughlan can be signed by another team immediately following the draft. He is a well respected, highly qualified young football executive who could lessen Davis' load and provide some fresh ideas in terms of personnel and rebuilding the team. The fact that McCloughlan's dad is a longtime scout and former player with the Raiders makes this the proverbial "no brainer". It just makes too much damn sense for our 82 year old Owner/GM to get some executive help and another set of highly qualified ears and eyes.

"And with the 8th selection of the 2010 draft ... the Raiders select Offensive Tackle Trent Williams from the University of Oklahoma."

AP Headline on 4/26: The Oakland Raiders ink Scot McCloughlan as Personnel Director.

Trent Williams, Scot McCloughlan, and a fresh new schedule ... don't wake me up from these pleasant dreams.