What have we learned from our 2008-2009 Oakland Raiders this far?
Well, a lot has to be said of the mentality change. Russell is positive, Kiffin said that McFadden has a GREAT attitude. Overall, a lot to be happy about. It appears every area of the team has improved, except the offensive line.
The first few days have been pretty normal, but lets re-hash what has been said about each positional grouping.
QB: Russell can make some insane throws and appears committed to learning the smaller things. He has a ways to go, but I can’t help but feel that those one or two plays a game where he is superman might be the difference between having just a QB that does the small things and one that can bring you back when you need him to. Tui looks poised to take the backup role, and Walter might finally get his wish out of town provided all the QBs stay healthy.
RB: Bush has a ways to go to be the short-yardage guy, and honestly I am not sure that is the best role for him, because he is a bit more nimble than he is a power runner. I was thinking change of pace, because of his size being so much different than Fargas or McFadden. McFadden looks as advertised, but he is struggling to catch balls as a WR, which might be normal for a rookie. Fargas is Fargas and runs hard when given the chance.
WR: Drew Carter appears to be fitting in nicely and I don’t see any reason Curry will disappoint. Walker might have a lot left to prove, but with the rookie and the veterans we should have a healthy mix of WR.
FB: Griffith and Oneal are probably the best two-headed FB duo in the league.
OL: This is where we have some issues. There are 3 out of 5 positions on the line that are a huge question marks. Starting with our new LT, to Center and on to the right tackle spot. Typically it is the OG spots that are easy to revolve mediocre players into, but in our case we are doing the reverse. I think center will be fine as Grove is a nice center for this scheme and Wade a capable backup. It doesn’t appear we have anything ironed out as far as Tackles. Cable knows what he is doing, and although it is tough to criticize the guy after what he did last season, I’ve more than once pointed out Cable’s ability to produce run blocking lines but fairly middle of the road pass blocking teams. Hopefully he can prove me wrong.
Secondary: Asomugha and Hall are unarguably the best CB duo in the league. Hall was an interesting trade to me, because I thought Routt was starting to come into his own, but perhaps he lacks the instincts to ever be a lockdown corner and gets by on his athletic ability too much. Or perhaps we just made the trade viewing it as a bargain. Either way we have a strong CB group with Gabril and Michael right behind them. I think Huff is really going to blossom under the tutelage of Wilson with the ability to make plays as the Free Safety. He did better than most poeple thought at SS, he tackled pretty well for his size too, he just had problems with LT and sometimes LJ, but he was really undersized and those guys abuse plenty of linebackers which are much bigger than Huff. Gabril should be the missing link and plenty of people underestimate a good safety. Bob Sanders makes the entire Colts defense better, and I expect Gabril to do the same for us as wel as move Huff to a better postion. Finally we have two nice safeties!
LB: Howard and Morrison are another awesome duo we have, they do need some work in run coverage, but ultimately the LBs shouldn’t have to shed blocks from two offensive lineman, they need to be able to make plays. I think they will. The three-pronged battled at SLB looks to be a good one, in the end I think all will play some and no real starter will emerge. I think Sam Williams to be the most capable if healthy, but Robert Thomas is highly versatile, but a bit undersized do play SLB.
DL: By most accounts of our camp Jay Richardson continues to look strong and there is a chance he could become an every-down player. If he doesn’t K. Edwards figures to fill the shoes of Chris Clemons. Hopefully just as successfully. Burgess is near unblockable in camp and he looks healthy and ready for a strong year to force the Raiders hand at a contact extension. Kelly has been easing into the practices, but reports put him as the last guy done in the workout room as he works to take off the extra weight. The improvement Kelly gives us at the 3-technique spot is largely underestimated. Sapp said it, and even Bill Belicheat knows it. Sands might eventually prove that he can play up to the level we are paying him, until then Warren needs to play like we all know he can. Hopefully a successful team will pave the way for that.
Side Note: Anyone think the Pats pay abnormally close attention to our roster? Gabriel, Moss, Jordan, etc…hmmm
In the end, there are a lot of things that need to go right for us to have a nice season, but weirder things have happened (Browns last year?). I believe we lack true depth overall, so injuries might be key for us. We took some gambles this year, but if just half of the pay off we are in much better shape than a year ago.