Houston: Do We Have a Problem?

Not Lamarr Houston, he has been fantastic. This is an email interview I did with Houston Blogger @HouSports, in preparation for the week four matchup in Oakland. There is no real problem, although they do ask about the Raiders problems of the past.

Q: After being in the Super Bowl in 2002 the Raiders are just 30-85 with their best season being 5-11. What has happened in the last 8 years to cause this poor run?

A: The Raiders Super Bowl team was older and a time of rebuilding was to be expected. The effort to rebuild was prolonged by poor draft picks. Of the four first-round picks in 2002 and 2003 only Nnamdi Asomugha is still on the roster. Robert Gallery didn’t pan out as a left tackle and only six players remain which were drafted between 2002 and 2006.

In addition to the Raiders poor run of draft selections, Al Davis hasn’t had the best luck with coaching hires. Bill Callahan ran a veteran team into the ground after the Super Bowl, Norv Turner ran soft camps and wasn’t getting results, Art Shell ran a bed and breakfast offense and feuded with players, and Lane Kiffin ran himself into the ground by feuding with Al Davis himself.

Q: The Raiders have been through their coaches recently. Will Tom Cable stick as head coach and if not who are some people you and other Raiders fans would like to see get the job?

A: Al Davis is notoriously impatient with his coaches, but has softened in recent years and given coaches a chance to build something despite sub .500 records. The consensus seems to be that Tom Cable must get the 2010 Raiders to at least eight wins. He will stick if he can get the Raiders to the .500 mark or a playoff appearance.

If Cable is fired, the leading candidates would be either Offensive Coordinator Hue Jackson or Stanford Head Coach Jim Harbaugh. Harbaugh visited Al Davis in Napa at the Raiders training camp this August and would probably be the fan preference.

Q: Darrius Heyward-Bey seems like he is starting to play to his potential. Who are some other players that need to step up and help turn things around?

A: Mario Henderson, Samson Satele, Cooper Carlisle and Langston Walker all need to step up in a huge way for the Raiders to turn things around. This is four of the five offensive lineman and all are playing below average. Robert Gallery is hurt again, but even his backup Daniel Loper is out-playing the aforementioned four. Jared Veldheer is a rookie that is also getting snaps because of Mario Henderson’s poor play.

Safety Tyvon Branch also needs to step up. The NFL’s leading tackler at safety in 2009 has made multiple mistakes in 2010 that have often resulted in opposition touchdown celebrations.

Q: Sitting at 1-2 heading into Week 4, what is the biggest concern for the Raiders right now?

A: The offensive line. Bruce Gradkowski and Jason Campbell can be successful, but they need adequate time to make good decisions. Gradkowski earned the starting job mainly because he was able to make quicker decisions and use his quick delivery to get the ball out before the rushers arrived.

Q: Bruce Gradkowski has taken over at QB for Jason Campbell. What are your thoughts on the QB situation and who, in your opinion, gives the Raiders the best chance to win?

A: Right now it is Gradkowski because has the mobility to escape pressure that results from shoddy pass blocking. If and when the Raiders learn to pass block, Jason Campbell would be a better solution. Mario Williams should have fun this week.

Q: With Michael Bush coming back from injury and Darren McFadden playing well, what will the Raiders do at the RB position?

A: McFadden is playing well and will continue to get the bulk of the carries. One area the Raiders have struggled is in the red zone and short-yardage. This is where Bush may be able to help with his more physical running style and large body.

Q: The Texans have been looked at by a lot of people as a rising team with a shot at the playoffs this year. What is your opinion on the Texans?

A: The Texans have been a rising team with a shot at the playoffs for about three years, yet haven’t been able to do it. My opinion of the team hasn’t changed; they are still a playoff caliber team. The addition of a decent running attack helped the Texans defeat the Colts and adds a new dimension to the offense.

Mario Williams and Brian Cushing are anchors of a strong front seven. The secondary may be a weakness, but it can mitigated by early leads and a good pass rush.

Q: Who is the one guy on the Texans that you wish played for the Raiders?

A: Andre Johnson. He’s the type of receiver teams dream about having. Johnson has the total package without too much “Diva.” While Matt Schaub is enticing, Johnson is an elite and rare commodity.

Q: Alright, prediction for Week 4?

A: 27-24, Raiders. Sebastian Janikowski will kick the game winning field goal. Nnamdi Asomugha will shut down Andre Johnson like he did Larry Fitzgerald last week.

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