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Free agency starts Monday and the Raiders are still hacking away at troublesome contracts to get under the salary cap. Once the Raiders are comfortably under the salary cap they will turn their attention to signing free agents.
It wouldn’t be uncommon for a team to end up signing the majority of their own free agents, but this is no ordinary year in Oakland. Reggie McKenzie will try to re-shape the roster and the fringe-roster players could all be seeking employment on Monday.
Some Raiders’ free agents will be retained and others will be boarding flights to different cities in 201
QB Jason Campbell
Odds he leaves in free agency: 96%
Campbell is a classy player that understands the business side of the game. He didn’t make any noise when he was benched in favor of Bruce Gradkowski and he stuck around to support the team even though the Raiders had moved on from him last season.
Despite the bonds Campbell forged in Oakland, he’ll be boarding a flight for a new city in 2012. Where will depend on who wins the Peyton Manning sweepstakes and which teams rolls the dice on Matt Flynn.
Teams that need a quarterback include, Miami, Cleveland, Washington, Arizona, Seattle, Denver, Kansas City and Jacksonville.
Campbell may find it difficult to find a starting job in 2012, but that doesn’t mean he wont select a team where his odds of starting are increased.
Denver would be an interesting location for Campbell. Tebow’s success appears unsustainable and they don’t have much behind him. Unless the Dolphins lose
QB Kyle Boller
Odds he leaves in free agency: 100%
Boller will be hard-pressed to find a job as a second or third quarterback and it’s probably close to the end of the line for Boller.
RB Michael Bush
Odds he leaves in free agency: 90%
The Franchise Tag was given to Tyvon Branch, leaving Michael Bush to test the waters of free agency.
While the Raiders might want Bush to return, there will be teams calling that are willing to offer Bush much more than the Raiders will be able to offer.
The Bengals find themselves looking for a starting runningback for the first time in many years. Cedric Benson fizzled out as a starter and the Bengals will be looking for a back to pair with Andy Dalton and A.J. Green. The Bengals can find more balance offensively if they sign a legitimate starter and Bush has proven valuable and durable as the backup in Oakland. Potential fit.
RB Rock Cartwright
Odds he leaves in free agency: 25%
Cartwright was the Raiders’ special teams captain in 2012 and will come cheaply. Expect the Raiders to keep Cartwright around in 2012, but he wont be a top priority. He’s expressed a desire to stay with the Raiders and the Raiders will eventually return the favor.
WR Chaz Schilens
Odds he leaves in free agency: 85%
Vincent Jackson is ready to find a new team and that leaves a hole at receiver in San Diego. The Chargers rarely open up the bank for a free agent, so Schilens potential and affordability make Schilens an interesting target for the Chargers.
Schilens is familiar with San Diego having gone to college at San Diego State and he’s a native of southern California.
The Chargers have seen enough of Schilens to know he has talent, but not so close that they realize that he’s been healthy for one year of his career.
WR T.J. Houshmandzadeh
Odds he leaves in free agency: 99%
No one wanted him seven games into the 2011 season before Carson Palmer and Hue Jackson called. He didn’t do much with his time catching 11 passes for 146 yards in nine games.
He’ll file back into the unemployment line and that’s likely where he will remain.
C Samson Satele
Odds he leaves in free agency: 99%
Satele will reportedly not be retained by the Raiders. While that’s certainly not a bad move, Satele is cheap and can backup multiple positions on the offensive line. He’ll find a work somewhere.
RT Khalif Barnes
Odds he leaves in free agency: 99%
Barnes was not a very good starter at right tackle, but he could be signed to be a backup lineman somewhere in 2012
The Raiders will shift to younger players and/or players that fit the zone-blocking scheme and neither describe Barnes.
OL Stephon Heyer
Odds he leaves in free agency: 98%
Heyer was brought in to challenge for a starting job and he never did although one could argue the line played better when he was at left guard and Stefen Wisniewski was at center.
Regardless, Heyer is a free agent and doesn’t fit into the Raiders’ plans to shift to zone-blocking.
DE Trevor Scott
Odds he leaves in free agency: 48%
Scott is one player that might benefit from the Raiders new defense and he’ll be inexpensive to retain. It wasn’t long ago when Scott was an up-and-coming pass rusher and that might be enough to intrigue Dennis Allen. Intrigued enough to keep Scott in Oakland?
DE Jarvis Moss
Odds he leaves in free agency: 84%
Things didn’t work out for Moss in Denver or Oakland and Moss will be looking for his third team in 2012.
He flashes ability, but he’s far too inconsistent. Gut feeling is Rex Ryan calls and offers Moss a job as a backup with the Jets.
LB Ricky Brown
Odds he leaves in free agency: 99%
He was a player with ties to the organization and Al Davis kept coming back to Brown when he needed him.
Brown will have a tough time finding a team in 2012 and there is a very good chance
LB Quentin Groves
Odds he leaves in free agency: 99%
Groves was benched in favor of Aaron Curry mid-season and outside of solid special teams play offered little more than a body for the Raiders defense.
He’ll be in a different uniform in 2012.
LB Darryl Blackstock
Odds he leaves in free agency: 95%
He was a special teams player and was familiar with Chuck Bresnahan from his days as a coach for a UFL team. Given Blackstock is affordable and there isn’t much film on the guy, it’s conceivable the Raider will give him the opportunity to earn a roster spot in camp.
CB Lito Sheppard
Odds he leaves in free agency: 93%
Veteran cornerbacks that are on the street mid-season aren’t typically the type you want starting down the stretch, but Sheppard is a veteran and he’s smart.
He may be limited more now than he used to be, but he can still be relatively effective as a backup.
FS Matt Giordano
Odds he leaves in free agency: 50%
Giordano is familiar with Dennis Allen from his time with the Saints, but it is unknown if Allen has a favorable opinion of Giordano.
Giordano had five interceptions last season playing part-time, but also seemed to shy away from contract and let far too many receivers behind him to feel comfortable with him as anything more than a backup.
SS Jerome Boyd
Odds he leaves in free agency: 98%
Boyd is a fringe roster player and bounced between the practice squad and the active roster. Unless McKenzie and Allen see something in Boyd worth developing they will set their sights on other players.
DB Bryan McCann
Odds he leaves in free agency: 99%
Filled in admirably for Jacoby Ford and Denarius Moore in the return game. He’s a specialist and given his success in that area he could find a home in 2012.
There is an outside chance the Raiders might keep McCann around to limit the wear on the Raiders’ two young receivers.
FB Marcel Reece
Odds he leaves in free agency: 0%
As a restricted free agent, if another team wanted to sign Reece they’d have give the Raiders compensation depending on the level of the tender. That’s extremely unlikely and Reece is considered a big part of what the Raiders want to do on offense.
Don’t worry, Reece will be back with the Raiders in 2012.
DE Desmond Bryant
Odds he leaves in free agency: 2%
Like Reece, Bryant is a restricted free agent. He’s a great rotational lineman and can play multiple positions on the defensive line.
He’ll undoubtedly be back this season.
It’s been a NFL season full of abnormalities due to the lockout and the Raiders have been no exception. Many thought the Raiders would finally find their grove. The team finally had a guy they could call their franchise quarterback in Jason Campbell and they were full of young talent at just about every position. Hue Jackson, a fiery new coach, seemed to have the right formula for success. It started well enough, until week 5 when the wheels started to come off.
The Raiders lost their fearless leader Al Davis. While the Raiders were able to rally to beat the Texans that week, it was easy to tell that things were not the same in Oakland. Although often scrutinized for his managerial decisions, Al Davis ran things his way and answered to no one. Meaning when it came time to make decisions, they were made, and people moved on. Uncertainty was the word of the week when it came to how the Raiders would move forward. It didn’t take long to find out who was now making the calls. Hue Jackson quickly took the reigns and swung a trade for former first-round draft pick Aaron Curry to replace then starting weak-side linebacker Quentin Groves.
In the very next game against Cleveland, the Raiders took another big blow as starting QB Jason Campbell went down with a broken clavicle. The Raider faithful was in disbelief. A season that showed so much promise was quickly taking a turn for the worse. The Raiders managed to hold on and win that game on the strength of Janikowski’s leg and a fake field goal pass to Kevin Boss for a touchdown. The win was bitter sweet as Oakland, now 4-2, was left wondering who was going to finish the season at quarterback. Kyle Boller did very little in relief of Campbell against Cleveland and it was painfully obvious the coaching staff did not have faith in his abilities to run the offense.
Hue Jackson knew the season was hanging in the balance and, with his added decision-making power, began negotiations on a bigger than blockbuster trade that brough Caron Palmer to Oakland. Jackson called up his old buddy Mike Brown and persuaded him to hand over the key to a former Pro Bowl quarterback who was sitting out in protest of playing another season in Cincinnati. Palmer did not come cheap as the Raiders sent the Bengals a first round pick in 2012 and a conditional first round pick in 2013. With the acquisition came many questions. How much did Palmer have left? How quickly could he pick up the offense? Would he be able to gel with Oakland’s young receiving core? Would he be ready in time for the next game? Did the Raiders give up too much of the future in panic of having this season be lost?
The NFL season does not stop to allow a franchise to catch its breath. The Raiders had an important divisional game to get ready for against the Kansas City Chiefs. Having only a couple of days in Oakland before the next game, it was pretty clear that Kyle Boller had to make the start against the Chiefs. Adding to the list of problems for the Raiders, kicker Sebastian Janikowski injured his hamstring in practice and running back Darren McFadden sprained his foot on the opening drive and would not return. After an atrocious first half and opening series in the second half that saw Kyle Boller seemingly throwing more completions to Kansas City defensive backs than his own receivers, Hue had seen enough. In came Carson Palmer who knew all of 15 plays in his new offense and had essentially no time to get any type of timing down with his new wide receivers. The rest of the game concluded as you would expect. Palmer threw three interceptions and the Raiders offense was clearly in shambles. To say the offense wasn’t on the same page would insinuate that it appeared they were even reading the same book. From the looks of things, it wasn’t clear that was true. After a 28-0 loss, the bye week couldn’t get here soon enough.
The Raiders had two weeks to get things straight before division games against Denver and San Diego within a span of five days. Hue Jackson, still trying to adjust to all the turmoil, was not done making waves. He brought in T.J. Houshmandzadeh for a workout and eventually signed him to a veteran minimum deal much to the dismay of a lot of fans who did not understand the reason behind the signing. Houshmandzadeh played with Carson Palmer for six seasons, and has trained with him in the offseason for many years. Veteran knowledge and timing with your quarterback are very undervalued in this league today.
Heading into the second half the Raiders are essentially starting a whole new season. Not only are they tied for first in the AFC West with San Diego and Kansas City, but they are beginning the second half with a new starting quarterback, the backup running back, a new receiver, and the return of fullback Marcel Reece. Reece has been out of the lineup with an ankle injury since week two.
While many may expect Carson Palmer to take off as the Raiders new starting quarterback, you have to take a step back to realize what is actually unfolding in Oakland. How many times in NFL history has a starting quarterback gone down mid-season, only to have the team trade for quarterback that had been unemployed and pick up right where they left off? Fans should absolutely have faith in the Raiders new Palmer-led offense, but should also understand that patience will be essential. The Raiders face an up hill climb to winning the AFC West. That climb starts on Sunday when Denver comes to town. Nothing would begin to heal the wounds better than a thrashing of Tim Tebow and the Broncos in front of a sold out O.co Coliseum crowd.
It comes as a bit of a surprise that the Raiders will start Aaron Curry after just one practice with his new team. What was almost as surprising was that the Raiders will move Curry to the weak side. Curry replaces Quentin Groves as the starter.
The Raiders obviously believe Curry was miscast as a strong-side linebacker in the 4-3 and flipped him over the weak side. What’s the difference between the two positions in the Raiders 4-3? The weak-side linebacker in the Raiders defensive scheme is responsible for basically three things.
Clog running lanes. The weak-side linebacker needs to keep the opposing running back from turning the corner on running plays and he needs to make tackles in the running lane. Curry has shown he is solid against the run and should be effective in this role. Groves has been inconsistent diagnosing the correct running lanes and has been unable to turn the run inside when a lineman engages him. This is undoubtedly Curry’s strength.
Cover the flat. In the passing game the weak-side linebacker has the role of covering the flat. In man coverage this would typically be a back coming out of the backfield, but it could also be a wide receiver screen or a tight end short out in zone coverage. As a strong-side linebacker Curry struggled in coverage on the strong side, mainly in zone coverage where he was required to back-peddle into a middle zone and in man coverage against the opposing tight end. Curry will now play with everything in front of him and his only coverage responsibility will be a back in the flat in man coverage alignments. If the Raiders go into zone alignments Curry would gain more coverage responsibility in the flat, but would not have to sink into a zone as flat plays develop quickly. Curry has the quickness to get to the flat consistently and in the Raiders scheme and as a weak-side linebacker Curry will not have to do the things he does poorly.
Backside pursuit/cutback protection. The last responsibility of the weak-side linebacker is chasing down running plays and short pass plays on the opposite side of the field. This requires the linebacker to be the fastest of the three linebackers in a 4-3 defense. He’ll need to fight through blockers occasionally and protect against a cutback. The strong-side linebacker tries to seal the edge and the middle linebacker tries to shoot the running lane to bring down the runner, so the weak-side linebacker needs to protect against a cutback when Rolando McClain “chooses” the wrong running lane.
I’ve gone back and watched some of Curry’s best games as a professional. He’s had success against the 2010 49ers, Bears, Broncos and Cardinals and the 2009 Bears, Jaguars and 49ers. These teams were are all passing deficient teams with running backs that lack elite speed, but thrive on cutback runs. Curry wasn’t required to cover much in the best games. If the Raiders can keep him out of coverage, particularly middle zones and in one-on-one situations they might have themselves a pretty good linebacker.
Raiders have acquired former 1st round pick Aaron Curry from the Seahawks for two future draft picks.
The compensation is a 7th round pick in 2012 and a conditional mid-round pick in the 2013 draft.
Aaron Curry was much heralded coming out of college but has been a non-impact player so far in his career. Curry has struggled to defend the pass and hasn’t added much as a pass rusher either. However, the Raiders likely traded Curry for his ability to stop the run. Curry has been decently successful at stopping the run since he entered the league despite occasional struggles.
The most likely scenario is that Curry is used in running situations to start as the staff work with Curry on other areas of his game.
With Matt Shaughnessy’s status in doubt the Raiders have worked out defensive ends and linebackers in successive weeks. The Raiders ultimately decided against signing these players. Kamerion Wimbley has been lining up more at defensive end with Shaughnessy out and that may continue as Curry sees time at Wimbley’s strong-side linebacker position.
While traditionally the strong-side linebacker would cover the tight end the Raiders are more likely to cover pass catching tight ends with a safety.
McClain missed practice Wednesday with an ankle injury the severity of which is currently unknown. If McClain were to miss time the Raiders could turn to Darryl Blackstock or slide Curry into the middle linebacker spot. The Raiders would certainly be able to more creatively shield Curry from having to drop into coverage if he played in the middle.
The trade is a low risk, high reward move and Curry’s draft status will not hang over his head in Oakland as it did in Seattle. Don’t expect Curry to be a plug-in starter unless the Raiders have injuries that force him to play, but he should help the Raiders shore up the run defense.
I wouldn’t expect Curry to move to the weak-side and challenge for Quentin Groves spot because of his deficiencies in pass coverage.
An emotional win. A big win. The Raiders made it through the toughest stretch of the schedule 3-2. Now the Raiders have a month at home and play three unspectacular teams. Two are division foes and anything can happen. Raiders have plenty of things to work on in practice this week and the coaching staff will not let the players look past the Cleveland Browns.
A few players really stood out in the Raiders win and a few, well, didn’t.
Pushed the pile all day long and had the awareness to make the interception on one of the many Matt Schaub tips. Houston had a heck of game in Houston as did the rest of the defensive line. The Raiders really needed the defensive line to take over the game and the Raiders defensive line did just that and Houston was a big part of the Raiders day. Honorable Mention: John Henderson
He had the worst game of his career against the Texans the last time he faced them, but one of his best this Sunday. The Texans had no answer for the Raiders bigs pushing the offensive line into Schaub’s lap. Kelly was pushing the pocket and sealing Arian Foster out of running lanes. A motivated Tommy Kelly is one heck of a football player. He proved that again on Sunday.
Three studs on the Raiders defensive line. They deserved it and you could really give a stud mention to this entire unit. Seymour applied tremendous pressure up the middle with Kelly and any yardage Foster gained didn’t come through the middle. Seymour had a sack and was beating double teams which prompted the Raiders to blitz Rolando McClain up the middle which disrupted Schaub even more. Al Davis traded a first round pick for Seymour and to this point he has been worth it and then some.
Heyward-Bey had 99 yards on six receptions on Sunday with one touchdown and was two out-of-bounds throws by Jason Campbell from nine receptions for 150+ yards and a touchdown. Did I mention Heyward-Bey is also a great blocker? Heyward-Bey played his best game as a professional on Sunday. Heyward-Bey played with the kind of swagger great receivers play with and his profile with the Raider Nation is turning in his favor.
Michael Huff & Tyvon Branch
The Raiders starting safeties had some tough moments, but Branch had a few key tackles and kept Schaub from walking into the end zone on the game’s final play. Huff stepped in from of Schaub’s final pass to seal the big win for the Raiders. That’s enough to get stud recognition despite the team’s struggles covering backs out of the backfield and covering the Texans tight ends.
Not only was the guy all over the field on kick coverage, but he checked to the fake on the punt that gave the Raiders new life and kept the momentum in the Raiders favor. He’s the Raiders special teams captain and he plays like one. He’s quickly become on of my favorite Raiders to watch. Just watch him work on special teams because it is a thing of beauty.
Gave up too many catches for an “elite” cornerback. The Patriots ran a quick slant that Routt wasn’t able to defend and the Texans took advantage of the same play to get their first score. He’s still clearly the Raiders best corner, but he’s not playing at an amazingly high level that is making the team forget about Nnamdi Asomugha. That’s troubling, because the two players are making about the same amount.
The 12-men on the field penalty on the final drive was a direct result of Groves lack of hustle to get off the field and it cost the Raiders crucial time at the end of the game. Groves also blew his coverage assignment on Texans fullback Lawrence Vickers only for Vickers to drop the sure touchdown. Groves was nowhere to be found when Arian Foster was catching swing passes out of the backfield. He’s still rounding into form as a linebacker, but he isn’t good enough to make up for his own mistakes.
Forced too many throws and didn’t always give his receivers a chance to catch the ball. Way too many missed receivers. He missed Chaz Schilens on the flea flicker and threw several passes to Heyward-Bey and Denarius Moore that took the receivers out of pounds or where just too far out of reach. Campbell made enough plays to redeem himself and the touchdown pass to Schilens was a highlight, but he has to play better for the Raiders offense to take the next step. The next step for the Raiders offense is producing when Darren McFadden isn’t putting up be yardage on the ground.
He redeemed himself with a big special teams tackle on Shane Lechler’s final punt, but he committed a penalty and was getting into Denarius Moore’s way on punt returns. The Texans special teams units pushed Jones back into Moore as well. Jones can’t stay active on gameday without his special teams ability, so the Raiders will continue putting him into position to make a play on special teams. Let’s hope his stop on special teams is the real Jones.
The strength of the Raiders defense as everyone knows is the defensive line. It is anchored by six-time pro-bowler Richard Seymour and 300-pounder Tommy Kelly. The defensive line also features two young stout defensive ends, Matt Shaugnessey and Lamarr Houston. This season has also featured plays by run stuffing 330 pounder John Henderson and a resurgent Jarvis Moss. This unit is the undeniable strength of the defense.
Coming into this season the biggest question regarding the Raiders defense was in the secondary. With Nnamdi leaving, the spotlight has been on Stanford Routt and he has quietly delivered. Tyvon Branch has made his fair share of plays, but he’s still working to improve his consistency. These two starters of the secondary are the only two starters that have stayed healthy and that played four games. Michael Huff, Chris Johnson, Mike Mitchell and DeMarcus Van Dyke have all missed time and the backups have played like backups. Once these four players return the play and potential of the secondary unit will come into focus.
What about the linebackers? Coming into the season, they were neither the strength of the defense nor the weakness. This unit has two former 1st round picks in Rolondo McClain and Kamerion Wimbley and a 2nd round pick in Quentin Groves. Since week 1, the Raiders linebackers have been struggling. The biggest problem with this unit is that Wimbley and Groves were both drafted into this league primarily on their pass rushing abilities and not their outside linebacker skills. Both of these men, are outside rush linebackers in a 3-4 system or a defensive end in the nickel or dime in passing situations. The problem with this unit is that Groves and Wimbley are not 4-3 outside linebackers.
McClain is a work in progress. Some plays, he makes a pass deflection or he makes the correct read, fills the correct gap and stuffs the run. But too often, he is slow to react, plays too high, takes bad angles and is easily sealed off. McClain can be a quality run stuffing middle linebacker but right now he needs his outside linebacker to back him up when he makes mistakes. Unfortunately for McClain, his outside linebackers are not linebackers who fit the system. This season is not the season to give up on McClain, the Raiders are putting him a very difficult position.
Wimbley and Groves can still find a home with the Raiders. Groves is not a financial liability and could actually provide quality depth in the linebacker or defensive line unit. Given that he isn’t relayed upon to produce as the starting outside linebacker. Wimbley, whose new contract is deserved, is his best and provides the most value when played at defensive end.
With Groves and Wimbley at outside linebacker the Raiders are trying to put a square peg in a round hole. Wimbley and Groves provide another example of how Al Davis loves size and speed. Having Wimbley and Groves start at outside linebacker is an experiment. This experiment has resulted in the Raiders owning the worst run defense in the league. Groves and Wimbley both need to quickly complete the transformation into quality 4-3 outside linebackers. If not, Oakland’s run defense will continue to be embarrassed and the Raiders will have to give up the experiment. If the Raiders are to win the AFC West and be playoff team, something has to change.