The optimist says: The Oakland Raiders have had a strong offseason, they have rid themselves of the cancer that has been sapping their strength. They have also focused on bringing in guys who buy into Tom Cable’s system, and with the leadership of the new offensive brain trust the Raiders are going to have a winning record.
The strongest evidence that JaMarcus Russell was the anchor around the neck of the offense was the sudden ability of the team to move the ball and score points once Russell. was planted on the bench. The competition between Bruce Gradkwoski and Jason Campbell for the starting position is going to make both of them better, and ensure that whomever wins will be hungry to be the best. He will have the confidence of his team to be The Man who is going to lead them.
Having a quarterback who can deliver the ball on target will help the Raiders young receivers take the step to move to the next level. Darrius Heyward-Bey’s intense offseason work on his hands, and his never let down attitude will serve him to be greatly improved. The receiver’s ability to make plays will free up coverage off of Zach Miller who will have a Pro Bowl caliber season.
The final 53 man roster projected
Offense catching on
The light at the end of the tunnel
- Generation game: Oakland and LA Raider fans
- Not the ‘Same old Raiders’
- JaMarcus Russell: A cautionary tale
Robet Gallery’s health will hold out for the entire season and Mario Henderson will play to the level he did at the beginning of the 2009 season, opening holes for Michael Bush to be the Raiders first 1000 yard rusher since Justin Fargas in 2007.
With the Hue Jackson-led revamped offense averaging 24 points a game, the opposing teams have to pass on the Raiders secondary. This takes the pressure off of the Raiders run defense, which will be much improved with the additions of Rolando McClain and Lamarr Houston, with Houston narrowly edging his teammate for defensive rookie of the year, with Houston’s seven sacks being the deciding factor.
The bulk that has been added to the front seven leads the Raiders end up ranking near the middle of the pack in run defense, which is a massive step up from the previous seasons. Their pass defense is ranked in the top half of the league, with quarterbacks never getting time to get comfortable in the pocket with Lamarr Houston and Richard Seymour consistently in their faces. However, Trevor Scott will end up leading the team in sacks for the third year in a row and break into double digits for the first time coming coming from the “elephant” linebacker position.
With these things coming together for Tom Cable and the Raiders, they open with a close win over the Tennessee Titans. With the excitement of an opening win and a fresh season, the Coliseum is packed for the home opener against the St Louis Rams. The revamped Raiders steamroll the Rams to open with two consecutive wins since 2002. In week three, the Raiders eek out another win over the Cardinals by taking advantage of Matt Leinert’s jitters and picking off several passes. The early season mojo doesn’t come through when the Raiders slip against Texans to finish the first quarter of the season at 3-1.
George Blanda’s miracle season
Raiders have enviable QB situation
FFL: running backs
They open the second quarter of the season by hosting the post-LaDainian Tomlinson San Diego Chargers. The Raiders rebound from their slip against the Texans to snap their losing streak against the Chargers. Te Raiders cross the bay to face the 49ers and this game is a slugfest. Sebastian Janikoski delivers a win in overtime with a 40+ yard field goal at windy Candlestick. The Raiders travel to Mile High to face Denver and just can’t get it done. The Broncos take this one in the thin air. They come home to face the Seattle Seahawks and are listless. At the halfway point of the season the Raiders are 5-3. They haven’t had a winning record at the halfway point since 2001 when they were 6-2 and went on to win the AFC West title.
The Raiders host the Chiefs in their last game before the bye. They can’t shake their sloppy ways, and fall for a third consecutive game. The storyline at the break becomes that they were the same old Raiders, and were falling apart at the seams. However, this is a team that had tasted winning and developed expectations. They have extra practices over the break to get their early season intensity back. They come back from the break facing a Steeler team that is riding high from the return of Ben Roethlisberger, but the Raiders simply demolish them and score their biggest offensive output in years. Ben Roethlisberger has to leave the game with a concussion, and the Raiders make a statement. They beat the Miami Dolphins, but come up short in a rematch with the San Diego Chargers. At the three quarters point they have a 7-5 record and the Raider Nation is daring to dream playoffs.
The Raiders travel to Jacksonville with Michael Bush running through former Raider Kirk Morrison for the winning touchdown. Denver comes to town for a game with playoff implications. The NFL Flexes it to prime time, the first time the Raiders have had a game flexed since flex scheduling was introduced. The Raiders take their revenge on the Broncos and win their first prime time game since November of 2004. The Raiders host the Indianapolis Colts with a chance to clinch the AFC West with a win. However, the Colts also need a win, so Peyton Manning takes the field, and the Raiders defense can’t stop him. It is a high scoring shootout, but the Colts leave with a win. This sets up the season finale with the arch rival Kansas City Chiefs, and the Raiders and Broncos tied for the AFC lead at 9-6. By virtue of the tie breakers, the Raiders control their destiny and if they win, they are in the playoffs. The NFL flexes this game as it is the only week 17 game with playoff implications. The Raiders take no prisoners and lock up the AFC West crown for the first time since 2002 with a 10-6 record.
Have a great weekend. On Sunday night, I will counter this with the pessimist’s view. But for the weekend, let yourself dream.
On Sunday July 18th at 10am eastern ESPN will profile Jailen Cooper who attended the Oakland Raiders OTA as part of the Make-a-wish foundation, and his experience with the Raiders, as part of their “My Wish” series. Cooper was given his own locker, and got to tackle Darren McFadden in a special ‘drill.” Coach Cable even had him take a question from the media.
For more info: Check out RaiderNews.com for the latest on the Oakland Raiders.
Patrick Patterson’s other writing:
- Oakland Raiders
- Various topics including fiction & poetry
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