The following was written prior to the Week 1 game versus the Chargers:

Before I really get started about the Raiders impact position players, I’d like to talk about the draft. Darrius Heyward-Bey, really? Where did the idea that picking someone from Maryland projected for the second round come into play in the top 10 picks? Look, I’m not saying his explosive speed is bad or that he is a horrible player but EVERY ONE is saying how bad he is at running routes, is that really what JaMarcus needs right now? A young kid that can’t run the routes right and is untested? Even so, at the Wide Receiver position there were better options. Like, I dunno, Michael Crabtree or Jeremy Maclin, for example, who both have just as much speed and showed they can perform in the clutch. Even though Crabtree hasn’t signed, how can you pass him up at the time of the draft? Not to mention their stifling need for ANY kind of decent linebacker. USC’s hard hitting Rey Malualuga was out there until the 38th pick of the draft until the Bengals finally decided to pick him up. OLB Brian Cushings would have been a wonderful pick as well, for the Offensive Line, he could easily help plug holes and stop defenders from getting to an also young Darren McFadden. Lord knows Richard Seymour is going to be a negative influence on the Raiders…assuming, that is, they can actually get him to step foot in Oakland. Despite what the guy wanted to do in New England…you were traded, that’s the business and you know it, put on your big boy pants and PLAY.

But, I suppose it could have been worse…at least the Raiders didn’t get another running back.

Now, let’s take a look at the roster of the Raiders. We’ll start with the obvious quarterback position.

Quarterback: JaMarcus Russell has a cannon for an arm and I suppose he would have to if Al Davis would give him any sort of chance. Russell can really launch the ball, however, this has also been what many have said his biggest downfall is. Russell is very confident in his arm and tends to get a little careless with the ball, in regards to trying to force the ball, and that will lead to some very costly interceptions. He also had seven lost fumbles, an area that needs improvement right now. Otherwise, Russell proves to have limitless potential considering his size. When you’re 6’6”, 260 pounds you can hang out in the pocket and take a hit here and there and be able to get away with it.

In regards to the Quarterback position, I pray Russell never gets hurt. With Garcia getting cut the only backups left are Bruce Gradkowski and Charlie Frye. Gradkowski did show promise in the preseason, but he has a nasty habit of fumbling the ball and with how mediocre the offensive line is that will spell disaster so fast it’s not even funny. He works primarily from the shotgun and has relatively solid feet, he can roll out of the pocket if there is pressure and still make a fairly decent play. However, Gradkowski is the best bet after Russell. Charlie Frye hasn’t gotten much play in the preseason and at that I’m surprised he isn’t injured already. While he may be a veteran I don’t really see him getting much playing time unless Gradkowski and Russell are out.

Running Backs / Full Backs:

Justin Fargas, in all fairness, probably should be the everyday running back for the Raiders and the draft pick used on McFadden should have gone towards someone they needed, probably Glenn Dorsey or someone to bolster their offensive line. In 2008 Fargas ran for 853 yards with only 3 fumbles, which was a slight drop off from his 2007 1009 yards rushing and again 3 fumbles.

Darren McFadden, however, is still very unproven in his so far brief NFL career. Last year he only ran for 499 yards, which is decent for a rookie prospect, but when you look at the alternative of Fargas you have to wonder if it really is time to hand the running duties off to McFadden just yet. I think McFadden has the tools, might want to work on his lower body physique, but the Raiders need to slow build him into the starting job and let Fargas do his thing this year.

The next running back in the stock pile is Michael Bush, a solid running back from the University of Louisville who saw minimal action last season until both Fargas and McFadden fell to injury. The Raiders also have Louis Rankin, from the University of Washington, he hasn’t started a game yet so there’s really no way to tell what he is capable of.

Now onto the fullbacks, I thought things were looking up when we signed Lorenzo Neal but when he got injured he was waived off the team. I would have liked to have seen them give him a chance because he could really break open some holes for whatever running back is behind him.

Oren O’Neal is a promising fullback that missed a lot of last season because of injury, I fell like a broken record. For a 6’0” 244 pounder he has surprising acceleration and has some very solid footwork. But, I think he really needs to work on opening holes for his running core because in the past this has been a problem for him. He isn’t a great blocker either and at the fullback position those are two skills that need to become average or above average and right now I think he’s just getting by.

Luke Lawton should feel lucky to be on the team because if not for the injury to Lorenzo Neal he’d be the one without a job right now. He doesn’t really excel at anything. Isn’t a great blocker, doesn’t open up the holes, and can’t really receive. Like I said, he’s lucky this is the Raiders and Lorenzo Neal got hurt otherwise…buh bye.

Wide Receivers / Tight Ends:

Johnnie Lee Higgins is somewhat of a double threat because he is a valuable punt return weapon and a very passable wide receiver. Darrius Heyward-Bey, if he lives up to whatever hype Al Davis & Co. saw in him then he is going to be a valuable asset, not the most valuable they could have gotten, but not useless for sure. His speed is his greatest weapon, but thus far his hands have been under suspect and it doesn’t matter how fast you run if you can’t catch the ball. If Heyward-Bey can catch his stride then having him AND Higgins on opposite sides of the field could provide some well needed stress for any defensive core.

Chaz Schilens is a big boy for a wide receiver at 6’4” and 225 pounds. Despite his size he has good speed and, during a training session, had a vertical leap of 43 inches. But, as it looks like it’s becoming a pattern with the newer Oakland receivers, he has trouble running routes, however, has had some key blocks during running plays. Drafted out of San Diego State, Chaz didn’t have more than 35 catches. However, with a broken foot Schilens is aiming for a week two comeback.

Javon Walker is an eight year veteran that has twice gone to the Pro-Bowl in 2004, with the Packers, and 2006, with the Broncos. He missed a lot of the 2008 season due to injury. Walker has fallen on a lot of hard times off the field being in the same car Darrent Williams was shot and killed in and being mugged in 2008. With injury and off the field incidents like this you have to wonder what could possibly happen to Javon next. It’s almost like you wish he could live on the football field so there can’t be a “what’s next”. Despite that, Javon always seems to post very solid numbers. As long as he can stay healthy and unharmed during the season than this is one of those guys you need to watch out for. He probably won’t be starting because he has a troublesome knee and his last two seasons were less than stellar. But, this year has been a bit of a nightmare for him as he wanted to retire during training camp until Tom Cable talked him out of it. If he can get past it then he might be able to be productive again.

Zach Miller seemed to be the favorite target of Russell last year at tight end, and with GOOD reason, he lead the team with 56 catches and 788 receiving yards. You probably haven’t heard of him because…well…the team in the last two years has had like 4 wins. Miller is EASILY one of the top players on the Raiders roster and if they plan to d anything this season then this guy will be a part of it. Things probably won’t be too much different this season, so chances are you’ll hear about Zach Miller if you end up watching a Raiders game.

Nick Miller, undrafted free agent out of Southern Utah University, just squuuuueeeeeaked into the 53 man roster as a Wide Receiver after a strong performance in training camp. He is primarily going to be a punt and kickoff returner with potential as a wide receiver. But, I thought he needed mention because stories like this are always super awesome. He probably won’t win any awards but this kid went undrafted, got a chance with the Raiders, and worked his butt off in training camp to EARN, a word that is tossed around too much sometimes, his spot in the big leagues. Well done, kid.

As far as wide receivers go, it really depends how well Heyward-Bey does when he gets thrown into the fire against the Chargers. If he really steps it up then they can really get things working with Higgins. Miller is going to be solid regardless and he’ll probably be pivotal if the Raiders have any hopes of downing the mighty Chargers. Once Schilens comes back I think the WR core is going to be a lot better than people expect. Don’t get me wrong they won’t be the best, but they’ll have a lot of weapons that will surprise a lot of teams.

Offensive Line:

Robert Gallery flies a little under the radar because about two seasons ago, under Art Shell, he was shifted from Left Tackle to Right Tackle after putting up some pretty solid numbers. The shift proved almost fatal for Gallery as his numbers went right down the drain, which is understandable considering the shift from left to right. However, once Art Shell, bringer of the Hell in Oakland season, hit the road he was shifted back to left tackle and his numbers have since been stable and he is looking to have a breakthrough season. At left tackle I think Robert Gallery is going to be the man to watch on the O-Line.

Cornell Green…Cornell Green…what can you say about this guy? On the field he gives up tons of penalties and is a sack giving machine. How he is still on an NFL team is beyond me. Not to mention off the field he was just recently arrested for supposedly beating his wife with a mop handle. Wonderful, and yes that’s sarcasm.

Chris Morris was pretty much just promoted to starting center on the offensive line. At 6’4” and 305 pounds he provides a big body at center and really worked his way into the starting position. It helped that Samson Satele had such a god awful training camp they couldn’t help but give Morris the starting job, but hey, you have to take every opportunity you can get so I’m anxious to see Morris start at center.

The offensive line is going to be key this year and I wonder how they’re going to do with a new starter at center and someone like Cornell Green…well…anywhere. If they can’t hold the line then JaMarcus is going to get pressure and try to force throws all over the place and turn the ball over. However, I think if Gallery can bring these guys together, because he’s looking to be the leader of the o-line, then I think the Raiders have a chance to have a decent season.

Defensive Line:

Richard Seymour(?): IF the Raiders can get this man in a Raiders uniform and want to STAY in a Raiders uniform, which will be a struggle in and of itself, than Seymour would be a HUGE addition to the defensive line. Seymour can REALLY help with the abysmal run defense of the Raiders…assuming he stops being such a baby and does what he’s paid to do. Free Agency? Not unless you suit up in Silver and Black, sunshine.

Greg Ellis: LOVE this pick up by the Raiders, if you’ve watched the Cowboys in the past then you’ve probably seen this guy sacking the opposing quarterback. 20 sacks in the last 3 years, 20 sacks…man, if you don’t want this man on your defensive line then you’re crazy. If the Raiders can get Seymour and Ellis on the same line…man…

Nnamdi Asomugha: Oh my god, give this man a blank check and do WHATEVER he asks you in order to keep him at corner back. I love this guy for two reasons, one; he’s awesome and two; he was drafted from CAL, my favorite college team EVER. He went to the Pro Bowl in 2006 and 2008, a career total of 10 interceptions and 257 tackles. Asomugha only allowed 8 receptions the entire year of 2008. He was the Raiders captain last season and with good reason. This guy is money, money, yeeeeah, yeah.

Those possible three players are going to be key to the Raiders Defensive Line. IF they can get Richard Seymour than watch out for the Raiders D-Line because running the ball on them won’t be as easy as it used to be. Ellis will bring some much needed pressure to opposing quarterbacks and possibly have them make the mistake of testing Asomugha who is a big brick wall in front of the quarterback. If there isn’t any Seymour, they’ll still be much stronger with just Ellis than they were last year.


Sebastian Janikowski: You’d think with how little the Raiders score that their placekicker would really suck, but on the contrary Janikowski is an excellent place kicker. He has been hailed to having quite possibly the strongest leg in the game and leads the league with kickoff touchbacks. At one point tried to make a 64 yarder, which to me at the time seemed like madness, but it actually had the right distance and dinged off the field goal post. He was also the kicker for the infamous 76 yard attempt against the Chargers that was returned by Chromartie for a touchdown. No need to change this area, because they probably have one of the best place kickers that the NFL has to offer. They just need to score and let him kick it off more. The only other person I might rather have is Adam Vinateri.

Shane Lechler: Now, this is the guy you’d expect to be REAL good on the Raiders because of all the times they have to punt and trust me, for a Punter, he’s REAL good. He’s been to the Pro Bowl four times in 2001, 2004, 2007, and 2008. Currently holds the NFL record for best average per punt in career with 46.8 yards. Another area that I wish could be worse because that means we aren’t punting much, but if we have to punt a lot then this is the guy I want punting for me, regardless of team.


Winnable Games: Kansas City Chiefs, Denver Broncos, Houston Texans, Cincinnati Bengals

Now, I said those games are “winnable” and that by no means is a guarantee “god dammit they are supposed to win” type of deal. If the Raiders get their cards all set into place and they really mold then those games are do-able for them. Denver is a mess and half with the Marshall problems and whatever is up with Orton’s throwing hand, the Chiefs are a wreck now that Cassel is hurt, Houston’s d-line could be problematic but I think the Raiders can possibly break them, and the Bengals are…well…the Bengals, Carson Palmer is bound to get injured sometime during the season before the Raiders play and once he’s gone it doesn’t matter how many Ochocinos are out there.

Interesting Game: Dallas Cowboy, New York Jets

This is interesting just because in preseason the Raiders dominated the Cowboys. But, the thing is that’s preseason and beating Romo in a game that means nothing for one, maybe two, quarters is one thing. But doing it for a whole game in Week 12 is a whole different story. While I think the Cowboys are going to murder the Raiders, I think there is a chance for a serious upset here if the Raiders really gun for the Cowboys. I also think the Raiders have a chance to beat the Jets. Now, give me a damn second, because last year the Raiders managed to beat the Jets with Brett Favre. Now, I haven’t been studying the Jets like crazy this year but when you go from Favre to…Sanchez…something tells me there is going to be a bit of a drop off talent wise. Sanchez is still learning the offense and is a rookie with what, one or two preseason starts under his belt? Don’t overlook the Raiders in this game, they took it to the Jets before and I think this year’s Raiders are better than last.

God I Wish We Were Better So We’d Win These Games: Week 1 and Week 8 meetings with the Chargers.

If we win these two games then for all I care we could lose every other game, save for the games against the Broncos, and I would call the season a pure win comparable to a Super Bowl. The Chargers have been doing nothing but whipping on us the last two seasons and for just once I would LOVE to see the Raiders give it back to the Chargers and just beat the shit out of them. Sadly…I doubt that will happen this season, but here’s to hoping!

Overall: I think the Raiders are going to be a surprise team this year. A lot of teams are going to go into McAfee Coliseum thinking they’re going to get an easy win and it’s not going to be as easy as that. Especially if the Seymour deal works out and Ellis gets into a nice stride and especially if JaMarcus can get comfortable and not try to force his throws or try too hard to make something happen. He just needs to settle down and look for Zach Miller or Higgins. He should be able to get the protection he needs with Gallery back at left tackle but guys like Cornell Green could cause a real problem. McFadden needs to find his stride and help out Russell by establishing the run so that Russell can really get the pass working. But, if he gets pressured he was fumbling the ball a lot and if they want to win more than 3 games, like last season, then they really need him to be solid and hold onto that football. This is going to be a fun season and for once we Raiders fans have more to look forward to than the costumes in the Black Hole.

And remember; Win, Lose, or Tie…RAIDERS TILL I DIE.