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Oakland Raiders Preview 2k8


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#1 trodgers

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Posted September 04, 2008 - 09:05 AM

OAKLAND RAIDERS PREVIEW 2K8
Overview

In the six years since John Gruden turned the Raiders into a force to be reckoned with, piloting them to 38 wins and four playoff games in four seasons, Oakland fans have grown accustomed to heartache. When first year coach Bill Callahan led the Raiders to an 11-5 record, few doubted that it was Gruden's lingering effects that guided the Raiders to the Super Bowl only to be annihilated by a grinning Gruden and his Buccaneers. In the past five seasons, the Raiders have never won more than 5 games and have gone 19-61 (.238). There have been no playoff appearances. There have been no meaningful games late in the season (at least none that had implications for the Raiders' success; Oakland has not minded playing spoiler). Lane Kiffin is the fourth coach in the post-Gruden era, but it seems as if he is here for a lengthy stay. While his offensive schemes have not had ideal personnel, there is something to be said for Oakland's running game and pass defense. This season should mark a return to respectability for the Raiders, but the path there is fraught with dangers and hardships.

The Record

Oakland probably does not have the most difficult schedule in the NFL, but they have no simple task ahead of them. They begin the season on a Monday night against Denver then head off to play two straight games on the road. A 0-3 record is something Raiders fans must hold as a possibility. Another brutal stretch toward season's end sees Oakland facing Miami on the road before taking on Denver, Kansas City, and San Diego. After those three division games, New England comes to town. Oakland finishes up against Houston (at home) and Tampa Bay (on the road). What poetic justice it would be for Oakland to end the season on a high note, knock Tampa Bay out of playoff contention, and build on that win in the subsequent season.

Delivering prognostications about teams that have not played a regular season game is difficult. That much must be conceded. Yet it is possible to split games into three categories. Should-win Games see the Raiders with a high chance of victory (say 2/3 or more). Should-lose Games see the Raiders with a low chance of victory (say 1/3 or less). Toss-up Games are those that remain.

Should-win Games: Unfortunately, the Raiders are hardly in a position to claim any games as should-win. Statistically, they are not strong enough. The closest thing is a Week 9 matchup against Atlanta. Wins: 0.

Toss-up Games: Game 6 (Jets), Game 8 (Atlanta), Game 9 (Carolina), Game 12 (Kansas City), and Game 15 (Houston). Wins: 2.5.

Should-lose Games: All the rest, giving Oakland 11 games they really should be expected to lose. Statistically speaking, it would be incredibly unlikely that Oakland would lose all these games, so assume they win 25% to 33% of these games. Wins: 2.8-3.7.

Overall: Oakland will likely finish 5-11 or 6-10. While that is not good enough for a playoff spot (obviously) it would either tie (at 5 wins) the best post-Gruden record or would establish a new mark (6 wins). As noted, suffering is necessary on the path to respectability.

POSITIONAL BREAKDOWN

The Running Backs

Oakland can run the ball. They could run last year and they added probably their most dynamic runner in Darren McFadden, returned their best runner from last year (Justin Fargas), cut some dead weight (former fantasy standout LaMont Jordan), cut an intriguing player (Dominic Rhodes), and returned a player from the PUP list (Michael Bush). The three-headed attack of Fargas, DMC, and Bush will likely improve upon the 6th-best 130 yards per game from last season. Added to the mix is Justin Griffith whose benefits are primarily blocking and receiving, but he (and to a slight degree JaMarcus Russell) can run. Speaking of receptions out of the backfield, Fargas (23 reception in '07 in addition to his 1009 yards on the ground), McFadden (4 grabs during preseason), and Bush (2 receptions during preseason and was a successful receiver at Louisville) can all catch the ball out of the backfield.

Projections: Determining how things will be split up is a difficult task. It seems evident that Fargas will receive the bulk of the carries early in the season. This will probably shift during the season as each back carves out a niche either breaking down by series (as Marcus Allen and Bo Jackson did) or by roles (Fargas as the starter, DMC as the 3rd down and 2-minute back, and Bush as the short distance and goalline runner).

Fargas: 892 rushing yards, 22 receptions, 156 receiving yards, 3.7 total TDs

McFadden: 864 rushing yards, 27 receptions, 208 receiving yards, 5.4 total TDs

Bush: 272 rushing yards, 10 receptions, 110 receiving yards, 2.9 total TDs

The Quarterback

JaMarcus Russell begins his first season at the helm. Everything about this guy is huge: his height, his weight, and his arm. He is not afraid to go deep and Al Davis loves that. Unfortunately, he has two difficult impediments to becoming say the next Kenny Stabler (alright, Jeff George): Lane Kiffin and arguably the worst receiving corps in the NFL. While Kiffin will go to bat for Russell, and has numerous times, he is hesitant to remove the training wheels. Part of the problem is poor offensive line protection. Another part may be an overprotectiveness that occurs sometimes when a young Quarterback is involved. While this route is probably better for a QB's development over the course of his career, in the short term, expect a boring passing game. The Raiders' success this season will be heavily dependent upon Russell's play. His ability to play mistake free football will translate quickly to wins, but given his inexperience, he will struggle.

Russell: 241 completions, 426 attempts, 2494 yards, 14 TDs, 17 INTs

The Receivers

Oakland's receivers might do well in sprints or bodybuilding competitions, but they are not going to win much else. Including games. The Raiders have not had an effective passing game since Rich Gannon left town. That is a fact that figures to remain until the team adds a top flight receiver. The brightest spot on the team is probably second year Tight End Zach Miller, who looks to build upon a very promising rookie season, but look for Ronald Curry to impress as long as his body holds up. Javon Walker is enigmatic, but could find success as the WR2. Ashley Lelie has not been effective since 2005 and just not joined the team, so gauging his impact is incredibly difficult. Johnny Lee Higgins and a few others should figure into the mix.

Curry: 48 receptions, 613 yards, 3 TDs

Walker: 45 receptions, 594 yards, 3 TDs

Miller: 44 receptions, 453 yards, 4 TDs

Lelie: 11 receptions, 145 yards, 0.3 TDs

The Line

The offensive line is a Jekyll and Hide story. Run blocking has been dominant at times during the preseason and seldom short of good. Even last season they opened sizable holes for multiple runners, allowing Jordan to post 159 and 121 yards rushing in Weeks 2 and 3; Fargas posted 179 in Week 4, 104 in Week 9, and 139 and 146 respectively in Weeks 12 and 13; and Dominic Rhodes closed the season with 115 and 122 yards on the ground. That is eight games of 100+ yards for one back including six games of 120+ for one back. Long runs were hardly scarce during the preseason, too. Oakland will run often and well.

When Oakland is forced to pass, however, problems arise. Last season, Oakland QBs were sacked 41 times for losses in excess of 250 yards, there were 23 fumbles by QBs, and 8 of those were lost. The pressure led to 20 interceptions on fewer than 450 pass attempts. During the preseason, Oakland's starting QBs were sacked 8 times compared to 64 pass attempts, or once per nine dropbacks. The protection must improve if Russell is to have time to read defenses.

Defense

Oakland's defense can be split into three distinct groups. The defensive backs are arguably the best in the game with Nnamdi Asomugha and DeAngelo Hall manning the Corners, Gibril Wilson and Michael Huff holding down the Safety positions. The foursome combined for 41 pass defenses and 11 interceptions last season. Asomugha grabbed 8 INTs the previous season, but was so good in coverage his assignment was seldom targeted last season.

The defensive line has shown itself to be porous against the run, but is able to put pressure on opposing QBs. Derrick Burgess has averaged double figure sacks since joining Oakland. Look for second year DE Jay Richardson, manning the other DE spot, to get in on the action.

The Raider Linebackers all return from last year, led by Kirk Morrison (121 tackles, 4 INTs last season) and Thomas Howard (96 tackles, 6 INTs). Robert Thomas had 62 tackles and forced two fumbles, but was a recent casualty. Ricky Brown, who recorded 13 tackles last season, will be the Sam LB in his place.

Oakland had the second worst rushing defense in the NFL last year, but was one of the better pass defensive teams. With little done to shore up the run except returning a good number of starter and hoping the unit gels, look for more of the same this season.

Special Teams

Shane Lechler and Sebastian Janikowski have both dealt with injuries, missing time during preseason. They should both be ready to go and will continue to give much of the same they have given their whole careers. Janikowski hit just 1 of his first 5 FGs last season before settling down to hit 21 of 27. That may not sound impressive, but bear in mind the fact that he kicked more than twice as many 50+ yard field goals (hitting 5 of 11) than anyone except Neil Rackers (who hit just 3 of 9). His leg strength was abused because of an atrocious ability to move the ball.

There is probably no better punter in the game now or ever than Shane Lechler. His 49.1 yard per punt average was absolutely ridiculous and increased his career average to 46.5. His Inside 20 to Touchback ratio improved from .551 to .625 after posting a career best 11 to 7. If he can continue to improve, there would be little argument left to be made for a better punter. Remaining as good as he has been should seal the deal.

In terms of the return game, gone is Oakland's top kick returner (David Carr). Meanwhile Johnny Lee Higgins's unimpressive debut as a punt returner may not disqualify him from the job this season. Higgins was very good on kickoff returns during preseason, totaling 162 yards on 5 returns (32.4 average) and returning one 58 yards. He also vacillated between greatness (a 53-yard TD) and garbage (3 returns for negative 3 yards in a game) on punts. His overall numbers were solid (6 for 67, 11.2 per return).
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#2 popo

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Posted September 04, 2008 - 11:27 AM

Gerrard Warren should have a solid season, why did we cut Robert Thomas??
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#3 trodgers

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Posted September 04, 2008 - 01:29 PM

^ Knee injury and lost his spot through competition apparently. I guess he wasn't as good as Javon Walker.
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#4 Guest_Nissan_*

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Posted September 04, 2008 - 01:52 PM

Good job rt.

Russell: 241 completions, 426 attempts, 2494 yards, 14 TDs, 17 INTs


Russell is going to play a lot better... give him some credit. :clap:

Any injury updates on Shane Lechler and Sebastian Janikowski?

#5 Tobias Fünke

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Posted September 04, 2008 - 01:59 PM

Good job rt.



Russell is going to play a lot better... give him some credit. :clap:

Any injury updates on Shane Lechler and Sebastian Janikowski?


He's a rookie. That's about what I expect.
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#6 Icker

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Posted September 04, 2008 - 02:01 PM

and Zach Miller is better then that, already J Russ and Zach got a connection look for like 70 receptionsand 650 yards

#7 trodgers

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Posted September 04, 2008 - 06:11 PM

Hey, guys, a batch response.

I LOVE Miller...I just think that with a pretty weak passing game (it's far from Russell's fault; Oakland couldn't pass last year either) but with strong receiving RBs, Miller might be left out a bit. I'd love to see him catch 60 passes. I just don't think he will.

Russell's numbers aren't bad for a first year starter. I stand by them.

Lechler was supposed to return to practice yesterday. I don't know what's the latest on him. Janikowski booted a 50-yard FG in the preseason finale. I think he's ready to roll.
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#8 trodgers

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Posted September 04, 2008 - 06:14 PM

BTW, thanks a bunch for the comments. I'm excited about this coming season. I actually believe that there are four hugely important games for Oakland.

Denver, Week 1: set the tone against their arch rival
Miami: a team that is similarly in a state of flux; this will be an interesting game to see where each team stands.
New England: Avoiding embarrassment is huge. I look forward to the time when Oakland smashes the Pats and avenges the BS loss in the Tuck Game.
Tampa Bay, Week 17: I've said it before...beat Gruden's team. It's symbolic.
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#9 trodgers

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Posted November 11, 2008 - 09:09 PM

Just past the halfway point, let's take a look back:

OAKLAND RAIDERS PREVIEW 2K8

The Record
Overall: Oakland will likely finish 5-11 or 6-10. While that is not good enough for a playoff spot (obviously) it would either tie (at 5 wins) the best post-Gruden record or would establish a new mark (6 wins). As noted, suffering is necessary on the path to respectability.

At 2-7, the Raiders are on pace for about 4 wins. Unlucky. I'll give them a win against KC. I wouldn't be surprised if they lost all the others.

POSITIONAL BREAKDOWN
The Running Backs
Fargas: 892 rushing yards, 22 receptions, 156 receiving yards, 3.7 total TDs

McFadden: 864 rushing yards, 27 receptions, 208 receiving yards, 5.4 total TDs

Bush: 272 rushing yards, 10 receptions, 110 receiving yards, 2.9 total TDs

Fargas on pace for 681 yards, 9 receptions, 0 TDs
McFadden on pace for 606 yards, 18 receptions, 2 TDs
Bush on pace for 427 yards, 36 reception, 2 TDs

The Quarterback
Russell: 241 completions, 426 attempts, 2494 yards, 14 TDs, 17 INTs

Russell is on pace for 187 completions, 384 attempts, 2291 yards, 12 TDs, 7 INTs

The Receivers
Curry: 48 receptions, 613 yards, 3 TDs
Walker: 45 receptions, 594 yards, 3 TDs
Miller: 44 receptions, 453 yards, 4 TDs
Lelie: 11 receptions, 145 yards, 0.3 TDs

Curry: 16 receptions, 2 TDs
Walker: 27 receptions, 2 TDs
Miller: 44 receptions, 645 yards, 2 TDs
Lelie: 12 receptions, 2 TDs

Overall...pretty pathetic.
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