The Raiders enter the 2012-2013 NFL season with a sense of optimism and direction they haven’t had in many years in Oakland.
Last season ended horribly as the Raiders lost 4 of their last 5 games and finished 8-8 and missing the playoffs, after being in 1st place, and in contention for the postseason when they were sitting at 7-4, atop the AFC West.
With the death of HOF owner Al Davis (October 8th, 2011), the team brought in the Green Bay Packers director of player operations Reggie McKenzie as the new general manager. He decided to fire head coach Hue Jackson and was able to pry defensive coordinator Dennis Allen away from the rival Denver Broncos. Allen spent last season as the DC and it was his first year as a coordinator, but he has been coaching in the NFL since 2002 (Atlanta Falcons, New Orleans Saints and the Broncos). So, he’s a new HC, but he has familiarity with the League and that should help him in his new position.
The Raiders were heavily criticized for trading a 1st rounder and a conditional 2nd rounder in 2013 NFL draft to the Cincinnati Bengals for Carson Palmer when Jason Campbell broke his collarbone against Cleveland. But, the Raiders had hopes of winning the AFC West with a 4-2 record at the time of the injury and Jackson wanted an experienced QB to lead his squad. The alternative was to start Kyle Boller or rookie Terrelle Pryor. Neither would have been a viable option at all.
The trade didn’t work out like they planned, but Palmer never had an opportunity to work with RB Darren McFadden. Too often, Palmer was forced to throw 40-plus times a game when defenses were able to game plan for Oakland’s predictable offense. Most of CP’s INT’s were thrown when he had pressure on him. He threw 7 of his 16 INT’s in 2 games. However, there were bright spots. He threw for 300 yards three times and had a season finale performance where he threw for 417 yards.
Rookie Stefen Wisniewski mans the OL at center and is expected to be an anchor there for many years. Mike Brisiel is a good blocker and was brought in via free agency to help shore up the right guard position. Tony Bergstrom and Coope Carlisle are expected to battle it out for the left guard position and Khalif Barnes or Joe Barksdale need to step up to solidify the right tackle position.
This season, McFadden enters the season healthy and ready to have a breakout season with the best QB he has ever had since he was drafted by the silver and black. What is very intriguing is if they can incorporate McFaden into the passing game like Marshall Faulk was used in his time with the Rams. The goal needs to be to get the ball in D-Mac’s hands at all costs and let him use his speed to make plays after the catch.
They also have Mike Goodson (added via a trade with Carolina) and Taiwan Jones available to provide some depth. Marcel Reece was brought back to be the fullback and block, run a little and catch some passes out of the backfield. He’s an underrated player who can be used as a versatile back.
Palmer also has a lot of nice options at WR in Darrius Heyward-Bey (64 catches, 15.2 yards per catch, 14 receptions of at least 20 yards, and 4 TD’s) who had a breakout year Davis had expected when he took him 7th overall in the 2009 NFL Draft. Denarius Moore was a revelation last preseason and he showed glimpses of being a deep threat in the regular season when he caught 33 passes and averaged 18.7ypc. He had 5 TD’s, including a 78 yarder.
This years revelation in the preseason have been Rod Streater and Juron Criner. Criner had 6 catches (in 8 passes thrown his way) for 66 yards against the Cowboys. Criner caught just 2 passes against the Lions, but 1 was a 76 yard touchdown and the other was a 39 yard TD.
Streater snagged 7 catches (in 8 passes) for 43 yards against the Cardinals and against Detroit, he had 5 receptions for 56 yards. Statistics in the preseason aren’t the best indicator of true talent, but for 2 rookies….This is a positive sign.
The Raiders don’t have a proven TE, but Brandon Meyers is a huge target, but this is a big year for him. This will be his 4th season and it’s time to see what he can do. Otherwise, David Ausberry is there and he could be his replacement if he doesn’t pan out. He’s a converted WR (played his college ball at USC) that could turn into a solid TE if given enough playing time.
The defensive line is anchored by DT Richard Seymour (6 sacks in 2011), but he is no spring chicken at 33. The Raiders need to start grooming somebody to replace him in the near future. His leadership is integral in Oakland having turning the corner from a perennial 10 loss team into a team that is now respectable and a tough game for any team. Tommy Kelly has been a solid DT next to Seymour, he recorded 7.5 sacks last season. Lamar Houston returns as 1 of the defensive ends while Matt Shaughnessy gets a chance to start.
Kamerion Wimbley was released after his season where he recorded 7 sacks. The Raiders didn’t feel like he was producing at a level to justify his salary and they had to get under the cap. Rolando McClain had some serious off the field issues and is facing 6 months in jail. If he will play during the regular season is a huge question mark. Former Colts LB Philip Wheeler was signed to play Strongside LB and Miles Burris is expected to be the rookie starter at Weakside LB. Aaron Curry was acquired via a trade with the Seahawks and had some moments where he really helped Oakland’s defense last year. Against Chicago, he had 2 key tackles for a loss and helped provide depth for them at LB last year.
The secondary got a makeover when Stanford Routt and his huge contract (5 years and 54.5 million) were released. Another cost cutting move for the franchise since he wasn’t justifying his salary. He allowed 8TD’s (2nd most in the NFL) among CB’s. The Raiders also let Chris Johnson go in another financial consideration, but he played in just 4 games for the silver and black. They brought in Shawntae Spencer and Ron Bartell are experienced veterans and a cheaper alternative. DeMarcus Van Dyke had an unsensational rookie campaign, but the hope exists he will show some development and snag 1 of the starting positions.
Tyvon Branch is one of the more underrated strong safeties in the NFL. He had a very good season where he made 109 tackles and constantly seemed to be wherever the ball was. Michael Huff is a consistent player at free safety and the Raiders have depth with Matt Giordano (team-leading 5 INT’s and 70 tackles, he made 8 starts) and Mike Mitchell.
Sebastian Janikowski is 1 of the best kickers in the League and tied an NFL record when he a nailed a 63 yarde field goal against rival Denver last fall. He made 31 of 35 FG’s (88.6%), including 7 of 10 FG’s from over 50 yards. He made all 36 of his PAT attempts.
Shane Lechler gives them an excellent punter who can pin their opponent down in bad field position and make them work hard on long time consuming drives.
Moore will see the main duty as the primary punt returner. Jones and Ford will be expected to handle the kick returning duties. Ford provides a dangerous return man for the Raiders to gain valuable field position.
This years team could finish anywhere from 6-10 to 10-6, depending on injuries and an assortment of issues, but there are a lot of reasons for hope and faith if you happen to be a Raiders fan.
by David Snipes
I wonder how long the shadow of Al Davis is going to drag this franchise down, Carson might actually be the last of the bad decisions. There is talent there, but most of it just doesn’t fit. When the “Just Win” Raiders won, they had leaders and a good O-line, I wonder who are the leaders on this team. I think they are a 10 win team on paper, 6 wins on the field.
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