Sunday, August 23, 2009
2009 NFL PREVIEW- Oakland Raiders
2008 RECORD: 5-11
(3rd in AFC West)
HEAD COACH: Tom Cable
Key Additions: QB Jeff Garcia (FA/Buccaneers) OL Khalif Barnes (FA/Jaguars) OL Samson Satele (trade/Dolphins) RB Lorenzo Neal (FA/Ravens) QB Bruce Gradkowski (FA/Browns) RB Gary Russell (FA/Steelers)
Key Losses: WR Ron Curry (FA/Lions) RB Justin Griffith (FA/Seahawks) WR Ashley Lelie (FA) DL Kalimba Edwards (FA)
Offense: The Raiders scored only 263 points in 2008, which was 29th in the NFL and improvement is a must as they prepare for 2009.
JaMarcus Russell is the starting quarterback after passing for 2,423 yards and 13 touchdowns in 2008. He also threw eight interceptions while rushing for an additional 127 yards. Oakland made Russell their number-one pick in the '07 NFL Draft, and need to see more production from him.
If he cannot cut it in '09, the Raiders have veteran QB Jeff Garcia, who signed as a free agent after playing with Tampa Bay. Garcia threw for 2,712 yards with 12 TDs and six picks a year ago with the Bucs.
The running back by committee appears ready to continue for Oakland once again this season as Darren McFadden and Justin Fargas split time in '08 and did a decent job for the Raiders, who finished in the top ten in the league in rushing last season.
Fargas led Oakland with 853 yards rushing while McFadden ran for 499 yards and scored four TDs. Michael Bush, another second year player like McFadden, had 421 yards on the ground and scored three touchdowns. The fullbacks are Luke Lawton and Marcel Reese, along with free agents Gary Russell (with Pittsburgh in '08) and veteran Lorenzo Neal.
So there is a plethora of running back talent but, the real concern for the offense is the passing game.
The wide receivers are not everyday household names and that continues to be a problem for the Raiders. Tight End Zach Miller led the team with 56 receptions for 778 yards in '08. But he only had one TD reception all season. Javon Walker is on the team's physically unable to perform list and only had 15 catches last season.
Darrius Heyward-Bey, a rookie from Maryland, is being touted as a starter in '09. Chaz Schilens (15 catches, 226 yards and two TDs) is another wideout for Oakland who could be a starter. Also available are Louis Murphy and Sammie Parker.
The offensive line will have Samson Satele at center, Khalif Barnes and Mario Henderson at tackles and guards Rob Gallery and Cooper Carlisle.
Defense: Much like previous seasons, Oakland's defense is solid against the pass and very weak against the run.
In 2008, the Raiders allowed 160 yards per game on the ground, which was 31st in the NFL. The pass defense ranked 10th overall, giving up 201 yards per game. The Raiders finished 27th in total defense while allowing opponents 361 yards per game.
In the 4-3 Oakland employs on defense, the ends are Trevor Scott and Jay Richardson with Tommy Kelly and Gerard Warren at the tackle positions. Scott led Oakland with five quarterback sacks in 2008.
The linebackers are Kirk Morrison in the middle and outside linebackers Tom Howard and Ricky Brown.
The secondary is a good one with Chris Johnson and Nnamdi Asomugha at cornerback and Michael Huff and Hiram Eugene as the safeties. Rookie Michael Mitchell (Ohio U.) was drafted in the second round and may step in to help the Raiders.
Oakland's defense recorded 32 sacks last year and had 16 interceptions. Johnson led the team with three picks.
OUTLOOK: The Raiders finished with a 5-11 record last season but only three of their losses were by seven points or less, meaning they were not in many of the games. That has to change if they want to have a chance in 2009.
If Russell struggles at all at quarterback, Head Coach Tom Cable will not hesitate to bring in Jeff Garcia, the veteran journeyman quarterback who helped guide the Eagles and Tampa Bay Bucs to the playoffs in recent years.
While the 39 year-old Garcia may not have the arm strength or leg speed of Russell, he does have certain intangibles at the position that has allowed him to stick around the NFL for ten-plus years.
There is a lot on Oakland's plate as 2009 season gets ready to start. The running back by committee has to continue to click without complaints from the players. The wide receiver corps has to have somebody step and become the "go to guy" for either Russell or Garcia.
The defense should be good enough to keep Oakland competitive but, there are too many holes that have to be filled with unproven players on the offense, especially at wide receiver.
Plus the team appears to have some sort of internal turmoil (after all it is the Oakland Raiders we are talking about) involving the coaching staff still lingering after last year's fiasco when owner Al Davis went on a tirade and fired Lane Kiffin four games into the season.
With a tough schedule and the talent-laden San Diego Chargers looming large in the AFC West, don't expect Oakland to make a whole lot of noise in 2009. They will do well just to avoid last place again this season.
The call is for the Raiders to finish 4-12 in '09 and look ahead to possible better days because these Raiders are not your father's Raiders.
Week 1- vs. San Diego (Sept. 14)
Week 2- at Kansas City (Sept. 20)
Week 3- vs. Denver (Sept. 27)
Week 4- at Houston (Oct. 4)
Week 5- at NY Giants (Oct. 11)
Week 6- vs. Philadelphia (Oct. 18)
Week 7- vs. NY Jets (Oct. 25)
Week 8- at San Diego (Nov. 1)
Week 9- BYE WEEK
Week 10- vs. Kansas City (Nov. 15)
Week 11- vs. Cincinnati (Nov. 22)
Week 12- at Dallas (Nov. 26)
Week 13- at Pittsburgh (Dec. 6)
Week 14- vs. Washington (Dec. 13)
Week 15- at Denver (Dec. 20)
Week 16- at Cleveland (Dec. 27)
Week 17- vs. Baltimore (Jan. 3)