Monday, December 29, 2008

Change in the Air for the Oakland Raiders after a difficult 2008 season

Part III – The Offense

The team ended the 2008 season on a high note by doing a few things that they haven’t done since 1999, win their last game and win a road game outside of California beyond November since 1995.

The Raiders have to make some major changes on this side of the ball. Those changes need to start with the evaluation of the players currently on the roster.

Most teams are built to go eight and eight or better and when they don’t you can blame the front office 85 percent of the time.

It has to be determined which players should be a part of the Raiders future.

Several young players have been auditioning to be a part of that group and any successful team needs a nice mixture of veterans and youth. The fact remains that you’re either part of the problem or you’re part of the solution. Some of the team’s veterans need to be let go as discussed in part II.

The top down distractions from a dysfunctional front office and owner caused several problems for this unit. Former Head Coach Lane Kiffin is partly responsible for the demise of this unit as well. It was his task to put it together and develop the players.

The players that Al Davis brought in via free agency all but one failed miserably, WR Javon Walker, T Kwame Harris and C John Wade, whereas WR Drew Carter was injured.

There is no better place to start then with the franchise players on offense, QB JaMarcus Russell and RB Darren McFadden. Both are young players that need time to develop and learn how to play at this level. McFadden was injured and needs to be healthy to make an impact.

The next coaching staff will play a huge role in said development. Speaking of Russell’s development having three different play callers to include firing the head coach set his development back, especially in his first year starting.

He needs to spend a lot of time in the film room and on the field working on timing, accuracy, reading coverage’s.

Just as much as not having any go to wide receivers, the poor play of the offensive line and the terrible play calling. This team was built to run the ball and have a controlled passing game.

This leads me to assessing the offensive line, a group in need of reinforcements. The team is in need of a two Tackles especially a Left Tackle, possessing the seventh overall pick in the first round the team can go in several directions but drafting a Left Tackle would be a solid choice.

I know what several of you are thinking after I’ve made the above statement.
The team should draft WR Michael Crabtree; I don’t have a problem with the thought or action. He is the best WR in the draft, a position of need for the team.

He has yet to declare, but I doubt very seriously that the Rams, Chiefs, Bengals and Seahawks will all pass on him which would allow him to fall to the Raiders.

First things first, Tackles Kwame Harris & Cornell Green both need to be given their walking papers and replaced.

I feel that it took Interim Head Coach Tom Cable entirely too long to figure out that starting Mario Henderson over Kwame Harris was a better choice and better for the team.

He showed what he could do when given the chance in week two in Kansas City.

I think he was doing someone else’s bidding by trying to make it work or fit a square peg into a round hole. Just as he was by voicing how upset he was with Kiffin hiring James Cregg from his coaching staff.

Had the decision been made to start Henderson earlier there is a possibility this unit could’ve performed better and possibly won more games.

In regards to tackles here’s what we know Mario Henderson is raw but has the tools to succeed. Paul McQuistan who has had success playing both Guard and Tackle has recovered from injury and will be back with the team in 2009.

James Marten, the second year player drafted by the Cowboys in the third round of 2007, will have a chance to factor into one of the tackle positions in 2009. Brandon Torrey is an undrafted free agent on the practice squad.

The Guard positions are set with starters Robert Gallery and Cooper Carlisle.

The depth behind them, undrafted free agent Robert Felton, Paul McQuistan and Chris Morris could use an addition via the draft, free agency or an undrafted free agent. Jake Grove played well this season at center, his backup is Chris Morris.

The team could use a third quarterback possibly a veteran behind Russell and possibly Andrew Walter. I don’t see Marques Tuiasosopo in the team’s future.

The three headed rushing tandem of Justin Fargas, Darren McFadden and Michael Bush is effective and needs to remain and make a healthy return in 2009.

The only chance of a change is if it is possible to trade Fargas for a third or fourth round draft pick.

The Wide Receiver position is one that is in transition, I don’t have a problem with the position coach. The players that are being developed prior to any additions are Johnnie Lee Higgins, Chaz Schilens, Todd Watkins, Arman Shields, Jonathan Holland and D.J. Hall.

Fullbacks Oren O’Neal and Justin Griffith should be back for 2009. TE Zach Miller had a solid year that could’ve been better if he didn’t have to stay in and help the offensive line. The second Tight End is Darrel Strong; the third TE is Tony Stewart who is more of a blocking Tight End.

The new coaching staff needs to use the rushing attack more, provide more playing time for Michael Bush and find a role for FB/H-Back Marcel Reece and RB Louis Rankin.

As an example I would like to see Louis Rankin and Justin Miller as kick returners. This will allow Johnnie Lee Higgins to focus more on WR & Punt Returns where he can continue to be one of the team’s playmakers.

The youth has served the team well and it shows that these young players are the future of this team and need to be developed. There are players on offense that will garner the attention of opposing defenses that need to be lead by a unified owner, front office, scouting department and coaching staff.

I’ve mentioned the players that this team will move forward with as far as youth but it all depends on one thing, Is Al Davis going to move into the 21st century or not? If he does as an example hire a GM like a Scott Pioli, give him control of the team, he could bring Josh McDaniels with him.

Al could hire Bill Parcels, who is set to be a sought after Executive at 67, give him total control. If he is able to pull off either move this franchise will be on an upswing and set for success in the future.

The NFL can be a copycat league, but the fact remains that it has several very tough competitors. You must remain competitive; the Raiders are competing with several other teams for the services of the guys mentioned above and others to right the ship.

The only way the Raiders can compete is if Al Davis changes his ways and gives the keys to someone capable of leading the franchise back to prominence.

Friday, December 5, 2008

Raiders routed 34-7; Lose to Chargers for the 11th straight time

Oakland got behind and it got ugly real fast for the Raiders. This game like several over the past six seasons wasn’t pretty. The Raiders haven’t played sound football.

Oakland had the same problems there like an old friend; four turnovers, several ridiculous and costly penalties.

Not to be outdone, making an appearance was the inability of their offensive line to give their quarterbacks anytime or protection to throw the ball, or open any holes for the running game leading to another long day on defense.

The Raiders again had too many penalties, they were so ridiculous one official could be seen shaking his head in disbelief.

I would’ve understood it if the official just said and I quote “penalty on the Raiders for stupidity, that’s a 15 yard penalty, repeat the down.”

The Raiders loss to the Chargers for the 11th time and earned themselves a dubious place in NFL history. This was once a rivalry but to lose to one team 11 times makes no sense at all but it does display ownership in more ways than one.

The Raiders lost badly in every phase of the game, a contest that was over before it started. There were several blown coverages, several missed assignments and a whole lot of bad football.

The only thing that went right for the team was Justin Miller, who returned a kickoff 92 yards for a touchdown right before halftime and provided the teams only highlight.

He did most of the work by himself making a nice cut through several defenders getting to the sideline and outrunning another pair of Chargers.

Several other teams have slowed Charger RB LaDainian Tomlinson this season and some wondered if his skills had diminished and were searching for reasons why he hasn’t been himself.

The real reason for his decline in numbers has been three things 1) The decline in the play of the offensive line 2) not having FB Lorenzo Neal on the roster 3) The Chargers lack of identity with the departure of Marty Schottenheimer and staff.

The Raiders on the schedule has always been the cure for whatever ails LaDainian Tomlinson and the Chargers, he has always been able to run roughshod on Oakland.

Things have been bad defensively for the Raiders for a while but no one has killed them like he has. He has averaged 120 yards and a touchdown on them twice annually.

The Chargers ran the ball 46 times for 158 yards and one touchdown while involving three runners. Conversely the Raiders ran the ball 16 times for 54 yards.

Chargers QB Philip Rivers had a solid outing completing 10-of-22 passes for 214 yards and three touchdowns. His 59-yard TD pass to Vincent Jackson with San Diego up 10-0 put the game away before halftime.

The majority of his passes went to Vincent Jackson who had a great day hauling in five passes for 148 yards and a touchdown.

The Chargers defense anchored by NT Jamal Williams controlled the Raiders running game inside and put a lot pressure on QB JaMarcus Russell; OLB Shaun Phillips was outstanding finishing with a stat line the read three tackles, one forced fumble, two-and-a-half sacks.

Raider QB JaMarcus Russell completed nine-of-thirteen passes for 68 yards and had two passes intercepted by LB Stephen Cooper while throwing into double coverage. He left the game with a twisted ankle two minutes into the second quarter.

He was replaced by Andrew Walter who completed eight-of-seventeen passes for 61 yards and one interception.

Despite what appeared to be the Chargers allowing the underneath throws it is clear that with Lane Kiffin being shown the door the new directive from the top for Russell is to throw down the field as oppose to taking what the defense is giving you.

Johnnie Lee Higgins and Ron Curry combined to catch four passes; although the wide receivers aren’t scaring anyone, can’t seem to get any separation off of the line of scrimmage and haven’t been a factor for the Raiders all year, the leading receiver continues to be TE Zach Miller who finished with eight catches.

The team was terrible on offense again but the one statistic that has plagued Oakland all year happened again Thursday; the team was two-of-twelve on third down attempts and remain the league’s worst team on third downs.

The Raiders defense was playing from behind once again and could not stop the Chargers when they needed to. The loss also means that the Raiders have had double digit losses for six years in a row the second longest in league history and are now two and seven under interim head coach Tom Cable.

Monday, November 24, 2008

Raiders Avenge Week One Loss; Beat Broncos 31-10

A surprising thing happened during week 12 in Denver for the Oakland Raiders. Going with the trend of the weekend, away teams outscored the home teams 425-332.

The team that was expected to lose by 9.5 points appeared to wake up so to speak. The Raiders played hard and were determined to beat the Broncos.

Oakland put together a complete total team effort and beat the Broncos in all three phases of the game.

The score was knotted at three a piece when Johnnie Lee Higgins fielded a punt in the second quarter, made a few moves, danced down the sidelines and was untouched by human hands on an 89-yard touchdown return, his second in two weeks.

Despite the fact that both teams total yardage was almost identical, 318 yards for the Raiders and 319 yards for the Broncos, Oakland averaged six yards per offensive play.

The Raiders played to their strength, committed to the running game as evidenced by calling 41 running plays with Justin Fargas as the focal point.

All three of the Raider running backs were involved in this game. Fargas was able to get into a rhythm with 24 carries for 107 yards.

Darren McFadden ran for 38 yards on 10 carries and scored two touchdowns.

The talented Michael Bush, in the doghouse for not wanting to play fullback, only had two carries that didn’t gain any yardage but his pass to Zack Miller for eight yards showed another way that he could help this team and something that other teams will have to prepare for.

It would be nice to see the team really work on this, they’ve two running backs that can be used in the triple threat position. Both McFadden and Bush can run, pass and catch the ball out of the backfield.

JaMarcus Russell had his most efficient passing day as a pro. He completed 10-of-11 passes for 152 yards and a touchdown. The average yardage gained per pass play was 13 yards.

Ashley Lelie was huge for the Raiders in his return to Denver; he hauled in four passes for 92 yards and a touchdown. Although none was bigger than the 51 yard strike he caught in the third quarter to set up Darren McFadden’s first touchdown run of the day.

The five most surprising things besides the win; were that the team converted eight of thirteen third downs, the team was scored three-of-four times in the red zone, the Raiders didn’t turn the ball over, the offensive line didn’t give up a sack and the Raiders won the time of possession battle by holding the ball for over 32 minutes.

The Raiders defense put together a tremendous performance to hold the Broncos to 10 points. The Jay Cutler interception and Peyton Hillis fumble were two costly Bronco turnovers that definitely affected the outcome of the game.

The Broncos went after Chris Johnson and threw the ball his way at least 20 times with minimal success which was night and day different from the first meeting and a welcome sight to all Raiders fans.

The Raiders defense was able to consistently slow the Broncos offense and holding them to one touchdown was big.

This was a huge win for the young Raiders to snap their four game losing streak and could go a long way in the development of this young team. One game doesn’t erase an up and down season but it should aide in their confidence and give this team something to build upon.

This was just the third win of the season for the team but after having the worst record in football every win should be celebrated. This team should now know that when healthy and having all phases of the game performing well this could be the outcome more often then not.

The Raiders and their fans will take this win and look for the same effort and execution next Sunday.

Saturday, November 15, 2008

Tom Cable Many Hats; Fewer Offensive Options

After the debacle that was the Atlanta Falcons game, Al Davis strips Offensive Coordinator Greg Knapp of the play calling duties he inherited with the departure of Lane Kiffin.

Tom Cable has recently had play calling added to the other items on his plate. He will now serve as the Interim Head Coach, de facto Offensive Coordinator and Offensive line coach.

The inoffensive Raiders got defensive against the Panthers passing game, played better against Carolina than they did the previous week, but didn’t do enough to score a touchdown or win the game.

The game was marred by multiple turnovers; several penalties a lot of head-scratching although when look real hard the game provided some small items that went the Raiders way.

Let’s break it down as the good, the bad and the ugly.

The Good

Sifting through the debris, there were a few positive morsels to take away from this game, defensively, the Raiders fought hard and held Panther QB Jake Delhomme to a seven completion 72-yard one touchdown and four interception day.

Panther WR Steve Smith, one of the leagues best, was held to one catch for nine yards. The Raiders got to Jake Delhomme twice with DT’s Tommy Kelly and Gerard Warren both recording sacks. The Raiders won the time of possession battle with 37 minutes versus 23 minutes.

Oakland put up 259 total net yards. The team stayed committed to the running game putting up 149 yards on 36 carries with Justin Fargas doing most of the heavy lifting with 22 carries for 89 yards. The talented Michael Bush being used as a dual threat, eight rushes for 30 yards and five receptions for 43 yards. Veteran Kicker Sebastian Janikowski making two of his three field goal attempts breaking a seven quarter scoring drought.

The Bad

Once again; the Raiders, allowed an opposing runner to rush for 100+ yards and a touchdown. Panther RB DeAngelo Williams 69-yard touchdown run broke to game open in the second quarter. Backup QB Andrew Walter had two costly interceptions.

The Raiders had 34 pass attempts and threw for less than 150 yards and on the season rank dead last in passing yards per game.

The Ugly

Johnnie Lee Higgins coughing up the ball, again, and fumbling the Opening kickoff of the game and allowing the Panthers to start the game off on the Raiders 16 yard line.

It has been more than three decades a quarterback has played as badly as Jake Delhomme played and his team still comes out on the winning side. The Raiders found themselves in 17 third and long situations and only converted two of them.

On three consecutive drives in the fourth quarter, the team and fans had to witness third downs result in an interception and two sacks while trailing by eight points at home.

The Raiders amassed 10 penalties for 83 yards.

Not scoring a touchdown in the game.

Javon Walker caught three passes and is now out for the season one in which he amassed 15 receptions for 196 yards and one touchdown.

The play of the offensive tackles, leading the league in false start penalties and providing huge day’s to several Defensive Ends.

The Raiders have had to deal with a murderer’s row of some of the league’s best Defensive Ends and have been abused by edge rushers Terrell Suggs ( five tackles, a sack, a pair of quarterback hits and one tackle for loss) John Abraham (five tackles, three sacks, two tackles for loss, three quarterback hits and a forced fumble).

This week’s recipient, Julius Peppers (seven tackles, three sacks, three tackles for loss, one quarterback hit, one pass defensed and two forced fumbles). Next in line, Dolphins right Outside Linebacker in their 3-4 defense, Joey Porter, who leads the league with 12 sacks.

Joey Porter has destroyed teams that leave him one-on-one with tackles, tight ends and running backs. The Raiders have to have seen this during their film study. This is one of those occasions that I would love to see the Raiders double-team him.

Potential Raiders Options

The following is all speculation due to the fact that I am not employed on the Raiders coaching staff. However, it would be nice to see the team game plan to stop him or limit his impact.

As a suggestion seeing the difficulty the team has had at the tackle position why not use an unbalanced line with a two tight end set.

However, instead of using two tight ends use both Mario Henderson and Kwame Harris on the left side of the offense to negate Joey Porter’s impact. This will force him to deal with not one but two tackles and if he switches sides move the extra tackle to that side.

This will also help the Raiders seal the edge in the running game which has the potential of the Raiders playing to their strengths and running the football more to stay out of third and long situations.

In closing, I pose a question is this the week that Raider fans finally see Darren McFadden running the Wildcat offense?

The team should be able to start using their own version of the "Wildcat" or "Wild Hog" offense now that Darren McFadden has overcome the turf toe injuries that have slowed him earlier this season.

I could be thinking way outside the box here but due to the lack of depth at wide receiver this could provide the team an opportunity to place Darren McFadden, Justin Fargas and Michael Bush on the field at the same time.

The Raiders will definitely have to find a way to stop it this week. I want to believe that Rob Ryan and staff have discussed with Darren McFadden ways to slow down the offense due to the fact that he successfully ran the offense for three years at the University of Arkansas.

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

Big Game out West; Lakers vs. Hornets Preview

This is a match-up of the two best teams in the Western Conference last season. The last time the teams met was near the end of the regular season on a hot weekend for the Lakers when they beat the defending champion Spurs and the Hornets who had the best record in the Western Conference.

This early Western Conference showdown will be the first of several back to back road games for the Lakers. The Lakers are a young team and back-to-back games shouldn’t be a problem they’re also one the leagues two remaining undefeated teams standing at 6-0.

The Lakers sixth win of the season was exactly what skeptical fans and naysayers wanted to see this season, the Lakers had to struggle in a hostile environment, did not shoot well and have the game close at the end.

The above mentioned types received that and more in the Lakers win over Dallas. The team overcame a double-digit deficit for the second straight game and proved that even when they don’t play their best and it appears that it isn’t their night they can lay their hat on knowing that if they hang around their defense and Kobe Bryant will pull them through.

It’s the first time since Dec.10-12, 2006 that the Lakers have won consecutive games in which they had trailed by 10 or more points.

The New Orleans Hornets are 4-2 after cooling off the Heat 100-89 on 11/10. Chris Paul has set an NBA record by hitting the 20 point and 10 assist mark for six straight games to begin a season. This is historical due to the fact that he passes a mark set by Hall of Famer Oscar Robertson. He also added seven rebounds to his record setting night.

He’ll be facing the league’s stingiest defense at 84.4 points per game in this match up.

The biggest difference for the Lakers this season is speeding up the pace and running, looking to score in transition or easy baskets. When the defense is set up the Lakers have no problem running their patented triangle offense.

Starter Match Up’s

PG Derek Fisher 6’ 1” 210 lbs. 12thYear, Avg. 9.5 Pts, 3.0 Ast, 2.5 Reb, 1 Stl
PG Chris Paul 6’ 0” 175 lbs. 4th Year, Avg. 21.3 Pts, 11.7 Ast, 5.2 Reb, 4 Stl

This is a match up of two veteran point guards. Chris Paul is athletic and a masterful ball handler who can push the ball at a high rate of speed but is also adept at slowing down enough to get the team into their sets. He is dangerous when he can get into the painted are with his dribble penetration, this is when he gets his teammates involved and becomes more of a problem.

The Hornets run the pick and roll play a million times and Chris Paul has his choice of which direction to go with the ball score or distribute the ball. The Lakers might want to force him to become a scorer to avoid getting his teammates involved.

Derek Fisher is a savvy veteran who can play at any tempo. In the triangle offense he doesn’t have to dominate the ball and run the offense as a traditional point guard. He does an excellent job of getting the team going and spreading the floor, He is a dangerous shooter out of the triangle offense and in transition.

He’s and excellent on the ball defender, very strong inside and knows how to be effective within the offense. Fisher and his backup Jordan Farmar will have their hands full trying to keep Chris Paul out of the paint. This is a key match up in the game, because the Lakers also could play Kobe Bryant, Jordan Farmar & Trevor Ariza on Paul. Advantage: Hornets

SG Kobe Bryant 6’ 6” 220 lbs. 12thYear, Avg. 24.8 Pts, 3.0 Ast, 5.3 Reb, 2 Stl.
SG Morris Peterson 6’ 7” 220 lbs. 8th Year, Avg. 9.7 Pts, 0.7 Ast, 3.0 Reb, 1.7 Stl.

Morris Peterson is more of a mid-range shooter; he has 3 point range as well. He isn’t known for creating off of the dribble but doesn’t have to while playing with Chris Paul. He is a veteran and decent defender.

He is listed as questionable and might not play due to a sore left knee. If that is the case he will be replaced by Devin Brown, Rasual Butler or James Posey. Count on James Posey starting and guarding Kobe.

Peterson was effective against Dwayne Wade and now he gets Kobe Bryant who is a whole different animal and a much more difficult task. He is athletic and physical, with long arms he ’ll have to be ready to defend Kobe in the post, on the perimeter, and most importantly in transition and attempt to stay out of foul trouble.

He has averaged 12 points against the Lakers last season and has the size and talent to be formidable as well as pose a challenge.

Kobe Bryant who was already playing at an MVP level and known to take his game to another level when necessary. He is averaging 24.8 points, 3.0 Assists, 5.3 Rebounds, 2 stl, 2 blocks. He imposes his will on his opponents in all aspects of the game and is always playing the part as the “best” closer in the league. Advantage: Lakers

SF Vladimir Radmanovic 6’ 10” 235 lbs. 7thYear, Avg. 7.2 Pts, 1.2 Ast, 3.8 Reb.
SF Peja Stojakovic 6’ 10” 229 lbs. 10th Year, Avg. 15.2 Pts, 2 Ast, 4.6 Reb

Stojakovic is a deadly three point shooter; he isn’t going to give you 20 points or more a night and won’t be effective off of the dribble. He is strictly a shooter but very effective when he’s on. The Lakers will need to chase him off of the three point line like Rick Fox did when he played in Sacramento.

Radmanovic has been inconsistent so far but he has bought into the team concept and has played better defense. He is in the starting lineup to spread the floor with his perimeter shooting; he is more effective starting than coming off of the bench.

Radmanovic will make plays in the offense and on defense. The Lakers have an excellent problem with a lot of depth at this position. If Stojackovic manages to get hot he will be cooled off by Trevor Ariza. He will also have to contend with Lamar Odom as well, who is also capable of limiting his impact. Advantage: Lakers

PF Paul Gasol 7’ 0” 250 lbs. 7th Year, Avg. 15.8 Pts, 3.0 Ast, 11.5 Reb, 2 Blocks
PF David West 6’ 9” 240 lbs. 5th Year, Avg. 19.0 Pts, 3.0 Ast, 6.7 Reb

David West is a solid player and outstanding scorer from 12-15 feet, posting up and in the painted area. He is the team’s second leading scorer; he has been inconsistent and has gotten off to slow starts but is still highly effective. He will have his hands full being guarded by and having to check Pau Gasol.

Pau Gasol is an excellent scorer and passer out of the post and will command a double team that will open up the offense. Pau Gasol is a smooth player that will start at Power Forward but will also play Center and record a double-double nightly and have a huge impact on the outcome of this game. Advantage: Lakers

C Andrew Bynum 7’ 0” 285 lbs. 3rd Year, Avg. 9.5 Pts, 1.5 Ast, 9.0 Reb, 2 Blocks
C Tyson Chadler 7’ 1” 235 lbs. 7th Year, Avg. 9.2 Pts, 1.0 Ast, 10.0 Reb, 2 Blocks

Tyson Chadler scored a total of 11 points in two games since returning from a sprained ankle. He is the epitome of a high fly act that can jump out of the gym and the Hornets main shot blocker. Several of his points come on put backs and alley-oop passes from Chris Paul. Andrew Bynum and Pau Gasol both out-weigh Chandler and need to keep a body on him and between him and the basket.

It would make sense to provide him with a heavy dose of pump fakes and ball fakes to get him off of his feet and into foul trouble.

Andrew Bynum is rapidly developing both offensively and defensively, he is 2nd in the league in blocked shots. Serving as the Lakers last line of defense and protecting the rim has been huge. It was something that the team missed for 47 games last season and the entire playoff run. Pau Gasol will also log minutes at center and the combination will be deadly. Advantage: Lakers

Both teams have capable bench players that can provide rest for the starters and continue the team’s high level of play. The Lakers “Minute Men” have more depth and contributors; the bench that averaged 32 points per game last year has boosted that number to 42 points this season.

The addition of Lamar Odom to the bench but playing starter’s minutes has been huge. He has sacrificed his game for the good of the team in a contract year. The Lakers bench of Lamar Odom, Jordan Farmar, Trevor Ariza, Sasha Vujacic and others has been literally changing the pace of the game and taking this team to another level. Advantage: Lakers

Prediction: Lakers 105 - 85
* Photo Credits (2) Larry W. Smith, EPA for the Trevor Ariza & Pau Gasol Photos

Wednesday, November 5, 2008

Thoughts on the 2009 NFL Draft for the Oakland Raiders

The 2009 NFL Draft, as of this posting, is 171 days away but the Raiders are on the clock. The Oakland Raiders will be looking at a top five pick in the draft, again. The needs for the team are OL, DT, MLB, WR, SLB, FS.

The Raiders need to draft an impact player in the first round but fill the above mentioned needs throughout the draft.

The team can go in several different directions but with the first pick the choices that meet the need are as follows: MLB Rey Maualaga, LT Micheal Oher, LT Andre Smith if all three of these players are gone then the decision should be to trade down and secure more draft picks to build the team.

WR Michael Crabtree is the one wild card to change matters at the top of the draft board if he comes out. He has reminded several people of AZ WR Larry Fitzgerald.

If the team trades down SLB Brian Cushing, SLB Aaron Curry, FS Taylor Mays, DT Fili Moala, DT Peria Jerry, DT Terrance Cody a.k.a. "Mount Cody", DT Terrance Taylor, DE Brian Orapko become possibilities later in the first round as well as second round on.

Drafting Rey Maualaga gives the team a hard hitting impact MLB to help stop the run and gives the team the ability to move Kirk Morrison to SLB. The team needs to draft a DT or two but at this time none rate as a top five pick and can be had later in the draft with this draft having several quality DT's in it.

The two best LT's in the draft are Michael Oher and Andre Smith, both should be rated as top five picks at a need position for the team. Selecting either one will allow the team to move Kwame Harris to RT or release him.

If the team can focus on building both offensive and defensive lines in the draft that will be a step in the right direction. Especially seeing as there isn't a direction right now.

It would be great to see this team have a game plan going into the draft and not concern themselves with how well a guy performed at the combine; establish some sort of identity on both sides of the ball.

The only thing that has been close to being established offensively is being a running team. Build the O-Line and the D-Line and draft players that take teams running the ball on them personal. Bring in 2 DT's and a 260 lb. MLB will work toward that.

The team has ranked last or close to it in stopping the run since 2003, the team would make a definitive statement if say they could pick MLB Rey Maualaga in the 1st round, LT Eugene Monroe in the 2nd round, OL Max Unger in the 3rd round, secure DT Terrance Cody in the 4th round, WR Michael Jones in the 5th round, DT Terrance Taylor in the 6th round and FS Josh Pinkard in the 7th round.
Another important issue is the coaching staff, Al Davis has fired several coaches and it wouldn't surprise anyone if he chose to fire the current coaching staff. It would mean that the team is starting over, again which isn't good but still a possibility.
This team needs continuity of some sort even though that was killed when Lane Kiffin was booted early this season. Addressing the above mentioned needs for the team as shown in the mock Raiders draft for 2009 would be a huge step in the right direction.
There are no guarantees but it would make a definitive statement for progressive change within the Raiders organization.

Tuesday, November 4, 2008

Raiders Set To Jettison DeAngelo Hall

The Oakland Raiders came to the realization that the DeAngelo Hall experiment has not worked. This decision proves that the team made a mistake in signing him in the off-season and basically squandering a second round draft pick in the process.

Hall will have made $8 million so far this season; the team has chosen not to compound the problem by guaranteeing his $16 million salary. The Raiders now know why the Falcons put him on the trade block.

He will be waived on 11/5/2008 Per Adam Schefter of NFL Network, ending the nightmare that was DeAngelo Hall in silver and black. It was reported that personnel changes would be made and now it is known what one of those changes are.

It has been proven, without a doubt, that solid bump-and-run coverage wasn’t his strong suit. He has been beaten repeatedly from day one when he was misused by Bronco’s rookie Eddie Royal.

Bills, Chargers, Saints, Ravens receivers followed suit and proceeded to do the same. The Falcons couldn’t wait to do the same and proved it early last Sunday going right after him in a game that was over at half time.
I'm guessing that having your former teammates over for dinner on the friday before the game will not deter them from embarassing you on sunday.

I'm also guessing that the best CB tandem in the league project is now over seeing as a bigger Stanford Routt is a better fit.

The team has decided to cut their losses and play without a player that was a huge weakness on defense. The injury he has could explain some of the issues he was having but clearly not all of them.

I didn’t expect the end to come so soon for Hall but he has been awful, just as bad as Javon Walker perhaps he could be receiving his walking papers as well.

This will definitely free up money this off-season so Nnamdi Asomugha will be signed to a long term contract that he deserves.

The bad news is that the team chose not to do the same and release some other players but I have a feeling that DeAngelo Hall will not be the last player released. There is an apparent roster overhaul taking place.

Could it be that Al Davis is seeing the error of his ways and that some of the things he has done aren’t working? Could he finally ready to address weaknesses on the team and stop just throwing money at the problem? Time will tell.

Could this be Al Davis way of having a roster purge, similar to someone purging the unneeded files on a computer? If that is the case, and is what is truly going on in Oakland, then Hall is the first and not the last to be shown the exit.

The money that has been freed up can be used to improve the team by brining in players that can actually improve the team. It even has the feeling that a real NFL General Manager looked at the roster and stated that you need to cut ties with this group of players. Stay tuned apparently there is more to follow.
This move and others to save money on one hand could work out for the team in the long run but on the other it also shows the top down dysfunction of this team and more bizzare actions.
This team needs to finally hire a true front office and hire people for the following positions immediately; those positions are General Manager, President, Vice President, Director of Player Personnel, Assistant Director of Player Personnel, Director of Pro Personnel and a Director of College Scouting.
After that is accomplished this group needs to work on establishing an identity for this team offensively, that identity needs to start with a running game and work toward a balance offense. Defensively this group needs to establish and identity that this team will not be run on.

Friday, October 31, 2008

Lakers lock up Big Man with a 4-year extension

The Los Angeles Lakers have signed Center Andrew Bynum to a multi-year extension reportedly worth $58 million. The deal removes the possibility of the 21 year old center becoming a free agent.

The deal will keep him in a Lakers jersey until 2012-2013 season. Bynum was the 10th overall pick by the Lakers in the 2005 NBA Draft. He will earn $2.8 million this season with the extension kicking in next year.

If the deal wasn’t completed by Friday, the team wouldn’t have been able to negotiate with him until the end of the season when he would be a free agent. The deal cements Bynum’s future with the Lakers.

The deal also means that the Lakers have locked up their two youngest players, Jordan Farmar and Andrew Bynum and cemented their place as Lakers for the foreseeable future.

Bynum, a seven-foot, 285 pounder had already established himself as one of the leagues Up-and-Coming big men before he was injured in a January 13th game and later had season ending knee surgery.

He had averaged 13.1 points, 10.2 rebounds and 2.06 blocks in 35 games. He started 25 of those games. Bynum had to sit on bench and watch the Lakers go to the NBA Finals and he couldn’t be a part of it.

He worked hard in the off-season is healthy now and poised to make an impact on the balanced Lakers.

The contract is now out of the way, both his and his family’s financial futures are set and he can now focus on working hard to continue his development into one of the leagues best. He will be making an impact on the court in an NBA city near you.

The Los Angeles Lakers are off and running

The Lakers have started the 2008-2009 season off with a bang. The team that has gotten off to an excellent start with two impressive wins, is the same one, we saw walk off the court defeated in game six of the NBA Finals.

The difference is that the team that lost the NBA Finals in game six had actually lost the series in game four by allowing the Celtics to come back and win after having a 24 point lead in a must win home game.

This time last year no one expected the young Los Angeles Lakers to make a run to the NBA Finals with all of the off-season turmoil. The thought then was that the Lakers would be the sixth seed in the playoffs at best.

Beyond Kobe Bryant and Derek Fisher, this is a young team that grew up last year and had a taste of success reaching the NBA Finals and now nothing else except winning it all will suffice.

A motto for this Lakers team could easily be NBA Finals or bust.

The team returns the majority of the same players from last year with a few additions but the changes are as follows; most importantly everyone is healthy, which couldn’t be said last year.

The young players received valuable experience last year, the team learned the hard way that they’re focus needs to be on defense and everyone has bought into it.

The Lakers have a tremendous amount of depth. They’re basically two deep at every position, which offers Coach Phil Jackson great versatility. Phil Jackson and staff made the decision to have the versatile Lamar Odom come off the bench which improves an already potent bench.

This is a scary thought for the opposing team seeing as the Lakers bench averaged 32 points per game last year.

Future starting point guard Jordan Farmar, Trevor Ariza and Andrew Bynum all look poised for breakout seasons for the balanced Lakers. Both Farmar and Bynum development as players has gone well and both received contract extensions.

He will still play the same amount of minutes that he normally has but he should have more of an impact on the game. The starting five really wouldn’t have been good in transition defense with ‘LO’ in the starting unit the team would’ve been slower.

This isn’t a knock on ‘LO’ but having a shooter like Vladimir Radmanovic spread the floor provides proper spacing for the offense. Radmanovic has also displayed a renewed vigor and desire to really work on the defensive end of the floor.

The Lakers talent, depth, versatility and length allow the second unit the opportunity to run and push the ball up the court and basically change the pace of the game and get the team in transition to acquire transition baskets on lay-ups and dunks.

Moving Lamar Odom to the second unit makes the starters a better defensive team as well as places him in a situation where he can come off the bench and be aggressive.

The Lakers emphasis on defense has been a welcome sight, especially with a healthy Andrew Bynum back to being a presence in the paint. Pau Gasol has been able to move to his natural position as a mobile power forward.

The guards and forwards are aggressively challenging ball handlers, closing out on shooters, in the passing lanes and doing an excellent job of switching defenders and forcing everything to the baseline with two seven footers behind initial defenders to clean things up and challenge of block shots.

It is great to see everyone having each others backs, so to speak, meaning if Gasol has to come out to cut off Kobe’s man then in turn Kobe will take his man leaving no one uncovered.

The Lakers are showing excellent player movement and ball movement although the team is forcing the action and getting transition baskets but will still run their customary triangle offense when in the half court set.

Some of the most important numbers coming out of the first two games of the season are two games wins by 58 points and holding the oppositions FG shooting percentage to 36.7 which is what the Clippers shot.

The Lakers are seeking a return trip to the NBA Finals with the home court advantage and winning it this time around, this is the only way to remove the bad taste in the mouths from 131-92.

Thursday, October 30, 2008

Raiders lose both of their Forgotten Men

The forgotten men that the Raiders lost are the two players that play the fullback position.
Justin Griffith and Oren O’Neal, both are solid players that were instrumental in the 2007 and current seasons running game.

I wrote an article back in early August speaking of the above mentioned players.

Now both have been lost for the year due to injury.

As a coach, player and fan we want to see a player play his guts out and leave it all on the field every practice and game. I hope others recognize that the versatile players that play fullback for the Raiders have done just that.

Playing a position where your time is split between power running and lead blocking as well as blocking for the quarterback in the passing game.

Oren O’Neal was injured playing on Special Teams in an exhibition game; and Justin Griffith tore his ACL in his right knee scoring the team’s only touchdown against the vaunted Baltimore Ravens defense while taking a serious hit from Ray Lewis.

The only good news in the above mentioned statement regarding the losses is that both players should be back on the field in 2009. The Oren O’Neal injury was once thought to be career-ending and the bright spot is that he will recover from it and resume his career.

It is a known fact that the traditional fullback is a dying breed.

There are two types of fullbacks in the NFL today – the blow-up lead blocker who destroys anything in his way (think of former Charger FB Lorenzo Neal), and the athletic, do-it-all “West Coast” fullback ( think of former 49er and current Raiders running back coach Tom Rathman).

The team has acquired two players in an attempt to fill the void. The roster replacements are Luke Lawton and the newly signed Jason Davis.

Jason Davis (5’ 10” 245lbs.) was signed off of the Bear’s practice squad he is an undrafted player from 2006 that has yet to play an NFL game.

There were only three fullbacks selected in the 2006 draft with the first one being David Kirtman who was drafted by the Seahawks in the fifth round.

In his senior year at Illinois the team, in Ron Zook’s first year, went to a wide-open shotgun attack offense that Davis struggled with. He is however known for having good hands. This has the potential to open up screen passes or a check down route in the flats.

He is a guy getting an opportunity for playing time due to injury and should be highly motivated player, which is always nice to add to a team.

Saturday, October 25, 2008

Ravens - Raiders Preview

This is a rematch of the two teams that played for the AFC Championship in Oakland eight years ago, a game won by the Ravens 16-3 in route to their Super Bowl championship in 2000.

One team will come out of this game on a two game winning streak.

Both teams have young signal callers as starters in common and offense’s that rank near the bottom in terms of overall rankings and consistent production.

The Ravens have one of the best defenses in the NFL. The Raiders have a lot of talent and are still working on putting it all together and playing the perfect game.

That is what it is going to take to win this game.

The worst thing about this game for the Raiders is that they’ll have to make a cross country trip to play an early game, west coast teams, due to the time change and waking extremely early and essentially playing an early morning game, notoriously have not faired well in these games.

When the Ravens have the ball:

The Ravens offense, lead by rookie QB John Flacco, has been a more successful running then passing. The team has had more success rushing and will run the ball at the Raiders.

As a unit they’re ranking is number 26 in points averaging 17.5 per game, 26th in total yardage at 296 yards per game, 25th in passing yardage at 161.8 yards per game, the team is ranked seventh rushing at 134.2 yards per game.

The passing game ranks very low and the Ravens receivers are a little banged up so it appears that they’ll rely on a run heavy offensive game plan. Joe Flacco has only thrown two touchdown passes but he has amassed seven interceptions.

When the Raiders are on Defense:

The Raiders defense needs to shut down the Ravens rushing game, they’re facing rookie QB Joe Flacco and need to go after him hard to force him and the Ravens offense into turnovers.

As a unit they’re ranked 23rd in points allowed at 23.7 per game, 26th in total yardage at 360.5 per game, 22nd in passing yardage at 224.3 per game, 24th in rushing yards allowed at 136.2 per game.

A high level defensive effort needs to be had from the start of the game to the end of the game. The Raiders defense has gotten seven interceptions so far this season and ironically Joe Flacco has also thrown the same amount.

The Raiders have done a decent job of sacking the quarterback this year and everyone is contributing and that type of effort will be needed against the Ravens.

If the team can shut down the run game, mix up the coverage’s to confuse the young QB put a tremendous amount of pressure in Joe Flacco’s face right up the middle to flush him out of the pocket the Raiders should be able to force a few turnovers which will be huge in this game.

When the Raiders have the ball:

The Raiders are a running team that is moving toward finding their passing game. They’re going up against one of the best defenses and the league’s stingiest against the run.

As a unit the Raiders rank as 28th in points at 16.2 per game, 23rd in total yards at 300.3 per game, 27th in passing yards at 157.3 per game, fifth in rushing at 143 yards per game.

This is strength on strength match up but the Ravens are the leagues best at stopping the run and haven’t allowed a 100 yard rusher in 25 games.

The task will be difficult but the Raiders can not abandon the running game, they need to still run the ball but it needs to be more of a 60/40 mix with them passing the ball about sixty percent of the time while mixing in play action.

The Raiders will need to throw the ball more this week, it is imperative that all of the wide receivers step up their game and contribute as Javon Walker did last week.

It needs to be a concerted effort between the WR’s, TE’s and RB’s on short to medium throws and the occasional long pass attempt to keep the defense honest. The Raiders might have to use their TE’s, FB’s and RB’s in as blockers if the protection doesn’t hold up.

JaMarcus Russell will need to do a good of limiting his mistakes take what the defense gives him and protect the football. It is not a bad decision to throw the ball away if need be.

When the Ravens are on defense:

The Ravens is one of the NFL’s best at shutting down the opposition. The run a base 3-4 defense and the front line of (RE) Haloti Ngata, (NT) Justin Bannan and (LE) Trevor Price do an excellent job of slowing the oppositions running game, occupying blockers and protecting their linebackers so they can make tackles.
It could also be described as clearing the way for first ballot Hall of Famer MLB Ray Lewis.

The Ravens will shut down the Raiders rushing game and get after JaMarcus Russell. He is a young QB and the veteran Raven defense will look to get some hits on him, sack him and create turnovers.

As a unit the Ravens rank fifth in points at 16.7 per games, second in total yardage at 243.8 per game, fourth in passing yards at 176.7, first in stopping the run at 67.2 yards per game.

Key Match Up:

Raiders Defensive Coordinator vs. Ravens Defensive Coordinator; It will be interesting to see this match up and find out what new twist each will bring.

I have a feeling that there is a possibility that both teams might show multiple fronts throughout the game but don’t be surprised to see the vaunted Bear 46 from both teams.

The winner of this game could easily come down to which young QB makes fewer mistakes. The outcome could come down to which team’s running game gets on track.

This will be a low scoring contest with winner of the turnover battle being the winner of this game.


Ravens 16 – Raiders 13

Friday, October 24, 2008

Raiders top Jets in overtime 16-13, A Win to build upon

The Raiders huge 16-13 win over Brett Favre and the Jets allowed them to break both a three game losing streak and a four-game home losing streak.

Kicker Seabastian Janikowski's 57-yard FG in overtime was the difference.

The longest FG to win a game in overtime in NFL history and one yard better than his longest this season. The win was Interim Head Coach Tom Cable’s first NFL win.

It wasn’t the best game that the Raiders have played but the team dug in their heels and fought the Jets for five quarters.

Despite giving up 159 yards rushing to Thomas Jones, the Raiders defense did a good job of getting to Brett Favre, hitting him on more than one occasion and sacking him three times.

The defense caused three turnovers; DeAngelo Hall and Gibril Wilson both had interceptions and as a group came up with the necessary stops to earn the win.

Rookie DE Trevor Scott had a stellar game recording a stat line that included six tackles, two sacks and a forced fumble.

The Raiders have been competitive and hold leads early in previous games only to see it all fall apart in the fourth quarter, unable to seal the deal.

The team showed determination and resolve, allowing just 45 yards in the extra period while forcing the Jets to punt on all three of their drives in overtime.

It was nice to witness a Javon Walker sighting, his five receptions for 75 yards and first touchdown and game as a Raider. It was good to see the team refuse to let up in the fourth quarter and continue to fight for the much needed win.

There is one game during every season that is declared pivotal to a team’s success; this type of win has the potential for being that game for the Raiders.

Oakland has to be able to build upon the successes in the win and eliminate the mistakes. The team continued to run the ball against the Jets who came into the game with the number three ranked run defense in the NFL.

Oakland came away with 153 yards rushing with Justin Fargas carrying the ball 28 times for 74 yards, not spectacular numbers but most importantly not giving up on the running game.

The Raiders need to continue to work on limiting the opposition on defense and establishing the Wide Receivers in the passing attack.

The team finished the game with 14 penalties which is 14 too many and in some cases a team killer which needs to be addressed immediately. A win is a win however it happens and these Raiders will take it and work toward securing another next Sunday.

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

The NFL needs Full-Time Officials

All of us football fans on game day take to our favorite chair in our living room, entertainment room, den, back room, basement, friend’s house or local sports bar to watch football games.

There are constantly 29 men on the field, three teams if you will, the home team, the away team and the crew of officials, until one of the men wearing a striped shirt warns the players on the sideline that they’re too close to the field of play and that they’ll need to stay back beyond the boundary to avoid a penalty.

Every team has a “get back” guy, a role played by some assistant coaches.
The guy giving the warning usually is the Side Judge; he is one of the striped shirts, the zebras one of the seven other guys on the field or third team tasked with officiating the game.

The crew of officials consist of a Referee, Umpire, Head Linesman, Line Judge, Field Judge, Side Judge and Back Judge. Each are tasked with watching a specific part of the field and sharing said ruling with the Referee.

In the specialized world of the NFL the officials have a tough job to do and the crew is in the city of the upcoming game they’ll be working long before kickoff. The group discusses points of interest, infractions that they’re keying on for the game long before it starts.

The crew of officials put in a lot of time and effort into completing the task of officiating an NFL game every Sunday.
These guys are required to have a deep and thorough understanding of the rules, stay updated on rule changes, and be able to be calm, fair and consistent while handling pressure situations in close contests.

Each member of the crew has had to go through a lot to reach this level of officiating.

Under Mike Pereira, the leagues Vice President of officiating, there is a standardized grading system and the crew is judged on their performance which works towards being selected to officiate playoff games and the Super Bowl.

Every year there are those four to ten missed calls that we as fans will never forget or let the official that missed the call forget.

These guys have to deal with an inordinate amount of verbal abuse from the fans, during and after games. There are websites about how bad the officials are which go into great detail about how a call was blown.

Sometimes we as fans forget that the officials are human and that they’ll make mistakes like anyone else.

Ed Hochuli an NFL official from 1990- present was crucified for his game deciding gaffe in the Denver vs. San Diego game for example and people were calling for his head, so to speak.

He admitted that he made a mistake,owned it and showed the humility to answer e-mails from each and every pissed off Chargers fan.

Several of us can’t say that we would’ve done the same. Some have gone as far as stating that officiating a game is easy which couldn’t be further from the truth.

The real outcry should be for the league to hire full time officials. This isn’t the answer to the problems with officiating but it would be a huge step in the right direction. NFL officials have day jobs and officiating games for them is in a sense a part-time job.

The NFL is a full time job for the players, coaches and front office personnel and should be for officials as well.

The pay scale for league officials ranges from $25,000 to $70, 000 per year. The average NFL official is paid $27,000 per year, a far contrast to the $128,000 a NBA official receives.

Granted the NBA plays far more games than the NFL and the NFL official works less but this disparity is unbelievable and unfair.

NHL officials on average earn $139,000 annually; Major League Baseball officials on average earn $141, 000 annually.

However if you love the game, have a desire to be a part of the best football action that a game can offer you set out to make it happen and become a game official. Despite being paid less than other professional sports leagues.

As a suggestion it would make sense to me that the NFL hire officials on a full time basis, raise their salary commensurate with officials of other leagues, and most importantly make sure the officials are in prime physical shape like the athletes they’re officiating by going through their own OTA’s, mini-camps and training camps.

It might sound strange but it would work, for an official it is all about experience and the year round effort and practice would improve the officiating on game day.

A huge problem the officials face is that the speed of today’s game, at times appears to be too fast for the striped shirts.

Today’s athletes are bigger, stronger and faster than previous years. Which makes the game action faster, some of the faster action is getting by the officials and calls are being missed.

Missed calls unfortunately will always be a part of the game but full-time officials will go a long way to minimize this issue and the officials can go back to not being a factor in deciding if a team wins or loses a game.

Saturday, October 11, 2008

How will Tom Cable’s elevation affect the Raiders?

Tom Cable’s unexpected ascension to the interim head coaching position places him in the unenviable position of being challenged with the task of bringing some order to chaos as well as leading a turnaround.
This is his first NFL head coaching job although he possesses 21 years of coaching experience.

In the locker room he is known as an approachable coach, that players can talk to, who has solidified the offensive line and can do the same with the entire locker room. Al Davis stated in the infamous press conference that he wanted Cable to dominate the players and dominate the locker room.

This is a task that is always tough for first year head coaches but a task that Cable is ready for and should excel in. Usually only time reveals the answer. The players to a man don’t like the constant change of head coaches but will rally around and play hard for Tom Cable.

Despite the strange way he became the Raiders head coach Tom Cable is qualified and well-suited for the position. He is known as a tough competitor, tough on discipline, a tough-minded guy with a take-charge approach that gets it and sees the whole picture.

These are some of the reasons that he was the choice as the next head coach despite other coaches on the roster being more well known commodities in coaching circles.

If you listen to several NFL insiders be it NFL executives, league-wide front office personnel, former players, sports announcers and sports writers; Tom Cable is the newest man not to matter. Seeing as who the owner is and his history with head coaches.

It is something that is impossible to dispute, but this could be that rare occasion where the interim head coach is able to finish what the former coach started despite the obvious obstacles.

Tom Cable has learned what it takes to command the attention of a large group; he is very effective taking the time to reach out to each player getting to know them individually and taking a personal interest in each player, their families, and their well being on and off the field.

Offensive Coordinator Gregg Knapp will now call the plays on offense, it is a position that he has excelled in, and he will take on the chess match of putting together an aggressive game plan attacking opposing defenses.

Tom Cable will have final say, but the feeling is that the offense won’t be as reliant on the running game but I disagree with that thought. This is a running team that will pass and aggressively take their shots down field when available.

Some have speculated that the problem with the offense is that former coach Lane Kiffin kept the wraps on JaMarcus Russell and wouldn’t let him throw deep. This couldn’t be farther from the truth.

The biggest change will be getting the wide receivers to become more of a factor. This has to occur for the offense to be more aggressive. Todd Watkins needs to be activated, he has the speed to go deep and can help an unproductive unit.

This unit has a combined 19 receptions that number needs to increase to reach the offensive balance Cable and Knapp desire.

The WR group has to step up their game and make plays to help out the offense and hold onto passes thrown their way, the offense as a whole must convert on third down.

The Raider running game is in need of the return of a healthy Justin Fargas. Having all of their runners healthy makes the running game more diverse.

Rob Ryan will still be in control of the defense with Tom Cable having final say, this unit needs to be aggressive and continue to attack from start to finish. The Outside linebackers need to make more plays in the running game and help the defensive line put pressure on the passer.

The defense needs to stop the opposition and get off the field on third down. The most important thing is the need to finish games. These are a few ways to notice Tom Cable’s affect on the team.

This team is close to putting together a complete game and coming away with more wins.
I’m aware that close is only good in regards to horseshoes and hand grenades.
I know that the NFL isn’t the close business but you have to crawl before you can walk. This team is making progress and moving in the right direction.

Several have asked the question, what is Tom Cable’s style? What is the Tom Cable way? The answer to those questions is simple.

Tom Cable wants the players to not be afraid of making mistakes but make them while playing 100mph. His feeling is that a player can grow from that quicker and that a player will learn quicker. It is unacceptable for players not to play with maximum effort.

Contrary to popular belief, the Raiders still have a chance in the AFC West.

Tom Cable has taken on a daunting task that can only be handled one game at a time. You’ll notice the affect when you see the Raiders play hard, play fast and play smart that is the Cable way.

Tuesday, September 30, 2008

" In Tom Cable we Trust"

The inevitable has happened and the axe has fallen on former Head Coach Lane Kiffin. I thought it was very strange that Al decided to break him off with a telephone call as oppose to speaking with him in person.

Al Davis named second year offensive line coach Tom Cable as the interim Head Coach. He becomes the fifth Raiders head coach since 2002. This is Cable’s second year with the Raiders. He was the offensive line coach for the Atlanta Falcons in 2006 where he helped the Falcons lead the league in rushing.

He has 21 years of coaching experience with four as the Head Coach at the University of Idaho. He has been tutored by several great coaches and is a disciple of Alex Gibbs, a well known Offensive line coach.

He is well respected by the team and around the league, he has to bring the team together starting October first and get them to focus on playing better in the final 12 contests this season and finishing games.

After watching the unprecedented Al Davis Press Conference and noticing him go into great detail and speak at length that he had cause to fire Kiffin was odd.

Al had a Power Point presentation and displayed the letter that he sent to Kiffin outlining mistakes made on and off the field as well as his warnings to him.

Al came off as someone who was storing up information for this moment from when Kiffin was hired until now. He stated that it wasn’t simply one thing as the reason for Lane’s dismissal but an accumulation of the things.

Al did state the obvious, that he didn’t want to admit that he made a mistake in hiring Lane Kiffin, as the reason Kiffin wasn’t fired in the off-season.

He essentially said that Lane ‘disgraced’ the team and organization citing outright lies to the media and conflicts over personnel.

Al Davis denied a report that he gave Kiffin a letter of resignation to sign and that he didn’t sign it.

He stated that Kiffin was responsible for getting that false claim out to the media. He used it as an example for describing Kiffin with the double barrel verbal blast as a ‘flat-out liar’ and a ‘professional liar’ in the middle of a bit of rambling.

The stranger thing was that the relationship between Kiffin and Davis deteriorated that much in such a short time.

Lane had a 5-15 record in his one year four game career which isn’t great but the team was competitive, had a lead before losing and was competitive in those 15 loses.

Al went on to say that even if the Raiders had a three win –one loss record he still would’ve fired Kiffin which was odd.

Several have stated that Lane was trying to get fired to collect the remainder of the money on his contract but I’ve always disagreed with that comment.

The Raiders have been close to wins on several occasions but unlike horseshoes and hand grenades the reality is this isn’t the close business. The bottom line is winning and the team has to find ways to win.

I’m interested in what changes we’ll see in the team for the remainder of the season. Tom Cable is in his second season with the team and has a good idea of what needs to happen.

I feel that he will attempt to rally the veteran players and call on their leadership to help right the ship. The team has had some success this year; they’ve also shown that they’re close to breaking out.

Tom Cable knows that in the NFL points come out of the passing game and that you run the ball to win the game. The defense has to get after and stop the opponent as well as get off the field on third down.

He is aware that this team has had leads in 2007 and 2008 but needs to figure out how to finish games. That has to happen and hopefully this team will be more aggressive on both sides of the ball without having to deal with the distraction of having to field the "is this week that the Head Coach will be fired question."

Monday, September 29, 2008

Thoughts on the 2008 Oakland Raiders, after the First Quarter

The NFL season is a long 16 week journey, so one needs to break it down into four quarters to put the season into perspective.

The Raiders have reached the bye week with one win and three losses on the season. This isn’t the worse record in the league but it is far from the best. This best thing is the season isn’t over and the team has time to get it together.

What have we learned so far?

We’ve learned a few things so far, one thing is that this is a young team that is still learning how to win games. We’ve learned that this team is better than several people thought they were but that they’ve yet to prove it.

We’ve also learned that this team has yet to put together a complete game, as evidenced by losses in weeks three and four. We’ve also learned that this team is capable of doing so much better.

Had the Raiders been able to put together a complete game and execute on offense and play solid defense in the second half of games as oppose to wearing down the Raiders would be looking at a record showing three wins and one loss which would have them tied for first place in the AFC West and spoken of as a team on the rise.

The above was a possibility but the reality is that this hasn’t happened.

The Raiders are a team in the process of rebuilding with an owner that appears to be dead set against the need to do so. There is a huge need for some Raider fans to get beyond blaming the officials for the outcome of games, unless that is the case and when it is trust me it will be obvious.

Several factors have gotten the team to this point; injuries, conservative play calling, the WR’s not stepping up and making plays, not executing on offense, failure to hold leads on defense, not doing enough to win games, doing a better job in acquiring the right personnel, doing a better job scouting college talent, drafting better and an owner and front office with a commitment to fire the head coach as oppose to winning games.

The next quarter includes road games against the Saints and Ravens, home games against the Jets and Falcons. The Raiders need to put the first quarter behind them and focus on playing a complete game each week.

There needs to be two game plans both offensively and defensively each week. Meaning that the team needs to have a game plan and be able to make second half adjustments and finish games.

The Raiders have shown signs of improvement in all areas and moving in the right direction but still have a long way to go in several areas.

The Raiders offensively have shown that they’re a running team with a stable of solid running backs and a system that allows them to do what they do best.

Lane Kiffin and Gregg Knapp need to establish the run, use mis-direction plays and use a lot of play action passes, work on several pressure release options and screens while not forgetting to take a few shots deep to keep the opposing defenses honest.

The team needs to make opposing defenses cover the entire field. Force teams to decide against stacking the box and placing eight defenders there to stop the run.

There needs to be a tremendous amount of work on third down offense to be able to sustain drives and give the defense more time to rest, especially being thin as they are at the Defensive Tackle position.

The team needs to activate WR Todd Watkins and go with a liberal use of a WR corps of Ashley Lelie, Johnnie Lee Higgins, Chaz Schilens and Todd Watkins. I would also like to suggest sitting Javon Walker and Ronald Curry. Neither one has met expectations.

The offensive line has played better than expected at times but needs to do a better job of giving JaMarcus Russell time to find an open receiver.

The defense needs to be much more aggressive and attack throughout the game. The defense needs to dictate what is to come to the offense as oppose to reacting. The defense has had trouble holding leads in the last two games and not being aggressive and that can be attributed to not getting off of the field on third down.

The way Al Davis is treating Lane Kiffin is a travesty. Al Davis has handled this situation horribly. I see both sides of the argument but I applaud Lane Kiffin for the way he is handling the situation and to the players for publically supporting the Head Coach.

In the competitive NFL he has shown that he is a competitor and has not quit. Doing so would follow you throughout your career. No one wins in this type of scenario and the fans are the ones who ultimately suffer as all Raider fans have for far too long.

One of two things should’ve happened, either fire him or endorse him as the head coach for the remainder of the year so all involved can move on.

This has been yet another year where ‘top down’ distractions have contributed to the team’s slow start. Contrary to popular belief, the season is not over and the goal for the team continues to be getting better and winning games.

The Raiders have a lot of work to do and need to continue to work hard toward improvement with the support of the Owner and Front Office.

The team can be best described as a work in progress although all of the above are things that the Raider Nation would like to see.

Wednesday, September 17, 2008

Revisiting Al Davis’ takeover of the Oakland Raiders

There was a time when Al Davis knew what he was doing and was good at it. I have no problem giving credit where credit is due; he was inducted into the Hall of Fame in 1992 for his past contributions.

He has done a lot for the Oakland Raiders, AFL and the NFL. The team was 9-33 in the three years prior to his arrival; the 33-year old Davis, led the team to a 10-4 record in 1963 and was named AFL coach of the year.

Davis compiled a 23-16-8 record in his three years as head coach prior to becoming the AFL commissioner in 1966. Once named AFL Commissioner; Al Davis led some aggressive campaigns against the NFL, he went at them hard, signed several of their top players to AFL contracts.

Several other AFL owners held silent meetings with the NFL discussing a merger of the two football leagues; they announced plans that they were merging with the NFL.

Due to the compensation that AFL teams had to pay to the NFL, because he felt that the AFL would be the superior league if allowed to remain separate, Al Davis was staunchly against the merger.

He then decided to return to the Raiders as the general partner and head of football operations, along with seven other co-owners, instead of remain as commissioner until the AFL ended in 1970. In other words, he returned to take over.

He ruthlessly began his plight to become the don, or better yet, take complete control of the organization.

The same man who demands loyalty from all of his coaches, decided to make his power play and oust managing general partner F. Wayne Valley in 1972 while he was attending the Summer Olympics in Munich.

He decided to revise the partnership agreement that gave him near total-control of team operations. F. Wayne Valley returned home after dealing with the shock of the tragic events of the Olympics just to find out what had happened.

He tried to sue Al Davis to overturn the revised agreement but it was too late, he no longer had a voice.

F. Wayne Valley sold his interest in 1976, and no other partner has had a role in running the team since. Keep in mind that Davis didn’t officially acquire majority interest in the team until 2005, when he bought the shares held by the family of Ed McGah, the team’s last original general partner.

It sounds like fear and intimidation played a huge factor in the interim.
He currently owns 67-percent of the interests in the partnership through his company, A. D. Football, Inc. In other words he has been a team owner and general manager since 1970. This informs those who don’t know how we reached this point.

Call him a ‘control freak’ and you wouldn’t be off the mark. Call him someone who doesn’t like change and you would be wrong. While we’re on the subject of being wrong, it is dead wrong for the team to be in the state they’re in right now and the state that they’ve been in since 2001.

The NFL is a business of which the Oakland Raiders are a part of. Any business that has a few bad months or a bad quarter is holding several meetings/discussions to figure out what the company is doing wrong and what needs to happen to change it.

Any business that has been as terrible and unproductive as the Raiders have been over the last five years would no longer be in business.

Albert Einstein said it best when he said and I quote “Insanity: doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results”.

As a fan of this team I’ve seen this on more than one occasion it is ridiculous. I’ve never seen failure at every level until I watch my team.

I’ll focus on the NFL draft for one; let’s look at the 2003 draft after Al traded Head Coach Jon Gruden for draft picks. Let's look at how those picks were used.

1 (31) Nnamdi Asomugha, CB California
1 (32) Tyler Brayton, DE Colorado
2 (63) Teyo Johnson, TE Stanford
3 (83) Sam Williams, LB/DE Fresno State
3 (96) Justin Fargas, RB Southern California
4 (129) Shurron Pierson, DE South Florida
5 (167) Doug Gabriel, WR Central Florida
6 (204) Dustin Rykert, OT Brigham Young
7 (246) Siddeeq Shabazz, SS New Mexico State
7 (262) Ryan Hoag, WR Gustavus Adolphus

Ten picks in the draft, five selections in the first 100 picks and the Raiders have two starters, three still on the roster and six that are no longer in the league.

I like CB Nnamdi Asomugha, but can’t understand how a team with two 1st round picks can pass on WR Anquan Boldin and DE Osi Umenyiora in favor of DE Tyler Brayton.

In the 2nd round in need of a TE and OLB, the team passed on TE Jason Witten, OLB Lance Briggs in favor of TE Teyo Johnson.
Lane Kiffin and staff need to remain in place to develop the young players and come together as a unit. The Raiders need to re-build the team the right way and build through the draft, finally.
This is the only sane way to bring the team back to being competitive every game and every season.
Fire Lane Kiffin and it will set the franchise back for at least the next three to five years. Al needs to do the right thing and stop meddling with the team. We all know who the boss is but the real question is does Al Davis care about the teams fans?

I have a strong love for the Raiders and have been a fan since the AFL days who is highly upset that my team has turned into an NFL punch line. I've got a lot of love for Al Davis, but for several years now he has failed to lead the team in the right direction.It is time to turn the controls over to someone else.
Hey Al, the 70’s and 80’s called, they want their team back.

Al Davis Needs to Stop Hitting the Reset Button

All is quiet on the western front, or at least in the East Bay of Northern California. Lane Kiffin has his job for another week despite the reports that he was out as early as 9/15/08.

He is at odds with Al Davis and we all know how this scenario usually ends.

The Oakland Raiders have to deal with more distractions from the top down, STILL. This has been a common theme for every fan of this team and it started out being a few jabs fans had to deal with but these punches have all landed and need to stop.

Any change needs to be from the top down.

We’ve seen the Don, Al Davis, run off several coaches who refused to be his “yes men” or ‘kiss the ring’ so to speak, and the franchise and its fans have suffered by the decisions.

The loyalty of the Raider Nation has not been reciprocated and Al Davis could care less, if it was different he would handle the team’s affairs differently and stop landing punches on the Raider fans.

Case in point, notice the timing of the latest act after the team’s best performance in years. Lane Kiffin and staff have some solid pieces to work with and regardless who the opponent is rushing for 300 yards is epic.

It is a known fact that every Raiders coach has no authority or job security at all. The reason for this is simple; it is Al Davis a man off of his rocker. He has been a maverick owner for years. He is a commander who is asleep at the wheel and has been for years.

The only thing he is accomplishing at this point is inserting yet another knife in the teams back.

His tired act is the equivalent of a QB throwing a pass to a wide open receiver on a sure touchdown just to have a disgruntled teammate upset that he isn’t playing come off of the sideline to emphatically bring him down with a shot that causes his neck to snap back.

Every single selfish act of firing the head coach has come back to bite him and provide the fans with another body shot. Teams from the front office down to the players need to be on the same page and working toward the common goal of winning games.

That goal needs to be more than proving that you’re the boss.

Here is a small list of the fired few:

Mike Shanahan, John Fox, Jon Gruden, Norv Turner, Bill Callahan, Art Shell, Joe Bugel

Six of the seven are still coaching in the league. Al hired them all and fired them for different reasons but as usual he felt the need to meddle with them. There are several playoff appearances between them; and three super bowl wins.

Had Al not been selfish and kept Mike Shanahan or Jon Gruden in place as the Head Coach this franchise would’ve won more than three championships and it would be stocked with more talent. There is also a good chance that team’s record against the Broncos would be different.

It is a known fact that Al Davis has no problem firing coaches but it has also been proven that with every coach fired it is another year of the team having a lack of continuity. It sets the franchise back at least three years.

When asked what he thought of the rumors flying around of Lane Kiffin being fired Nnamdi Asomugha stated that “I’ve heard that every year since I’ve been here”, He is the teams best defensive player and he was drafted in 2003, meaning he has had four and now possibly going on five head coaches.

He is also one of the rare players that have had the time to develop in Oakland. The coaches aren’t the problem the problem is in the owner’s box.

It appears to be that silly time of the year again when Al uttered those words “He’s not the guy I hired.” It is widely speculated that Al is prepared to fire Lane Kiffin and promote either Defensive Coordinator Rob Ryan or Wide Receiver’s coach James Lofton.

It has been reported that it is a matter of when and not if he will be fired. In the event this happens it will be yet another distraction for this team. This team will not be able to build upon an impressive win in week two and it will be another ‘top down distraction’.

Lane Kiffin has stated the same thing that every other Raider coach has known and the reason several others refuse to coach in Oakland, being saddled by, the meddling of Al Davis.

It is difficult and almost impossible for a coach to do his job when the Owner/President/ Vice President/General Manager/Director Player Personnel/ Vice President Player Personnel/Director of Football Operations wants to tell you how to do your job and stands over you throughout the process.

Al was upset at the statement Lane Kiffin made after the terrible Monday night loss. He was bent that Kiffin basically stated that the defensive game plan was put together by Rob Ryan and Al Davis.

He also stated that Ryan showed more leadership than Kiffin by not throwing the players under the bus. It was also Al’s decision to have Rob Ryan give a press conference fall on the sword and back Al.

The person that needs to be fired is Al Davis. It is time for Al Davis to give control of the team to someone else, someone who is committed to improving this team. Several coaches have been fired and the record remains the same.

Most teams are set up to be .500 or better and when they’re not you can point the finger at the General Manager and the Owner, when they’re the same person fault needs to be placed at his doorstep and nowhere else.

I do have a few suggestions for improvement; hire a President, Vice President, General Manager, Director Player Personnel, Director of College Scouting and a brand new scouting staff.

There is a draft every year which gives a team the opportunity to add seven players or more per year to help improve the team. There has been too many times when the wrong player is drafted and of the listed seven to ten, only two or three players make the team with perhaps one being a starter.

Lane Kiffin has the team moving in the right direction and is in the process of building a team. This is something that Al Davis doesn’t like but needs to fall in love with. The idea of throwing money at older veteran players past their prime hasn’t worked for a very long time.

He has to realize that he’s thrown money at these players instead of building through the draft and the team has gone nowhere.

The only way for this to change is to have Lane Kiffin remain as the Head Coach and allow him and his coaching staff to do their jobs and develop these young players into a cohesive and competitive unit.

This is the only way that the Oakland Raiders will improve and stop Al Davis from hitting the reset button every two years. Raider fans have taken enough blows if it was a sanctioned fight the referee would stop the fight.

It is going to happen and it will be Al Davis’ and the Oakland Raiders ‘coup de grace’.