Thursday, July 31, 2008

Derrick Burgess Stands Up

The Oakland Raiders have been working on several different scenarios in Training Camp but one thing remains the same; no one can handle Derrick Burgess.

He has been wearing out whoever has been placed in front of him. He has appeared unblockable.

The Raiders offensive tackle positions are still a work in progress and based on Offensive Line Coach Tom Cable’s resume they’ll be ready to go on the eighth of September.

Teams have to game plan against Derrick Burgess due to the fact that he is that good.

He had for him an off season last year and he dealt with the setback of an injury that slowed him. He still finished the season with 40 tackles and tied for the team lead with eight sacks.

Despite a rare off season spending spree bringing in new talent, he didn’t receive the new contract he was after and the hope is he will after the season is over. Burgess came into camp ready for work.

As usual, the defense as a whole is ahead of the offense in training camp and Burgess is healthy and back to being his usual destructive self. The 6’2” 260 lb. DE remains a fast, aggressive pass rushing force and a player to watch for the Oakland Raiders.

To limit the damage of Derrick Burgess teams have used tight ends to double team him with offensive tackles. He has also experienced teams using both tight ends and running backs to chip him to slow him down.

To adjust to this tactic the Raiders have Burgess pulling double duty working at his customary DE position as well as OLB. Moving him around will limit obstacles between him and the opposing QB.

He will draw the attention of every offensive tackle in the league and set up some one-on-one situations for one of his teammates.

This is something new for him with the Raiders because he will in a sense be turned loose to create more damage.

He has all of the traits you look for in an OLB; Instincts, Athleticism and Range. The most important being athleticism, with the ability to tackle in the open field, blitz, rush the passer and drop into coverage.

An OLB operates in space and needs to have great range and speed to flow to the ball and chase down backs from sideline to sideline. In a 3-4 an OLB can be used to get upfield and bring pressure.

I’m aware that the Raiders run a base 4-3 defense, but it must be said, that so many different things can be done with the versatility of the 3-4 defense and it is one that Defensive Coordinator Rob Ryan knows well.

I mentioned a few months ago that the Raiders should blitz more and re-visit installing a 3-4 look on defense as a change of pace and not as the base defense and several people expressed their displeasure with the idea for several reasons.

There were several people made some valid points, others pulled the "that's not what the Raiders do card" dismissing any possibility of a change and dismissing it if it does happen which surprised me.

One of the reasons mentioned was that some felt that Derrick Burgess couldn’t play outside linebacker.

The people making these comments were people who had no idea that in high school Derrick Burgess was an All-State selection at Outside Linebacker.

In his senior season he collected 102 tackles, four sacks, an interception and he recovered a fumble and ran it back for a touchdown.

He earned team MVP and defensive player of the year honors that season. This information won’t surprise any Raider fan seeing as he was one of the best free agent additions in team history.

He made it to his first Pro Bowl and set a team record with 16 sacks in his first season with the team.

The optimum size for a DE is 6’5” 280 lbs., while the minimum size is 6’2” 255 lbs. He doesn’t have the size to play DE in the 3-4 alignment which is one of the reasons he is working at OLB.

He is undersized for a DE, although he can in a 4-3, but he has rare first-step explosion, he also has above average long speed.

He has natural pass rush moves as well as the ability to go to counter moves when a tackle gets his hands on him.

I'm requesting every member of the Raider Nation to weigh in on the topic. I pose the question "how do you feel about Derrick Burgess pulling "Double-Duty in training camp?"

I love the idea of giving a veteran player something new to work on to improve his game. The idea of Derrick Burgess being let loose to be more of force and the defense being more versatile is a good thing.

The Oakland Raiders are moving in the right direction and their defense has something to prove in 2008 and Derrick Burgess is leading the way.

Thursday, July 24, 2008

On to Training Camp

The Raiders have signed all of their two draft choices, WR Arman Shields and DE Trevor Scott signed contracts on Wednesday and are ready for camp.
Nnamdi Asomugha has decided not to holdout of camp, he has signed his $9.765 million one year franchise tender and he is also in camp on time.

I know the business of football and sometimes franchise players holdout of training camp as their only means of punishing the team for franchising them but Nnamdi is a straight up professional.

He stated the he will play out the year and deal with the contract next season. He came into camp without the promise from the team that they will not franchise him next season.

He can't sign a long-term deal until the end of the season but the team and his agent Steve Baker can continue to talk.I am hoping that the Raiders do right by him and sign him and Derrick Burgess to long term deals at the end of the season.

This is the first day of Training Camp for the Oakland Raiders it is also known as reporting day. The first practice will be today at 3:00 pdt

Photo Credit: Jorgen Gulliksen/Register

Tuesday, July 22, 2008

Raiders Sign veteran SS

The Raiders signed eight year veteran strong safety Greg Wesley to a one year contract. The former Kansas City Chief was a 3rd pick in 2000 and started for the Chiefs for several years, he was replaced by Benard Pollard in 2007. Heading into his ninth year has played both strong and free safety.

He played solid in a back up role and in key situations or critical downs he would replace one of the starters. He was bumped 0ut of his back up role with the arrival of DaJuan Morgan the third round pick from North Carolina State.

Some may question why the Raiders would sign another safety at this point seeing as the starters are set FS Michael Huff and SS Gibril Wilson.

The team has added depth in signing Wesley and he is a low risk high reward free agent pick up. He is being brought into camp to compete at the position and show what he can do.

He realizes that he isn't being counted on as a starter but being a veteran player he can help out in multiple receiver sets, he can help mentor younger players at the position, such as Tyvon Branch.

He can instruct him on what to look for and assist the team if someone goes down as well as help on special teams if needed.

The safety position has become a very physical position. It isn't safe being a safety; they're asked to play closer to the line of scrimmage like a linebacker to help shut down the opponents run game.

There is a good chance that a safety will have to match up with a bigger fullback or much bigger lineman. I can recall eight safeties going down with injuries in 2005.

That was the same year that the Raiders lost SS Derrick Gibson to a broken wrist and CB Charles Woodson, who was playing a lot more safety in the Raiders' big nickel scheme at the time, to a broken fibula.

In today's game you might need to carry more than four safeties in the event of injury and that could be the reason Greg Wesley will be in training camp attempting to join the silver and black. If he can continue to make plays and make the team. It will help the team in more ways than one.

Friday, July 18, 2008

No Long Term Deal for Asomugha, this year

The Oakland Raiders star cornerback Nnamdi Asomugha and the Oakland Raiders failed to reach a long term contract prior to the deadline July 15th. The Raiders placed the exclusive rights franchise tag on Asomugha in February, which basically guaranteed the star cornerback more than $9 million in 2008 and did not allow him to talk with any other team.

Asomugha has yet to sign his one year franchise tender and has been unable to practice with the team during offseason workouts.

The two sides worked at reaching a long term deal up until the deadline, Asomugha will earn approximately $9.765 million for 2008. Nnamdi has informed the team that he will not miss any regular season games in a holdout.

He'll have to wait another year to reach a long term deal, If he is franchised again in 2009 his franchise tender will increase to $11.7 million. He could earn upwards to $22 million in two years. He will more than likely sign his deal prior to the start of the regular season.

He deserves to have the security of a long term deal. This off season the Raiders signed veteran CB DeAngelo Hall to form a solid cornerback duo one of the best in the league. It would've been nice to see a Nnamdi Asomugha deal as part of the off season spending spree. I understand both sides in this scenario and the fact of the matter is that Nnamdi Asomugha remains a Raider but not signing a long term deal this year makes signing one next that more difficult as well as expensive. Happy he remains a Raider but this could've been handled better and he could've been locked up to finish his career as a Raider.

Sunday, July 13, 2008

Latest Raider News

While reading up on the latest news on the Oakland Raiders I came across an article written by Jerry McDonald an NFL Beat Writer of Bay Area News Group.

He stated that he was notified by Raider Brass that the team is on the verge of signing longtime NFL coach and former Offensive Coordinator of the New York Jets, Cleveland Browns, Kansas City Chiefs, San Francisco 49ers, Denver Broncos and Dallas Cowboys. He most recently held the title of quarterbacks coach with the Tampa Bay Bucs.

Raiders senior executive John Herrera has confirmed that Raiders coach Lane Kiffin and Paul Hackett have talked about a consultants position.

The Raiders will be signing him to an Offensive Consultant role. He is known for developing quarterbacks. He has faced criticism of his offense with pundits calling it more horizontal than vertical. Jerry McDonald appropriately asks the question is he being brought in as the Offensive Coordinator in waiting?

The question is being asked because current Offensive Coordinator Greg Knapp held the same position with the Atlanta Falcons with then Head Coach Jim Mora. It has been widely reported that Mora will take over as Head Coach of the Seattle Seahawks when Mike Holmgren steps down. This is expected to be his last year at the helm.

He has been soundly booed by fans of the above mentioned teams. He does have 20 years of NFL experience and a good football mind and being known to develop young quarterbacks is a needed source for the Raiders right now and can't hurt.

If Hackett is the Offensive Coordinator in waiting so to speak than having him here now will provide continuity in the event Greg Knapp bolts for Seattle at seasons end.

News on the Lamont Jordan Front. He is still a Raider and the team has been actively trying to trade him for a while. The reports were that the Lions and the Saints have an interest in him. Lamont Jordan was recently in Detroit although he has yet to receive an offer.

Thursday, July 10, 2008

The Most Intriguing Training Camp Battles

The NFL’s offseason is almost over. Several free agents have changed teams, and the draft choices have settled in with the respective teams, learning their role on the team.

This is the time of the year that NFL teams put in a tremendous amount of work, focusing on installing their system, coaching philosophies, developing chemistry, and coming together as a team.

The Oakland Raiders will yield several improvements due to this being the second year in the system for the majority of the team.

A solid move by head coach Lane Kiffin was to send the message to everyone on the team that you need to always work hard and practice at game speed. The message that there are no scholarship players so to speak. He made sure that everyone knew that they were all competing for a position.

Every team in the league is working on improving, and the Raiders are no different.

You can’t get away from the basics of the game, which are a strong defensive and offensive line, blocking, tackling, and hitting. These fundamentals never go out of style and are the main areas of improvement.

We’re three weeks away from the start of training camp, and this article will focus on some of the most intriguing positional training-camp battles.

The majority of the major media, when speaking of the Oakland Raiders, has inundated us fans with the same tired drag about how bad the offensive line is, which isn’t exactly true.

Every Raiders fan thought that the draft would yield at least one offensive lineman, and since that didn’t happen, the media went into their “what are the Raiders doing" mode.

The offensive line was able to turn the corner, make several strides, and become one of the bright spots on the team last season. Bringing in offensive line coach Tom Cable, essentially at the 2007 scouting combine, was a huge hire for Kiffin and the Raiders.

They have an excellent working relationship. He previously worked on the same staff as offensive coordinator Greg Knapp.

He is perfect for the two back, run-oriented offense the Kiffin ran. He installed his version of the zone-blocking scheme, which made the offensive line very productive.

This move allowed the Raiders to average 130.4 yards rushing per game, which was sixth in the NFL. The Raiders also were beneficiaries of a 31-sack improvement from the last season.

Robert Gallery and Cooper Carlisle had excellent seasons at the guard positions. You need athletic guards in the zone-blocking scheme and both played well.

Robert Gallery showed a tremendous amount of promise inside, and he is on his way to shedding the title of bust as the No. 2 overall selection in the 2004 draft. The starting guard tandem allowed two combined sacks for a loss of six yards.

Everyone is competing for a spot on the roster and for the starting job. Things can always change during a competition due to the uncertainty of who will win the matchup. Going into training camp, these are the most intriguing training-camp battles, in my opinion.

Offensive Tackle

As it stands right now, the left tackle spot is Kwame Harris' position to lose. In a roundabout way, the '49ers and Raiders exchanged left tackles. The right tackle spot appears to remain in Cornell Green’s hands.

The team wants Mario Henderson to win the job, but he needs to make a dramatic turnaround. The intriguing factor will be finding out if Paul McQuistan can win the right tackle spot. LT Kwame Harris' backup appears to be Seth Wand. If Brown falters, Wand could end up starting.

Wand excels at run blocking, and he has experience starting at LT from his time with the Texans. Mark Wilson and Jonathan Palmer will also compete for playing time.


As it stands right now, 11th-year veteran John Wade was signed this offseason to be the starting center after Jeremy Newberry headed to San Diego.

He is aggressive, has long arms, and is competitive, and he plays with good instincts and can play all three line positions.

The intrigue would depend on how much Chris Morris has developed and the outcome of the battle between Wade, Morris, and Grove.


As it stands right now, Justin Griffith is the starter. He is an effective blocker, a deadly cut-blocker, and an accomplished receiver. He is considered small for a FB, weighing in at 230 lbs.

The battle at this position comes with the development of Oren O’Neal, who will continue to garner playing time. As a sixth-round draft pick in 2007, many didn’t expect him to even make the team.

The 245-pound athlete did just that, and he showed that he is an accomplished lead blocker.

Wide Receiver

This position wasn’t as productive as it shouldn’t been in 2007, mostly caused by the multiple starting quarterbacks. That won’t be the case this year, as JaMarcus Russell will be the starter from day one.

Following the team's last Organized Team Activity, Javon Walker, Ronald Curry, and Drew Carter were one, two, and three on the depth chart.

The intrigue comes from the other wide receivers that have the opportunity to earn a roster spot: Todd Watkins, Chaz Schilens, Johnnie Lee Higgins, and Arman Shields.

More than likely, two of these three will earn roster spots, unless the Raiders carry six receivers. Shields has been out injured and missed a lot of practice time. Hopefully he will be healthy at the start of training camp.

Higgins has been inconsistent; having good days and bad days, and Schilens has a good size/speed combination and has shown good hands, which has earned him a slight edge over Shields.

Hopefully, Javon Walker has recovered from the robbery attempt that resulted in a fractured orbital bone and broken jaw, otherwise some changes might have to be made.

Other receivers might find an opportunity to earn a roster spot. This will be one of the best training-camp battles to watch.

Defensive End

As it stands right now, Derrick Burgess and Jay Richardson appear to be the starters. As far as Derrick Burgess goes, he is entrenched as the starter at left end. The battle will be the competition for the spot at right end.

Jay Richardson’s name is penciled in as the starter, but that could change. The Raiders brought in veterans Kalimba Edwards and Greg Spires.

Richardson did a good job as a base end against the run, but he didn’t get after the passer with any frequency. He has been working hard at improving on that area this offseason.

The Raiders are the fourth team for Greg Spires, who was drafted by the Patriots in the third round of the 1998 draft. He plays smart and understands blocking angles. He does a very good job of not letting blockers get into his body.

He has a variety of pass-rush moves and does a good job of setting up blockers. His instincts, intelligence, and aggressiveness make him a good fit for the Raiders.

He started on the left side for the Bucs from 2002-2007. He has played on top tier defenses from 2002-2005.

The 10-year veteran has chalked up 39.5 career sacks and has forced 11 fumbles.

Kalimba Edwards is a seventh-year player that has shown promise but has yet to put it all together. He will function as a situational or third-down pass rusher until he proves himself otherwise.

He is what you would call a low risk but potentially high-reward guy to add to the DE rotation. The Raiders are very high on Trevor Scott, a 2008 sixth-round pick. He has the edge speed the Raiders have been looking for.

Strong-Side Linebacker

As it stands right now, Robert Thomas is the starter and has beaten out Sam Williams the last couple of years. Sam Williams has been solid on special teams but has never developed into the playmaker the team expected.

He is a gifted athlete with an excellent combination of size and speed, but he has yet to develop as a football player.

Thomas has been adequate at the position and has played well in goal-line situations, but it is time for a change.

The intrigue here depends on if MLB Ed Hartwell has recovered from the injuries that have slowed him since he left Baltimore. If Hartwell is healthy, and can man the MLB spot, that would shift Kirk Morrison to be a bigger playmaker on the strong side.


Nnamdi Asomugha and DeAngelo Hall are the clear-cut starters, forming one of the league's best cornerback tandems. Stanford Routt is the nickel corner, but the fight will come into play for the fourth and fifth corners adding depth at the position.

This battle will be between Chris Johnson, John Bowie, and Darrick Brown. Chris Johnson earned playing time last year, and the coaches love his speed and special-teams play.

John Bowie is the player drafted with the pick for Randy Moss; he was active just once last year. Darrick Brown is a 6’3” 200 lb. undrafted free agent. He is extremely athletic and not afraid to support the run.

He was an All-District running back in high school, rushing for 2,200 yards in his career. He is the athletic type of player that many coaches want to develop for the secondary.

More than likely, two will earn roster spots, and the other is a candidate for the practice squad or one of the first-team cuts.


As it stands right now, Gibril Wilson and Michael Huff are the starters. The intrigue here will be at the reserve safety positions or depth at the positions. This battle will be between Tyvon Branch and Hiram Eugene.

Tyvon Branch was a corner in college that was converted into a strong safety. He has the look of a fast and aggressive sure-tackling safety that will make an impact this year, both on special teams and early as a kick returner, and even in kick coverage, and in the secondary later in the year. Hiram Eugene played in five games last year.

I would like to see the undrafted free agents OG Brandon Rodd, DE Greyson Gunheim, LB Malik Jackson, WR/TE Marcel Reece, and DT/DE Tranell Morant compete and make a strong push for a spot on the roster.

Tuesday, July 8, 2008

Javon Walker Update!

The Associated Press is reporting that Las Vegas Police said that they've made a second arrest in the Javon Walker case. Police are reporting Deshawn Thomas was arrested July 7th, on charges of kidnapping, robbery and conspiracy. He is being held without bail pending an appearance in Las Vegas Justice Court.

Monday, July 7, 2008

Building a better Defense

The Oakland Raiders run a base 4-3 defense and defensive coordinator Rob Ryan uses a fair amount of formations and does like to keep offenses guessing, the Raiders didn’t bring a lot of pressure in 2007 like they have in the past, preferring to keep the LB corps and secondary focused on coverage.

The Raiders aren’t a blitz happy team and I doubt that will change but don’t be surprised to see the Raider defense be more aggressive. The team is determined to shore up their run defense. Improving in this area will go a long way toward the team’s success in 2008.

The team needed to get stronger and brought in Strength & Conditioning coach Brad Roll to replace Jeff Fish who left to become the Director of Athletic performance for the Atlanta Falcons.

The start of the Raider practices is much louder with Brad Roll around. He has 16 years of NFL experience and has been a welcome addition to the coaching staff. He has a loud and distinct voice that booms out instructions to the players during team stretches that all 80 players can hear.

Head Coach Lane Kiffin is elated that Brad Roll’s message is getting through to the players loud and clear long before the players take the field. Coach Roll has several players looking different and feeling stronger.

Kiffin has noted and mentioned the physical improvements of several players this offseason. Several Raiders are setting personal bests in the weight room and credit Brad Roll. The increased strength will serve the team well especially the Defensive Line.

I was under the impression that the Raiders would draft a defensive tackle in the 1stround and I was wrong. I don’t have a problem with the team drafting Darren McFadden, he's a homerun hitter so to speak I get it, but I felt the need was there for a DT.

I also thought that a DT would be drafted in the 4thround especially with two picks in that round. I had my eyes on DT Athyba Rubin or Red Bryant but I was wrong again. The sad thing is the team hasn’t drafted a DT in years.

Building a stronger defense has several similarities with building a house. You need to start any structure with a strong foundation, the foundation for the Raider defense needs to be the defensive line more specifically the Defensive Tackle positions.

There are five players that make up the defensive tackle rotation:

Tommy Kelly was hurt last year and missed the majority of the season. The Raiders thought enough of Tommy Kelly to pay him an $18.125 million signing bonus to replace Warren Sapp at the 3-technique tackle, even though Kelly was done after seven games last season with a torn ACL.

Gerard Warren, imported from Denver, seemed to follow his career-long trend of looking alternately sensational and mediocre.

Terdell Sands, counted upon to be a run-stopper on the nose, was beset by family tragedies and had a poor season.

William Joseph, the six year veteran and former NY Giants first round pick in 2003 is hoping to jump start his career.

Josh Shaw has been a fringe lineman that has bounced between the roster and the practice squad.

This is a group of veteran players with something to prove. Terdell Sands is in shape and primed to rebound and have a productive season like he did in 2006. Sands and a healthy Tommy Kelly should serve the defense well.

The Raiders need consistency and solid play from Gerard Warren or he will be replaced. He has looked explosive some weeks and was invisible in others.

I feel that Tommy Kelly and Terdell Sands will play great but I have my concerns withGerard Warren and William Joseph due to the unknown factor.

Is Gerard Warren going to play with consistency? Can William Joseph turn his career around and be the impact player several expected him to be when drafted?

This is the time of the year to make improvements and solidify or change team strategy. Every team in the league is working hard to improve and the Oakland Raiders are no different.

All five guys have the size to play the position; it is safe to say that a huge portion of the success or failure of the team’s defense depends on these guys all playing well.

It is too early to tell now but it wouldn’t surprise me one bit if the Raiders brought in another defensive tackle to add to the rotation.

Guys that are available right now are Grady Jackson, Roderick Coleman, Anthony McFarland, and Manuel Wright.

Two of the four mentioned above had their season cut short by injury in 2007. There will more than likely be a few more players to choose from as the training camp rosters are cut down.

Another intriguing player that could improve the defense is MLB Ed Hartwell. If he has recovered from the injuries that have doomed him since he left the Ravens he could help improve two positions.

Hartwell could start at middle linebacker that would allow the Raiders to start Kirk Morrison at SLB where he can become a bigger playmaker.

This shouldn’t be considered a demotion for Kirk Morrison it would simply allow the Raiders to have their best three linebackers in the starting lineup.

The secondary will be solid with the addition of SS Gibril Wilson, Nnamdi Asomugha & DeAngelo Williams at the corners and Michael Huff moving to FS.

Look for Tyvon Branch to make an impact early on special teams but he will also make an impact as a reserve safety.

Contrary to popular belief the new and improved Oakland Raiders will make noise in 2008.