Friday, January 7, 2011
Oakland Raiders: On to the Next One
The Oakland Raiders went into the season with lofty expectations of winning the division and making the playoffs. For the first time since the merger in 1970, the Raiders are the first team to go undefeated in their division and not make the playoffs.
However, if you win every game in your division, emphatically beat down and provide the eventual division winner with a 'never forget who we are' moment at home, you should be crowned as the true champions of the AFC West.
While Oakland convincingly won the last game of the season, the Raiders still came up short in reaching their season-long goals. But 2010 was a year of resurgence for the Silver and Black.
Despite not achieving their desired goals, the Silver and Black took Raider Nation on a memorable ride back to respectability. Going into the season, it was felt that Tom Cable received a reprieve to turn the Raiders around. It was a collective effort, but that is exactly what he did.
Despite the players wanting to play hard for him, it was well known that he was thin ice. A playoff run was the only thing that was going to ensure a 2011 return. Like it or not, it was the right decision. The timing was curious, but the writing was on the wall.
Hue Jackson was hired as the offensive coordinator and tasked with turning the offense into a productive unit. Mission accomplished as the Raiders improved from the 31st-ranked offense in 2009 to 10th overall in 2010.
The road to respectability is filled with several potholes. As with any season, 2010 was filled with the good, the bad and the ugly.
Oakland snapped a seven-year streak of losing 11-plus games a season, while going 6-0 in the division. Jackson proved to be a leader of men and a solid offensive mind. Under his watch, the offense improved dramatically. The running game, fueled by the dynamic tandem of Darren McFadden and Michael Bush, became the strength of the team.
The improvement on offense wouldn’t have been possible without the offensive line, who stepped their game up in run blocking.
The 2010 draft class was one of the best in recent memory by making an immediate impact which bodes well for the future. The defense improved as both the defensive line and linebacker group became strengths of the team. Moving Richard Seymour to defensive tackle was huge. Tommy Kelly had his best season.
John Henderson and Desmond Bryant were solid in the defensive tackle rotation. The versatile Lamar Houston had a great rookie campaign and made an immediate impact. Matt Shaughnessy was solid, providing the Raiders with two tremendous young talents at the two defensive end positions for the foreseeable future.
The linebacker group, the team's deepest in years, was huge. Rookie Rolando McClain solidified the middle, while Kamerion Wimbley and Trevor Scott made their presence felt on the strong side and weak side positions. Nnamdi Asomugha had another stellar season at right cornerback.
The Raiders were great in the division, but 2-8 against everyone else. This team needs to improve and shut teams down, make the opponent one-dimensional and get off the field on third down.
Penalties! Drive-killing or game-altering, he Raiders shot themselves in the foot so many times, it was a wonder that they were able to walk off the field.
Defensively stopping the run continues to be a major issue and cause for concern. The safeties were exploited on more than one occasion, the second half of the Jacksonville game comes to mind. Michael Huff and Tyvon Branch made a lot and missed a lot of tackles. There were too many breakdowns in coverage, Branch surrendered eight touchdown passes.
There is always room for improvement at various positions, but there aren’t any glaring needs heading into 2011. The improvements can be made via the draft, veteran free agency and with undrafted rookie free agents. This team needs more disciplined play and consistency.
The Raiders are in need of continuity that can only be had if Hue Jackson is promoted to head coach. Despite the fact Oakland will begin 2011 with their ninth head coach in 17 seasons since returning to the East Bay, they’re losers no more and should be considered a team on the rise.