With new management in Oakland comes many changes including personnel, schemes, philosophies and even media relations. By nature change tends to make people uneasy. It’s hard to get that comfortable feeling many fans are looking for this time of year when there is so much change happening all at once. Many will agree that change is not always bad, but its the unknown of it all at the present time that make it tough to grasp. While I would love to answer the question of whether the changes are good or bad, the fact remains that only time will tell the whole story of how they will impact the franchise.
As I mentioned earlier personnel changes are part of the whole process and many player decisions are being made. On the surface it seems that the Raiders are just unloading bad contracts which leads many to believe the Raiders are just rebuilding for the future. Its understandable where that thinking is applied, but lets take a deeper look into the player changes to this point.
In week 6 of last season, Jason Campbell broke his collarbone. Very soon after the Raiders traded for Carson Palmer and it was at that point that everyone knew who the future starter was of the Oakland Raiders. The loss of Jason Campbell to free agency comes as no surprise. Out of no disrespect to Jason, the Raiders did not pursue him as a backup. They gave him the opportunity to go seek another starting job elsewhere. The market did not develop for Jason and he signed a contract with the Bears to backup Jay Cutler. As fans, the first reaction is “why not come back to Oakland as a backup”? No one will really know how both sides felt about the situation, but one thing is clear. Jason Campbell has a lot of close friends on the Raiders roster, many of which are wide receivers. If the Raiders are moving forward with Carson Palmer as the leader of the offense, then everyone has to rally behind him and believe that he is the man for the job without question. Jason is a good guy, but knowing he might still be the starting quarterback of the Raiders had he not broken his collarbone would always leave the sense of “what if” with the team. It was best for both sides to move on and start fresh.
Last seasons depth chart at quarterback consisted of Jason Campbell, Kyle Boller and Trent Edwards to start the year. Terrell Pryor was serving his suspension as handed down by the league, and later replaced Edwards as the third string quarterback. Once Jason Campbell went down two things became very clear.
1) Kyle Boller was not very good, which was assumed by his past failures.
2) The Raiders coaching staff had no faith in Boller’s ability to lead the team and remain competitive.
It was no secret that Boller would not return as the backup quarterback the next season which brings us to the present. Last year’s starter Jason Campbell has been replaced by Carson Palmer. For the time being Terrell Pryor takes over as the backup, but will have competition in camp when the Raiders add another quarterback.
From last season to this season, I don’t see any drop off in talent at the quarterback position.
One of the big story lines this off-season was the fact that Michael Bush was a free agent. He was a fan favorite of many because of his size and power, and he and McFadden gave the Raiders backfield that “Thunder and Lightning” combo. As much as Reggie McKenzie would have loved to have Michael Bush back as the Raiders backup running back, he knew it wasn’t going to happen at a cost he wanted to pay. Bush received 3.5 million per year over 4 years to back up Matt Forte in Chicago. That is a perfect example of “overpaying” for a position in this league. Something the Raiders are not looking to do anymore.
Michael Bush got his share of carries last season due to the injury of Darren McFadden. He finally got his chance to showcase his value to the whole league, while working as the primary running back in Oakland’s offense most of the season. He carried the ball 256 times for 977 yards with a 3.8 yards per carry average. There were only 8 running backs in the league last year with a lesser yards per carry average who had at least 100 carries. It’s hard to argue with numbers and as much as Bush was loved by the Raider Nation, Reggie did the right thing in letting him walk.
The Raiders later traded for Mike Goodson of the Carolina Panthers. Goodson was buried on the depth chart in Carolina behind DeAngelo Williams and Jonathan Stewart. He is a much different back than Bush so it’s not really an apples to apples comparison between the two. Mike Goodson missed most of last season with a hamstring injury, so looking back at 2010 Mike Goodson carried the ball 103 times for 452 yards with an average yards per carry of 4.4.
With the Raiders once again moving back to the zone blocking scheme under new offensive coordinator Greg Knapp, Goodson should be a good fit in Oakland. He is a one cut and go type runner which is exactly what you need to be in the ZBS system. He has the agility and speed to make big plays from the running back position as well, but will have to work on his ball security.
Not to be forgotten is Taiwan Jones who is working very hard to prepare for his Sophomore season. With one year in the pro’s under his belt now he should be ready to make his contributions to the offense as well.
Overall, while the Raiders will lose some power at the running back position, they also gain some explosiveness, and the overall production from the position should not decrease at all.
Kevin Boss was brought in last season to fill the void left by Zach Miller. Boss had high expectations to live up to after Miller had so much success in Oakland, and fell very short of meeting those expectations. Boss was mainly used as a blocking tight end and only caught 27 balls and 2 touchdowns on offense all season. He added a touchdown catch on a fake field goal as well. Giving that his contract was for 4 million per year over 4 years, its obvious his production did not line up with the money he was making. In their lies the reason in which he was cut. Four million dollars per year is way too much to being paying for that kind of production.
The Raiders will not have trouble replacing that production at tight end with Brandon Myers proving he is very capable of blocking and David Ausberry quickly emerging as a threat in the passing game from the tight end position. Reggie McKenzie also made it known that if he finds a tight end he likes, he won’t hesitate to bring him in as competition as well.
I don’t see the Raiders losing any production from the tight end position going forward, and with some younger guys developing their game it could soon become another dynamic position for the Raiders offense.
Stanford Routt’s release was the first big bang of the Reggie McKenzie era. Routt was a solid man to man corner back even though he led the league in penalties and surrendered 8 touchdowns to opposing wide receivers last season. However, it didn’t take anyone (including Reggie McKenzie and Dennis Allen) long to figure out he was being overpaid. Not only was he being overpaid for the current season, but he still had 4 years left on his contract averaging about 10 million per year. That alone had a lot to do with his release, but was not the only factor.
Routt built his entire game around playing bump and run man coverage. As part of the changes taking place in Oakland, the Raiders will be moving away from the philosophy of running strictly man to man coverage on defense. That change even further devalued Stanford Routt’s services as he had next to no experience in zone coverage. Zone coverage is very different from man to man and not every corner back in the NFL is capable of playing both. Look no further than DeAngelo Hall as an example of that.
The Raiders have brought in four new corner backs this off-season so far. Ron Bartell and Shawntae Spencer both bring a lot of starting experience and history of solid play at the corner back position. While neither player is viewed as a superstar, both are very capable of holding their own in pass defense and have played in similar schemes to what the Raiders will look to do this year. They have combined for 19 interceptions in their career to this point.
Brandon Underwood and Pat Lee were also brought in as players who will get a chance to show what they have in training camp. Both have been in the league for a few years and have shown flashes of talent at times. Reggie knows what he is getting with these two as they were part of the Packers organization as well and wants to see if they can earn a spot on the roster this year.
Overall the loss of Stanford Routt will be extremely softened by the switch in defensive philosophy. Also the additions of Bartell and Spencer might prove to be two very undervalued pickups by the Raiders.
Probably the hottest topic in the Raiders off-season to this point was the release of Kamerion Wimbley. Even though he played out of position for most of his time in Oakland, Wimbley brought an edge pass rush to the Raiders defense that will be tough to replace.
The Raiders recently added free agent Phillip Wheeler and he will likely slide in as the starting strong side linebacker. Wheeler is a very interesting value pickup for the Raiders. He totaled 84 tackles last season for the Colts and was quietly very stout against the run for them, an area in which Oakland has struggled in recent years. Wheeler also brings better coverage skills which was very much a pain point in Wimbley’s game at outside linebacker.
While the Raiders won’t be looking for Phillip Wheeler replace Wimbley’s pass rushing abilities, it is worth noting that while playing linebacker at Georgia Tech he totaled 18.5 sacks in 3 years from the linebacker position. One scouting report had this to say of Phillip Wheeler about his time in college “considered by many as one of the nation’s best-blitzing linebackers”.
The Raiders will need to find new ways to pressure the quarterback this year, but that should not be a problem under new head coach Dennis Allen as he thrives in that department. What the Raiders lose in pass rushing ability from Wimbley, they gain in run support and pass defense with Wheeler. With new defensive coordinator Jason Tarver and Dennis Allen dialing up blitzes on game day, getting after the quarterback should not be a problem for this defense going forward.
So to answer the question of…”Are the Raiders rebuilding or reloading?” I’ll let you be the judge.
It’s been a good run, even if it ends this year. No one has been better at predicting the 53-man roster for the past few years. My not-so-humble brag will ultimately make this prediction terrible, but I’ve got to make it anyway.
Terrelle Pryor (roster exemption while he is suspended)
Running backs (5)
Darrius Heyward Bey
Tight Ends (3)
Offensive Tackles (4)
Offensive Guards (3)
Defensive Tackles (4)
Defensive Ends (4)
Demarcus Van Dyke
Hue Jackson has been beating a drum this offseason. He wants his team to bully opposing teams. It’s reminiscent of something Mike Singletary would say. Big talk from the coach doesn’t always translate to the team.
On Saturday at Candlestick, the Raiders were bullied. The offensive line couldn’t intimidate a 7-year-old girl. The reserves on the defensive line were pushed around like a grocery cart with a crazy wheel.
It was bad, but it is never as bad as it looks. Particularly when it is the reserves getting pushed around. Next week against a superior Saints team will be the best sampling of the Raiders progress under Jackson. Next week, the starters should play an entire half. Drew Brees will expose any weaknesses on the Raiders defense and Gregg Williams isn’t likely to make it easy for the Raiders defensive line.
The game did highlight some areas of great concern, but there were bright spots early.
Darrius Heyward-Bey – Could he finally be a useful weapon? If he keep catching the ball and getting open like he did Saturday he will have an impact for the first time in his career.
Denarius Moore – Things turn to gold when Moore is around the ball. He has been too good for the Raiders not to keep him in the mix, even if he isn’t announced as a starter.
Kevin Boss – If he stays healthy Raider Nation may forget about Zach Miller. The only issue is that he strained his knee during the game. It’s not a major injury, but the Raiders would like to keep him out of the trainer’s room.
Michael Bush – Aside from one missed blitz pickup, he played well. Bush was picking up extra yards despite an offensive line that was getting very little push. He picked up the blitz well when he got a second chance.
Lamarr Houston – Houston held the edge very well and the 49ers were not picking up big chunks on the ground when Houston was in the game.
Matt Shaughnessey – Did a great job selling his rush and dropping into coverage on a zone blitz. He was rewarded with an interception. He’s definitely a player to watch this season.
Daniel Loper – Gone is Robert Gallery and Loper is the starter at left guard. If you couldn’t figure out why Stefen Wisniewski was getting snaps at left guard we figured it out on Saturday night. Loper was terrible against Ricky Jean Francois. Jean Francois isn’t even a starter and Loper couldn’t block him. I don’t think Loper won as single battle all night. He was bullied by a backup.
Jarvis Moss – He should have a role as a pass rush specialist, but he was consistently losing his contain on the outside. Not only did he lose his contain, but the offensive line was able to manipulate him out of running lanes. Not swag.
Trent Edwards/Kyle Boller – The backup offensive lines fared a little better, but Boller and Edwards were inaccurate at best. Too many bad decisions from the backups.
Reserve DL – Jamie Cumbie, Tommie Hill and Mason Brodine might as well have been a blocking sled.
The Sophomore Scene
Walter McFadden – He was beat by Braylon Edwards on a long pass, but it was good coverage. A great throw and great catch. That’s about all we saw of McFadden on the night. Rebound for him.
Bruce Campbell – Plays way too high. His natural strength helps him from looking terrible, but he loses the point of attack battle far too often. Inconsistent at best. Cooper Carlisle doesn’t have much to worry about at the moment.
Jeremy Ware – Aside from one blitz we didn’t see much of Ware in coverage. The 49ers second team was content to run and throw short passes to the flat.
Travis Goethel – The defensive line in front of him was getting thrown around making his performance difficult to evaluate. He’s shown enough in practice and during games that he’s likely to get a shot at outside linebacker once camp breaks.
Rolando McClain – Struggled to get off blocks at times and was slow to read a run near the goal line. Not much to worry about with McClain. He doesn’t make the same mistake twice very often, but does need to keep defenders away from his body.
Jared Veldheer – Allowed a sack. It was pure speed rush and the linebacker went very wide. Veldheer was able to keep him deep, but the linebacker made it around him with excellent bend. Jason Campbell’s first read was not open and he didn’t read it fast enough to avoid the sack.
Demarcus Van Dyke – Played with the starters. On the only play he could be evaluated his footwork and technique was all over the map. He got turned around and allowed an easy reception. Too early to make much of Van Dyke and you can’t put much stock into a single isolated play. He’ll take his lumps as all rookies do.
Stefen Wisniewski – Played consistently as the backup center. Not overly impressive, but didn’t make any glaring mistakes. Samson Satele may have been the most impressive starting offensive lineman which could mean Wisniewski remains a reserve. Snap reaction would be that Wisniewski’s best chance to start could be at left guard.
Chimdi Chekwa – Tight coverage and came up to support the run. It was his first game back and he should continue to get expanded opportunities. Looked solid.
Richard Gordon – For being a blocking specialist he sure did get handled on a couple blocks. He’s probably a safe player to stash on the practice squad.
David Ausberry – Not much action for Ausberry. This happens quite a bit when the team knows what they think of a player. Time to hide him from the film.
Everyone likes to win, but this is preseason. It’s the first preseason game of a year which features very little practice time beforehand.
It’s far too early to jump to conclusions about the season or any one player. It doesn’t mean that there is nothing to learn from the game.
1. The defensive line looks even more dominant than they did last year. Matt Shaughnessy looks poised for breakout year. They held up on the goal line.
2. The passing game looks ready to take the next step. Darrius Heyward-Bey, Denarius Moore and Kevin Boss all looked the part. Moore got snaps with the first team and made the most of them.
Heyward-Bey made a hands catch and then beat a defender deep only to have Jason Campbell under-throw him. Even Kyle Boller and Trent Edwards looked to be effectively orchestrating the passing offense. David Ausberry looks like he could become something special and a weapon in the receiving game.
3. The offensive line blocked reasonably well. A pleasant surprise. Sacks and pressure mostly came as a result of blitzes, something you aren’t really planning for in preseason games.
First team offensive line (left to right): Jared Veldheer, Daniel Loper, Samson Satele, Cooper Carisle, Khalif Barnes.
Second team: Stephon Heyer, Alex Parsons, Stefen Wisniewski, Roy Schuening, Joseph Barksdale
4. Depth players who looked good last night include Sterling Moore, who made a play, which echos what we have been hearing about him in camp. Chances are improving that he will make the roster. Tommie Hill was consistently getting a good push.
5. Jarvis Moss looks like he is in great shape. He’s motivated and he’s energetic on defense. He could become a key player this season if he continues to play with as much speed and strength as he did last night.
1. Depth in the secondary. After the starters left the game it got ugly. Walter McFadden looked the worst and was picked on repeatedly by the opposing quarterbacks. Jeremy Ware was not exposed in coverage, but could have made a play on the game-winning touchdown catch and run and didn’t. Stevie Brown didn’t even look good, missing the defender completely on an open-field tackle attempt.
Demarcus Van Dyke started strong by blanketing Larry Fitzgerald early. Fitzgerald still made a long reception over Van Dyke, but his coverage was good. He struggled with the backups. He was stiff-armed by Beanie Wells and was beat for a touchdown reception. He needs to bulk up and his speed will not benefit him if he isn’t within five yards. It looked worse than it was for Van Dyke, but he certainly has a steep learning curve.
2. An announced crowd under 30,000 means the Raiders will have a hard time selling out games. On any given week the Raiders will have to sell more individual game tickets than they have season ticket holders. The two for one offer starting August 15th will help, but it’s a steep hill to climb to avoid blackouts.
3. Not much depth at outside linebacker. Travis Goethel may end up sliding outside when the season moves closer, even though his best fit is in the middle. Goethel reminds me of Greg Biekert. Quentin Groves was playing with third and fourth string players and you almost couldn’t tell. Besides those three players there isn’t much depth. None of the backups stood out from the crowd. Raiders are rumored to still be interested in Lofa Tatupu. I’m not sure he can play outside, but he’s a quality option.
4. Mental errors killed the Raiders. Khalif Barnes had three false starts. That’s going to cost him snaps and could cost him his job. Trent Edwards had a delay of game penalty after a penalty. Reading Hue Jackson’s lips on the sideline: “You can’t do that! Come on!”
1. Hiram Eugene dislocated his hip. It’s a season ending injury. The same injury ended Bo Jackson’s career when the injury caused a subsequent conditions that resulted in loss of blood flow.
2. Chaz Schilens hurt his knee. Enough said.
3. Many Raiders players tweeted post game that the team had “a lot” of injuries. We’ll find out who had “nicks” when Hue Jackson talks to the press at 5 p.m.
Plenty of things to correct for Hue Jackson, sadly most of it will be on the back of Chuck Bresnahan. It only took one game for fans to lament his bend, don’t break defense.