Oakland Raiders 2009 NFL Projection:
Coming into last season we ripped the Raiders for drafting
Darren McFadden with their only pick in the first three rounds,
because a season earlier Oakland had the league's 6th best rushing attack, and obviously had other needs.
Now in '09 everyone is ripping Oakland for drafting Darrius Heyward-Bey so early, while leaving Michael Crabtree on the draft board.
At least they drafted for an area of need as the Raiders had the league's worst passing attack in the previous campaign.
Much of Oakland's passing woes can be attributed to the play of JaMarcus Russell who has failed to live up to
his draft position. This is the season he needs to put it all together. He has shown some improvement in camp.
And will have solid middle to his offensive line in front of him. But the Raiders look weak at both tackles.
Making matters worse for the passing game,
promising WR Chaz Schilens who was having a
standout preseason broke a bone in his left foot. Now the Raiders may be forced to call upon
the rookie Heyward-Bey to make a contribution before he is ready...
Meanwhile, the Raiders released quarterback Jeff Garcia,
a player who can do a lot with his feet to win games. Perhaps the franchise didn't want to be pressured
by fans into playing Garcia if the Raiders start slow-- thereby giving Russell more time to develop.
On the other side of the ball, the Raiders' defensive line has some talent. But last season Oakland finished
31st in the league stopping the run-- all while the Chiefs had no running game to speak of, and with the Chargers' LT having
a down year.
One big change for the upcoming season is a blockbuster trade for the Patriots' Richard Seymour in exchange for Oakland's
2011 first round pick.
Seymour has been a force in the league, but has just 1 year remaining on his contract.
So there's a risk he could end up signing right back with New England or another team at the end of the season. I could understand
this move better if the Raiders were ready to win now. That being said, perhaps this is the move the Raiders need
to spark their defense. And they can always stick the franchise tag on him.
Another change is the signing of DE Greg Ellis and the departure of
DE Derrick Burgess (New England). Ellis ought to perform better against the run than Burgess. Meanwhile, Tom Kelly is over a full year
removed from a torn ACL, so needs perform better... Oakland added DE Matt Shaughnessy in the 3rd round of the draft.
The Raiders would probably benefit from an injection of unpredictability into their style.
The Raiders return an average linebacking crew. Of note is a dislocated elbow suffered by MLB Kirk Morrison.
The strength of the Raiders' defense is at corner with super shut-down CB Nnamdi Asomugha.
He is joined by Chris Johnson. The newly acquired Ricky Manning Jr. was quickly waived.
Safety is an area of weakness. Gibril Wilson was released. And
rookie Mike Mitchell has an injured hamstring, prompting the re-signing of
Rashad Baker at the expense of letting FB Lorenzo Neal go.
A look at Oakland's 2009 schedule
reveals 10 games in which the Raiders may be overmatched on paper;
The Raiders are coming off a season in which they essentially finished last in
2 of the 4 major team categories (rushing defense, and passing offense).
They made some solid moves to address their run defense woes.
But it's questionable how much they can improve their passing game.
On the down side
they face a tough slate of games which includes the top notch NFC East.
When looking up and down the Raiders' schedule it's not easy to find many opportunities
Overall we now forecast a record of (4-12), a slight upgrade here on 9/6/2009, before the season opener
on the heels of the Seymour signing.
Our forecast certainly isn't helped
by all the turmoil in the
organization, including early preseason fighting amongst the coaches.
If Russell blossoms, there ought to be some upside...
An improved rushing defense could also pave the way.
But anything close to .500 appears to be a stretch.
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