Tuesday, July 18, 2006

Glass Half Empty Week

Am I really an eternal optimist? Let’s just say that if a dog crapped on my birthday cake, there’s a good chance I’d call it frosting.

My sunny outlook, however, can rub some fans the wrong way. For example, I’ve been repeatedly accused of kissing Mr. Davis’s posterior. When I stated that I expect the Raiders to win a minimum of eight games this year, and that the playoffs are not out of the question, one guy wrote to suggest that I’ve been smoking crack (not true, although I did once receive a mysterious package of Kool Aid in the mail with an Alameda postmark).

The Raiders have won 13 games over the past three years. They have a new coaching regime featuring a much-maligned offensive coordinator, a castoff from the Saints at the apparent helm of the QB position, and a desperate reliance on rookies to make a difference on defense, to name just a few things that might make your knees knock.

Personally, I’m not too concerned. I’m confident that the Raiders are righting the ship. But while I may sleep like a baby, I’m not blind, either. Therefore, to sate the pessimists among us, I am briefly letting my optimistic guard down and declaring Glass Half Empty Week here at Raider Take—in which we will indulge any measure of angst, worrying and whining. Let’s get this out of our system now, before the commencement of training camp, and before we truly need to stand united in optimism and enthusiasm as our team takes the field for the start of the 2006 season.

I have selected the running game to start things off. I will highlight two other areas of potential concern on Wednesday and Thursday. Please stick to the topic at hand and tell us why we should—or shouldn’t—be worried about it. On Friday, I will open things up for an unregulated open discussion of our darkest fears. After that, I will pour everyone a tall glass of my Alameda-brewed Kool Aid and we’ll return to regularly scheduled programming.

GLASS HALF EMPTY: RUNNING GAME

If you want something to keep you up all night, I’ve got four words for you: LaMont Jordan. Major injury.

Do we have someone who can remotely fill Jordan’s shoes if he goes down? Justin Fargas has proven to be very brittle, resulting in a grand total of 40 carries over the past two years. We recently added Rod “He Hate Me” Smart to our running back roster. Rod, I don’t hate you. I just don’t want to see you pressed into a starting role. I have great affection for Zack Crockett, but he is entering his 12th season, and he hasn’t carried the ball more than 60 times in a season since 1997. He’s an aging situational short-yardage option who should not be counted on to shoulder the running load if Jordan goes down. When Jordan was sidelined for two games last year, Crockett rushed the ball 30 times and averaged less than three yards per carry during that span.

Even if Jordan stays healthy, we could still use more depth, versatility and balance in the backfield, couldn’t we? Let’s compare our situation to the recent past.

In 2002, Charlie Garner rushed for 962 yards at 5.3 yards per carry, and caught 91 passes for 941 yards. In 2005, LaMont Jordan rushed for 1,025 yards at 3.8 yards per carry, and caught 70 passes for 563 yards. Whose stat line looks better to you? Admittedly, Garner was playing for a Super Bowl-bound team that year. He also had Tyrone Wheatley to help mix things up. Wheatley rushed the ball 108 times behind Garner in 2002, and Crockett himself rushed the ball 40 times for eight touchdowns in 2002 behind Garner and Wheatley. That’s a pretty good definition of depth, versatility and balance. Each played a specific defined role, and each was a credible threat in his own right (although Wheatley was on the downside of his career).


There’s a long list of guys behind Jordan, Fargas and Crockett, and we have added Zach Tuiasosopo at fullback, but our core talent in the backfield essentially remains the same as last year. USC’s Lendale White dropped like a rock in the draft, and the Raiders passed on him in the second round. We should know pretty soon whether that was a wise move or not.

The bottom line? Before you go to bed for another sleepless night, you might want to kneel down and pray for LaMont Jordan’s health and safety. Because if we have to rely on He Hate Me in 2006, then We Hate Life.

22 Comments:

Anonymous Anonymous said...

The success of our running game will as always depend much more on the offensive line then on who is at running back. It is wonderful to have a great running back, but without 5 guys blocking with intensity and toughness up front it really doesn't matter who takes the hand-offs. My faith that we will have a successful running game this year lies in Coaches Shell, Eatman, and Slater. Sorry I just can't ever see the glass as half-empty, after all as long as there is something in the glass there is always a chance. Just ask a little girl named Heidi. The Raiders will be improved this year and we will make the playoffs if we can run the ball and stop the other guys from running the ball. It just takes a commitment to excellence to make it happen.

5:53 AM  
Blogger The Analyzer said...

I wish we had a better backup RB but I'm not terribly worried about it. Fargas has been running better this offseason and hopefully he will become the change of pace guy we need.

I still would feel more comfortable if we picked up someone else but let's give Fargas one more chance to prove himself.

6:11 AM  
Anonymous Raider Nate 75 said...

I have said it in the past, this is a big weakness coming into the year. When Art Shell took over, and before the draft; it was not our biggest concern. It was definitely one of them, but not the biggest.
I was hoping for a move that would have brought in a better backup RB to compliment Jordan, like RT said, the way Wheatley complimented Garner.
The bigger area of concern to me is defensively. But I'll reserve those comments until RT posts his take on that. Great post again RT.

6:36 AM  
Blogger StickUm25 said...

As noted, improvement in the offensive line is critical to the success of the offense. Based on the improved attitude & coaching, I think this will happen. It should show up sooner in the running game, so I'm optimistic Jordan can improve his numbers. Still, he's not a top 10 back, not a breakaway threat, and his hands aren't all that great either. Unless someone steps up as a 3rd down back, or we pick up another backup during camp or the preseason, I don't know that we'll have the horses to balance out the running game or make it through the season.

6:58 AM  
Anonymous UBM said...

One thing I have noticed over the years of being a RaiderFan. When one does drink the Silver & Black
Kool Aid, things seem to become a little more clear as far as what to expect from the Raiders this year. No Problem here though as I too believe 8-8 is the least I expect from the Raiders. With a return to the playoffs, no later than the 2007 Season!

6:59 AM  
Blogger The Analyzer said...

Maybe we'll go after Bennett from the Saints. He wouldn't be too bad but he is injury prone.

7:05 AM  
Blogger Raider Take said...

I agree, I expect the O-Line to be improved, which will have a positive impact on the running game. Having a mobile QB will also keep defenses more honest, which should also open up the running game a bit more.

But since this is Glass Half Empty Week, I have to reiterate that an improved O-Line won't help much if Jordan goes down and we don't have a capable force to shoulder the load. Look at some of the successful guys pressed into starting action last year in the wake of injuries: Willie Parker, Sam Gado (dude was fourth or fifth string, too), Larry Johnson...Do we have one of those? Is Fargas ready to take things to the next level?

7:37 AM  
Anonymous LK said...

RB is definetly the least deep area of the team. Jordan was fairly durable last year and I'm looking forward to his performance behind an o-line coached by this year's staff. A reliable back up who could give us 3-4 games as the starter has got to be #1 on Coach Shell's offseason shopping list. I'd look for a late August pickup--don't think Fargas is the answer, he puts the ball on the ground too much. If there are no training camp casualties [Rock Cartwright?], we could roll with Crockett....

7:41 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

8-8 isn't out of the realm of possibilities despite this teams shortcomings. There were 5 games in which we had opportunities to win but through missed kicks and defensive lapses and of course some phantom penalties, the offensive PI call against Moss vs. KC at home. Most pundits would have us look like we were blown out of every game with no possiblity to win. We had KC (twice), Philly and Cleveland. That would've have put us at 8-8 last year. This team is certainly better than last years. KC's defense hasn't improved that much and SD has a new qb. We will be competitive. If the ball rolls our way....

8:37 AM  
Blogger Roy said...

Great post! Depth is always nice. Hopefully we can still add some like Bennet. If our line plays up to their potential I think Crockett has a few games in him since he has not taken much of a beating .

9:04 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Everybodys talking about Lamont Jordan needing that complimentary RB to take the load off when he already has it.......Aaron Brooks!! Yes folks, I said it. Having Aaron Brooks at least instills one thing..NO MORE STATUE IN THE POCKET!!! Like RT said he helps defenses stay honest which will open up holes for Jordan. Even though NO was a bunch of underachievers, Look when they had a healthy Duece, a half decent recieving corps, and a wishy washy defense and they would still push for the playoffs. Never has Donavan McNabb, Daunte Culpepper, Michael Vick or Aaron Brooks had this type of pure talent all around the board. Good luck stoppin it in 07.

10:03 AM  
Anonymous LK said...

Anonymous- you're right about Brooks being able to make first downs with his legs, but most people are commenting that we need RB depth in case Jordan gets hurt, not to ease the load. If Jordan gets hurt and we don't have a guy that can keep the D honest with the run, it won't matter that Brooks can scramble because if we're one dimensional, he'll get crushed....

11:42 AM  
Anonymous Kevin said...

Even if Lamont Jordan doesn't get injured, our running game is going to suck this year. And that's why our offense is going to fail to take off. We're going to have to find a way to get the ball to Moss and company without a legitimate run threat. At least Brooks can get out of the pocket a little bit.

Also, I totally disagree with the praise you guys give Al Davis, but in a way I find it refreshing so I'm not gonna complain.

12:02 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I agree with everybody who said that the running game depends on the O-line as much as the RBs EXCEPT that's no reason to be more confident about this coming season. We're counting on 1) Gallery being the guy he was becoming in 2004 instead of the guy he was in 2005 2) 1 or 2 new starting guards 3) Langston Walker, who has not played much. Even if they all play well, it will take a while for them to learn to play together. Realistically, the O-line has a chance to play well... in 2007.

12:53 PM  
Blogger The Analyzer said...

I think our O-line will be solid by week 5 or 6. Our o-line is the reason we signed Aaron Brooks instead of giving Andrew Walter a shot. Brooks will most likely be gone in a couple years (unless he turns out to be our next Rich Gannon) and Walter will be playing behind a solidified O-line.

If Lamont Jordan stays healthy, we will have no worries at the RB position. If he gets hurt, we can just hope Huggy Bear Jr. has improved enough to team up with Crockett to force opposing defenses to honor the running threat.

1:01 PM  
Anonymous sec 137 said...

In my opinion, an avg NFL back should be able to get 5 yards a carry when the line executes on blocking assignments.

What % of the time are we going to execute the play as it is designed?

That is where Shell, Slater, etc. come into play. Hopefully this is where we improve....less blown line calls, better technique, more commitment to maintaining your block until the whistle blows (we miss you in that category Wiz).

Obviously they won't execute spot on every time we run the ball and aren't going to get 5 yards a pop every time, but increasing the frequency on execution makes the Raiders the above avg running team that we need to be.

The elite running backs are the ones who rack up the extra yards after the real contact starts and better in the open field. Sure they may hit the hole a fraction of a second faster than the avg back, but the real difference is what they get after what the o-line has already created.

Jordan can avg 4.5 yards a carry behind an improved o-line, and his backup (I'm still rooting for Fargas, but my Trojans allegiance is running thinner everytime he puts the ball on the ground or skins his knee and needs a bandaid) can have similar success.

We just need to execute more times than not, and better than in prior years. I think we have the line personnel to do this...or should I say the talent?

That's just my opinion.

1:43 PM  
Blogger Stick'em said...

What 'choo talkin' 'bout RT?

The Raiders signed a 300 pound gangsta RB straight out of Compton...no really...they did...check out his bio.

Word is Joe Hall ate Dick Vermeil's entire retirement party spread, (causing Dick to cry for me like Tammy Faye Baker, as you might predict), and got booted out of Kansas City, a chunk of soggy celebration cake still in hand.

So then, what's all this about having a problem at RB?

I hear Jim Brown may be thinking about making a comeback...that could work...

As another Al once said, "What, me worry?"

2:05 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Have to agree with Stick'em, Joe Hall could be a monster. He looks to be a 50 pound heavier, 10 year younger Zack Crockett.

2:37 PM  
Blogger Raider Take said...

Joe Hall looks the part, but I won't pin too many hopes on him until he's at least had one rushing attempt in the NFL!

2:43 PM  
Blogger Stick'em said...

The reference to Joe Hall was strictly tongue-in-sticky cheek… as was the idea of resurrecting Big Jim Brown.

Verily, after LaMont (who's no big dummy), the fridgeraider is empty of RBs in any semblance of resembling an actual RB capable of dependency.

5:31 PM  
Blogger Raider Take said...

Stick'Em, your humor hit the mark with me, but you may have inadvertently started a Joe Hall Fan Club!

6:55 PM  
Blogger Stick'em said...

RT: 'xactly.

The '85 Bears had William The Refrigerator Perry.

The '06 Raiders have Joe The Fridgeraider Hall - LOL!

4:07 AM  

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