Sunday, May 23, 2010

Analysis Through Rose-Colored Glasses

Following is a Guest Take by H, a familiar voice at Raider Take:

The current make up of Raider Fans across the nation and the world seems to be divided into three main camps. Those who, after seven years of frustration, are saying “Oh yeah, prove it, not going to fool me again.” Others are crossing their fingers and holding their breaths waiting for the other fumble to hit the turf. Then there are the infernal optimist seeing each season as a new opportunity for our return to the top if the dog pile that is the NFL.

This may finally be the year of those infernal optimists, or at least the start of the climb from the abyss.

Even though the current coach has produced only 9 wins in 28 games, there seems to be a different feeling in the air surrounding the off season, draft, mini-camp and the first OTA. Even many of the nay-saying experts were very complementary of our draft. Well, except Mel “Don’t Touch My Hair” Kiper. He didn’t see the value in drafting Rolando McClain at number 8. We even received kudos from known Raider Hater Tom Jackson and ex Raider coach John Gruden. The Raiders even drafted the player everyone was predicting. One Bruce Campbell, except he came in the fourth round and not the first.

Since Tom Cable assumed head coaching duties during the bye week of 2008 the team has gone through a major makeover. Gone are malcontents and locker room miscreants. This began with the release of highly paid, but frequently burned cornerback DeAngelo Hall, continued through a quiet offseason in 2009 with no major signings of highly paid free agent veterans on the downside of their careers. The culmination of this purging came with the release of Jamarcus Russell. He may yet be a serviceable NFL quarterback, but in his current state he is too high maintenance for a young team.

In the 2009 draft, first rounder Darrius Heward-Bey has yet to pay any dividends, but middle round selection Louis Murphy may be one of the steals of the draft. Good hands, runs good routes and is a tenacious blocker downfield who doesn’t give up on a play. Just ask Zach Miller. Brandon Meyers appears to finally provide the depth needed at tight end and is a solid blocker freeing up Miller for more involvement in the passing game to help move the chains and provide rest for the much maligned defense.

The biggest splash on offense thus far came in the draft day trade for Jason Campbell. With all the talk that the Raiders should jump in with both feet in the McNabb sweepstakes, in the end the Raiders may wind up getting the best of the deal. In November McNabb will be 34. In December Campbell will be 29. Campbell comes less expensive than either McNabb or Russell.

Further, much was said about Russell having multiple OC’s, multiple play callers and a turnstile offensive line. In four years as a starter in Washington Campbell had different OC’s, play callers and a turnstile offensive line virtually every year, yet his stats improved in every category every year.

Hue Jackson has been brought in to run the offense. He likes the two headed running attack approach and has had success developing quarterbacks and receivers. Do not be surprised to find out he was pushing for Campbell. If you read a paper or watch a TV in Baltimore, you get all the Redskin news also.

There is an old adage in football that says if you want your team to win, build it with winners (or something like that). You get players who know how to win. This was the approach used in this year’s draft on the defensive side of the ball. The Raiders first two picks were Alabama’s defensive captain and Texas’ best defensive lineman. The two teams that played for the national championship.

Prior to that, at the beginning of last season Richard Seymour was brought in to stabilize the defensive line and provide veteran leadership to the defense overall. He still has more than enough in the tank for a couple more Pro-Bowls.

The defensive backfield is rounding out nicely with Nnamdi and Branch. Huff seems to have found his position. Johnson, while a bit inconsistent, is an upgrade over Hall. Walter McFadden is a little light to help against the run, but he is a solid tackler with decent cover skills and should be the regular nickel back by mid season supplanting Stanford Routt in that spot.

In looking at these positives you have a team with talent and potential, sprinkled with All Americans from winning programs. Add some veteran leadership (Seymour and Campbell). Stir in a stable coaching staff with the addition of the OC previously mentioned and a DL line coach who has coached two lines in the Super Bowl. Mix well and you have a recipe for optimism.

The Pièce de résistance could be the age of this team. The average age of projected starters is roughly 25 years on both sides of the ball.

When taken as a whole there seems to be some planning and thought to the process of the last two seasons. And while we have had only 9 wins since that fateful bye week, three of the five wins last season came against two playoff teams and the defending Super Bowl champion. The other two came against division rivals. A must if we are to climb back. While our newest quarterback beat us, we beat the one that is replacing him in Washington.

With all these positives many are still entrenched in arguing who did what and when and who is responsible for the decent into hell and who is, or should be, making the decisions to get us out of that hell. Continuing to beat dead dogs as Cable would say. He wants to move forward, but the media seems anchored to Russell more than he is.

It’s been said, “It’s amazing what you can accomplish if you don’t care who gets the credit.” Perhaps that is the guiding principle Tom Cable and Al Davis are working under. Alameda seems content to ignore rumors and just plug ahead these days. If this is so, and it translates to the field and the win column, we may be in for a pleasant ride the next several years.

So, with rose glasses firmly in place and a glass 73.1% full of a rich porter, I look forward to September and a return to the top of the dog pile.

Thank you, H!