The Raiders are the closest thing there is to a minor league in the NFL. It has become the black hole where players are forced to go to have their careers die. Al Davis couldn’t organize a 2 car funeral procession let alone run an NFL team. It wasn’t always that way. When the Raiders won regularly, they had head coaches that would stand up to Davis. Now no one with a brain is allowed to work for the team.
QB JaMarcus Russell just got the worst situation possible—a lack of ability to process information fast enough to be effective and Jeff Garcia as the backup QB who will do everything possible to undermine him. Russell is a thrower not a QB. He has never mastered the playbook and has the passing touch of a 100,000 pound sledge hammer. The organization is hoping that Russell’s last few almost decent games last year marks a turnaround in his career. Don’t bet on it. There is no way that he can lead a team to a winning record let alone a division title. Garcia is capable of starting but not winning. He has proven that in Cleveland. But he would be much more productive than Russell.
The running back group is very deep and talented. But as usual, the team will start the wrong guy. The flashy Darren McFadden will start if he is healthy. In my opinion he is not capable of being a 250 carry back in the NFL. RB Justin Fargas is a better 3rd down back and RB Michael Bush could be a star despite the steel in his leg. FB Lorenzo Neal is well down on the back side of his career but still can blow a LB off the line. This group will have to carry the load because with Russell at QB they are going to face a lot of 2nd and 10.
The WR group is a microcosm of what is wrong with the team. The starters are Johnnie Lee Higgins and Chaz Schilens. WHO? They both played last year but are not likely to make anyone’s fantasy draft list. The Raiders drafted the super fast Darrius Heyward-Bey in hopes that not even Russell could over throw him. The question is an Bey catch. He has suffered through periods of dropsy. Javon Walker is around but has yet to be healthy since signing with the team.
Beside former top draft pick G Robert Gallery the O line consists of 4 maybe’s. LT Mario Henderson played OK down the stretch. Maybe he will be OK this year. C Samson Satele started for Miami and came to the Raiders as a UFA. Maybe he will fit into the zone blocking scheme. After a fair 07 RG Cooper Carlisle’s performance fell off badly in 08. Maybe he will return to his 07 form. Ts Erik Pears and Khalif Barnes are the only backups of note.
The Raiders D line is in a little better shape. Vet DE Greg Ellis adds some pass rush to the team but Davis was forced to trade disgruntled DE Derrick Burgess to the Pats. DE Jay Richardson looks like he is starting to get it. NT Gerard Warren and DT Tommy Kelly both have talent but are the classic definition of inconsistent play. Rookie DE Trevor Scott had 5 sacks playing part time. The group is going to have to put more pressure on opponent QBs if the defense is going to improve.
The linebackers are fast and athletic. That is good because they need the speed to make up for false steps. WLB Thomas Howard and MLB Kirk Morrison are secure but SLB Jon Alston will face competition for his spot from last year starter Ricky Brown. Howard is a potential star but needs to be better at reading plays. Morrison moved from the outside to the middle. He struggles getting off blockers.
RCB Nnamdi Asomugha is a top player. The Raiders resigned him. LCB Chris Johnson is just OK but will get a lot of action because teams stay away from Asomugha. SS Tyvon Branch and FS Hiram Eugene have the physical tools but have yet to prove they can use them. They will have to grow up fast if the team expects to improve.
OVERALL: This is a bad team and is getting worse not better. Because of Davis, the team starts the wrong guys in too many positions. Free agents have been willing to come to Oakland only when they had no place else to go. The drafts are bereft of real potential stars and have been for a few years. The tag line of this team has always been “Just Win Baby.” There won’t be much of that in 09.
That’s what I think. Tell me what you think.
Bill Smith is a former coach of several semi-pro teams, has officiated both football and basketball, done color on radio for college football and basketball and has scouted talent. He is a senior writer for and edits https://fryingpansports.com. He has also published several novels on and edits .