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Monday, July 31, 2006

Light at the End of the Tunnel

The tunnel I'm referring to is training camp and the light at the end is the potential that our beloved Raider's team has this year. Everyone is hopeful this time of the year but, contrary to common belief, Raiders fans across the world should be more optimistic than most. We are one of the most talented teams in the league that didn't make the playoffs last year. Let's take a peek at some of the key offseason moves and changes that give us reason to hope for a bright season.

1) Hiring Art Shell as our new Head Coach
This is probably the biggest move we made this offseason. Shell has had a tremendous impact on the attitude of the team and has worked the players harder than they've been worked since the days of Jon Gruden. Art Shell also gives us more hope for our offensive line. As a Hall of Fame left tackle, he knows what it takes to create a dominant line and he has us well on our way to achieving that goal.

2) Cutting Kerry Collins
Getting rid of Collins was probably more important of a move than the signing of Aaron Brooks. Collins played well at times but he lost games because of poor decision making. Aaron Brooks also has questionable decision making skills but he is in a better situation because he won't have Norv Turner making poor play calling decisions on the sideline. His mobility will also help him to buy time while our young offensive line is gelling.

3) Three Possible Rookie Starters
For now, it is looking like we might have three rookies starting this season. Michael Huff should be no suprise but second round pick Thomas Howard and third round pick Paul McQuistan are also getting the opertunity to earn a starting spot. The overall youth of our team is something to be excited about. They will have some growing pains but it gives us hope that once these young players have gotten to know each other and the system, they will become a dominant force in the league for years.

There are also a couple of other potential bright spots for our team that aren't mentioned above. One that excited me the most is the possible emergence of Justin Fargas. The backup running back position has a lot of fans worried. Lamont Jordan took the brunt of our running attack on his shoulders last season and many are worried what will happen if he sustains an injury. If Fargas can become the runner he was at USC, we should have nothing to worry about. Our coaching staff is pretty high on his potential and if they aren't worried, why should we be? Let's give Huggy Bear Jr. one more chance to suceed and prove himself to us.

I know everyone is worried about the Jerry Porter situation but there is no reason to be. Porter has lost 20 lbs this offseason and seems ready to take that step that we've been waiting for him to take for the last three years. He will play and Art will let him play because he has too much talent to not be on the field. If he still feels the same way next season, we can trade him then with less of a cap hit and for more value.

Friday, July 28, 2006

The Offense is Starting Slow in Training Camp

Training Camp
In the latest post by Jerry McDonald in the Raider's Training Camp Blog, Jerry reports that a group of NFL officials came to camp today to work with the team. This is great news because working with the officials should help reduce our penalties and improveour reputation with the officials. Maybe that will cut down on some of the lame penalties that lose games for us. One a bad note, it seems our offense hasn't looked that great yet this training camp. Hopefully they can continue to improve and be firing on all cylindars when the season rolls around. He also noted that Michael Huff has been improving and making more plays. Hopefully that trend continues and Huff become the player we need him to become.

The Donkeys
Accroding to this ESPN Report, the Broncos are interested in trading for Chicago's Thomas Jones. I doubt the Bears can consider this deal too seriously unless the get some amazing compensation. Cedric Benson is still too much of an unknown to give up a proven runner like Jones. I hope this deal doesn't happen because it would give the Broncos the best back they've had since Clinton Portis and that wouldn't be good for the Raiders.

Pro Football Weekly
This report has several interesting tidbits of information. The writer, Todd Wright, feels that Ty Law will see a reduction in interceptions and will give up more big plays due to Kansas City's poor pass rush. Don't misunderstand, Law is a good player but this may be one of the worst defenses fronts on a team he has played on.

Thursday, July 27, 2006

Training Camp Tidbits

Jerry Porter
In a recent entry in Jerry McDonald's Training Camp blog, he takes a look at trading Jerry Porter. His article shows that we would actually reduce his salary cap figure against this year's cap value but his salary acceleration of $6.45 million would be count against the 2007 cap. Even when taking that into effect, it is a bad idea to trade Porter this year. The smart move would be to make him suit up for the silver and black one more season and hope he plays well enough to increase his trade value. If he does, we could get a first round draft pick for him and not have so much dead money on next year's salary cap. I don't want to see a player with such a poor attitude in a Raider's uniform but it would be better for the team if we could put up with him for one more season. For us to unload him now and cause headaches next offseason, would require a great deal of compensation.

Camp Notebook
On the Official Site of the Raiders, they have a Camp Notebook. It has some good quotes from players but doesn't really go into any details of the camp happenings.

Carl Poston
According to this ESPN report, The NFL Players Association has suspended agent Carl Poston indefinitely. Most readers probably recognize the Postons as representing Charles Woodson. He was suspended over LaVar Arrington's past contract with the Redskins. It's nice to see that these agents are being held accountable and even though Woodson isn't on our roster, there is one more team wrecking agent out of the game.

Wednesday, July 26, 2006

Training Camp Continues

Today will mark the second day of two-a-day practices. As you can see in the photo, John Madden was present at camp. For more training camp photos check out the official raiders website.

The Raiders Training Camp blog has two articles posted yesterday. The first one is entitled The Shell Era is Underway and talks about some training camp observations. One thing I noticed was Shell is making the lineman run laps for jumping offsides. It's about time we had a coach that holds the players accountable for their mistakes. The other article posted yesterday is entitled All Present and Accounted For and talks about some more observations and notes. One noted here was that Porter isn't happy with the organization but plans on contributing what he could for the final two years of his contract. Another thing to note is that Fabian Washington intercepted a pass that bounced off of Randy Moss. Hopefully our defense can continue to force turnovers when the regular season rolls around.

Tuesday, July 25, 2006

The Defensive Youth Movement

I decided to take a look at the youth movement our defense has been taking after hearing the recent news that Danny Clark is not expected to be our starting MLB this upcoming season. Anything prior to training camp is pure speculation but lets take a guess at whom our starters will be and then look at the average age of our starting defense.

The Defensive Line
DE- Derrick Burgess (5 years)
DE- Tyler Brayton (3 years)
NOTE: I am forecasting him as the starter with Johnstone most likely subbing in during passing situations
DT- Warren Sapp (11 years)
DT- Tommy Kelly (2 years)

Total years experience on the defensive line: 21
Average years experience on the defensive line: 5.25

Warren Sapp has 11 of the 21 years of experience on our defensive line. He is a perfect veteran for our younger lineman and ends to get some pointers from. Sapp isn't the player he used to be but he is still the most productive defensive tackle on our roster. This is our oldest area on our defense and at an average of just over 5 years of experience per player it is younger than a lot of other NFL teams. If Johnstone does end up being an every down end, it would increase this number quite a bit with his 10 years of experience.

The Linebackers
OLB- Sam Williams (3 years)
NOTE: 3 years but only 10 games.....
OLB- Thomas Howard (0 years)
MLB- Kirk Morrison (1 year)

Total years experience in the linebacking core: 4
Average years experience in the linebacking core: 1.34

This is a very young unit if it ends up being this way following training camp. If Clark does emerge back into the roster, his 6 years of experience would increase this number a little bit. Most likley it would be because Sam Williams get injured which would change our total years of experience in this group to 7 and the average to 2.34 which is still pretty young. This position has went from a weakness to a potential strength in a very short time. If we keep this unit together it should be solid for years to come.

The Defensive Backs
CB- Nnamdi Asomugha (3 years)
CB- Fabian Washington (1 year)
FS- Stuart Schweigert (2 years)
SS- Michael Huff (0 years)

Total years experience in the defensive backfield: 6
Average years experience in the defensive backfield: 1.5

The defensive backfield continues to grow more youthful. We now have 3 recent first round picks listed here. Asomugha and Washington have played solidly at the corners and should only continue to improve. Schweigert has played brilliantely and also made big mistakes. His consistency should improve with more experience. The biggest hole in our secondary should be filled by Rookie Michael Huff. Huff should be able to become the playmaker we need and his new 5 year deal will keep him here for a little while.

Total Years Experience: 31
Average Years Experience: 2.82

The bottom line is we have a young talented defense that should only continue to improve as they play together. If we can keep these guys together, we could have a dominant defense in a couple years. The only aged position is defensive tackle and that will most likley be addressed in the 2007 NFL Draft.

Interesting Fact: 2005 NFL Sack Leader, Derrick Burgess was the first to arrive at training camp yesterday.

Monday, July 24, 2006

The Midwest Raider Fan

As you may have gathered from previous articles, I am from the midwest. More specifically, the great state of South Dakota. Living here in a city that is over 1800 miles from Oakland, you'd be suprised how many Raider's fans there are. I went to lunch the other day and ate at Taco Bell, the guy who took my order asked if I was ready for the NFL season to begin and then added that he couldn't wait to see how the Raiders were going to do. Stories like this just reinforce the argument I made in The Raider "Nation".

Raider Cheif Executive Amy Trask even has ties to the great state of South Dakota. The following paragraph is taken from this article:

What energizes her is the fans. "Simply put, we have the best (absolutely, positively, without a doubt the best) fans in all of sports," she says. And on any given Sunday, when the Raiders are on the road, Trask and her husband, Rob, make the tail-gate circuit. They walk the stadium parking lot meeting fans. "The
Raider Nation is vast," she says proudly, adding there's a fan base from South Dakota that travels all the way to Denver to see Oakland play. Then there's the island contingency. "We have an enormous following in Hawaii. All over the islands, you find Raider gear and Raider fans," she says. Trask laughs that the team's websites--Raiders.com and Raidersenespanol.com get hits from every continent on earth except, possibly, Antarctica.

Dakota fans hold a special place in Trask's heart. Her husband, Rob, is from what she calls "The great state of South Dakota." "I'll tell you, for a state with a population of well under a million, there are a lot of impressive people who come from there," she says.

I'll admit that I haven't been to Denver to see a game but I have travelled to Kansas City. It is a lot of fun watching the Raiders play in Arrowhead. The games are always close and the fans in KC aren't too bad. In the morning prior to the game, the local radio shows are filled with calls of people bashing the Raiders. It is a great experience and I would definitely reccomend it to any Raider fans in the midwest.

Another connection between the Raiders and South Dakota is Lyle Alzado. He attended Yankton College in Yankton, South Dakota. He played his rookie season with Denver and then returned to Yankton College to get his college degree. He was known for his steroid use but had a very productive NFL career and earned himself a Super Bowl ring with the Raiders.

I know this post seems more like I'm bragging up my home state but it does show how far the Raider Nation truly extends.

Saturday, July 22, 2006

Training Camp Opens Monday!

Monday the players will begin to report to training camp with practices beginning the following day. I thought this would be a good time to look at a transcipt from a recent Art Shell interview. There were a couple of things said in the transcipt that were pretty suprising.

The biggest suprise for me in this article was Morrison being moved back to middle linebacker and Clark out of the starting lineup. Shell mentioned Howard and Williams at the outside linebacker positions. This of course is prior to training camp and could change very easily but could end up being a move in the right direction. Clark is a very talented player but Morrison should be even better. If Williams ends up on IR again look for it to change back to Clark in the middle and Morrison to pop back outside.

Another suprise was that Michael Huff wasn't "penciled" into the starting lineup yet. Shell said that nobody is a starter yet and he was waiting to come out of camp with a starter. After saying he was going to start Howard I don't see any reason for him not to name Huff as a starter unless Huff isn't performing well enough. I certainly hope this isn't the case because I don't want to see Gibson back on the field.

Good News
During the interview Shell mentioned that McQuistan was working at the right gaurd spot. This has been speculated for some time but it is great to finally hear it from Coach Shell. McQuistan will continue the youth movement that our offensive line has been taken lately.

Shell also mentioned that he doesn't have any problems with Jerry Porter. He said players and coaches don't always see eye-to-eye but they sit down and work out their differences and move forward. This was one of the most encouraging things in the interview. I was worried that Porter and Shell would have problems but it seems to have worked itself out. Breathe easier Raider Nation.

Also for complete Camp coverage check out this blog.

Friday, July 21, 2006

Promise in the Horizon

Moss is going Deep
In this article by ESPN's John Clayton, Moss thinks that the mobility of Aaron Brooks will buy him time to get open and catch more deep balls. I definitely feel the same way and have been suprised that Moss's fantasy ranking has been so low. Most fantasy football sites have Moss as the 6th or 7th receiver off the board because of a couple of normal seasons but Aaron Brooks should be able to bring out the Randy Moss we all know and love.

NFL.com's Raiders Primer
I was reading the Raider's Primer on NFL.com and noticed what they said about Randy Moss under the heading "Will Art Shell make a difference?" They said Art Shell will have to "deal" with Randy Moss. Moss is not T.O., he was a solid player and didn't do any complaining last season and he has said all the right things this offseason. Moss respects Shell and has been very supportive of him as our Head Coach. Comments like those are completely unfounded. For someone to actually write that, means they have paid no attention to Randy Moss since his arrival in Oakland and don't do any research before writing articles.

Breakout Defenders
In SI writer Dan Pompei's article entitled Breakout Defenders, he names Tommy Kelly as a breakout defender at the defensive tackle position. He mentions the organizations confidence in Kelly as a major reason for allowing Ted Washington to go and says Kelly was not drafted because of a failed drug test at the combine but has had no drug problems as a pro. As Raiders fans, we've all seen the potential Kelly has flashed in the past but maybe it's his time to become a devastating force on the defensive line and put to rest our fears at the tackle position.

This article also got me wondering what other players that haven't acheived much yet could end up being "Breakout Defenders." I would say Morrison but one could argue that he broke out last season. I think an under the radar player other than Kelly that could emerge is Sam Williams. The main reason he hasn't yet is because of injuries. If he can stay healthy, he may become the player we've been missing since Eric Barton departed via Free Agency.

Thursday, July 20, 2006

Responding to the Experts

Vic Carucci
NFL.com writer Vic Carucci wrote two articles this week that I decided to comment on. The first one, A look ahead to the AFC West, is an early divisional breakdown. I like the fact that Carucci recognized that Art Shell will have an effect on team's attitude. Many writers have been forgetting that coaching is more than X's and O's. He also said our only two problems were Aaron Brooks and our Linebacker position. I understand(but don't agree) where he is coming from with Brooks but the weakside linebacker position will be fine. Sam Williams is good when healthy but if injured we will see what another rookie can do. A similar thing happened last year and Kirk Morrison turned out to be pretty good. He didn't mention the defensive line as a weakness which was suprising. We have solid defensive ends but are lacking at the tackle position.

Vic's only real argument on why the Raiders won't be in the hunt is Aaron Brooks. Brooks may be mistake prone but when you have talented wide recievers the ball doesn't have to be thrown perfectly. Brooks will adjust well to being a Raider but if he doesn't, Andrew Walter will step in. Here is some food for thought: If Brooks was still on the Saints, would the experts still be so hard on him?

Carucci's second article, Carucci's Tuesday Huddle, ranks the 10 new Head Coaches. He has Art Shell at number 6. It's not horrible but Shell should be ranked a little higher. He has Herman Edwards at number 1 which is a little suprising. Edwards inherited a great running back but the team is aging and the rebuilding process will begin shortly. The only new coach ranked ahead of Art Shell that makes any sense at all is Sean Payton in New Orleans. He has a talented team and should be able to turn the team around with the additions of Drew Brees and Reggie Bush. Art Shell has already made major strides and has the player's support. The player's believe in him and he has already tackled the offensive line issues. Even if the line doesn't hold, Brooks is mobile enough to buy time for Randy Moss to get open deep.

To be honest, I usually don't like Carucci's articles but he didn't do as bad this time as he normally does. The fact that he didn't mention our defensive line as a weakness and has been so hard Aaron Brooks makes me question whether or not he did much research on the Raiders before writing the articles but at least he did mention some good things about Shell.

A Little Something Extra
The Raiders official site has a pretty cool page called Fantastic Finishes; Classic Comebacks. It has some classic games and their nicknames and is a great place for younger or new fans to learn more about our storied franchise.

Wednesday, July 19, 2006

Interesting Raider Tidbits

Salary Facts
I recently found this site that has salary information on it. These are a few of the interesting facts that I observed.

Jerry Porter's 2005 cap hit was $2,694,746 while Randy Moss's cap hit was $2,437,130.

Charles Woodson had the highest cap hit in 2005 with $ 10,537,000 but Robert Gallery was second on the team with a cap hit of $ 5,464,496 but his base salary was only $325,000. Woodson was number 12 amongst all NFL players last season. Good Luck Green Bay!

Derrick Burgess had a cap hit of $1,455,000 or $90,937.50 per sack(16) which is pretty cheap when compared to Simeon Rice's cost of $764,348.57 per sack(14).

You can go back to 2000 so check it out and see what the players really make.

Mis-informed Media
I also found this comic on sportsline.com. This just goes to show that the media's perception of our franchise is still way off. Our current roster has less legal problems than almost all of the other teams in the NFL. Henry is where he belongs, Palmer is the one that doesn't fit in on Cinci's roster and there was no reason to bring Moss and Davis into that sketch. If I had any artisitic ability at all, I could make much better comics but I don't so you won't see any comics on this site anytime soon.

Fun Fact
Towards the end of this article, it mentions that Ronald Curry and Aaron Brooks are from the same town. It's pretty amazing when you consider it's not that big of a town. It's also interesting to note that Curry was a Quarterback as well.

Quote of the Week #2
"I'm a firm believer that all sports will eventually be global. Someday, we may have a quarterback from China named Yao Fling."
-Paul Tagliabue

Tuesday, July 18, 2006

Positional Battles to Watch

With Training camp and the Preseason just around the corner, let's take a look at some positional battles that could have huge impacts on our upcoming season.

Aaron Brooks has the edge in this battle with his experience and his contract. It's only a two year deal so look for Andrew Walter to get some playing time during the season. The greatest asset Brooks brings to the Raiders is his mobility. He should be able to create more time and give the Offensive Line a little support.

Right Gaurd
The offensive line is forming into a solid looking unit with the only question mark at Right Gaurd. Brad Badger and Rookie Paul McQ will be the front runners to start at this position. I am hoping that McQ plays well enough to earn the position. That would make our offensive line starters one of the youngest groups in the league. If we can keep this unit together for awhile, they will be dominate.

Wide Receiver
Our top two Recievers are pretty much set in stone (as long as Porter behaves) but after that, it's anyone's guess. Ronald Curry is the most consistent if he can stay healthy but Doug Gabriel has also made some big plays although without any real consistency. Morant and Whitted are also possibilities for the third slot but not as quite as likely as the other two. However it plays out, we will have one of the most talented bunches of receivers in the league.

Tight End
Courtney Anderson is the leader of the pack but didn't do as much as expected last season. It isn't all his fault when he had to put up with Kerry Collins running the offense but he needs to be more consistent this season if he wants to keep the starting job. If he struggles this season, he will be replaced quickly. I would like to see James Adkisson get some reps. He is a Wide Reciever turned tight end and had some success in Europe in the past.

Well that pretty much somes up the major offensive positional battles. Now let's take a look at our defense.

Defensive Tackle
Warren Sapp is the only Defensive Tackle with a big name on our roster but due to his age, he doesn't play as many downs as he used too. The possible players to start along side Sapp are Donnell Washington, Anttaj Hawthorne, Tommy Kelly, Rashad Moore and Terdell Sands. The most likely is probably Tommy Kelly but Antajj Hawthorne has a tremendous upside but may wear out after playing in Europe this offseason.

Outside Linebacker
Once a major weakness, our linebackers are quickly becoming a strength. Danny Clark will ancor the middle with Kirk Morrison line up on one side but the other side is still undetermined. The possible starters are Robert Thomas, Sam Williams, Darnell Bing and Thomas Howard. The most likely to start is Sam Williams but he has had injury problems in the past. If Williams is injured look for Thomas Howard to see some playing time. Bing is also a very interesting prospect but it may take him a couple seasons to get completely confortable in his new position.

Well that pretty much sums up the major position battles. I've looked at 6 positions out of 22 and thats all I found that could have major battles occuring. There are always suprise players that spring up but I don't see many other changes unless we catch the injury bug.

Monday, July 17, 2006

The Season Approaches

Fall is approaching very quickly. Training camp is just around the corner. Soon we we will be able to answer the haters on the field.

There are still some questions hanging in the air.

Who will be our starting QB?
Although it hasn't been made official, Aaron Brooks will be our starter going into the season but if he struggles at all, look for Andrew Walter to get some playing time in this season.

Has Shell/Walsh been out of the NFL too long?
I think Art Shell is exactly what the Raiders needed. He brings a Raider's attitude back to a team that hasn't had it for years. I'm still not sold on Walsh but I hope he does a good job and doesn't have to go back to running a bed and breakfast anytime soon.

What about the Health of Al Davis?
The team reports that Davis is fine but really he is getting old. I don't see him kicking the bucket anytime soon but his age is definitely starting to limit his activities.

The Autumn wind is near.....

Monday, July 03, 2006

Happy 4th

Well, tommorrow is the 4th of July so I'd like to wish everyone in the Raider Nation a happy and safe 4th as they celebrate the anniversary of our Independence. Without our liberation from England, there would be no Raiders and no NFL. We'd probably all be watching soccer and drinking our tea. So as you celebrate this holiday, think about all the great things that our freedom has led to and have a good time with your family and friends.