Answering Raider Nation’s questions

OAKLAND, CA - AUGUST 25: The Raider Nation in the famous black hole cheer on their Oakland Raiders as the Oakland Raiders host the Detroit Lions at McAfee Stadium on August 25, 2006 in Oakland, California. (Photo by David Paul Morris /Getty Images)

Questions continue to pile up about the state of the Raiders. Don’t tell the fans that this is supposed to be the down time of the year for the team. They won’t listen. In this Answering Raider Nation’s questions session, we will delve deeper into the potential record of the team, the current state of head coach Tom Cable and the status of another team in the AFC West division.

R. Wannan says: “I have seen a lot of hype about the Raiders being a much more improved team. Realistically, what are the Raiders chances of finishing above 8-8, making the wild card, and/or winning the AFC West?”

I think the real hump that Raider Nation wants to see them get over at this point is just to not lose 11 games this year. Once they hit six wins that would be a good thing. But it’s not good enough. This team showed potential in both 2008 and 2009. However, they failed to show consistency in 2009. One of the things Coach Tom Cable preached all of last year was winning three in a row. They failed to even win two in a row. Last preseason many fans called for the 8-8 record based on two big wins at the end of the 2008 season. With a nice draft class, in addition to some good trades, I think anything less than 8-8 would be a disappointment.

So realistically, in a weak division with the Chiefs and Broncos, as well as the Chargers missing pieces like Vincent Jackson and Marcus McNeill, I’d say the gods are smiling upon them. I give them a 30 percent chance as a wild card team, 20 percent chance to win the AFC West and a 50 percent chance of going 8-8…realistically.

Apr 30, 2010; Alameda, CA, USA; Oakland Raiders offensive coordinator Hue Jackson (left) and coach Tom Cable at mini camp at the Oakland Raiders practice facility. Photo via Newscom

S Jay Bruin wants to know “Based on what you’ve seen, heard, read, etc. What do you think Cable’s potential as a coach is? Or have we already seen him be as good as he can be? I guess my real question is: Can he be a winner in this league or is he keeping the seat warm for another coach…Hue Jackson?”

Tom Cable had this to say regarding his new offensive coordinator:

“Being able to have [Hue Jackson] focus on [the offense] the whole time helps us with the other coaches to go out here every day and work on something and improve on something and I think you’re seeing that happen. I’m able to focus on personnel all the time now, so this team how I see it, what I think it needs or doesn’t need or this or that is very much on my mind 24-7 now. I think that the development of the rookies, the development of the coaching staff, what are they doing, how are they coaching, how are we teaching? I think all of those things are things I get to do now that before were just kind of a secondary thought, there just wasn’t enough time.”

That being said, I think Cable has a Madden-esque quality about him. His players really like him and he is a great motivator. It’s premature to compare him to Madden, I understand that, but you have to give him credit for the changed mentality. This team’s atmosphere is night and day compared to the pre-Cable era. On top of that, he’s quite honest and upfront with the media regarding the team. He is not trying to hide behind any bogusness. He understands the situation in Oakland and he is a fan of the team prior to being the coach, so you have to give him credit there. A lot of folks think he is behind some of the more rational moves to the roster recently as well. I do not think that we’ve seen the best of Tom Cable yet.

As far as Hue Jackson being a head coach, the thing that concerns me if I am a Raiders fan is a turnaround of the offense. If the offense shows drastic improvements this year, Cable will likely stay as head coach with the best record the team has had in years and Jackson will likely get offers from mediocre teams to be their head coach. For the sake of the franchise, let’s hope he likes the beaches and weather in California.

Marcus McNeill of the San Diego Chargers in a 20-19 victory over the AFC rival Kansas City Chiefs at Qualcomm Stadium in San Diego,CA.on November 9, 2008 Photo via Newscom

Dark Kush says: “Bret, did you see the Chargers sign veteran LT Thomas? What does this mean other than insurance if McNeil sits?”

This is very interesting news on the Chargers front; the holdout of not only Marcus McNeill, who has started 62 career games at left tackle for the Chargers since 2006, but the holdouts of Shawne Merriman and Vincent Jackson as well. All three of these players are crucial, I believe, to the Chargers continuing their domination of the division and any chance they have of making a Super Bowl run this year.

To think a guy like Tra Thomas (who used to be good) can take the place of s legitiment left tackle when he is on his last legs is almost ridiculous and certainly at the very least it is asking a lot from him. He has a lot of mileage on the engine and he only managed to start three times last year in Jacksonville where their line is going through a major rebuilding period. I think it was more of a scare tactic move by Chargers G.M. A.J. Smith, and it was a poor scare tactic at that.

Smith recently said, “It hurts when you don’t have your players. How are you going to win a championship without your left tackle and your wide out? I’m sick about it. I don’t know what to do. I don’t know how anybody could be more upset about this than me.”

Sounds to me like somebody is about to surrender, and it also looks bad on Smith that the Jets just gave a six-year $60 million extension to their left tackle, D’Brickashaw Ferguson. I’d be really surprised if McNeill didn’t suit up on opening day with a new deal in his back pocket. Merriman will most likely be there by training camp and Vincent Jackson may remain in the air for a while with a three-game suspension looming over his head. Don’t be shocked if Tra Thomas gets cut when the Chargers go down to the final 53.

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Answering Raider Nation’s questions

There are still multiple questions surfacing regarding the current state of the Oakland Raiders roster. Even despite the fact that this has been considered by many to be the Raiders best offseason in years. I reached out for the Raider Nation’s questions during the past week, and I’ve noticed that a majority of the questions still surrounding the squad are personnel based at this point. The following are my opinions on the most commonly asked questions.

Big Greezy wants to know if I see the Raiders signing a veteran WR to help develop the young WRs.

I think that when Tom Cable said the Raiders hadn’t talked about T.O., what he meant was a broader generalization. I think he was saying that the team hadn’t thought about bringing in anymore wide receivers at this point.

It is often neglected in conversation how good the college ball players are becoming now-a-days. To take a college player from ten years ago and compare him to today’s college athlete, the comparison would not even be close. Because of advancements in training, injury treating, and overall football knowledge passed from level to level (professional to high school), it will not ever be fair to make this comparison.

Therefore, when you’re talking about a young guy this day in age, a 3-4 year professional could be considered a more valuable veteran than a guy who has been around for 10-12 years in the NFL. I mean, there are exceptions, like Jerry Rice (to give an example of a WR), but if you were to ask anyone who was around Rice when he was a player, they will tell you his work out regimen was insane. It takes a lot of hard work for a guy who has been professional for that long to keep up with these younger, faster, and sometimes stronger athletes that come out of college these days.

That’s why the Oakland Raiders are moving forward right now. There was a time in the not-so-distant past when the veterans were the heart and soul of the Oakland Raiders. And, Al Davis tried to keep it that way for a while, that’s why you saw the team bring in guys like Kerry Collins, Randy Moss, and Dana Stubblefield. But, now there is a new movement in Oakland, and it is a strong youth movement. I think it’s a move in the right direction, and I don’t see them looking back with regards to this position.

If you look at the top receiver’s from 2009, only three were really what most would consider veteran, Reggie Wayne, Randy Moss, and Hines Ward. The rest are quite young.

The question is not “Are these guys good enough?” it’s more like, “When will they be good enough?” and I just don’t see that difference as a good reason to bring in a guy like Terrell Owens or Laveranues Coles, who would most likely not be satisfied with being the third best wide receiver on the team when everyone is healthy. That said, I think Nick Miller, Darrius Heyward-Bey, Johnnie Lee Higgins, the underrated Todd Watkins, and Jacoby Ford would all be knocking on their door for that third spot.

TAW wants to know if the seasons started tomorrow, who would be my picks for the starting front lines, offensive and defensive.

Well, I think it’s pretty clear cut, if the season started tomorrow who most people would have on the respective lines. Offense would probably be:

LT- Mario Henderson, LG- Robert Gallery, C-Samson Satele, RG-Cooper Carlisle, RT-Langston Walker


LDE- Richard Seymour, LDT- Tommy Kelly, RDT- Desmond Bryant, RDE- Matt Shaughnessy

Let me say this, however, that many people don’t agree with; I think the offensive line is a more solid unit than people want to give them credit for. For starters, Henderson was exceptional for the first part of the season, until the injuries started to become a real problem and players started being shuffled more than a gambler’s poker cards. I think with another year with the same coaches and a healthy Robert Gallery, Henderson could be that solid left tackle that has eluded the Raiders for all this time now. Speaking of Gallery, he has found a really good home for himself at left guard. It has been questioned recently whether or not Gallery is actually a Pro Bowl caliber talent, and I say this; it doesn’t really matter if he is or not, because the fact of the matter is that the whole line looks better when he is playing left guard. There is no questioning that he is the leader of that group and they need him on the field.

Langston Walker has been a solid right tackle in this league for years and even proved to be the most suitable replacement for Gallery on the opposite side of the field in a completely new position last year. He can be a solid contributor to the team and will garner fewer yellow flags from officials than his predecessor Cornell Green, who ironically is in Buffalo this year. Good swap for Oakland there.  

Cooper Carlisle’s biggest question mark at the present time is his age. Can he compete at the level that is expected of an NFL starter? Carlisle spent seven seasons with the Broncos, but he didn’t become a full time starter until just two years before he left for Oakland. In Oakland, he has only missed one game as a starter. But he is 32, and the average age of starting offensive lineman in the league in 2010 is projected to be 26 ½ years old according to this study by a Bleeding Green Nation writer. That was seven years ago for Carlisle. He is going to be pushed hard by Bruce Campbell as well.  There are several exceptions to the rule, like Indianapolis center Jeff Saturday, who will be 35 this year and 34 year old Packer’s LT Chad Clifton. Can Carlisle be one of those guys; that remains to be seen.

Center is the position of highest concern to me right now if the season begins tomorrow. Now, Tom Cable certainly thinks that Samson Satele can be the guy for the Raiders. He said soon after the trade for Satele that he was the best lineman in his draft class. Mind you, he didn’t say the best center, he said the best lineman. And Satele did come on strong last season in the second half of the year. After him, it’s an abyss, however, who can fill in, Chris Morris? Come on, are you kidding me? I was kind of excited when I hear about rookie tackle Jared Veldheer getting some snaps at center. Veldheer is a very smart player who thinks he didn’t give up a single sack during his high school or college career. He would be an excellent candidate to push Satele during the offseason while Khalif Barnes and Bruce Campbell push the guards and tackles to get better.

The million dollar question on the defensive side of the ball is in the middle. Can Desmond Bryant hold down that nose tackle spot? He has bulked up 20 pounds since he was signed as an UDFA, he has great length to his body, and he is also very cerebral. Last year, he showed signs of being able to handle the double team, in route to raking up almost as many tackles as starter Gerard Warren. I think Bryant will surprise some people this year, but a bigger concern should be who is going to fill in for him if he needs a breather or gets hurt? I like the suggestion by Levi Damien of bringing in Jimmy Kennedy, UFA from the Vikings. A former first round pick that weighs 320 pounds, has been around the league a little bit, would come cheap, and played a season behind Pat and Kevin Williams, how can you go wrong with that addition?

Darth Davis wants to know is there is any chance that CB Stanford Routt will take the starting spot away from current starter Chris Johnson?

I think Patrick A. Patterson said it best when he said, “Chris Johnson has one of the most thankless jobs in the NFL. He has to cover the other side of the field from Nnamdi Asomugha.”

Johnson has done a solid job, and it was pointed out in the comments section of Patrick’s article by Raider X who said, “I watched Johnson last year at the coliseum and on many long completions safety help was missing in action. Go back and look at Johnson in deep coverage you will see it, or when they played zone coverage you see him look around and the safety is not in position where he was supposed to be.”

That may be due to the swapping safeties game the Raiders had going on last year with Hiram Eugene and Michael Huff switching in and out of the starting line-up. It could be fixed by Mike Mitchell, who has great range, great vision, great closing speed, and can tackle. Not to mention, he dreams of playing in the starting line-up alongside his good friend Tyvon Branch. So I guess to answer the question, I’d say that FS is a bigger positional concern right now than the second starting CB.

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