Well kiddies, the year 2008 has closed on Raiders football as once more we finish with 10+ losses. But at least we're not the Lions. Actually this year wasn't all too bad. Though it was far from good. Let's start from the beginning....
Lane Kiffin era-
In 20 games with Oakland, Kiffin was a roller coaster of ups and downs. From big wins against the Browns, Dolphins in 07, to the blown fourth quarters with the Bills and Chargers, to the horrible losses of Denver, Jacksonville, and Green Bay. Perhaps the greatest down of all, was dissing Davis in the media.
Kiffin was a fan hero and many pulled for him to return for one more year. But for many (including myself) he was a fan zero, especially in 2008. Was it wrong to blame him for blown fourth-quarters? Yes it was. Ryan is an idiot and thank god he'll be gone. Was it wrong for Kiffin to publicly express what Davis was doing and bringing bad vibes into the locker room? Very much yes. 20 games and a 5-11 record. Cable managed 4 wins in 8 games. I prefer the Cable Guy.
The Raiders acquired draft stud McFadden. Bush was full-go for the year and Fargas was coming off a 1000 yard season. Yet we finished the 10th. rushing offense. Not bad numbers with 124 yards rushing per game, but it's not the 6th. rushing offense of last year. Reason being, an attempt to balance the offense by Cable and Knapp. Knapp's plays were far from, well plays. Our offense was atrocious with Knapp at the helm. We couldn't get first downs, we had an extremely long offensive touchdown drought, and the team's confidence was in the trash. When Cable starts calling the plays and begins to play Henderson more, we got much, much better. The last two games of the year was the best our offense was all season (with exception of first chiefs game) Granted not all of Cable's plays were good (fake field goal against Chiefs), but they far from what Knapp was doing. I'm just glad Knapp will be gone next year.
Now to the defensive side of things. Personally I love defensive football. Defense wins championships. True that saying has been said more times than "They are who we thought they were" has been played on Youtube.
But Oakland's defense wasn't so bad this year. I know it was 27th. overall. But those are problems that can be fixed (more on this later) Oakland was 13th. in sacks this year with 32 with Edwards and Scott leading the charge tied at 5 sacks each. Not Burgess, but Edwards and Scott. Sorry, I still would like to see him traded. The Raiders finished 10th. in interceptions with 16 with a three-way tie for the lead with Hall, Johnson, and Baker. Those two ranks helped us achieve a very good 10th. ranked pass defense. It also helps that we have Nnamdi Asomugha.
So how than do we have the 27th. defense? Why it's none other than Oakland's kryptonite, the run game. 31st run D. Only team worse is the Lions. If you round up, we allow 160 yards on the ground. That number must improve if we are to be successful. Once again more on the changes there later.
Then of course there's special teams. Finally our special teams were just that, special. Believe it or not, we were tied for the #1 spot in punt returns for TD's with the Saints. I'd like to give a big holla to the dancing man himself. Mister Johnnie Lee "Blue-Suede Shoes" Higgins!
We were also second in average punt return yardage with 13 yards per return. Higgins is officially the Raider's big-play explosive threat that we've been lacking for years. Once the man that we wanted run out of Oakland, now the man loved by Oakland. He would have got my vote for the commitment to excellence award.
Thoughts On Players-
I'd like to just go through some positions and players and just share my two-bits on my opinions of them.
1. Michael Bush- I'd like to know why Al tried to trade Bush, and to the Chargers for that matter. Bush is a great running back. If anything, the Tampa game proved that. Did you see how fast he can run. I thought for a second I was watching a pudgy McFadden. He has the speed, the size, most definitely the strength, the hands, and the blocking ability that makes him a very well rounded back.
In fact, the only reason he didn't get 500+ yards rushing was because the Raiders never used bush when clearly they should have. He averages 4.4 yards a carry and was a great receiver out of the backfield. If Al gets rid of this guy in the offseason I will be incredibly miffed. Especially if he tries to trade him to the Chargers again. And also, why didn't you run him on short-yardage instead of Fargas? Fargas clearly isn't a short-yard back. After all, you drafted Bush for short-yardage. He was supposed to replace the void filled by Crockett. Instead you use Fargas. Severe misuse of talent.
2. Drew Carter- Give this guy another chance please!!! Carter was supposed to be the starter this year and was becoming Russell's favorite target in camp and preseason. Carter is an immediate improvement over Walker or Lelie. Carter actually wants to be here (if you can believe it) and everyone wants him to be here. Give this guy another one year deal and just try him out in camp. He'd at least bring competition if not a good starter. You have nothing to lose if you do keep him. This was one of the pickups I felt the best about coming into this season. Imagine having Higgins, Schilens, and Carter as your top 3 receivers. Sounds good don't it?
3. Terdell Sands or as I call him
THE COLE TRAIN!!!!!
Terdell Sands was a nice surprise this year. A lot of people were uncertain of how well he'd do this year after last year and the knee draining in training camp. But Sands ended up with 2 sacks which isn't too shabby for someone who rarely saw any field time. Sands is someone I will be keeping my eye on this offseason to see what Al does. Hopefully he keeps him around. Sands was pretty good this year and will at least be a great rotation guy. I hope to be able to once more say: "You just got sacked by the Cole Train baby!"
4. The Cripple, I mean Javon Walker-
Why didn't Al take Walker's retirement? The dude doesn't have the elite-class speed he once had and can't catch a ball to save his life. We have a lot better people who are younger and not overpaid on roster. Trade him for whatever crappy pick you can get.
Why we're on the topic of receivers who need to be traded, let's talk Curry. I love Curry. He's one of my favorite players we have and is an Oakland legend. But after his stone-hands year, I don't see him being in Oakland's plans next year. We may as well trade him instead of just releasing him. I see Curry being successful with another team and wish him the best wherever he ends up.
That's right, changes-
I'm sure you've all read my comments on what I think we need to change. This section lists the changes I'd like to see and those that should happen.
First off, we need a new FS. I'm tired of seeing TE getting 20 yard plays off of us. And that starts with Huff and Eugene. Personally I think we need to trade Huff and keep Eugene for depth. I'd prefer we pick up a FS in free agency. I don't think we should blow a draft pick on a safety. I don't know who to pick up, but just about anything (except for Stu) is better than Huff. Just someone who can cover a TE and tackle decently. I don't want a hard-hitter, just someone who can make a stop. Huff is officially a bust.
Let's talk LB. I still think we should move Morrison to OLB and either draft or pick up a MLB in FA. Maybe try to trade a certain burgess for a MLB (not necessarily Peterson just somebody) Sorry I just want a trade done there. But our LB are horrid against the run. We need a real hard-hitting MLB instead of a speedy pass coverer. And even then both Howard and Morrison fell short in that category. I wouldn't mind hearing "With the 7th. pick of the NFL Draft, the Raiders select-
Rey Maualuga from USC!" Though Davis doesn't draft backers very high. Oh well, I can dream can't I?
Let's take a break from players and talk GM. Who on Earth will Al hire as the supposed GM? Maybe Bill Parcells?
Unlikely. Though this would be a smart move if it were to happen. Parcells knows how to win (except for in the playoffs but still) I would jump for joy to hear him come in as the GM. We could definitely use someone like him.
Now then back to the draft and whatnot. I believe that we need to release Harris, and move Henderson to right tackle. I think Henderson really changes the draft situation. Do we keep him at left and put him as second string should we draft an O-Lineman in the first? Do we move him to right side and kick out a talented Green? Quite a conundrum.
Then there's the matter of the draft itself. We all know my draft wishlist:
1st. round- Michael Crabtree or Percy Harvin (depending on who's available) or Michael Oher/Andre Smith
2nd. round- WR or O-line depending on whichever wasn't taken in the first. Maybe MLB
2nd. round (optional but if we get second through Burgess)- Either O-Line, WR, or MLB. Whichever hasn't been taken
3rd. round- See second optional
After that I don't really mind.
I've determined that our team's weaknesses as of 12/30/08 are: OT, WR, DT (we need fourth rotation man), LB, FS, and CB depth. Not too bad, we can get those fixed up (hopefully)
Awards of 2008-
1. Most Improved Player- Jamarcus Russell: We all know Russell deserves this. He's gone form throwing four INT's in the Jags game, to throwing 2 TD passes a game and very few picks. He's done better this year than either Culpepper or McCown did last year. And he's done this with, at times, a pathetic O-line and, at times, a very lacking WR corps. So here's to you Russell,
2. Breakout Player- Johnnie Lee Higgins: I remember when I was saying that we needed to get rid of mister Lee. But now he's our most explosive player, and not just on offense. As I've previously stated, this guy is a beast at punt returner. I look forward to seeing another great year out of Higgins and hopefully a starting role at WR.
3. Rookie of the Year- Darren McFadden: I think everyone saw this coming. He was our second leading rusher and could've been the first if it weren't for turf toe. He's explosive and a great receiver out of the backfield, or lined up at WR. He was everything we expected him to be. This guy has blazing speed and should be even better next year without said turf toe. I look forward to watching more of D-mac next year.
4. Tough Luck Award- Michael Bush: Someone explain to me why we didn't run this guy more than 5 times a game, or at least in short-yardage. Read my section on Michael Bush for more.
5. Best Dancer- Johnnie Lee Higgins: Who didn't expect this. But he's just so entertaining. Let's just hope his dancing doesn't turn him into Chad Johnson/Terrell Owens. until then, keep going Johnnie Lee "Blue-Suede Shoes" Higgins.
6. Raider of The Year- Nnamdi Asomugha: I don't know how a guy with so much talent isn't demanding to leave the Raiders. Nnamdi has amazing character and amazing talent. He deserves every little bit of that Pro Bowl spot, especially as a starter. I hope that this guy never leaves, but in a way I do. He deserves to be in a more stable situation. But we gotta do like he does, hang tough and hope for the best. Nnamdi is definitely my player of the year.
Well my friends, I bid you adieu as we all watch the playoffs and await the offseason. I leave you with these words of wisdom.
"If you wish to make apple pie from scratch, you must first invent the universe"
Now let's dance as the great Higgins wills us to!!!!!!!!!!!