The 2008 Oakland Raiders finished the season ranked 29th in total offense and 29th in scoring with an incredibly low 263 points of which 35 of them were by way of special teams touchdowns. Even worse, the passing offense ranked 32nd with a paltry 2,369 passing yards, that's dead last folks. The rushing offense was the brighter spot ranking 10th.
Fortunately in the NFL, turnarounds have become more of the norm rather than the exception now and there is good reason to believe the Raiders offense is positioned for a steady rise in the rankings for 2009.
First let's examine what went wrong with the 2008 Raiders offense. To begin with, the 2008 offseason was one of the most distracting, adverse offseasons in memory. The constant Davis/Kiffin bickering followed a Raiders spending spree which bought players that could never live up to their contracts. Then we had the head coach in Kiffin who flat out did not want to be there and was doing everything in his power to get fired. This kind of dysfunction alone would be enough to bring down any team and it certainly effected the Raiders as a whole and in particular, the young Raider offense.
Next, was the coaching staff, that had Kiffin and his inexperienced college ways to go along with John DeFilippi, the quarterbacks coach, attempting to guide and tutor the 22 year old franchise QB, JaMarcus Russell the ways of the NFL. The offseason's escapades and the coaching staff at the beginning of the season were a definitive component of an inconsistent and underwhelming offense. Couple that with the fact that Russell had no veteran QB presence as a backup to tutor him on the ins and outs of the NFL.
The next component of the failures of the 2008 offense was the offensive line and in particular, Kwame Harris. It wasn't just Harris' inferior blocking abilities that hurt, it was his total lack of discipline resulting in a ridiculous amount of either holding or false start penalties. In 2008, when Harris was in, you could almost count on him to be a drive killer.
When your leading receiver is your tight end and your leading wide receiver has 22 receptions for 366 yards, you know you've got problems. Javon Walker was one of those FA acquisitions that could not live up to the size of his contract, was supposed to be the veteran presence to help guide the youngsters. Problem was, Walker could never stay on the field and the lack of veteran leadership at that position severely hurt the Raiders talented but inexperienced wide receivers.
With the above stated, it was no wonder as to why the Raiders would consider themselves a running team. The preseason injury to Oren O'Neal certainly had an adverse effect on the running game, but the young and talented core kept the team competitive for the most part. The dreaded turf toe injury to Darren McFadden cut short what would have probably been a sensational season for the 4th overall pick of the 2008 draft.
Now the reasons for optimism for the Raiders offense in 2009:
- a stable and quiet offseason
- a stable and experienced coaching staff, with quarterback guru Paul Hackett guiding JaMarcus Russell.
- Jeff Garcia, an experienced, veteran QB, who will mentor and push JaMarcus and who can step in and win if called upon.
- the offensive Line. Just by subtracting Kwame Harris from the team will cause the O-line to be improved. The addition of Pears, Khalif Barnes and Satele, as well as the encouraging play of Mario Henderson (no sacks allowed and no penalties), will have this unit improving the offense.
- the wide receiver position was paid extensive attention in the draft and there will be a lot of competition in camp as a result. Javon Walker and his restructured contract, who will presumably be healthy for camp, will be added to the swiftly improving and talented Chaz Schillens and JLH to go along with the promising rookies.
- Zach Miller, the soon-to-be All Pro tight end.
- Lorenzo Neal. Great blocker, great leader, great teacher...Great signing.
- running backs. The 2009 Raiders will employ the best depth at that position in the NFL, McFadden, Bush Fargas, Rankin and Gary Russell. Last seasons injuries clearly showed the need for at least 3 running backs and with McFadden returning healthy, this group should dominate.
- the last 2 games of the 2008 season saw the Raiders put together consecutive impressive wins for the first time in 7 seasons in December. The play of JaMarcus Russell was a key part of those wins.
- last and certainly not least, the maturing JaMarcus Russell. All of the above should be the formula that allows JaMarcus to succeed and become the elite quarterback that he is expected to be.
All of these factors in addition to Russell having another year of experience should have the Raiders steadily climbing up in the ranks of NFL offense and hopefully winning many more games.