And so, another chapter of Raider football unfolds in a new offseason, and the Nation anxiously and eagerly awaits results of what it will bring. We know full well, that in 2010, we fielded a formidable offense, extremely dominant in the run game, and explosively dangerous in the pass game without any real consistent performers at the wideout position. So with that, let us break down what is and what will be, position by position, and look at some possibilities of what we might expect. No matter what happens, we know this guy figures to be a key part of the bully that emerged in 2010, and turned the heads of many a defensive coordinator:
Hit the jump to read on about the components of project bully.
The start of the 2010 season saw quite a different alignment than we would as the season progressed, and thankfully so. Mario Henderson proved to be ineffective at the left tackle position, where arguably our best draft pick Jared Veldheer emerged as his replacement, with impressive results, and a lot of room to grow. We can expect Jared to be a solid tackle for years to come. With losing Gallery at the guard position on his side, we can expect to see Daniel Loper getting some snaps, and perhaps finally see what Bruce Campbell has to offer. Some have speculated here that his blend of size, speed, and athleticism might find him getting worked in at tackle; while I'm not sold on that notion yet, I'm not adverse to seeing how he compares, if it isn't already being done by staff.
Center, Samson Satele, figures to stick around for at least awhile, and some of us hope the position sees some potential starting competition in Uncle Steve's nephew Stephen Wisniewski, or names like Pouncey, O'Dowd, and others that have been thrown around. I'm not so sure our staff looks to upgrade this position, but if Mike Pouncey comes available to us, or even Wiz, I expect them to come in, and shake up multiple spots on the line, including the snapper. Many of these guys will boast the ability to play guard, and have done so at the college level as well. If one of the guys who comes in as a center is not taken, the depth of adept blockers at G this year should definitely be examined thoroughly, as this component of our bully is not yet fully intact and prepared to take us to that level of dominance we aim to demonstrate. Langston Walker should be kept as tackle depth, or to compete for a starter at guard, as Cooper Carlisle should only provide depth if kept at all. To give us that nasty edge we need a big body mauler and road grader type guy with a nasty streak, be it in free agency or in the draft. Khalif Barnes fits nicely with his versatilty to play essentially an extra lineman in our jumbo set, when he's made eligible as another TE, and we've seen this work amazingly in both the run game and when Khalif finds open space in play action.
At times, it seemed Jacoby was the lone receiver amongst them. At others, it's Murphy, on rare occasion Heyward-Bey, but if this unit can gel, stay healthy, and become a true corps, imagine what we can expect from this "bully" offense, when our receivers numbers eclipse those of our TEs, FBs, and RBs out of the backfield. Many of us hope for the addition of just one guy like Houshmanzadeh, Rice, or another solid possession guy from the draft to spell the oft injured Schilens, or replace the inconsistent and mostly ineffective Johnnie Lee Higgins and Nick Miller as returner/receivers. Will Watkins remain? I'm afraid the team doesn't see the need for adding to the existing corps, but a lot can change from now until April 28th, and in camp, especially if any of our porcelain dolls go prematurely inactive.
Good health and being featured and built around finally put to rest any questions we had about Darren McFadden's ability to do at this level what he did so well in school. The appropriate, "Thunder and Lightning," title of the one-two punch that is Darren and Mike Bush reminds us that we will most likely return the nucleus of the ruthless physical bully that found our rushing attack among the tops in the league for much of the season, and also provided some exciting play action from time to time. While another back is not necessarily a need going into this draft, some of the immense talent at the position is intriguing, and can offer another element of explosion in some of the guys who can be returners, and bring great hands and decent blocking ability. At the FB position, Reece will most likely be kept due to his soft hands, and for emerging as a decent lead blocker as the season moved on. Not sure we'll see Tonga remain, as the Raiders' quest for a dominant, pile-pushing lead blocker never ends. It will be interesting to see who is available to us when all is said and done. I'll leave names now to the many mocks out there. Rock Cartwright has made a name for himself on special teams and contributor as an effective plug in both running and catching, and will likely remain on the depth chart. Michael Bennett has persevered and competed and found a way to stay around, so don't be surprised if he's able to do this again though camp, but I'm expecting a new face.
Miller will remain a Raider; no doubt in my mind. Myers can continue to grow and should remain an integral part of the offense this year. There are a ton of Rob Gronkowski type guys in this draft who can do it all, and should definitely be looked at as serious additions to a dangerous offense, especially one that wishes to make physicality its cornerstone. Look no further than New England and its use of Rob, Crumpler, and Hernandez, and the fits they caused DCs throughout the league to know, young, athletic, and strong TEs allow you to bully secondaries.
The largest question on offense remains with the line, which is almost certain to be addressed with significant upgrades sooner than later. I have seen some exciting lineups occur with the prospects of some of the mock drafts we have looked at in great detail, and there are many reasons to be excited if we see even a minor upgrade. By all accounts, it is safe to expect the bully we look to build to include some significant upgrades in the offensive trenches, which is where being a physical team begins. With the right additions and subtractions, this Raider team can return to exerting its will on the best defenses in the league the way we handled the Chargers twice this year, and as should have happened against Pittsburgh, like the great lines of Raiders past did against the Purple People eaters and the Steel Curtain defenses.
The day will again come to Raider Nation when we see the exertion of our will on the best of the best in the league become the norm, and that day might be sooner than we anticipated, but this offseason is critical. We cannot repeat last year's acceptance of guys not ready for the challenge, with false confidence that proves a mistake midway through the season (guilty shall remain nameless--we, and they, know who they are). Now is the time to complete the bully puzzle.
And to you, Nation. Who's your missing link to complete the puzzle? and those we can reasonably get, of course.