Hello All! Die hard Raiders fan from Virginia here. New to posting, but certainly not new to the site or the RRRRAAAIIIDERS.
The 2011 season has already been a blast, another win against the Broncos, a nail biter in Buffalo that, IMO the third team on the field really helped them with. ( Fred Jacksons TD run that was really down at the 2. C'mon.) And a decisive win over the Jets has spirits high in Oakland.
All eyes have been on the offense this season, with Campbell coming into his own, the offensive line playing better than ever in recent memory( Campbell really only should have one sack on the season. The second sack was more of a fall.) The emergence of a solid WR core, the tight end play of Boss, and of course our league famous running game headed by DMC with some solid help from Bush and Jones.
But I think the defense is really going to show up in 2011, read on past the jump for the reasoning.
Reason one: D line depth and rotation.
The D line is the strongest unit we field on defense. Shaughnessy, Seymour, Kelly, and Lamar Houston are a force to be reckoned with every sunday. They get tremendous pressure on the quaterback, and have gotten much better at stopping the run. Unfortunately for every offense we play this year you simply cannot double every one of them, so somebody is always free to make a play. This makes the jobs of our linebackers and dbs much easier, therefore covering up some of the weakness in those units. The best part about our d-line to me is our depth, we can throw out Moss, Bryant, Henderson, and Scott and still produce a similar result. Keeping everyone fresh all game and making offensive lineman regret suiting up to play is a huge benefit.
Reason two: Great leadership and direction.
There is no quit in the 2011 Oakland Raiders. The role models we have brought on in this organization are truly paying dividends when it comes to keeping our young guys on the right track, and making them crave success. I believe it started with Richard Seymour joining our team, he keeps everyone on the team fired up, has lent his experience to the other players, and brings out the best of his teammates that join him on the field. Throw in Waufle, who has the D-line playing better than any line in the league, Woodson, who has our DB's making plays on the ball ( we have had a pick in every game we have played. Hasn't happened in a while) and Biekert, who seems to really have the LB's playing much better this season. Bresnahan doesn't impress me, but all he has to do is call the plays, because of great positional coaching the guys now know how to execute well.
Reason three: Better linebacker play.
Can you believe that Quentin groves is playing so much better since preseason? He no longer looks like a huge liability out there anymore. Now I am not saying he's probowl, or even worth keeping past this season, but he looks so much better out there this season. Rolando is looking like a real first round pick, his pass protection and ability to stop the run has improved. He also now has the ability to affect the team positively because of his awareness of the game. There was a play last week where Rolando ran up and moved Seymour by his pants to a different gap. I don't know what he saw, or why he did it, but it caused the play to fall apart and stopped the Jets that down. That is a mark of progress, not to mention another signature slam against Keller i'd say this young man is well on his way for being a GREAT member of this defense for 10-12 years. Wimbley is a good backer too. He's honestly pretty sharp in pass coverage, (the break up in the endzone against the Jets last week was a heads up move, he couldn't see the ball so he used his body to break up the pass) and his pass rush is explosive. I expect once we get rolling this season, he can put up 15 sacks.
Reason four: Better db play.
The 2011 Raiders have had a pick in every game, and no i'm not talking about #2 throwing a INT every game, our dbs are hawking for the ball! This is tremendous, because turnovers lead to wins. I think down the road this season we will be getting even more ints, and that can be the difference this team needed to become the big bad superbowl contender we once were. Look at the Saints, great team when they are getting turnovers, mediocre with out them. Routt has shown he has what it takes to be a true shut down #1 CB, while cb#21 is getting thrown all over in the city of brotherly love. Johnson is good when he's not hurt, he had a bad showing in Buffalo but I think he really can be the number two guy here in Oakland. I also really am liking the play out of CC, the kid had a hell of a game this week and will only get better. He doesn't have to rush into anything, maybe some nickel play this year. But I feel he will be a superstar someday. The safeties are impressing me much more this season. Huff was worth retaining, he has really become the FS we needed and I think we haven't seen the best of what he can do yet. Branch was great week 3, shotty week 2. If he plays like he did in week 2 frequently, Mitchell will take his job. Overall though, i'm impressed with them so far.
In closing, I'd say the biggest factor for the turnaround is the D line, they have made the LB's and DB's look much better with improved play all around. I think our defense is going to be the next big thing in the NFL. We just haven't showed it yet, but i'll be damned if we are not on the way.