Hello fellow Raider fans,
Today, as we know, is a tough day in Raider Nation. Coming off the heels of this past game's uninspired performance against the now 4-8 Browns, the team seems to have hit rock bottom. Unfortunately, rock bottom may not actually have occurred yet, as there are more divisional rivalry games to be played in the final quarter of this season. It has become increasingly evident as the weeks have gone by that despite the poor coaching that has taken place, this team is also one that is deficient of both top-line talent as well as depth. In many respects, it would have taken expert coaching to get this team to compete for a division crown, though simply competent coaching would have resulted in the team being competitive week in and week out (which we saw in years prior; debate his merits all you want but Hue was at least competent as a head coach). While some of the roster moves made prior to the season were ones that absolutely had to be made, there were some that stood out, both at the time they happened and now, as crucial mistakes that have helped put the Raiders in the bind they are now:
1. Satele for Brisiel: While this was not a direct trade, the impact was similar to one. The Raiders let Samson Satele leave for Indianapolis in free agency, choosing to replace him with Mike Brisiel. The result has contributed to the drastic regression in offensive line play that has occurred this season. Center is, other than quarterback, the hardest position to replace in football, as well as the one with the most responsibility. With Satele at the helm of the offensive line for the previous few seasons, the other pieces of the line fell into place and became a highly productive unit. In the time since Satele has been away, the holes have appeared in the line that were there before he was on the team. Furthermore, the line in Indianapolis, which may well have been the worst in football last season, is a very solid, capable unit this year with Satele leading it. To make matters worse, this was a move that could have been prevented. The Raiders were not priced out of keeping the services of Satele, they chose to go in the direction of Brisiel (with Wiz at center).
2. Huff at Corner: After revamping the secondary (some moves such as the release of Routt were not bad moves), the decision was made during the offseason to convert Michael Huff to corner. This move has had a negative effect on the secondary. Not only has Huff been extremely inconsistent at corner, the play at his old position of safety has been a massive downgrade as well. Matt Giordano, tagged to replace Huff, gives great effort but simply does not have the ability to be a starting safety in the NFL. Coming off what may have been his most consistently productive season as a Raider, there was no need to make the knee-jerk decision of moving Huff to corner, and it has shown during the struggles of the defensive secondary.
3. Losing Wimbley: This is a choice that may spark a little bit of debate, with many valid points on both sides. After failing to come to terms on a contract restructuring, the Raiders released erstwhile pass rusher Kamerion Wimbley. While this move made some financial sense, the impact it has had on the defense has been extremely significant. The defensive line play, which has been the defense's calling card the past few seasons with Wimbley as the key playmaker, has been mediocre at best this season, as evidenced by the 14 sacks so far for the season. Wimbley had 9 and 7 sacks, respectively, by himself during his two seasons as a Raider, and that was while garnering extra attention from opposing offensive lines as a pass rushing threat. While it would have been a financial issue to keep him, releasing a player like Tommy Kelly (whose production would be more easily replaced) probably would have been a better move for this season.
4. Losing Boss: All season long, Raider fans have given many different explanations as to the struggles in the running game. The tight end position is one of the most important positions in the running game, as that position is the aiming point for the running backs on the majority of run plays (zone or power scheme). Something that has often been overlooked is the loss of Kevin Boss as a tight end. Boss is one of the best blocking tight ends in all of football, and played a crucial role in opening running lanes for McFadden and Bush last year. Replacing him with Brandon Myers, who is nowhere near the blocker Boss is, has resulted in less running lanes being opened, particularly on the perimeter of opposing defenses. Boss was elite at sealing the edge on these types of runs, and with the speed at running back that the Raiders have many long runs could have been had this year if the tight end position was more solid at blocking. Another move that was avoidable, the Raiders would have been better off keeping Boss and losing one or two players off the end of the roster or lower on the depth chart to make up for the salary. He played up to his cost during his year in Oakland.
While of course there were many other roster moves, as well as coaching moves, these are the 4 avoidable roster moves that have had a large impact in the Raiders' struggles on both sides of the ball this season. Next post will discuss the mistakes by omission that have occurred on the roster this year. If there are any moves you disagree with here, or feel should have been added, please discuss them in the comments section.