There are many folks counting us out already. We lost too many key players, we don't have any draft picks, our coaching staff is too inexperienced and our FA's aren't as good as the guys we lost and so on.
Well I say hogwash; this season will offer a few very important differences:
- For the first time since the Gruden era we have a complete FO in place. This created a clear chain of command on personnel decisions, gave the entire organization a sense of direction for the future and fiscal responsibility and it will also lead to smarter personnel decisions as well as offer a uniform accountability for decisions of the coaching staff and players. But the biggest difference is THIS FO let the head coach choose his own staff, will allow him to coach his way (which incidentally coincides with the FO's vision) and will allow him to give important input in the drafting process. None of these things were in place last season.
- For the first time since Madden we have a defensive minded head coach at the helm. DA is known as a guy who takes nothing off his players and expects smart play at all times. The penalties that plagued us last season should finally be a thing of past and lesser players will be weeded out. More importantly, the defensive scheme that defined the Raiders since Al took over (and the one that he continued to insist on using long after it was ineffective) will finally fall by the wayside. We should expect an uptick in defensive play from this change alone but others (such as new coaches) should also significantly help what looked at times to be a dominating defense last year. Things like stamina, intelligent aggressiveness and team play will make up for any talent we may have lost. This brings me to point #3…
- RM has signed football smart players to replace those we did lose. Most folks are making a big to do about Wimbley and Bush (sometimes Routt) but the truth is both these guys were overrated last year. Wimbley’s sack total was blown up by the 1st SD game and he was a liability in coverage. Bush was really nothing to write home about when you look at his stats as a starter in comparison to the rest of the league, NTM he was a terrible blocker in pass coverage. I like the Brisiel, Wheeler & Tolleson signings as they not only addressed a need but improved the position at the same time. One could argue (based on DA’s and others opinions) that Bartell, Spencer are upgrades over Routt & CJ and I do believe that Chekwa & DVD will make strides this season with better coaching and a modern scheme. Then we have the dark horses in guys like Underwood & Hardy who could make an impact as well.
- We aren’t in full rebuild mode. More like transition mode – and unlike years past where we were still trying to figure out who were, this off season it was clear who’d we be building off of from the jump. RM made the right choice to build using our most talented players already on the roster. CP with a full off season, a healthy Dmac, our young corp of WR’s, our solid DL and ST players. He improved our OL with the Brisiel addition and found enough depth in the secondary to create healthy competition. I think we got better in our LB corp with addition of Wheeler who has a better all-around game than Wimbley and has never really been asked to rush the passer consistently despite doing just that in college. It has just come to to light that McClain has been dealing with chronic ankle & knee pain for two years that had to have affected his play. With stem cells injections that appear to be working, being put into a better position by the new scheme and superior coaching, he might finally live up to his draft position. Hell Curry might end up playing better as well.
- As tough as parts of our schedule will be, we have the 3rd toughest in our division. The Donkeys & Chuggers will face two additional tougher opponents that we won’t and that should work in our favor.
I said last off season that 9 wins would take the division and I see no difference this year. So don’t be so quick to rule us out of this thing. SF made the jump last season with very similar changes and so can we. Don’t know if we’ll get within one game of the SB but having a realistic shot at the division crown and the playoffs? Yeah I can see that.
Now watch how RM’s first draft goes and what other pieces we add before training camp and I think you’ll agree. We’re coming up kids. Get ready.