This is a "transition year" by definition: with the passing of Mr. Al Davis, the addition of Mr. Reggie McKenzie and more than just a complete turnover in the coaching staff. The expertise of the head coach has shifted from offense to defense and the expertise of the OC has shifted from vertical to West Coast, from power blocking to zone. At last count there are 23 new faces on the 53 man roster (from the start of the 2011 season). That’s a great deal to absorb for both the football organization and the fans.
What do you think "transition year" means for the 2012 Oakland Raiders? According to some, Reggie is taking a long term approach that doesn’t bode well for this year. We lack depth at key positions, notably OL, TE, RB, LB and CB. According to some, key positions have been downgraded, notably OL, TE, RB and CB. While nearly everyone has praised Reggie for his personnel moves and Dennis Allen and Jason Tarver for their defensive acumen, the jury is still out on our offensive coordinator, Greg Knapp, and our special teams coordinator, Steve Hoffman. And like every year, we worry about injuries to key players. According to some, "It will take more than this year and next. We have a 3 year window to get the roster well stocked and ready to win year in and year out."
Here’s another take: Despite all the new faces, the composition of our starting 22 is surprisingly stable. Our starting QB is back, with a full year of OTAs, camp, and preseason. Our starting RB is healthy. Our starting WRs are back, although Moore could miss the opening game. Our starting TE is back (by the end of last season, Myers had assumed the role over Boss). As for the OL, four of the five starters are returning. Bottom line: if we suffer on offense, the problem is more likely our coaches and scheme, NOT the players.
On defense, our big four of Seymour, Kelly, Houston and Shaughnessy are all returning. McClain is returning, fully healthy. Curry will miss 6 games on the PUP, so 2 new faces will start at OLB. Branch and Huff are returning. But amazingly, all six of our CBs are new faces. Is this a downgrade? Hardly. DVD was drafted to play traditional Raiders press-man coverage. Allen and Tarver are implementing a much more versatile scheme, requiring different skill sets – hence the addition of Hanson, a veteran player who can lock-down the slot OR play zone. Under the direction of Allen and Tarver, it is difficult to imagine our defense can be anything other than vastly IMPROVED in 2012.
Perhaps this take more accurately reflects the mindset of Reggie, DA and the entire revamped Raiders organization: "The NFL is very much a win now league. With players moving all the time, there really is no true rebuilding." In other words, one thing hasn’t changed: JUST WIN, BABY!
The AFC West is up for grabs. Our 2012 Oakland Raiders can win the division and finally return to the post-season, WHERE WE BELONG.
1-Bad 2- Leaning Bad 3-TE2T (Leaning Good) 4-Good 5-All Pro
TE2T = "Too Early To Tell"
Offense (at the beginning of each season):
QB Overall: 4-Good QB Overall: 2-Leaning Bad
4: C. Palmer 2: J. "Back Foot" Campbell
3: M. Leinart 0: K. Boller
3: T. Pryor 3: T. Pryor
Palmer can read defenses, but tends to be a gunslinger. He gets rid of the ball because he knows what it means to be open in the NFL. He throws an accurate long ball.
Depth: Leinart is a major upgrade over Boller and Pryor has huge upside potential.
RB Overall: 4-Good RB Overall: 4-Good
5: McFadden 5: McFadden
3: T. Jones 4: M. Bush
2: M. Goodson 3: T. Jones
FB Overall: 4-Good FB Overall: 4-Good
5: M. Reece 5: M. Reece
3: O. Schmitt
WR Overall: 4-Good WR Overall: 4-Good
4. D. Heyward-Bey 4. D. Heyward-Bey
5. D. Moore 4. J. Ford
4. J. Ford 3. L. Murphy
3. R. Streater 4. D. Moore
TE Overall: 3-TE2T TE Overall: 2-Bad
3. B. Myers 2. K. Boss
3. R. Gordon 3. B. Myers
2. D. Ausberry 3. D. Ausberry
OL Overall: 4-Good (Pass) 3-TE2T (Run) OL Overall: 4-Good
4. J. Veldheer (LT) 4. J. Veldheer (LT)
3. C. Carlisle (LG) 4. S. Wisniewski (LG)
4. S. Wisniewski (C) 3. S. Satele (C)
3. M. Brisiel (RG) 3. C. Carlisle (RG)
3. K. Barnes (RT) 3. K. Barnes (RT)
Defense (at the beginning of each season):
DL Overall: 5-All Pro DL Overall: 5-All Pro
5. L. Houston 5. L. Houston
4. T. Kelly 4. T. Kelly
5. R. Seymour 5. R. Seymour
5. M. Shaughnessy 5. M. Shaughnessy
LB Overall: 3-TE2T LB Overall: 1-Awful
3. M. Burris 1. Q. Groves
3. R. McClain 1. R. McClain
3. P. Wheeler 1. K. Wimbley
In 2011, McClain was too slow in every way that mattered. His reads were too slow, he consistently filled the wrong gap and he could not avoid offensive linemen. We later found out he played much of the season with injuries. And his deficiencies were caused in great measure by "the Pillow’s" horrid defensive schemes. I was overly critical of McClain last year and believe he should be given the benefit of the doubt. When (if?) Curry returns off the PUP, our LBs could be outstanding.
Corner Overall: 3-TE2T Corner Overall: 1-Awful
3. R. Bartell 4. S. Routt
3. S. Spencer 1. C. Johnson
Johnson was an unimaginable downgrade. When he left with injuries I believed at the time he would never play another down for the Raiders (or likely any other NFL team).
Safety Overall: 3-TE2T Safety Overall: 1-Awful
3. M. Huff 3. M. Huff
3. T. Branch 1. T. Branch
The Raiders need safeties who can put fear into opposing receivers, hit people hard and provide run support. Huff is serviceable at FS, but Branch is still a question mark, franchise tag or no.
PK Overall: 5
Punter Overall: 5
ST Overall: 1
Hoffman’s inadequacy as our special teams coordinator is a glaring weakness. Hopefully he does not cost the Raiders games in 2012 – and a very real shot at the playoffs.