Rejuvenated by a tremendous off-season, Al Davis is not only getting younger, but much better looking.
I remember looking at the press release and quickly sinking into that familiar and wretched abyss. It seems like yesterday, yet it feels like a lifetime ago. The feeling came on quickly and with one sentence. "Stanford Routt was given the highest possible tender," it was like I was living a whole season of pain in one instant.
That was all it took and shell shock had me cowering and kissing the ground in too shallow of trenches while clinging to the desperate hope that the panzer tanks would once again pass me by. An overreaction, sure, but it was a sign that we were rolling headlong into another blind off-season. I began a manic search for my medicinal Marijuana and anti-anxiety prescriptions. You know, the open ended one offered to all Raiders fans that have sympathetic doctors.
Then funny things began to happen. Pigs began flying past my window, demons were stealing parkas to take home, monkeys flew out of my butt and the Raiders moves began to make sense. Pieces were falling into place and like the sun piecing through the seemingly dense and never ending fog, a plan began to emerge.
The funniest thing about the funny thing: The plan is still unveiling itself and it just keeps getting better.
The one question that lingered over the Raiders off-season strategy was their lack of ambition in acquiring a run stuffing DT. We saw them pass on candidate after candidate on draft day. Fans were perplexed by this, but largely over looked it due to the quality of players they were getting. Still…the questioned remained: What are they going to do in the trenches to slow the opposition's running game?
Then, seemingly out of nowhere, the answer arrived and it arrived for nothing. Well, not for nothing. I sure as hell couldn’t pay his salary, whatever it is, but in the football world this addition did not come at the expense of any other. In this capless year, his one-year salary is of no consequence.
With the signing of John Henderson the Raiders gave their answer to the last remaining question in the off-season plan.
The answer is the Raiders did not like the DT’s that were available when they could have drafted them. They chose players they felt would be better additions to this team while changing foundation and culture of this organization. They knew they could pass on these DT’s, whose future greatness they weren’t convinced of, because they knew they could sign John Henderson and they believe he can still play.
Maybe the strategy doesn’t work out. Maybe Henderson doesn’t make the team. Maybe Lamarr Houston busts, while Terrance Cody excels. Maybe Cam Thomas goes onto a stellar career. As always, time will tell on the draft picks and John Henderson. We can judge the plan now on its merits and vision and as long as John Henderson still has something left in the tank, this plan has no flaws.
After the singing of Henderson, I did feel a twinge of worry, while reading one report by Jerry McD that an anonymous front office type told him that Henderson can no longer play. Couple this with the fact that Henderson was still available and I was a little worried this guy may be totally washed up. Other insiders felt that Henderson still was a solid presence against the run. Who is to be believed?
Jags fans are split on what he is going to bring to the table, but not one of them felt he was totally washed up.
Only a little person’s sized handful believes that Henderson will only show brief moments of productivity. This is balanced out by a slightly bigger handful of people feeling he will have a big year.
Throw out the negating high and lows and what do we have? John Henderson will be somewhere between a great and average run stuffing DT. Shaweet! An average run stuffing DT sounds fucking awesome and a great run stuffing DT gets me harder than a Bronco fan at a family reunion.
Average run D is light years ahead of what was brought by the man he is replacing. Gerrard Warren was pathetic against the run. He had a couple of decent games, but disrupting a team's run game was never his strong point to begin with.
Gerrard played more snaps than I think the Raiders should try and get out of Henderson, but it sounds as ifis ready for increased action and with the acquisition of Houston it should allow Seymour to get in more snaps at DT. They have plenty of defensive line flexibility and the depth to keep everyone fresh.
I do not, however, think the increased flexibility will lead to more 3-4 looks. Contrary to what may be believed, I think this move points to the fact that the Raiders will not spend much time lined up in the 3-4. When the Jags used 3-4 sets last year, Henderson played DE and he has never played NT.
On run downs it should be 4-3 only. It is in the passing situations where this team will be able to get creative. This defense is littered with hybrid players on all levels of the defense, from Houston and Seymour to Wimbley, Scott and Groves and to Mitchell. It’ll be interesting to see how Marshall plays to the strengths of these players, which leads to an interesting question.
One problem solved on D means another takes the #1 spot. This team seems to have many players better suited for the 3-4 than the 4-3, but they still don’t have the NT for it. At this point though, I am more curious than worried, as I am through questioning the plan. I am now just anxiously waiting to see how they unleash their weapons in the new look defense.