Marshall Faulk (@marshallfaulk) September 16, 2014
This off-season, the Raiders had a lot of needs (again) and a lot money to spend to fill those needs. With the future in mind, and not a lot of quality free agents falling over themselves to join a rebuilding club, the Raiders went with aged veterans who are looking to prove they still have something left in the tank.
With that veteran infusion, the hope was their leadership and showing the young guys who a champion carries himself would be enough to lift this ragtag group above its expectations. Thus far, none of that has proven to work.
The first big leader the team brought in was Justin Tuck, followed shortly by Lamarr Woodley, and Antonio Smith. All have former Pro Bowler who have put up great numbers and/or won a championship(s). And all are defensive linemen.
With that kind of firepower rebuilding the defensive line, it is almost assumed they will be one of the stronger units on the team. Not even close. In fact, the top performing defensive lineman is the one guy who was already here - Pat Sims.
None of them have recorded a sack through two games despite all three being heralded as great pass rushers in their careers.
Antonio Smith is a great guy and is well respected by his teammates. He gave the pep talk before they faced his former team, the Houston Texans, last week. Then he went out and had a terrible game, not recording a single statistic.
So, who else?
The quarterback? Rookie.
Middle linebacker? Injured.
Starting running back? Injured
Marcel Reece? Hard to lead on the field when you're in the game for 20% of the snaps.
The head coach? Let's not go there.
Charles Woodson? Hmm...
In his final run as a future Hall of Fame player, he is probably the closest thing this team has to a leader. Though he is already disheartened at the performance of this team. It could be he already sees his stretch run as an NFL player being a long one. The 16-year NFL vet came back to finish his career where it started and hates to see it end this way.
So far the veteran leadership this team brought hasn't been enough to lift them up to play above themselves. This team was counted out before the season began and, as Woodson said, they are letting the critics write their story for them.
It may seem to some to be an overreaction after just two games of the season. I would agree if not for how the Raiders performed in these two losses. The first two games were supposed to be two of the more ‘winnable' games this season. And the Raiders looked thoroughly outmatched in both games.
Now they head to Foxboro to face the Patriots, and then to London to face the Dolphins (who beat the Patriots already this season). If they start the season 0-4, then what? Wholesale changes? Change in mindset? Ride out the rest of a tough schedule and do this whole ‘add veteran leadership stopgaps' thing again next off-season?
I don't doubt the Raiders can improve this season. Having veterans who have been there and know what it takes to be the best at least offers that possibility. I don't see anyone giving up just yet. Incredibly discouraged, undoubtedly. But there is still some regrouping left in this bunch. Will it be enough to matter as far as the win/loss column? I have my doubts.