Offensive Line Worries:It is not a well kept secret in the NFL that the Oakland Raiders offensive line, in recent years, has been, well, just plain offensive. With a motley crew of cast-offs and inexperienced players consisting of such players as Alan Pelc, Roy Schuening, Alex Parsons, Bruce Campbell, Stephon Heyer, Lou Eliades, Seth Wand, Daniel Loper (whose claim to fame in Oakland is the 'Holy Loper' on youtube.com) and Cody Habben it should be no surprise that offensive line is an area of great concern for the 2011 Oakland Raiders. In fact, the supposed strength, at least on paper, of this unit consists of either off tier linemen or raw players, even some rookies, such as Stefen Wisniewski (R), Joe Barksdale (R), Jared Veldheer (1), Khalif Barnes, Cooper Calisle, and Samson Satele. This is not to say that all the above mentioned players are all rubbish, though not too surprisingly many players named above may not even make the final roster cut, but rather that the offensive line is in fact an area of great concern for the Silver n' Black.
With the loss of Robert Gallery and Coach Tom Cable, whose strength was coaching the offensive line, the Raiders may be in more trouble than last year. Additionally, two players, that have seen significant playing time in recent years, Cooper Calisle and Samson Satele, may not even fit the current move toward a power blocking team that Coach Hue Jackson plans on employing in the coming season. What does all this mean? Well, for now, that the offensive line is one reason why the Raiders may disappoint.
My Take: Having Offensive Line Coach Bob Wylie in charge of this group does not immediately engender confidence, however, having Steve Wisniewski as the Assistant Offensive Line Coach does raise the optimism level somewhat.
Free Agent Losses:There is little, if any, doubt that the biggest losses in this year's free agency for the Silver n' Black are Nnamdi Asomugha and Zach Miller. The effect of Miller's loss has been assuaged somewhat by the timely addition of Kevin Boss from the New York Giants - though replacing a Pro Bowl player, even an alternate, may prove more difficult than many may want to believe. Nevertheless, Boss has a reputation of being a solid blocker with decent catching ability, so this loss is arguably bearable. Consequently, there is little doubt that Oakland Raiders' most serious loss this off season is the departure of Nnamdi Asomugha to the Philadelphia Eagles.
Asomugha's exit coupled with the rich contract given to Stanford Routt that, after restructuring, made him the third highest paid cornerback in the league means that Stanford Routt needs to step up significantly for the Raiders. This obviously is an area of great concern for opposite Routt is the often beleaguered Chris Johnson. Notwithstanding Football Outsiders much ballyhooed burn rate and Routt's mercurial placement on that list, many Raider fans can recall with dread the games in which Routt was routinely burned. The question for the Oakland Raiders and their fans is which Stanford Routt will show up?
My take: This may be an up and down season in regards to the cornerback play in Oakland.
Titans in 2010 where Campbell chose not to rush for an ostensibly easily attainable first down in the waning minutes of a game, which was within the grasp of victory - had Campbell not nonchalantly trotted safely out of bounds well short of that all important first down and any defenders. This lack of fire, or passion, together with his reputation, whether deserved or not, of being a check down king and padding his stats in the waning minutes of lost games raises significant concerns for the Oakland Raiders in the coming season.
To be fair, Jason Campbell supporters argue that he has not had consecutive seasons in the same system since high school, until this season, and adherents further point to his physical skills; Campbell is tall, does have a strong enough arm, and has been accurate at times. Moreover, they argue that the Raiders have not had a strong line (true) and his receivers could be significantly better (again, true). Nevertheless, despite the veracity of these claims, what has changed? The Oakland Raiders still have glaring question marks at both the offensive line and wide receiver positions. Whether or not Jason Campbell's skill set can overcome all these questions will be seen in the coming season, however, with the offensive line the way it is and the composition of the receivers relatively unchanged (Moore on this later), quarterback play for the Oakland Raiders is an area of concern.
My take: Jason Campbell is capable enough to deserve at least another season to see if he can progress as the starting quarterback with the Silver n' Black.