Wednesday, July 4, 2007

July Question #1

With a day off for Al's birthday, I thought it a good time to post some thoughts on the Raiders' chances in 2007. McDonalds' lively blog is keeping us going through the summer doldrums. He's even got fans throwing statistical analysis at us! Perhaps imperfect, but some remarkably intelligent takes for an offseason blog. And great entertainment to see the predictable meathead reply: "Wins and losses are the only stats that matter!"

But as I looked for conclusions to be drawn in July, I realized instead I must go to the "offseason questions" format for today's post. It feels like we are a long way from answering a number of questions surrounding the team. The top question is not a new one:

Have we solved the offensive line problem?

While obvious to the naked eye last season, greater detail surrounding the disaster that was the Raider 2006 offensive line continued to ooze from Alameda during the first half of 2007. Conflicting instructions from the coaching staff, lack of or changes in direction, seemingly whimsical personnel moves. It's hard to evaluate the Raiders' talent based on last year alone. But this is the SECOND year in a row that the O-line has been labeled the Raiders' most glaring weakness. Has enough been done in the offseason?

New coaches with track records and a cut-block (gasp!) scheme will help. An experienced, starting guard (Carlisle) will help. Newberry - at a minimum for his leadership capabilities - will help. But what is the answer at tackle?

Perhaps there exists some explanation that tackles are not particularly important in a cut blocking scheme. Otherwise 2007 may shape up to be a rocky one. The obvious question is Gallery. My pessimism stems from his try-outs at guard on a team that has no strong starting tackle. Sims appears to have locked down the left tackle spot with ease - not a good sign whether you believe in a Sims resurgence or not. The Raiders did draft a tackle on the second day this year (Henderson), but the current sentence marks the most words I've ever seen between his name and the word "project."

The answer may rest in the moves the Raiders made at tight end. Fred Wakefield and Tony Stewart play more like third tackles than tight ends. And drafting Zach Miller ahead of every other area of need shows the priority Kiffin places on changing the approach to the TE spot. Miller will be the go-to TE, and blocking is a big part of his game. John Madsen and other matadors will likely go the way of Teyo Johnson.

So the tackles will get a lot of help this year while Gallery's career is evaluated and the Henderson project begins. It will be exciting to see McQuistan, Boothe, and Grove develop under an accomplished staff. But let's all cross our fingers that Sims holds up and Gallery comes around. I've seen enough of Shawn Merriman's dance for one lifetime.

1 comment:

dobolina said...

Merriman's going to dance all over Davis's grave! Whoo!

Genius my ass.

The drafting of JaMarcus Russell signals the beginning of the end for the almighty Al Davis.