Saturday, July 28, 2007

The Other July Questions

First I must note that question #1 has only become more worrying at the Tackle position. Sims remains unchallenged, and now career backup Cornell Green is leading the RT race? Hmm.

So before August starts, here are a few additional July questions:

2. Can we stop the run?

Last year the defense did well thanks to a terrific pass defense and increasingly conservative play calling by opponents as the score differential swelled into the double-digits by the third quarter. But quality RBs continue to hurt the Raiders - and we see plenty of those in the AFC West. The defense is fast but lacks bulk in the middle. This year, Sapp lacks even more bulk in his middle, which should improve his ability to beat Burgess to the QB but will not keep interior linemen off of Morrison. The linebackers are built to get to the sideline, not to plug running lanes in the middle.

The Raiders' only moves to address this were to lock up Terdell Sands and sign a run-stuffing Safety in Donovin Darius. The Raiders think so much of Big Terd that they passed on Alan Branch in the draft. Of course this move may have been prioritization, because they turned Alan Branch into Zach Miller, Josh McCown, and Mike Williams. Darius should be a big help in running situations...but that brings us to the next question.

3. What is the plan at Safety?

During OTAs we heard a lot of talk about "Right" and "Left" Safeties rather than Free and Strong. The obvious reason: the Raiders drafted Michael Huff #7 overall to make big plays, and last year he was a bit cramped at Strong Safety (and Gates/Gonzo specialist). He and Schweigert combined for zero INTs. So was this some sort of Kiffin Cover-2 scheme or was Schweigert being moved aside in favor of Huff? The answer that Darnell Bing's move to Safety hoped to bring was delivered in the Donovin Darius signing. Huff will play in space this year. The first reports out of training camp indicate that Huff will be an every down Safety with Darius playing Strong Safety in running situations and Schweigert joining Huff in passing situations. A wildcard may be fifth round pick Eric Frampton, although he may be waiting in the wings while Darius gives us one year of service. It will be interesting to see how this will play out. How will they scheme against Gates and Gonzo? Who is our nickel DB?

4. How good is this group of WRs?

The key to a Raider resurgence may be the talent we have hiding at WR. Every player carries some level of risk, but the Raiders appear to have placed enough bets to cover a few busts. This is Porter's year to finally break out. He's in shape, well rested from a year in the doghouse, and playing with something to prove. Reports from OTAs were that he looked like an elite WR. But will he stay happy? Meanwhile, Curry has come into his own after recovering from two Achilles tears. He was open all the time late last year in an offense with no weapons. But can he stay healthy? Mike Williams is pure upside. If he can get serious and reclaim some magic after being reunited with Kiffin, it would be a huge bonus for the Raiders. But is this realistic?

Doug Gabriel is back. He has shown flashes of brilliance during his tenure in Oakland. But why was New England so quick to cut him? Johnnie Lee Higgins was a bit of a surprise pick in the third round, but he appears ready to take on return duty. Will his speed make Whitted and Francis expendable? Preseason superstar Johnnie Morant seems to be on the verge of starting in August, only to ride the bench all year long. Rumor has it he's extremely unintelligent. Will he grasp Kiffin's playbook or be sent packing? Travis Taylor appears to be insurance. When all else fails he should provide steady contribution.

Additional good news for the passing game: Zach Miller signed today. Now if only we had a rookie to throw all these guys the ball.

1 comment:

dobolina said...

The mistake of drafting Russell is already starting to rear its ugly head.

The Raiders should have drafted Calvin Johnson and traded for Schaub.

They had the ammunition, but didn't pull the trigger, and now they're paying for it.

Al Davis is dragging the Raiders into the grave with him...;_ylt=AhNE.NO1BiZ89cEfMcu8x9s5nYcB?slug=jc-raidersrussell080507&prov=yhoo&type=lgns