Oakland Raiders 2010 Season Preview: At Long Last, Hope
JaMarcus Russell is gone. That alone makes this offseason a rousing success for the Raiders. They also complemented that move with a series of other decisions that solidified many of the weakest spots of the roster. It was a welcome change from a past preference for workout warriors over proven performers and one that had many wondering if Al Davis had let his chauffeur handle the personnel decisions.
But that leaves us with the following question: Are we just seeing a drunk that has managed to stay dry for three days or has this franchise really turned the corner to a sober future?
Offense -- Jason Campbell was never going to be loved in Washington, yet all he had to do to become Oakland's favorite son is walk in the door. Life's funny that way, but it will take more than being the anti-JaMarcus to bring wins to the Black Hole. He'll need some receivers to step up and stretch defenses; he'll need his offensive line to give him time to find anyone that does; and he'll need his running backs to stay healthy. That's been a problem for Michael Bush and Darren McFadden this summer, but they're a talented pair that can help set up everything else offensively if all breaks correctly for the Raiders. Heat Index: 5
Defense -- The Raiders did some fine work here during the offseason. Kamerion Wimbley and Rolando McClain give the linebacking corps a dose of pass rush heat and inside dirty work, respectively, while John Henderson and LaMarr Houston should make the interior of the line a bad place for opposing running backs to enter. Holdover defensive ends Richard Seymour and Matt Shaughnessy round out what should be a much stronger front seven. Behind them is an intriguing mix of secondary talent starting, obviously, with Nnamdi Asomugha. There isn't a glaring weakness on this unit and that could spell a surprising amount of success for 2010. Heat Index: 6
Special Teams -- We may be near the end of the days when we could say that the two best players on the Raiders were their kicker and punter, but that's not a reflection on Sebastian Janikowski and Shane Lechler. They both remain among the best in their chosen fields and will remain huge weapons in the battle for field position. The return game doesn't figure to be quite as potent unless Jacoby Ford has a remarkable rookie season. Heat Index: 7
Coaching -- This should be the year that we finally start to learn what we have in Tom Cable. With a real quarterback under center and an upgraded defense, there are enough pieces for a good coach to mold into a competitive football team. Having Hue Jackson in charge of the offense should help. It's been a more varied and inventive offense than in years past, in large part because they have a quarterback capable of running such a scheme. Heat Index: 5
Intangibles -- There's something about this roster that makes it as though you'd have higher hopes for it if you didn't know they were going to be wearing silver and black on Sundays. That doesn't mean that this is the greatest collection of talent to ever walk onto a football field, but there remains this lingering feeling that nothing good can happen to the Raiders. Does that weight wind up crushing them or does it become the inspiration for a higher level of success? Heat Index: 6
Total Heat Index: 29/50 -- The defense has a chance to be in the top half of the league and the offense shouldn't be an embarrassment, a combination that should spell the best Raiders season in quite some time. Is that enough for the first winning season since 2002? The gut feeling says they aren't there yet, but it wouldn't be shocking if the Raiders are playing meaningful games in November and December.