Saturday, March 29, 2008

Raiders Won't Take Long Way Home

By Rick Richardson

Does the signing of Kalimba Edwards mean that there is no need to consider Chris Long should he fall to number 4? With the addition of Kalimba Edwards, the Raiders have made a significant investment in the defensive end position, so a Long selection could be seen as money spent in an area of lesser need.

It looks more and more as if we will see Jamarcus Russell having quite a stable of horses to run the ball during his development phase. This might be just what the doctor ordered. Nothing builds a quarterbacks confidence more than knowing he doesn’t have to carry the team on his arm. This places undue pressure on his decision-making. Decision making after all is the bane of all developing quarterbacks, and forcing the ball can ruin the psyche and thus retard or even ruin careers.

Although Mcfadden will be a fun pick the Raiders would be wise to trade down with Dallas. As I mentioned in another post, the archaic draft value chart does not fit well in the present. Teams give a considerable weight to the investment needed for a top four pick, and conversely offer less than the chart would dictate, so the Raiders might not get as much as they would like.

Al loves a good deal and probably won’t get his asking price for the number four pick. He will most likely look at the value in the fourth pick, see Mcfadden as someone who could be on the field in multiple situations, and pull the trigger. There are many situations where Michael Bush could be lined up in the backfield, while Mcfadden is in the slot.

Whether you love or hate the pick, get ready to welcome Darren Mcfadden into the fold, and prepare yourself to deal with the fact that the Long family will soon have two franchises to follow on Sundays next fall.

Wednesday, March 26, 2008

Al please call Jerry

By Rick Richardson

I have been saying all along that Al will pick running back Darren Mcfadden in the 2008 NFL draft. The pick is too glamorous for someone looking to bring back the old glory. The feature back to compliment the star quarterback. Use the crafty offensive line coach to squeeze a little more juice out of a patchwork line. Now go grab a wide out in the draft with speed to burn, and wait for June 1st cuts to pull a DT off the heap for another Super Bowl run. But Al before you do all of this please call Jerry Jones and see if he is as enamored with Mcfadden as reported. If you can nab picks number 22 and 28 in the draft you have to go for it.

After all you already have a thunder and lightening approach in Justin Fargas and Tyrone Wheatley….I mean Michael Bush. Take a look at the video above and tell me he doesn’t remind you of Wheatley. The long stride and punishing shoulder. He also has decent hands for a big back. If you imagine hard enough you might think Wheatley has been cloned. Throw in Dominic Rhodes and you have the ghosts of Charlie Garner and Tyrone Wheatley. A formula that worked pretty well in its day.

With those coveted picks the Raiders could fill glaring holes at left tackle and add a speed wide receiver to stretch the field. It might be a reach to think the Raiders could wrestle that much away from the Cowboys, but I’m sure the old wizard could pull it off even if he had to offer up some picks in 2009.

Monday, March 24, 2008

Quick Hits

By Rick Richardson

It has been slow news since the frenzy of the Raider’s early foray into free agency, so let’s speed it up with a few quick hits.

- Jerry Porter is happy now that he has joined the Jaguars, and per a few reports all smiles. Quick note to all Jags fans, Jerry smiled a lot while coasting along with the Raiders. He also presented the symptoms of the “me, me” syndrome. He once parked in the owners parking spot just to reward the team for all of the millions that they invested in him, and taunted a few fans along the way. On a side note if you are waiting for the speed that has been described by many would be scouts, you are going to be mildly disappointed when your new hot rod is missing a gear. Porter is an athletic possession receiver whose skills will erode fast do to the lack of commitment to the game.

- Are college pro days very accurate? Brian Brohm was the latest to post an impressive jump in his forty time. It could be a more familiar running surface helps, but my bet is on a more familiar timer. While forty times, vertical leaps and bench presses are nice evaluation tools of athletic ability, the good scouts will rely on the player’s game day skills. Note to Raiders scouts, turn off the combine footage and turn on the game tapes. This draft needs to reveal some football players, not decathlon athletes.

- Speaking of Wonderlic scores, it was reported that Ryan Clady scored a 13. Wonderlic scores test logic. Slamming your head into another well armored 300 pound man is hardly logical in the first place, so you can keep your Wonderlic scores as they are meaningless. I had a teammate that had the academic skills of Forrest Gump, but put him on the field and he was Albert Einstein. Again, Raiders scouts, watch the game day tape.

- Here is a quick note to fans. Don’t worry so much about the salary cap. There are so many ways to manipulate the cap, and trying to follow the numbers can be dodgy at best. It is especially hard to keep on top of cap situations when relying on sour news reporters to disseminate the information. An example is DeAngelo Hall’s contract. Headlines that are meant to sell papers read “Raiders Over Pay”. While the money being generated and thrown around by the NFL would make most third world economies envious, old Publilius Syrus was right when he said "Everything is worth what its purchaser will pay for it." If the Raiders had not, someone else would. And as far as the draft is concerned, giving up a 2nd this year and a 5th next April sounds cheap. Do a little digging and see how many 2nd or 5th rounders make two pro bowls in their first four years. And yes Al is right on this one; in the modern day pass happy NFL you can never have too many great corners. It allows you to do so much more up front. I’ll take a team full of great players and little cap space over the alternative any day. But I digress.

- The pundits describe the Eagles as having bolstered their defense with Asante Samuel and Chris Clemons. They describe the Raiders as over paying for Hall who has arguably equal talent, and a smaller contract. And last year no one claimed the Raiders had bolstered their defense when they gave Clemons a chance at a 2nd NFL life and then developed him for his big payday. Yes, that was a blatant homer statement, and yes this is a Raider blog.

Tuesday, March 18, 2008

Raiders make a Hall

By Rick Richardson

Now that DeAngelo Hall is essentially in the fold as per Michael David Smith of Pro Football Talk, the Raiders need to sign Nnamdi Asomaugh to a long term deal very soon. This could create one of the most dynamic secondaries in the NFL. Asomaugh, Hall, Huff and Wilson could make it really tough on opposing offenses next year. Whether you personally like the deal or not; I can bet the rest of the AFC West didn't approve.

Asomaugh was picked on less than any cornerback in the league last year. His opportunities are going to increase ten fold , so now is the time to lock him up. With an 8 to 10 interception season his price is going to jump exponentially.

Sunday, March 16, 2008

What the "Al" is going on?

By Rick Richardson

Even Al’s detractors have to give him credit. When most teams are barely causing a ripple in the off-season stirring of the talent pool, Al is jumping in and yelling “cannon ball”! Whether you have already written him off as the equivalent of the declining Fidel Castro of the NFL, or you think “Slick” is going to grab more NFL glory for years to come; you have to admit that Al is making the void of on field action fun.

I know, I know….you don’t want the off-season to be fun, you want the miserable in-seasons to start being worth their investment. Take heart Raider fans, the timeless outlaw may be rolling the dice for one last big payday. Maybe out with a blaze of glory, and then hand the reigns to a new Raider czar.

The roster at the end of 2007 was still in need of a shake up. Watching the Raiders on Sundays last season you could feel from the outset they we were generally out manned. It was only a matter of time until they succumbed to the pressure, as it has been for several seasons now. The big plays at the end of games weren’t just terrible luck, they were inevitable as teams finally woke up, found our weaknesses, and subsequently knocked us out.

The Raiders have spent money profusely this off-season, but at least you can say they haven’t sat on their hands. The team has been shaken and stirred, giving anyone with a pulse in Raider land just a little hope even if they won‘t admit it. Al has never had trouble with the salary cap, so it might be time to quit worrying about the financial side and start enjoying the new group of players to dawn the silver and black.

The latest splash into free agency looks to be corner back DeAngelo Hall. Paired with Nnamdi Asomugha we could see the best corner duo for the Raiders since stick' um was legal. A move like this can be game changing. With two shut down corners the opponents game planning just took a wicked turn. Jay Cutler probably sat up out of bed in a cold sweat last night with visions of sacks and interceptions. With this move Fabian Washington or Stanford Route can slide to nickel to form a formidable pass defense allowing Burgess and company the added time to turn a close call into a train wreck for opposing quarterbacks.

This also opens up a scenario where the Raiders could select Vernon Gholston. I would prefer a trade down, but with Al’s go for broke approach don’t look for that to happen. My money is still on Al picking the flash pick with Mcfadden, balancing out the spending spree on the defense with a little more spending on the offense.

Keep it up Al, and this fun off-season could give a lot of the Raider bashers a few shiny objects with Lombardi tattooed on the side to envy in the next year or two.

Tuesday, March 11, 2008

Amusing Raider rumors

By Rick Richardson - Self proclaimed Raider expert

Rumor mills are what the off season is all about, but some of the unsubstantiated rumors flying out of Raider land are bordering on hilarious.

Here are just a few cases in point.

- Jamarcus Russell has ballooned to 300 pounds! May or may not be true, and may even be irrelevant. Who doesn’t gain a few pounds here and there? I’m sure as a pro athlete there is a small window of opportunity to kick back and relax after a grueling season. Russell is a very big man by the way. At 6-6 and 265, it wouldn’t be too tough to weigh as much as his offensive lineman with just a little inactivity. I’m sure when mini camps start Russell just might find the motivation to drop a few pounds. Of the off season rumors this one ranks up there with the most absurd. By the way, I wonder how they got his weight? Did they slip a scale under him when he wasn’t looking, or did they just hire a carnival games worker to guess?

- Lane Kiffin is as good as gone! Al sent a letter for his resignation. Kiffin won’t wear the Raider colors. Someone has caught him dancing. Kiffin and Al were caught in a mixed martial arts style duel to the death in the parking lot at Raider headquarters. Okay, maybe the last one was written with just a little sarcasm, but the others have just as much actual evidence as the last. Most of these rumors at least have some bearing on the Raiders, but dancing?

- The Raiders are spending too much on free agents. How dare they compete for the players they want. Shouldn’t Al have already conceded to the big market owners? By now Al was supposed to have adopted the philosophy of the old Bill Bidwell led Cardinals. The Cardinals of old used to stay so far below the cap that the league and players union had to mandate minimum cap expenditure.

This is part of the fun being a Raiders fan. You get to sift through the vitriol spewed by more than a few writers with a downright disgust for the Raiders organization.

Thursday, March 6, 2008

Al will draft who?

By Rick Richardson - Self proclaimed Raider expert

With the fourth overall selection in the 2008 NFL draft, the Oakland Raiders select….Darren Mcfadden, running back from the University of Arkansas. A few cheers and several groans later, a slow creeping optimism will be felt by even the most pessimist of Raider fans. It is the annual rite of training camp. Is this the pick that I would want or think that is best for the Raiders? Not by a long shot. The Raiders have much bigger needs, but needs are not what Al Davis typically went after in the draft until recently. The maverick in Al always went after the best athlete available. A view that Jerry Jones owner of the Cowboys would later share. With the recent return to “we don’t rebuild, we reload” philosophy being shown by Al, I believe that is the pick he is going to make. Al loves the stars, and Mcfadden definitely has that star potential.

Analyzing recent moves it looks like Davis realizes that occupying the helm of the Raiders is a finite job. His health has slipped recently along with his legacy. In every corner of the press he is being portrayed as a man that has lost his gift for the game, if not his marbles. That is hard to take for anyone, and it makes me think that Al is going for broke (no pun intended), to reclaim the “Greatness of the Raiders”. Is he overspending? Probably, but there are only so many free agents, and only so much time when health concerns start to rob us of the illusion of immortality. At 78, Al doesn’t want to wait for the 5 year plan. Who would? And the free agents available are what they are; they are the only free agents available.

The same holds true for the draft. Left Tackle is the most pressing need, but Left tackles rarely step in and dominate immediately like Joe Thomas did last year. For every Tony Boselli and Orlando Pace, there are a dozen like Tony Mandarich. At the next level they slip. It can be said that every position suffers from this, but I think along both lines of scrimmage it is more prominent. The line requires incredible strength and size, and I fear that this is where steroid testing sometimes returns more than a few behemoths back to mere mortals. Left tackles and linemen in general are best found in the lower rounds. Free agency is where you splurge on a proven left tackle if he becomes available.

Mcfadden will probably end up being a nice pick. He has pretty good talent, although I am not sold on his overall ability. He is compared to Marcus Allen. The only similarity that I can see is his versatility. Marcus could quarterback also and had great receiving hands. But Mcfadden seems to have weak legs. He will need to be paired with a workhorse back in a lightening and thunder type of situation. Michael Bush might be a good compliment. Last year I advocated for Adrian Peterson. Not that I am not happy with Jamarcus Russell, but I thought he could help us win now. Comparing Mcfadden to Peterson is like comparing apples to oranges. Adrian is explosive and powerful, while Mcfadden is more finesse. In the end Mcfadden will probably have a longer career because Peterson is on the Earl Campbell career plan of doling out punishment at a heavy cost, but I would take seven years of “wow” over 12 years of pretty good any time.

The best thing the Raiders could do is trade down and pick up multiple picks. They don’t need another high draft pick eating up the cap, and have many holes to fill. But on draft day Al will go for the splash.

New look Raiders or same old story? Part Two

By Rick Richardson - Self proclaimed Raider expert

Al Davis seems to be going back to the philosophy of reloading instead of rebuilding. Let’s take a look at the reloading and the unloading of the Raider’s roster.

- Gibril Wilson signs after a Super Bowl victory with the New York Giants. This satisfies Al’s yearly penchant for Super Bowl players, but isn’t the typical Larry Brown or Desmond Howard free agent splash. Wilson fills a very important need that has haunted the Raiders since Rod Woodson’s retirement. Wilson is an up and comer similar to Derrick Burgess when he was signed from the Eagles. Both had four years under their belt, decent early careers, and their best years in front of them. Wilson costs some decent green, but the improvement in the secondary should be noticeable immediately. He is a quality safety both in terms of coverage skills and being able to take proper angles and make the tackle.

- Barry Sims is released after a decent if not spectacular career. At times Barry was solid enough, but as of late too many false starts and beatings by speed rushers finally took its toll. The last play from scrimmage this year was a Russell sack where Sims’ man came in untouched, blindsiding the future of the Raiders viciously. In Sims’ defense it looked as if he was performing a down block and quite possibly the running back was supposed to pick up the end, but more than likely in that situation, since it was a straight drop back pass by Russell, Sims missed his assignment. As Russell came off the field you could plainly see the disgusted look on his face. Terrible way to end the season, and if you are Barry Sims possibly the straw that broke the camel’s back. His release doesn’t give much cap relief, but I am sure it helps pay for some of the bonuses that are being thrown at other free agents.

- Free agent losses have not been significant. Chris Clemons probably hurts the most because of his recent development. He had eight sacks during a break out year, but was not worth big coin and it was best to let him go. He was a journeyman that spent 2006 without a team, and quite possibly could disappear again. Porter’s flight could help rid the Raiders of another long time whiner. He could tease you with a one handed circus catch, and then disappear for the rest of the game. His deep speed had diminished and after eight years in the league, I believe he is headed for the downside of his career. His “me first” attitude far outweighed his contributions on the field. Unlike many I hated to see McCown go. He was a very serviceable backup with a gritty nature. It would have been nice to keep him in the wings, but not for the $14 million the Dolphins shelled out. Tyler Brayton’s voiding of his contract was a huge benefit to the Raiders. The Raiders tried Tyler at three different positions with very little success. He disappeared at defensive end. He looked like Kramer from a Seinfeld episode falling into folding chairs when asked to cover speedy backs out of the backfield during his failed attempt as a dinosaur of a linebacker. He was equally as unimpressive as a defensive tackle, making it even more confounding that he opted out of his contract early to pursue his worth in free agency.

So what do we have so far? The additions are adding up to more than the subtractions and that is hard to do in the salary cap era.

Tuesday, March 4, 2008

New look Raiders or same old story? Part One

By Rick Richardson - Self proclaimed Raider expert

As any Raider fanatic with a few years (decades) under his belt, I find myself contemplating the recent past and the not so distant future. Analyzing recent moves and comparing them with those of the past while trying to gage the state of the Raiders as an economist would try to look at today’s rough and tumble economy. Hopefully using trends of the past I can see some glimmer of hope in my proverbial crystal ball. Are the Raiders going to pull themselves out of this quagmire, or are they headed deeper into a recession, or for many of us long suffering fans an outright depression.

In the next coming weeks leading up to the draft I will attempt to get a read on where the Raiders are heading by using trends past and present to see if Al has this ship righting itself, or just taking on more water. If you are a Raider historian many of these moves are eerily familiar, and a basic prediction of success or failure of these moves can be assumed by looking at results from the past. So let’s take a look at the most recent Raider developments.

- Tommy Kelly signing makes everyone in and out of Raider land jump to their feet like an out of control courtroom at a murder trial. After the judge gets order back in the courtroom we find out the Raiders sentence. Seven years and $50.5million with $18.125 guaranteed. At first glance the league scoffers are right. That is crazy money for an undrafted and virtually unknown player outside of Oakland. But before you sign the petition for Al Davis’s committal, take a walk in his shoes.

In Kelly you have a young 6-6 300 pound defensive tackle that is very athletic and has great upside. Enough upside that arch rival Denver among others was ready to pounce at 12:01 Friday morning. Denver “might” not have broken the bank, but they have shown the propensity to overpay for arguably lesser talented defensive linemen in the past e.g. Daryl Gardner, Courtney Brown and Sam Adams. Using recent history one only has to look at Rod Coleman to see one that got away. Not anxious to repeat that mistake, I am sure Al took a look around the league and saw a gamble in Kelly that he was willing to take. The contract is back loaded to lessen some of the risk. Besides Kelly has the ringing endorsement of Warren Sapp and the versatility to play tackle or end.

So what does the crystal ball say? Al probably has decided that developing defensive tackles takes too long, and in Kelly he has an experienced player that stacks up pretty well with the top two defensive tackles in the draft. Both Sedrick Ellis and Glenn Dorsey have their drawbacks. Both Ellis and Dorsey are on short side at just over 6 foot, and Dorsey has health concerns regarding stress fractures. Neither are imposing and could face difficulty at the point of attack at the next level. Kelly will earn his keep in a break out year, and we will be glad he isn’t having said breakout year with a certain division rival. The crystal ball also says we won’t be taking a defensive tackle with the fourth overall pick. Who will we be taking? I’ll have that in the upcoming installments.