Sunday, April 27, 2008

Raiders Have Two of Big Three

By Rick Richardson

It is commonly referred to as “the big three”. Everyone with any football knowledge knows that football games are won in the trenches. If the big boys don’t do their job, then get ready for a long day. However, to be a truly dominate team in the NFL you generally need the big three. Very few so-called dynasties have come without the star quarterback, running back, and wideout.

It is premature to claim that Jamarcus Russell and Darren Mcfadden will match their hype or that the Raiders are anything near heading for a dynasty, but on paper the Raiders have landed two heavy hitters. Where the wideout will come will be a future consideration, but as of now, some exciting things are coming together.

Draft day observations ~

* I liked the new stream lined draft clock. Ten minutes was plenty of time in the first round, but it did seem as though much of the player breakdowns were cut to keep up with the pace. Here is some constructive criticism for both networks; put a clamp on the petty arguments and focus on entertaining. Debate is great, but arguing for the sake of being right while three picks pass without any kind of analysis is frustrating. Some of the arguments on both networks made little sense. It reminded you of two drunken uncles nearly going to blows over something as abstract as who was the greatest boxer of all-time.

* Is it me or does it seem as though the networks always go to break when the Raiders are on the clock?

* Most of the critics thought that Mcfadden was heading for disaster by being selected by the Raiders. Many parroted the same argument of a terrible line being Mcfadden's downfall. The facts are Tom Cable and his zone blocking scheme rejuvenated the running game with the Raiders finishing with the number six ranked rushing offense. I predict more than a few cut back runs to the house this fall.

* Most of the talking heads either don’t know much about the Raiders and regurgitate the same old clichés when discussing the team, or speak with such unprofessional sarcasm that it becomes repetitive and boring. Michael Smith of ESPN was the exception. He was able to be critical of some of the inner workings of the Raiders without coming off as immature and petty. I realize the format for some of the new sports roundtable talk shows are supposed to be facetious and fast paced, but some become chaotic and painful to watch with their juvenile jabs.

* Mel Kiper is this generation’s Howard Cosell. Annoying as they come, but you still can’t wait to hear what he has to say when it comes to your team.

* Any time Ron Jaworski discusses anything to do with the Raiders, he looks as if he has just had an episodic flashback to 1980, and looks like he is licking his chops with delight at the serving of scorn he is about to deliver. He may one day begin shouting obscenities uncontrollably on air when discussing the team that stole his Super bowl. I chuckle every time I watch.

* On a personal note, I rooted for the selection of wide receiver Marcus Monk from Arkansas. Not only does he have tremendous size and leaping ability, but also his younger cousin was one of my former athletes from my coaching days. When he was a freshman, Monk told his cousin that he liked the Raiders and would love to play for them someday. He is coming off a knee injury, and I am sure the Raiders probably have filled their quota when it comes to players with risky wheels.

Saturday, April 26, 2008

Raider's Back To The Future

By Rick Richardson

Was there ever any doubt about the Raiders first pick? Even Lane Kiffin offered up a confession that his previous disinterest in Mcfadden was merely a smoke screen. After a few years of deviating from the norm, Al Davis was showing clear signs of a return to his roots. Most of his recent moves are vintage Raider maneuvers. Grabbing failed first round picks from the NFL scrap heap, and trading for disgruntled pro bowlers for bargain deals. Allen “Al” Davis is heading back to the future, and I have a feeling that it is going to work.

Chris Long would have been an excellent nostalgia pick, but Darren Mcfadden carries a certain Marcus Allen mystique as well. Marcus was an ex high school quarterback, while Mcfadden tossed seven touchdowns last year. Marcus was not known for blasting through his opponents, but never gave you a good angle to smack him. Mcfadden can’t compare when it comes to Marcus Allen’s gliding, shifty moves, but he makes up for with it with pure explosive acceleration. Allen changed the Raiders his first year, and so will Mcfadden.

Love the pick or hate it, you have to admit it is going to make Sundays in the fall fun. I would have loved a trade down for extra picks, but there is no denying the Raiders offense just gained a weapon. A freakishly fast weapon, who gained 4589 yards and 41 touchdowns in three seasons, playing in a conference known for tough, fast defenses.

Now here is hoping “Slick”, can finagle his way into round three with Lamont Jordan and a pick. Highly unlikely, but I don’t see Al sitting on his hands until round four. In the later rounds, the Raiders need to continue the retro theme and grab a Cliff Branch, Grady Jackson or how about a Rod Martin. Next year let’s hope the Raiders are picking no earlier than the late twenties.

Friday, April 25, 2008

Chief Concern for Raiders

By Rick Richardson

The Jared Allen trade could change the Raiders plans should Chris Long fall to four. There is nothing more unsettling than some of the Raider bloodlines landing in Kansas City wearing the hated red and yellow. Al Davis would buy a burial plot so he could prematurely turn over in his grave.

With Kansas City trading away Jared Allen, they are poised to land Long, should he fall to number five. Loaded with draft picks, I don’t see them dropping down and accumulating any more. On a side note to Allen, “don’t let the door hit you where the good Lord split you”. With this trade, the Chiefs got weaker…period.

The problem with having the number four followed by a hated rival is the future scenarios that spring up. Images of Vernon Gholston sack dancing in your head….ughhh. Gholston turning out to be the equivalent of Derrick Thomas is enough to make you sick. The aforementioned Chris Long putting on the customary Chief draft cap, or maybe in a twist of irony the black chief hat that is as wannabe as you could ask for. Is there any way the Chiefs brain trust could pull some old tricks out of their bonnet and draft another Ryan Sims as they did in 2002 with the sixth pick overall? How about another Sylvester Morris pick up, the ultimate wide receiver bust in 2000 with the 21st pick overall? I hope that with all of those picks the Chiefs get creative and draft a project like quarterback Joe Flacco outsmarting everyone, including themselves.

I still believe when the dust settles tomorrow that Chris Long will be gone to the Falcons or Rams if they don’t push the trade button, and Darren Mcfadden will be a Raider. I also believe that the Raiders will unload Fabian Washington for a pick. Hopefully we won’t see any of the rumored Michael Huff give away as has been rumored. I think he and Gibril Wilson are going to make an impressive safety tandem.

I have avoided mocks because frankly, there seem to be a few to choose from, and they almost all do a better job than I could, but here is my attempt at being Nostradamus.

1. Dolphins - T Jake Long
2. Saints via trade - DT Glenn Dorsey
3. Falcons -QB Matt Ryan
4. Raiders - RB Darren Mcfadden…please trade down!
5. Chiefs - DE/Lb Vernon Gholston or Chris Long to jack with the Raider nation.

Ah, the pre-draft paranoia. Drink it in, read a few dozen draft publications, and enjoy the rebuilding of the Raiders!

Monday, April 14, 2008

Raiders Need Sudden Impact

By Rick Richardson,

For NFL fans, the annual college draft is a chance for rebirth. Draft day is a chance to see a team select the players that will one day hoist the Lombardi Trophy. On April 26, a team that stunk the season before is the talk of the town. Suddenly thrust into the spotlight are the bottom feeders of the NFL. The hype is so thick it can be cut with a knife. Players have zoomed up and down the draft board, while experts extol their attributes with lisps that would make Cindy from Brady Bunch proud. For many NFL fans, this odd little affair has become a springtime ritual. An enjoyable diversion that can fit seamlessly into a Saturday afternoon's activities. After the first few picks, I usually find time to mow the lawn, and grill some steaks. Thank you DVR! It is those first five that hold the most drama after all. Especially since the Raiders have been in one of those slots too many times in the last several years.

Does the draft live up to its billing? Mostly no, sometimes yes. Let’s face it most teams miss. Not because the player is always worthless, but because with the money being spent and the cap ramifications, few teams have the luxury of letting a player develop. The leap from college to pro is large, and most rookies can’t create that sudden impact everyone is looking for. When picking in the top five everything is magnified. Players in the top 5 instantly vault to the top of the salary scale without playing one down of pro football. With this in mind teams picking in the top five need to look at acquiring the most bang for their buck. The immediate return on their investment. A pick that sells tickets. There is no room for a top five pick to take four years to develop anymore. If a player takes this long to season, the payoff usually is with a new team.

Therefore, with this in mind here is a look at the potential sudden impact makers of this draft.

Chris Long-

Sudden impact: This kid could be special. His non-stop motor and tenacious mentality could elevate a team. His father’s lineage is also a plus, especially for the Raiders.

Thud: His father’s legacy could pull him down. He is not huge, and the Raiders have already invested in Kalimba Edwards minimizing some of the need for DE.

Vernon Gholston-

Sudden Impact: Athletic freak. Put up wicked combine numbers. Gholston had a great game vs. Jake Long and Michigan. Could potentially be the next “freak” ala Jevon Kearse. Kearse definitely made a sudden impact in his earliest years although he faded quickly.

Thud: One scout compared him to Mike Mamula! Has the potential to be the typical workout warrior. He is a better fit for outside linebacker in the 3-4. Gholston could actually be the Brady Quinn of this year’s draft, stepping on the old draft day slippin’ slide, unless Raiders become enamored with his physical qualities.

Jake Long-

Sudden Impact: Could be this years Joe Thomas. Big, physical and strong. Potentially could make Jamarcus Russell feel comfortable in the pocket, accelerating Russell's growth.

Thud: Could be this years Robert Gallery. He is an offensive linemen limiting ticket-selling value. Better off finding that workhorse in the later rounds. Left tackle is a very tough position. Might struggle if forced into action early.

Darren Mcfadden-

Sudden Impact: Explosive speed and athleticism. Multi-faceted player with game changing ability. Good hands. Mcfadden carries with him star potential, which would be great for ticket sales. Would play right away.

Thud: More of a speed back than a pounder. Is not Adrian Peterson. Most runs are on the outside, and big runs up the middle were often through big holes. Missouri shut him down in the Cotton Bowl. Raiders already have stable of capable running backs.

Glenn Dorsey-

Sudden Impact: Could be the next Warren Sapp. Very strong with a non- stop motor. Can force teams to game plan around him. Has moderate star potential unless he becomes Sapp like, then he could marketing force. Would most likely play right away, as Raiders are thin at defensive tackle.

Thud: Could be unhealthy. Lots of money and poor health do not mix. Might get pushed around by massive NFL offensive linemen. Recent investments in defensive line might make it cost prohibitive.

Trade Down:

Sudden impact: Most likely would get players of equal or greater value. Could fill more holes in a Swiss cheese filled roster. Much less impact on cap. Raiders fans aren’t like typical fans. Most are knowledgeable and do not need star power to fill the seats. They want to see the team building a winner. There are many good players later on, and it is a guarantee that there will be late first round picks out performing top fives any given Sunday. The Raiders are thin on picks.

Thud: Chiefs, Broncos, or Chargers swoop in and pick the next superstar to haunt us for a decade. That is the only thud that matters to me.

Friday, April 4, 2008

Al Has His Pick

By Rick Richardson
I would like to create a mock draft, but there are a lot of quality well thought out scenarios already out there. One of the best is by Matt Mosley, author of The Hashmarks at ESPN.COM. I have a hard time disagreeing with most of the picks, especially number 4.

I have stated in the past that I believe it will be Darren Mcfadden, and after reading that he is coming in for an interview Monday I am even more convinced this will be the case. I still think the best scenario would be to trade down, but I am starting to get on board albeit a little late with this pick. Take a look at the Sacbee's, Raiders blog by Jason Jones and tell me that it wouldn’t be fun to see Mcfadden in Silver and Black, and absolutely disgusting to see him donning the Chiefs red and yellow. If you don’t think they would grab him with the pick below us, think again. They would love a two back attack of Larry Johnson and Darren Mcfadden, with Mcfadden pushing Johnson for the starting role in his rookie season. He has the potential to make an immediate impact. Much more than a left tackle and arguably more than a defensive linemen. Of course I would also be disgusted by Kansas City selecting Glenn Dorsey, but that pretty much goes for anyone they eventually select.

Mcfadden could take a lot of heat off of Jamarcus Russell as well as whomever claims the left tackle position. A strong running game slows that rush down to a crawl, bringing much needed relief to Jamarcus and a less than stellar left tackle.

Maybe the interview is just a smoke screen by Al . After all this time of year General Managers remind me of the paranoid George Costanza in the Seinfeld episode about the car dealership. George is being his usual hyper suspicious self, and when a salesman approaches him and Jerry, Jerry tells the salesman that he likes a certain car. George tells Jerry “What is wrong with you? You never tell 'em you like the car. You're not sure what you want. You don't even know why you're here. Later he gives another nugget pulled from his extensive experience by telling a salesman that Jerry is interested in a car but, “you don’t know what I’m doin’ here.” This is the approach club officials use as draft day nears. They purposely contradict themselves. Showing interest in players everyone in their right mind knows they are not interested in, just trying to spook someone into a trade. Al may be doing this to Dallas. Nevertheless, my bets are on the Raiders working the phones on April 26, and then running to the stage to pick the guy Al has wanted all along. DMC.

Thursday, April 3, 2008

Raiders Won't Like New Rules

By Rick Richardson

There are some new rules for the 2008 season. Defensive players can now force the offensive player out of bounds negating the sideline grab. The new rule was instituted to keep referees from having to decide whether the receiver would have stayed in bounds if it were not for contact by the defensive player. Prediction: This will only increase the pass interference penalties as corners will play the sideline more aggressively. This rule change takes away many fantastic plays. Some of the more acrobatic circus catches near the sideline will turn into a run of the mill incompletion.

However, the one that will bite the Raiders in the old pirate booty on a regular basis, say six times a year while touring the wild AFC West, will be the new facemask rule. No longer are there 5-yard incidental facemask infractions. The league felt that this put undue pressure on the official to make a judgment call. With the new rule, tugging the facemask and letting go immediately is not penalized, but if you hang on it is automatically 15 yards. How is this change? It is still very much a judgment call.

It is impossible to make anything foolproof because fools are so ingenious. ~ Murphy’s Law.

There will be plenty of controversy to go around next season. I wish the NFL had left well enough alone on both rule changes.

Note to Raider players. If history is a teacher, you had better stretch that neck, because it is going to be stretched for you the aforementioned 6 times a year, with nary a yellow flag to be seen.

Tuesday, April 1, 2008

Raiders Add John Wade

By Rick Richardson

As per Oakland, the silver and black have continued to reload by adding center John Wade formerly of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. This might not be as flashy as previous signings, but could prove as important. This area definitely needed some investment. Jeremy Newberry is an unrestricted free agent and may possibly be considering hanging it up due to past injuries. Jake Grove has suffered the injury bug recently and has never really been physical enough to claim the job. Games are won and lost in the trenches, and I am all for Tom Cable having every option he needs to work his magic.

Wade is a very good run blocker, and adequate in pass protection. Center is the quarterback of the line, making the blocking adjustments according to the defensive techniques. Wade is smart and very capable of being the offensive line leader. I haven’t watched him play much since his Jacksonville days, but his bio on seems promising.,John,76