Wednesday, July 16, 2008

Top Ten Reasons for Hope in Raider Land

By Rick Richardson

The winds of change are starting to blow for the Oakland Raiders. The old guard is gone, with Warren “the disgruntled” Sapp giving way to what could be a new, youthful and exciting cast of athletes suiting up in the silver and black. There are many things to be excited about this year for Raider fans. Even skeptical Raider followers have to admit that the addition of Darren Mcfadden and a maturing Jamarcus Russell have added some much needed anticipation to the Raider season. It almost seems like the Raider’s fans are celebrating their birthday twice, since they barely got to unwrap last years gift in Russell, and now have a new gift in Mcfadden. Add untested Michael Bush and you have some exciting new weapons with which to wage ware on the AFC west. Oh, and did I mention DeAngelo Hall? I expect a lot of youthful enthusiasm this year, with fresh talent manning some key positions. There are a lot of years when I feel the Raiders have improved their roster marginally if at all, but this years potential seems leaps and jumps ahead of last years roster.

Here are the top ten reasons to get excited over the upcoming season.

10. Some of the players who have seen too much or can’t let the memories of failed seasons go have finally been cleared out. A continuous parade of disgruntled athletes are now allowed to share their negativity with other employers. May there be no more “fishy” quotes before the season opening kickoff again!

9. Josh McCown is a great guy. He is now a great guy in Miami.

8. Tommy Kelly could very well go from being scoffed at as overpaid and injured goods, to one of the brightest defensive lineman in the league. The potential is there, and this could be his breakout season. Rumor has it that he is gaining a fair amount of strength during his knee rehab. Kelly only played one year of high school football and could be about to turn all of that physical potential into production. I expect big things from Kelly, whose huge contract could seem genius when he puts it all together.

7. New strength and conditioning Coach Brad Roll could be almost as important as Tom Cable. The Raiders have been very poor in this department and it was time for an upgrade. Ronald Curry rarely lifted weights before Roll came on board and Jake Grove’s lack of strength has enabled him to find his way to the bench for far too long.

6. Another year of experience for two of the fastest, young linebackers in the game in Thomas Howard and Kirk Morrison. One or both will make the pro bowl this season.

5. The second coming of Hayes and Haynes in the pairing of Nnamdi Asomugha and DeAngelo Hall. Two immensely talented cornerbacks who want to be great. Raiders, you should have signed Asomugha to a long-term deal, because the interceptions are going to rise dramatically this year along with Nnamdi‘s value.

4. Last years top runner Justin Fargas might see his carries diminish greatly with a crowded stable that is full of stallions. Bush, Mcfadden, Fargas along with putting underachiever Lamont Jordan out to pasture equals….wow!

3. Jamarcus Russell is feeling less like a rookie every day. By protecting him with a stout defense and strong running game the Raiders can unleash this physical phenom.

2. Lane Kiffin is in year two. It is amazing how a little experience/confidence can help in coaching. Let the coach continue to grow his offense. He must be salivating at the weapons that are being assembled for his offense.

1. The offensive line is in year two of Tom Cables zone blocking overhaul. See number four and get ready for some serious ground and pound.