This will be part of an ongoing series where we take a look at each individual team we will face this season.
It's hard to ask for a better team with which to open the season. The Oakland Raiders are the most dysfunctional organization in all of football and possibly professional sports altogether. While the team has made efforts to improve through trades and a better than usual draft, there are just too many holes in this team to fix in one offseason. Anything less than a 7+ point win here should be considered a disappointment.
Follow me through the jump for a look at the Raiders 2009 Season, the offseason, and three keys to winning this matchup.
2009 Season (5-11)
Oof. This team was horrible. They were lucky to get away with 5 wins. Their defense was bad, I mean not Tennessee Titans bad, but subpar nonetheless. However, it was the offense that was the highlight of their struggles. And, the guy at the center of this train wreck was Jamarcus Russell, who might be the worst quarterback I've ever seen play in the NFL. At the very least, he cracks the top five. Without further ado, here's the statistical rap sheet for the Raiders last season:
|Rushing YPG||PPG||Offensive DVOA||Defensive YPG||D. Passing YPG||D. Rushing YPG||Defensive PPG||Defensive DVOA|
* stats from NFL.com and Footballoutsiders.com
What's interesting is that as bad as these statistics were, they could have been worse. Halfway through the season, the coaching staff elected to bench Russell and start backup Bruce Gradkowski who went on to win two of five games. Jamarcus got back to his job of losing games following an injury to Gradkowski against the Washington Redskins.
The other thing that sticks out is how well this team fared against the pass. That is due almost exclusively to cornerback Nnamdi Asomugha. He may be the best shutdown corner in the league, and he effectively eliminates half the field during pass plays. This elite play forced most teams to try and attack cornerback Chris Johnson . This is reflected in him being 9th in the league in passes defended with 18, which is a stark contrast to Asomugha's 3 passes defended. In any event, Johnson held his own in passes gone his way and isn't one that could be targeted to be picked on.
Not that any of that really mattered. The run defense was so bad that teams didn't even need to bother with the risk of passing. While the Raiders weren't worst in the league in terms of yards allowed, they were at the bottom of the barrel in rushing touchdowns allowed with 24.
The Offseason: Free Agency and The Draft
For the most part, the Oakland Raiders did not make a splash in the Free Agency market. Aside from Rock Cartwright, Kyle Boller, and Daniel Coats, they only signed players that were on last years team. That included Richard Seymour, who they elected to franchise this year.
The Raiders did, however, make a significant trade in acquiring Jason Campbell from the Washington Redskins in exchange for a 4th round draft pick. JaMarcus Russell was released from the Raiders yesterday, so it appears that Jason Campbell will be the Raiders #1 going into camp. For all the flack Campbell got in Washington, he is an immediate and dramatic upgrade at the quarterback position for the Raiders.
Surprisingly, the Raiders managed to put together a solid draft class. While they did draft their yearly "track star that plays football" (Jacoby Ford), they waited until the 4th round to do so. Their first two picks were used to improve the defense by drafting Rolando McClain and Lamarr Houston. Both picks came with good value and upside. The following two picks went to offensive tackles Jared Veldheer (3rd) and Bruce Campbell (4th). Campbell was projected to go in the second round. As mentioned before, the other 4th round pick was used to pick Jacoby Ford, but that was the only draft pick used for an offensive skill position. The rest of the picks were used to fill linebacker and defensive back positions. All this is a huge progression from the past where the Raiders seemed to exclusively draft skill positions with marginal production and huge upside.
It looked to be a successful offseason for the Raiders, and they appear to be taking steps in the right direction to rebuilding that franchise. That said, too much damage has been done in past years for this to be fixed in one offseason. This year will likely be another struggle to even get to .500.
Three keys to winning
1. Run. Run. Run. We could pass the ball zero times this game and I'd be happy. The Raiders run defense is abysmal. Just give CJ and the backups the ball and let them go to work. This matchup works perfectly for Fisherball, which is broken in general, but should work well here.
2. Stay in the base defense. No need to bring pressure here, or leave yourself vulnerable to the big play. The Raiders were 30th in the league last year in turnover differential. Work to get pressure with the front four, and let the offense commit their own mistakes.
3. Avoid Asomugha. This goes hand in hand with point number one. When we do throw the ball, though, keep it away from Nnamdi. He's a threat to pick the ball off every time it's thrown his way. And, without a clear #1 anyways, there's no real upside in testing him.
This should be more of a tune up game than anything else. And, if it ends up being more than that, we could be in for a long season. I expect a 150+ yard rushing day from our back field and a solid 24-10 win.