It is always difficult to know what you are going to get from an NFL team from year to year, but the Tennessee Titans face and especially big challenge this year when facing the Oakland Raiders to open the season this year. The Raiders cut ties with former #1 overall pick JaMarcus Russell in the offseason and brought in Jason Campbell. Campbell hasn't exactly lit the world on fire in his 4 years in the NFL, but he is a solid option that will bring some steadiness to the Oakland offense. That is something they desperately need coming off the JaMarcus era.
The Raiders have some talent at the skill positions, but are by no means the most talented team the Titans will face this season. Darrius Heyward-Bey is a guy that we spent some time talking about leading up to the 2009 draft. The Raiders shocked a lot of people when they took him with the 7th pick in that draft. He rewarded them by catching 9 passes for 124 yards last season. When we talked to Saint from Silver and Black Pride on MCM Radio Wednesday night, go listen here, he said that Heyward-Bey has put in a lot of work in the offseason. He is expecting big things from the 6-2 receiver this season. Let's hope that starts in week 2.
Another high draft pick that hasn't worked out so well for the Raiders thus far is Darren McFadden. McFadden was the 4th pick in the 2008 draft and has rushed for 856 yards total in two seasons. Saint said it is because his legs are too skinny. Whatever the case is, McFadden is still a guy that is capable of hitting a big play at any time. The two things that are the most likely to get the Titans beat in this game are big plays and turnovers. Keeping McFadden in check, whether it be running the ball or catching the ball out of the backfield, will be a challenge but not one this defense shouldn't be able to manage. The Raiders have another good back in Michael Bush, but he has all but been ruled out this week with a thumb injury.
There will be games this year where the skill players for the other team are simply better than what the Titans have to offer on defense, but this is not one of them. The key to defensive success in this game will be playing the assignments. You know the Raiders are going to take a lot of shots down the field so the biggest key will be Michael Griffin and Chris Hope not getting caught with their eyes in the backfield as they were apt to do last season.