Offensive line will be pivotal to chances of Raiders recovering momentum in 2013-2014

The Oakland Raiders possessed one of the worst records in the NFL in 2012, and the dire state of the offensive line was one of the main protagonists. A year we can expect much of the same can’t we? Maybe, but I think not.

Why am I optimistic OL conditions will improve for the Raiders this year? Well we’ve dropped the previous scheme and coaching team and brought in one of the best OL coaches in Tony Sparano. This in itself would likely prove sufficient to fuel a significant improvement, but couple this will likely age-related improvements at left tackle and centre and the picture brightens further. Right tackle was a real worry last year, as it has since Lincoln Kennedy, but I really like the signing of Watson in the second round, potentially giving us big strong bookends at either side of the line for many years to come.

What about guards I hear you scream, well here I hear reports that last year’s top draft pick Bergstrom is really looking good at left guard, whereas at right guard I envisage a dramatic improvement from a fully fit Brisiel. He’s been written off by many fans, I think a little unfairly as he played most of last year hurt. I know there are also concerns that he won’t suit the return to power blocking but he isn’t small, so this is not a particular concern to me. Lightening the outlook on the interior of the line further are reports of really impressive play by young prospect Lucas Nix, this kid himself isn’t far off starting.

Couple all these reasons for optimism and we have the basis of a much improved line in 2013-2014. Not only will this make McFadden’s job easier but it will also give our QB much more time, and a greater chance to shine.

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The Futures Bright, the Futures Silver and Black

We all know the Oakland Raiders are in for a tough couple of years, post-Al Davis, but I am amazed how fast Reggie McKenzie has created some optimism in my mind for the team. Yes the QB no longer has the “stretch-the-field” arm, but he now has enthusiasm, hard work and commitment written all over him. We also have two highly skilled backups fighting for a chance too.

Summing up the rest of the offense, we’ve got one of the best RB’s out there, just this year he’ll get the right system for his skills, then at WR we’re young and we have some potential (for now I’ll leave it at that…returning to this topic shortly). TE, I’m a little concerned about, but we have 4 young players competing for the job, and you don’t always nowadays need to play TE’s anyway so I’ll remain optimistic. Then onto the OL, I think we’ll see a big improvement this year, for three reasons. Firstly, we’re movingback to the power blocking scheme, which suits the majority of our players more. Secondly, the young stars (such as Jared Veldheer and Stefan Wisniewski ) have another year of experience on the clock – always an important thing for an offensive lineman. Thirdly, the rookie Menelik Watson is a beast and by mid-season I foresee him staring.

The whole offense has the potential to be much much better next year. Couple this with the progress I see on D – more on this to follow shortly – and suddenly I’m no longer dreaming of the 2014 number one pick in the draft but thinking about winning the AFC West….am I too optimisitc? Only time will tell I suppose.

Diggin those Trenches – DL

The Defensive line of the Oakland Raiders has been a bone of contension for the side, at least in recent years, but glimmers of light – albeit faint – have emerged this offseason, with the youthfulness of the group at least massively improved. Last year we relied on the highly paid, but incredibly ineffective pairing of Seymour and Kelly, but finally they have been let go. Although we are still paying for both of these lazy lumps, the team (in my humble opinion) will be improved by the additions of Sims and Walker. Its early days obviously, but I’m a lot more optimisitc with the thought of Pat Sims, Vance Walker, Christo Bilukidi and Stacy McGee rotating for four positions than the previous incumbents. Yes these DT’s are incredibly young (and admitedly unproven), but I strongly feel that they will provide a considerably more dynamic presence….and certainly cheaper.

At DE I’m very happy with the starting pairing of Andre Carter and Lamarr Houston, then its really all unproven hope. I’m straining at my optimism banks with the hope that Jack Crawford will come up trumps this year – and if I’m honest I have yet to see any proof of this, but I’m surfing on a wave of optimsm. Then I’m really hopeful for new rookie david Bass – he looks simply awesome on tape (I know its against quite poor oposition, but all the same I like the look of this kid). I’d also be inclined to keep Hunter on the team, as although he looks distinctly unexciting, we need fresh legs on the field and I’m carrying 2 very inexperienced DEs on my assumed roster.

Can’t See the Woodson for the Trees

So the legend that is Charles Woodson has rejoined the Oakland Raiders, not only did this move massively shock me but it also pleasantly surprised me. Yes Woodson is 36 years old, but he’s an athlete that has truly looked after himself, so he shouldn’t simply be written off for his age. Mid-thirties aren’t too old, you just have to look after yourself and Senior Woodson sure has done that.

Suddenly the rebuilding Oakland Raiders have upped the ante. The Raiders defensive backfield is unanimously better than last year. Personally I see Charles Woodson’s presence on the team improving the performance of all of his colleagues in the secondary. Hayden is the most obvious example, how can this first year player not learn from a legend of the position such as Woodson. Young players, like Taiwan Jones, are also certain the relish the on-field teaching. Branch, however, I see being the key beneficiary. Not only does he get a positive role model to learn from but he also no longer has to worry about so many mistakes being made by his fellow safety. Just imagine it, your lining up back their, facing arrows from Peyton Manning….who would you rather see with you, in the proverbial trenches, Michael Huff or Charles Woodson? …. we all have the same answer to this one( from everyone bar Huff’s mom)

The spirit of Al Davis will be raising a glass to Raiders everywhere.