The joys of raiding: making lemonade

This is a short compilation of excerpts from the current ESPN analysis of the raiders. After reading the San Fransisco Chronical’s view of the preseason, the part of me that slows to catch a glimpse of car crashes wanted to see more. I did.

I’d like to point out that I think the Raiders are a great test of our team. We will know, at the end of the game next Monday, if our changes to our run D are solid or not. The new scheme will be tested by some talented RBs. The Raiders pass D is very talented. Their run D, like ours, had been suspect  (we were both awful) and they did things in the off season that, like us, they are happy with. They will be tested as well by the increasingly amazing arm of Cutler, Royal’s tremendous upside, Clady’s stoutness at LT and a solid, if not yet gifted group of RBs. We will see, of course, if Jackson and Colbert are the additions that we are looking for. Stokely is still one of the league’s best, and our TE’s are top rate. We will see if we have the pieces at the Dline, and if our safeties are up to the challenge on run D. It will be a very interesting contest.

The reason that I write about the raiders is two-fold. One, they are a division rival, two games a year, and we have a historic rivalry. Second, I have to admit that I want to see if a team so clearly torn by nearly endless emotional turmoil can step up and be as talented on the field as they are on paper. It’s a car wreck, to be sure: The lack of depth, the issues around Davis and his seeming psychosis, the musical head coaches and the outrageous contracts for players who look, on paper, to be high risk.

And yet, these are men, talented and motivated, who have a job to do, and who will do it with pride and personal commitment, regardless of circumstance.

For now. And then, we’ll see.

On the last game of the preseason, Coach Kiffin decided to use take quarterback JaMarcus Russell out for a test drive of sorts, to see what the Raiders could do if forced to become a passing team.

The results?

Sacks, protection issues, an interception and zero points.

"I wanted to come out of here feeling good about our passing game," Kiffin said. "I don't feel good about that. I was very discouraged. It kind of reminded me of who we are."

"Unfortunately, I think I saw what we already knew," Kiffin said. "If we try to just throw the ball around we're going to get penalties, the quarterback is going to get hit, he's going to be running around a lot. He will be in trouble ... we have to go back to the same way we were before."

Kiffin's skepticism about the passing game is music to the ears of Oakland's offensive linemen, who took to the zone blocking system last year as taught by Tom Cable.

"We'd rather run the ball," left guard Robert Gallery said. "That's the type of team we are. If we run the ball well, it's going to put more people in the box and open up the passing game.

The second part of Oakland's plan would be to stop the run -- something the Raiders failed miserably at last season. They ranked 31st in run defense, surrendered a league-worst 4.8 yards per carry and saw opposing running backs break 100 yards in 10 different games.

The solution?

Sign Gibril Wilson away from the Super Bowl champion New York Giants and install him at strong safety, where his play in the box will close off running lanes. They also signed Tommy Kelly to a huge contract before he became a free agent and moved him from end to the "three-technique" tackle spot vacated by the retired Warren Sapp.

Injuries will be a concern -- the Raiders already lost fullback Oren O'Neal and wide receiver Drew Carter for the season -- because of a lack of depth.

Kiffin openly acknowledged that depth is an issue when he conceded many players were going to make the roster simply because others hadn't been brought in for the sake of competition -- an indirect jab at owner Al Davis, who handles all personnel issues.

The head coach is already on thin ice with Davis, who surely won't tolerate another season with double-digit losses after putting out big money in free agency to improve a 19-61 record over the last five years.

Ryan is in the last year of his contract, as are offensive coordinator Greg Knapp, line coach Tom Cable and running backs coach Tom Rathman.

It's a win-or-else year, with the salvation for all involved resting with running the ball, developing a franchise quarterback and stopping the run.

And on to the Show….

Originally posted at MHR

Learn to laugh at yourself. You will be ceaselessly amused. - Sri Gary Olsen

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