Monday, September 20, 2010

Week 2 Thoughts

I keep meaning to write posts for this damn blog. But life gets busy. I mean I started a series of posts on why the Raiders would go 16-0. And it would have had me looking like Nostradamus, had Vince Young imploded and been benched one week earlier. But the series remains on my flash drive, seen only by me.

So lets keep things short and simple. I want to write about 2 things, the Raiders and my attempts to get back into shape. So this post will concentrate on the former, and hopefully my next post will be on the later.

The win vs. St. Louis.

1 – Thank god for Jason Campbell

I know this goes squarely against the grain of the general consensus of Raider fans right now. But, had the Raiders not swung the trade for Campbell, I have to believe that JaMarcus would have been the Raiders starter going into week 2. (Remember Grads missed most of the offseason and the start of camp with a torn pec). Even if Grads had started against the Titans, I have trouble believing he would have made it out of that game healthy. Meaning that we would have been treated to the return of JaMarcus to Oakland yesterday. Thanks for the win Jason.

2 – Tom Cable is ahead of the curve on the Oline

Once again, this will be greeted with a collective WTF by the majority of Raider fans. But hear me out. There are two areas of an NFL team where the players have not become specialized. The quarterback (with the exception of teams running a Wildcat) and the offensive line. I believe that within the next 5 years, we will see specialist on the offensive line. Long yardage tackles, who specialize at pass blocking, but suck at run blocking. And their short yardage counterparts.

Lets face it, Mario Henderson is truly lacking when it comes to pass blocking, but has shown beastly flashes in the run game. If Veldheer can come into his own as a pass blocker, the platoon at LT could be a reality in Oakland.

Would it be better to have an Ogden or Jones at LT who can do it all, sure, but those guys are so rare, I think that the reality of the NFL will soon require platoons where possible on the line.

Veldehere is an intriguing prospect to start this movement with in Oakland. He represents a signifigant upgrade at center in run blocking, but has trouble with the blitz pick-up, especially in pass-pro. He is at least Henderson’s equal at pass blocking right now, at that is with three years less experience and a DII background.

Bruce Cambell is equally intriguing in this manner. He could be a great pulling guard, but his body says OT. Right now he is backing up at RG, but the day could soon come that he is a part of the right side rotation.

The key is getting both of these players up to par at multiple positions. Which is at least a season away. But looking forward to next season:

Base/Run downs:

Henderson, Gallery, Veldheer, Campbell, Walker

Pass Situations

Veldheer, Gallery, Satele, TBD, Campbell

Not a complete picture, but don’t be surprised when you start seeing specialists on the line. And don’t be surprised if the substitutions become more frequent in Oakland as the season progresses.

3 – Raiders Busting out all over

Some Raiders that have had the bust lable attached to them seem to be coming into their own.

Darren McFadden has looked like an NFL running back two weeks in a row. His vision is still questionable, and he takes too long to get up to top speed. But he is finally running hard and not falling at 1st contact. A huge improvement.

Darrius Hayward-Bey is catching balls, not the deep home-run ball we all hoped for. But he seems to be running better routs and getting open. And when the quarterback hits him in stride, the next hit isn’t the ball meeting the ground.

Stanford Routt only took five seasons, but he is playing well at the target corner across from Asomugha. Sure he isn’t perfect, but he looks like a player (and ignore those who claim he got burnt on that long Tennessee TD, that was a zone and he was the only one who recognized the coverage bust, that is why he was the only guy near the ball).

Michael Huff has looked like a decent safety so far this season. The preseason looked like more of the same, but I can’t fault a safety who is repeatedly the 1st guy to the running back after the front 7 falls flat on their face. Decent isn’t all-pro, but if the front 7 can continue to apply pressure, he could shed the Fluff label.

4 – Gradkowski just gets it done

But there is more to it than the team getting a spark from Grads. The playcalling was appreciably different with Grads, shorter routs, more timing, more taking what was there than trying to force things.

So what is the difference, I think it is the coaches putting too much stock into what they see in practice. I think Campbell is much more confident with that Red Jersey on, and who wouldn’t be behind Oakland’s O-line. That goes to shit once the real bullets start flying.

Gradkowski is equally limited in practice and in the game. Meaning that the gameplan based on what he shows in practice matches what he produces Sunday. It isn’t pretty, but it is effective.

5 – Get healthy soon

Gallery, Bush, Seymore and Schilens all should be major contributors to this team. And if the Raiders want to have any hope of 8-8 they need to be on the field. The Raiders stand a chance without them against a pathetic Arizona squad this week. But need at least Gallery and Seymore back to have a prayer against Houston.

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