The Oakland Raiders have been the hot news item during most of this off season. A knockout free agency period, another solid draft, leaked scouting reports, and some big Vegas news, the Raiders have been keeping things interesting for football fans.
A bit of a disclaimer, I am a huge Raiders fan. The commitment to excellence, the bad boys of the NFL, the snarl and swagger, the maverick legend Al Davis, and the never out of style Silver and Black….Hell what’s not to love?
Well….you could say the nearly 14 years of mediocrity and absolute disaster the organization became in the late great owner Al Davis’ last years. Davis passed away in 2011 without one last Lombardi trophy, and without much certainty for the Raiders.
In what started off as a rocky debut, new owner Mark Davis has shown impressive competence and patience. The bachelor rookie owner, sought out great football minds and did what many in his position would not….he tossed ego aside and listened. He listened when the name of Reggie McKenzie was mentioned as a possible first ever general manager of the Raiders. He listened when the name Jack Del Rio came up in his coaching search. And he listened when he was told he was “3rd place” in the LA sweepstakes for relocation….
But 3rd place was not exactly the plan Mark Davis had in mind. After talks in Oakland and the Carson project fell through, Davis took his one man, coach flying, dumb and dumber hair having, silver and black jumpsuit wearing self to the nearest city willing to talk stadium. The first destination was San Antonio, then a brief flirtation with San Diego, and now the ever forbidden city of pro sports…..Viva Las Vegas.
I see you Mark….I love the spirit, the tenacity, the maverick boldness that your daddy had…but sorry you’re not fooling me.
Numerous reports keep filling the web about the validity of a Vegas move for the Raiders. Meetings held, financial figures tossed around, and every bit of commentary you can handle. To me its all smoke.
Vegas, LA, Oakland, a Raider is a Raider, I will be a fan either way. But the reality of a Mark Davis owned team realistically building a viable stadium in any city, seems like a bad bet. In LA the NFL put Davis and the Raiders third for a reason. San Antonio is Jerry and McNair country, and Vegas frankly is long odds. My strong belief is the NFL and its owners are not fans of Mr. Davis. He is not a big money owner, has little clout or influence and frankly is an outsider in the world of NFL Billionaires.
Mark will have to part ways with the team and organization that his father built. Will it be this year, next year, maybe five years down the road, who knows, but the NFL will not allow a franchise with as much financial potential as the Raiders to be run by the “Tommy Boy” of the NFL.
Sadly the Raiders, whereever they land, will not get a stadium built as long as Mark Davis has controlling interest in the team. The NFL can wait, the fans will suffer, and Mark will be stuck in a “Cold War”, as a Davis fighting against the NFL Goliath.
On to better news….This team may be really good! Haha, man it feels good to be a Raider fan. Jump on the bandwagon quick. Actually, nevermind….”Fuck Off!” Raider Nation doesn’t do “fairweather” fans. We are diehard and dedicated, from 4-12 to 12-4. The team you love to hate. With new players, comes new respect and this team is bursting with young talent.
When you land two cornerstones in one draft, its easy to get cocky. This fresh team now begins and ends with Derek Carr and Khalil Mack. The 2014 studs have cemented their status as elite players, with potential to tear up the league for years.
Free agency was very kind to the Oakland Raiders. I was satisfied with the signing of big man “KO” Kelechi Osemele, the giant versatile guard/tackle from Baltimore. He fits the mold of a tough, road grader with the ability to play tackle if needed. But the additions of Bruce Irvin and Sean Smith really excited me. Two key players at key positions to help solidfy a young and improving defense. Irvin to me will be a versatile chess piece in the Raiders D, rushing the passer, covering tight ends and spying QB’s. He will see the field more than in Seattle, who relegatted him to pass rush specialist. In Sean Smith the Raiders have found the ideal fit for what they’re looking for in a corner. Big, Fast and Physical. Smith is a perfect pairing with surprise addition David Amerson from last year. The Raiders brought back Donald Penn, who solidfied the left tackle position since arriving in Oakland, and Reggie Nelson who helps supplant the great Charles Woodson at safety. A solid mix of veteran players, and a big win for the Raiders organization.
Yet talent on the field must be developed and directed, and the Oakland Raiders may have one of the most underrated coaching staffs in the league. The NFL will take notice of Head Coach Jack Del Rio and the stellar experienced staff he put in place. I always felt Del Rio was underrated in Jacksonville. He always had a tough disciplined defense and a solid gut punching offense. Solid on both fronts, but always lacking a dynamic QB. In Oakland Del Rio inherited a true leader and talent in Derek Carr, pairing him with offensive coordinator Bill Musgrave last season. Musgrave utilized Carr’s quick release and mobility in the pass game. Musgrave will hope to improve on the running game as well this season, which has been a strong point wherever he has coached. On defense Ken Norton Jr brings a burst of energy to a hungry defense. There were definitely holes in the Raiders D last season, but you saw real progression and great adaptation as the season progressed. I think the defense grew, as did first year coordinator Norton. I expect big things out of this defense, whether it be 3-4, 4-3 or some awesome hybrid, the sky is the limit.
Speaking of defensive talent, the Oakland Raiders stayed put in the draft and selected Karl Joseph with their first pick. Dynamic, hard hitting and a playmaker, Joseph was impossible not to love on tape, great addition.
Below is a quick recap on the draft and some comments.
- Karl Joseph- Seemed like a reach, but the more you look into Joseph the more you like. Compared him to Bob Sanders, completes this D.
- Jihad Ward-An even bigger surprise and a definite reach to me. Has upside, but raw with few years playing football. Preferred Jonathan Bullard, who went in 3rd rd.
- Shilique Calhoun-Solid, nothing flashy, just a good football player. Depth with limited upside. Backup with possible starting potential.
- Connor Cook- Loved this pick, it finally confirmed Reggie’s Green Bay roots and his ability to build this team. Raiders finally playing chess not checkers in the Draft.
- DeAndre Washington- Love this kid, such a perfect complement back. Barely heard of him, Reggie may have stolen another one. Compare him to Charlie Garner (remember him?)
- Cory James- Versatile LB, who is instant special teams standout. Replaces Ben Henney on ST, if Henney starts at ILB. Can rush passer as well.
- Val Alexander- 6’5, 326lbs, yeah he fits the bill. Surprised he was available, has limitations athletically. Reggie loves big men up front.
UDFA: Few names that have chance to make team
James Crowser-DE/LB, Denver Kirkland-G, Max McCaffrey-WR