It’s that time of year again. That time of year that all of the anticipation of the regular football season culminates into a frothing stew of aggression, excitement, and insanity. Less than 1 week until the 2012 season kicks off and I, for one, can’t wait. I’ve followed all the draft moves, the free-agency pick-ups, the unexpected signings and even more shocking roster cuts, my fantasy team is ready to rock and roll, and I’ve been playing Madden almost daily since I picked it up (thanks to my brother-in-law Joe for the early b-day gift). All of this and I still just can’t get enough. Nothing compares to the real thing. With that said, let’s take a brief but real look at our beloved Raiders’ roster situation as we prepare to enter the gauntlet.
This position has been in question throughout the entire offseason. Very early on we signed to veterans, both whom we knew had talent, but also had a little baggage. Shawntae Spencer is an 8 year vet who has proven himself in the 49’ers outstanding defensive scheme and has not disappointed during camp or preseason. Ron Bartell had a 6 year tenure with the Rams before he had a horrific neck injury which ended his season in 2011. Reggie McKensie wisely took a gamble on signing Bartell and I think we will see dividends on this investment. Both of these men have something to prove, and while they really aren’t #1 material at 30 years old each, I think we will definitely get some good mileage out of them.
The part that scares me at this position, however, is the #3 and #4 spots. Just over the past few days we have released both Chimdi Chekwa and DeMarcus Van Dyke, our supposed diamonds in the rough who were both drafted just one year ago. I was awoken this morning with an alert on my phone that we signed Joselio Hanson, who was just recently cut by the Eagles. Hanson comes with a fairly good track record as far as game play, but has a big question mark in the character category due to a failed substance abuse test back in ’09. Sounds like a Raider to me. 😉
Another trouble spot for our struggling defense. I’m really not certain what, if anything, is ever going to come of Rolando “If I feel Like It” McClain’s conviction regarding the shooting incident late last season. As far as I know he still may end up doing time and leaving us with a huge gaping hole in the middle of our linebacking corps. Well, even when he’s present there’s still a gaping hole half the time anyway so it shouldn’t be too hard to fill. The bigger issue is at WSLB. It doesn’t sound to me like Aaron Curry is going to be healthy an time soon, and if that’s indeed the case then rookie Miles Burris will be getting the nod to start with the first team D. Talk about trial by fire. This kid has a motor like I’ve never seen, but he’s not yet got it all together upstairs. He is simply lacking experience, but experience he will get if he remains our #1 option going into the regular season. I expect some growing pains here, definitely. Phillip Wheeler seems to be doing OK at SSLB, rushing the passer and stuffing runs, but he seems to be a pretty big liability in coverage. Hopefully he zips it up quickly once things get rolling. One thing I like about Wheeler is his ability to follow through and make open filed tackles.
- Defensive Line:
I have absolutely no concerns here. When it comes to defensive tackles, there is probably no other duo that is more feared in the NFL than the pairing of Richard Seymour and Tommy Kelly. Those are two of the biggest, angriest black men I have ever seen, and they play that way. I love it. Our primary backup is Desmond Bryant, who needs no introduction. This guy attended Harvard for fuck sake. What more do you need to know? He’s big, athletic, and smart as shit. At right DE we have Matt Shaughnessy, who I’m thrilled is looking great after missing a good chunk of games last season due to injury, and on the left we have Lamarr Houston, who has great presence and provides great pressure on the outside. Our defensive line looks officially “stout as fuck”.
Branch and Huff are back. Can’t say I’m too thrilled to see Huff returning, but given all the other personel issues we have I can’t say I’m disappointed. Huff is pretty good, but makes some really bad coverage decisions sometimes. I can’t speak highly enough about what Tyvon Branch has contributed to this team over recent years. He is fantastic at stuffing runs, great at deep containment and open field tackling, and he’s one hell of a special teams gunner. The boy hits as hard as a freight train. Glad we slapped a tag on him. I can’t forget Matt Giordano here. He is sloppy as fuck at coverage but he constantly redeems himself with the most amazing picks and is the closest thing to a ball hawk that the Raiders have seen on their roster in years. He’s a solid backup.
- Wide Receiver:
What a circus this position has become. Our most vested WR at this point is 3 year vet Darrius Heyward-Bey, whom the verdict is still out on at this point. If DHB can reel in catches like I’ve seen him make this preseason, we may be in for quite a shock. He has made some really spectacular grabs and I really have to give him props for obviously putting in work over the offseason. He still catches with his chest though. Moore and Ford are both being plagued by the injury bug. Unless they get healthy real soon we may be stretched pretty thin at WR come kickoff time. Good thing we have camp standouts Rod Streater and Juron Criner to fall back on. While Criner was the talk of camp, it has been Streater getting all the looks and all the catches during the preseason. The man has glue hands. He’s a big-bodied, sticky-handed receiver. He isn’t the prototypical speed demon that Al Davis used to look for, but what good is speed when you can’t catch? I love this guy. Criner is very similar, but hasn’t shown the concentration to bring the ball in that Streater has. Both are very solid receivers though.
Do I really need to break this down? OK I’ll touch on the backup battle. Forget Goodson. I don’t trust him. He has butterfingers. Turnovers lose games, period. Taiwan Jones has the speed and agility to terrorize the defense after McFadden has had his way with them and worn them down. Could you just imagine trying to chase down Darren McFadden all day and then they bring this kid in? Holy shit. While Jones will never ever be successful running between the tackles, strictly due to his lack of size, he is going to prove to be a terrorist on the outside, similar to Chris Johnson or Jamaal Charles. Those of you who know me know I’ve said this before. I’m on the Jones bandwagon for sure. If he was just maybe 10 pounds heavier he’d be lethal.
Stay tuned. I plan to cover the 2 most questionable and controversial portions of the roster in my next post. That would be QB and the O-line. Fucking Raiders.