Raider Nation will have to direct its boos somewhere else in 2010.
Don’t get me wrong, the Oakland Raiders http://www.donbest.com/nfl/rosters/afc/oakland-raiders/ are still a bad football team and they’ll finish last in the AFC West. But at least they didn’t do a lot of crazy stuff during the offseason and that counts as progress in Raider Nation.
Oakland (5-11, 8-8 ATS) is not likely to improve on last year’s record and deservedly so. The Raiders have the longest NFL odds on the board at plus 700 in the AFC West. However, there will be a new quarterback and no matter how hard Jason Campbell tries, he’ll never be as bad as JaMarcus Russell.
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Al Davis and his henchmen had a fairly quiet offseason, staying out of the headlines with the lone exception of releasing Russell. Oakland finally gave up on the first overall selection from the 2007 draft who proved to be one of the biggest busts in the history of the NFL. Russell completed just 52.1 percent of his passes in his career with 18 touchdowns, 23 interceptions, 15 lost fumbles and a passer rating of 65.2.
Oakland paid him a staggering total of about $36.4 million. That will buy a lot of cough syrup.
The Raiders on offense
Enter Campbell with the former Auburn great looking to improve on the best of his four NFL seasons. In 2009 Campbell threw for 3,618 yards with 20 touchdowns and 15 interceptions while compiling a passer rating of 86.4. The Raiders are hoping he and new offensive coordinator Hue Jackson can improve an offense that ranked 31st in scoring per game (12.6) and 31st in total yards (266.1).
Oakland could use a boost from a running game that ranked 21st in the NFL with an average 106.4 yards per game. Former first round pick Darren McFadden suffered a knee injury in the first month of the 2009 campaign, and finished with just 357 yards and an average of 3.4 yards per carry. He hasn’t been labeled a bust yet, but he’s certainly not the player he was at Arkansas.
Michael Bush, who had 589 yards and averaged 4.8 YPC, is the team’s best option. The Raiders would love to have a feature back but it appears it will be another RB by committee in '10.
In another example of poor drafting, the Raiders top pick in 2009, Darrius Heyward-Bey, could be headed the bust route after a rookie season in which he made just nine catches. Oakland’s best receiver and perhaps its best player is tight end Zach Miller, who had 66 receptions and an average of 12.2 yards per catch.
There’s no doubt Campbell will be better than Russell, but to be honest he’s still a lower-tier NFL QB playing behind a bad offensive line. Campbell will receive very little help from the running game.
The Raiders on defense
Oakland's defense ranked a respectable seventh against the pass, limiting opponents to 206.4 yards per game. But Oakland was 29th against the run, 26th in overall yards allowed and the Raiders gave up an average of 23.7 points per game.
NFL Betting Odds
With all the problems on defense it’s easy to see why Oakland is listed at 60/1 to win the AFC and a 125/1 to win the Super Bowl. Both numbers, by the way, are the longest on the board.
The Raiders on special teams
Say what you will about the Raiders, but they’ve got two of the best kickers in the game. Sebastian Janikowski, who booted six field goals of 50yards or longer, signed a four-year contract worth $16 million. That matches the deal given last year to the greatest punter in the universe, Shane Lechler, who averaged 51.1 yards per kick and a net of 43.9.
Head coach Tom Cable returns for another season of abuse. Cable is 9-19 as Raiders coach, and at last check hadn’t punched anyone yet, at least anyone who went public. Odds of him flunking out of his anger management class are listed at -110.
The Raiders are paying for the ignorance and arrogance of owner Al Davis over the many years. They’ve had six months of fairly sound decision making, but it’s not enough to overcome seven years of awful decisions.
Had Davis spent as much time trying to improve his team as he did trying to sue the pants off of everyone who crossed him, this franchise would have been a lot more competitive than it is now.