Everyone pay notice. This will no doubt be the high watermark for my football season. At this time tomorrow I will be about 13 beers into it as my beloved Raiders get cornholed in front of their home fans yet again by that rat faced fuck known as Mike Shannahan. But I will stumble across that bridge when the time comes. For now, for tonight, I shall bask in the glory of what SHOULD for all intents and purposes be the strength of this Raiders team. Notice my use of the word SHOULD. When dealing with this used rubber of a franchise one isn't afforded the luxury of dealing in absolutes. This team is always one Al Davis senior moment away from failure, and it has taken me the better part of my lifetime to realize this. I don't allow myself to get my hopes up any more. Even Tina Turner knew there was going to be a point in time where she'd no longer let Ike beat the shit out of her. I reached this moment about 2 years ago. The Raiders were in the midst of another shit filled season. The Bills were in town that day, and Randy Moss was hurt. All throughout the pre game all Greg Papa kept going on and on about was the fact that Moss was hurt and that the Raiders would be without him. Shock of shockers, the Raiders get into a 3rd and goal from the Bills 18 thanks to Robert Gallery's inability to remember little things like the snap count or the fact that you can't simply pull a DE down by his jersey in front of the ref. Randy Moss limps onto the field and the crowd goes ape shit. Kerry Collins winds up throwing a touchdown to Moss and the place is electric. I celebrate this swing in momentum by shuffling off to buy another beer. As I am standing in line I suddenly feel the temperature drop by about 10 degrees. The hair on the back of my neck began to stand up. I was overcome by this undeniable feeling that I was in the presence of something... evil. Out of sheer terror I slowly look over my shoulder and notice an elderly corpse dressed in a white jumpsuit being escorted by a small army of bodyguards. People are yelling things like YO AL! and HEY BOSS! which go totally ignored. The guy in front of me asks him HEY AL, ISN'T MOSS A TROOPER FOR GOING OUT THERE HURT LIKE THAT? Al stops dead in his tracks and locks eyes with the fan. At this point I was pretty sure I was about to see some Darth Vader force choke kind of shit go down. Al replies "That asshole isn't hurt. He's just trying to make me look bad." and then his handlers start moving him along the corridor again. Right then and there it all made sense. This has never been about football. It's never been about THE RAIDER MYSTIQUE. It's never been about JUST WIN, BABY or PRIDE AND POISE or any of the other bullshit marketing slogans Uncle Al has slapped on the bumper of the Raiders bandwagon. It has always been about him. Always. And so long as his old, wrinkled ass continues to draw breath it will stay that way. So I said all of that to say this: YOU WILL NEVER FOOL ME AGAIN, AL.
DE- Derrick Burgess, Jay Richardson, Kalimba Edwards, Trevor Scott
DT- Tommy Kelly, Gerard Warren, Terdell Sands
Derrick Burgess had an off year last season and still ended up with a decent 8 sacks. He battled through some injuries and at the age of 30 there needs to be some concern that perhaps the decline is starting. Still, he is by far the Raiders best pass rusher and after turning in seasons of 16 and 11 sacks 05 and 06 I'm willing to cut him some slack. Jay Richardson was pretty good second day draft find last year. While he only recorded one sack he showed a lot of promise at stopping the run. The Raiders brought in Kalimba Edwards and Greg Spires to challenge for his spot but Edwards is now a backup and Spires is out of work. Trevor Scott is depth and little else.
Tommy Kelly got PAID this last off season. A lot of people were perplexed at the amount of money they gave him, and with good reason. After showing some promise in his first couple seasons after making the team as an undrafted rookie free agent the Raiders threw him into a starting role in 06 and he was up and down. After three years of bouncing around between DE and DT the Raiders decided to finally stick with him as a DT. Former teammates Ed Jasper and Warren Sapp have gone on and on about how TK will be a monster when he finally starts playing up to his potential. Unfortunately praise from people will only carry you so far in life. This is the season where he must step up. Two years ago the Raiders got a respectable season out of the morbidly obese pig faced ugly mother fucker Terdell Sands and as a result, paid him an ungodly amount of money. A funny thing happened last year: He remembered that he's Terdell Sands. Last year Turd in the Sand lost his starting job to epic first round flame out Gerard Warren. He came into camp this year vowing to regain his starting job. He did not. Warren himself was merely adequate. At this point you know what you're going to get from him: Big guy who can sometimes get to the QB and can clog up the middle. That's about it. The outlook for this bunch is pretty sketchy.
Thomas Howard, Kirk Morrison, Ricky Brown, Sam Williams, Jon Alston, Isaiah Ekejiuba
Man oh man, drafting Kirk Morrison and Thomas Howard was fucking brilliant. Morrison is the man in the middle and the heart and soul of this defense. He's a hometown kid who grew up a Raiders fan and it shows every single play of every game. He's a tackle machine and is everything you look for in a MLB. Pairing him with Howard has been a dream come true. Howard is one of the fastest LBs in the game, and also one of the best, if not THE BEST in pass coverage. Last year he had 6 INTs and returned two of them for TDs. As long as those two remain healthy there is hope. Ricky Brown was another undrafted rookie free agent who made the team back in 06. After a couple of years on special teams he turned some heads in training camp and thankfully was good enough to send Adam Archuleta packing. Sam Williams is a favorite of Al Davis due to his being 6'5 and a physical freak. Unfortunately he is an injury magnet and his days in Oakland could be numbered. Alston and Ekejiuba are special teams aces who could probably fill in for a bit if needed, but hopefully it'll never come to that.
CB- Nnamdi Asomugha, Deangelo Hall, Chris Johnson, Stanford Routt, Rashad Baker
FS- Gibril Wilson, Hiram Eugene
SS- Michael Huff, Tyvon Branch
The Raiders spent about 3 years trying to turn Nnamdi into a free safety with no luck. Rob Ryan showed up and decided to put him at his natural position of corner and lo and behold, he became a Pro Bowler. He is a shutdown corner in every sense of the word. His INTs were down last year because he wasn't targeted very often. He is the closest thing the Raiders have to a superstar so you'd assume that they'd do whatever it takes to make him happy, right? Of course not, you silly ass. Rather than give him a well earned extension the Raiders did what they always do in times of crisis: Trade for a talented malcontent. They send a 2nd rounder to the ATL for Deangelo Hall and then in turn made him insanely rich. Nnamdi was less than pleased. So next offseason they'll likely franchise his ass again and then hope and pray that they can re-sign him. Chris Johnson is likely to assume the nickleback spot after yet another terrible performance by former second rounder Stanford Routt. Routt is one of the worst coverage corners I have ever seen, and this is coming from a guy who was subjected to years of the likes of Phil Buchanon and Fabian Washington. He is as clueless now as he was the day they drafted him, but boy oh boy, he sure does run fast! I was shocked to see that Rashad Baker made the team, but being #5 on the DB depth chart seems like a pretty chill gig to me.
The final piece of the Raiders offseason spending spree was FS Gibril Wilson. I have spent the last three seasons watching little Stewie Schweigert miss tackle after tackle, so Wilson has to do little more than piss in a straight line to impress me at this point. He hits like a ton of bricks and is adequate in coverage, so he should work out just fine. Michael Huff, on the other hand, sucks dick. When they drafted him all I heard was how versatile he is and how he can play all three positions in the secondary. They tried him at corner. He failed. They tried him at free safety. He failed. Now they're trying him at what they claim is his "NATURAL POSITION" of strong safety. Forgive my pessimism, but he is doomed to fail again. I have yet to see anything resembling football instincts out of him. He is always out of position, always biting on bump fakes and constantly missing tackles. Impressive rookie Tyvan Branch is waiting in the wings for his chance. He's faster and stronger than Huff, so it stands to reason that the job could be his if there isn't some major improvement fast. Vet Hiram Eugene backs up Wilson and is decent enough.
So there you have it. I was thinking of writing up the special teams, but why? They can be summed up like this: Janikowski is a fat date rapist, Shane Lechler is still good and Johnnie Lee Higgins is fast. Same goes for the coaching staff. Lane Kiffin is going to be a good head coach for the Chiefs soon and will stick it up the Raiders asses every time he plays against them. Rob Ryan is fat and has awesome hair. Greg Knapp is as clueless as ever and still has a job. Yep, that's it. 17 weeks until it's all over.