NFL Preview: Oakland Raiders

Head Coach: Tom Cable
Offensive Coordinator: Hue Jackson
Defensive Coordinator: John Marshall
Special Teams Coordinator: John Fassel
Owner: Al Davis

Offensive Starters (Projected)
QB: Jason Campbell
HB: Michael Bush
FB: Manase Tonga
WR: Chaz Schilens
WR: Darrius Heyward-Bey
LT: Langston Walker
LG: Cooper Carlisle
C: Samson Satele
RG: Robert Gallery
RT: Khalif Barnes
TE: Zach Miller

Defensive Starters (Projected)
DE: Richard Seymour
DE: Jay Richardson
DT: John Henderson
LB: Rolando Mclain
LB: Quentin Groves
LB: Kamerion Wimbley
LB: Thomas Howard
CB: Nnamdi Asomugha
CB: Chris Johnson
FS: Michael Huff
SS: Tyvon Branch

Special Teams
K: Sebastian Janikowski
P: Shane Lechler

St. Louis
@ Arizona
San Diego
@ San Francisco
@ Denver
Kansas City
@ Pittsburgh
@ San Diego
@ Jacksonville
@ Kansas City

Position Battles:
For as bad as they’ve been, they’re pretty well set.

The biggest battles will be on the defensive line. Richard Seymour will be starting at one end, at the other end it will be a battle between Richardson, Lamarr Houston, and Matt Shaughnessy. On the inside, John Henderson has to deal with William Joseph, Tommy Kelly, and undrafted Rookie, Kellen Heard.

At Linebacker, Kamerion Wimbley has the skills to be the starter, but he’ll have to beat out pass rush specialist Trevor Scott.

I would call running back a battle, but they’ll all share the ball enough where it doesn’t really matter who “wins”.

Rookies to Watch:
Rolando McClain is getting thrown into a tough situation; he’ll be responsible for running this defense as a rookie replacing Kirk Morrison. McClain is a very smart player and knows how to get to the ball carrier but doesn’t possess top end physical skills for a middle linebacker; he should still lead the team in tackles.

Lamarr Houston, no not just because I interviewed him last month, he’s got a chance to start on the defensive line as a rookie and help turn around a run defense that has been shaky at best. Houston is equally talented at stopping the run and getting after the QB, he could turn out a lot like teammate Richard Seymour.

Season Expectations:
This team has undergone huge changes since last season. The defense is changed, and the offense got rid of a certain QB. The defense hasn’t really been the problem in the past and that should be true again this year, they have talent at every position defensively although they still lack some depth. Nnamdi Asomugha is one of the top two corners in the game, and the best that is actually in camp right now. Seymour and Henderson give the line experience and they still know how to get the job done. The linebackers can mix and match to create problems for offensive lines and it’s one of the positions where they have guys on the bench who can jump in.

On Offense, it all starts with new QB Jason Campbell. He never lived up to the hype he had when drafted by the Redskins, but he’s been a solid QB nonetheless and a solid QB is something the Raiders haven’t known since Rich Gannon. So just that addition makes the rest of the team that much better. He’s got a good deep arm which should keep opposing safeties honest and open up lanes for the running backs. Most of the WRs on the roster are outstanding deep threats and Campbell will have no problem getting the ball to them. And he should be protected fairly well with an O-line that is returning 4 of 5 starters from last season. All said and done there is reason to believe the Raiders won’t be at the bottom of the barrel again this year. The schedule isn’t that daunting and with the problems in San Diego the Raiders could be a sneaky pick to steal a Division Title.

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