The first test of resurgence for the Raiders takes place on Sunday as the first game of the season puts them against a quality opponent in the Tennessee Titans. With an off-season of intelligent credible moves will the Raiders began to evolve back in the right direction for the first time in seven years. The addition of Jason Campbell gives the team their first credible quarterback in several years. The drafting of Alabama linebacker Rolando McClain already strengthened a solid linebacker corps, improving an already established defense that could possibly take this version of the Raiders’ 4-3 to top tier defensive status. The question is can head coach Tom Cable do more than just motivate a group of underrated talent and regain a winner’s mentality back in the “Black Hole.”
The Raiders enter Sunday’s game with a host of injuries thats has them at less the 100%, but what else is new in the National Football League. Offensively, Campbell is a little banged up but claims he’s good to go for Sunday. Running back Michael Bush is recovering from a broken thumb he suffered in the third exhibition game against the 49ers, but also claims he will be ready come Sunday. Starting wide receiver Chaz Schilens will be out for several weeks after having arthroscopic knee surgery a week into training camp. Depleted and banged up, new offensive coordinator Hue Jackson has his hands full with coming up with a game plan to attack a very solid Titans’ defense. The question for this offense is whether or not they will get consistent play from there offensive line to have the balanced offensive attack they are capable of having. Campbell and tight end Zach Miller are a given on offense, but will running back Darren McFadden show us the explosiveness he is capable of, and will speedy wide receiver Darrius Heyward-Bey not look like a another wasted wide receiver 1st round pick who can catch more than the common cold? Answering these questions will determine the success and future of the Raiders’ offense.
Defensively the Raiders upgraded by drafting McClain from Alabama to man the middle in their 4-3 scheme. Plus the addition of Kamerion Wimbley from Cleveland adds depth to the linebacker spot. With Pro Bowler Nnamdi Asomugha leading the secondary and resigning defensive tackle Richard Seymour, the Raiders could have a legitimate claim to a top 10 defense this year. Against the pass the Raiders ranked 7th, but their Achilles heel has been their defense against the run which ranked them 27th. So Sundays match-up against the reigning rushing yards leader running back Chris Johnson (2,006 yards) will be a big test (such an understatement) to see if they have addressed this problem accurately this off-season. Did I mention Johnson had had 2,509 total yards from scrimmage breaking Marshall Faulk’s all-time record, so he is an official dual threat. Which Raiders’ defense will come to play this Sunday?
Raider Nation is looking for the Raiders to put an end to an NFL record seven straight years of 11-plus losses, posting a record of 29-83. With their most complete team since 2002, the Raiders are in position to rectify the misfortune of past years. The level of optimism is so high that now NFL analysts are even picking them to contend heavily in the AFC West this year, as oppose to being the but of all Warren Sapp’s and everyone else’s jokes. Questions will be answered as the season progresses, but the main question is can the Raiders “Just win baby, just win,” well at least more than five games for now.
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Written by Arthur Kai