The Oakland Raiders begin their season off on the road against their biggest rivals the Denver Broncos. Last year the Raiders demolished the Broncos scoring 98 points in a combined two games, not mention a 45-point beat down in Denver. Returning to the scene of the crime to kick off their 2011 season, will the Raiders continue their dominance of the AFC West or was last year simply an aberration?
With little to no moves during the off-season, the Raiders obviously felt the way to improve had to come from within. By resigning linebacker Kamerion Wimbley and cornerback Standford Routt, Oakland held onto key defensive pieces, but they let the biggest piece, cornerback Nnamdi Asomugha, get away thanks to a shrewd contract clause that should not have even existed in the first place. With no addition of a top-tier defensive back to replace Asomugha, the Raiders lose a Pro-Bowler, not to mention no additional signings on the defensive line to help against the run (ranked 29th), will their lack of off-season moves hinder their progress on that side of the ball?
The same could be said for the offensive side, as Jason Campbell leads the way. Will he be more consistent this year? The Raiders could have look to brought in a more established quarterback, but Al Davis modern day version of Jim Plunkett will take the reigns for Oakland for the second straight year. The running game was a given for the Raiders (ranked 2nd), but will running back Darren McFadden stay healthy enough to improve on a solid season?
The biggest disappointment was the fact that the Raiders didn’t pick up an established wide receiver in free agency. The main weak spot on offense for the Raiders is that they lack a true #1 receiver. Louis Murphy is a solid #2 wide-out, but the real question is whether or not Darrius Heyward-Bey will go from a draft bust to in Darrius we trust?
Last but not least, Hue Jackson jumps from offensive coordinator to head coach for Oakland and promises brighter days for Raider Nation, but will Al Davis give him enough time to build a contender in Oakland? Jackson is the Raiders 3rd head coach in the last five years, and needs to improve on last year’s 8-8 season to assure Davis that he made the right hire.
In any rebuilding stage, progress is a visible factor that has to take place quick enough for players, coaches, executives and fans to have a reason to believe in a team. Will Oakland take the next step in the right direction? We’ll find out Monday night against the Denver Broncos, as they look to win their season opener for the first time in several years. The mission continues for the Silver and Black.
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Written by Arthur Kai