The Raiders are a very young team with the potential to win multiple Super Bowls in the coming years.
The defense has some special players that have already shown that they are going to be in the league for a while; players that will lead to a dominant defense for years to come.
First off is Rolando McClain. McClain will be our Ray Lewis. A stalwart MLB is key to the success of a defense. He is the QB of the defense. He will make players think twice about running up the middle lest they get the wrath of McClain.
Kamerion Wimbley is an amazing pass-rusher who can line up at DE or at OLB. His versatility makes it difficult to plan for him. He is a devastating tackler who has the speed and strength to get to the QB or to stop the RB behind the line of scrimmage when he decides to go outside.
Lamarr Houston—a DT when he left Texas who has lined up at DE—is very good at getting pressure on the QB as well as opening holes for the linebackers. He has been working with future Hall of Famer Richard Seymour who won multiple championships with the New England Patriots.
Matt Shaughnessy is another young defensive end who has all the physical tools to become a great DE. He played well in his rookie season and has continued to get better with more playing time. He obviously watched Seymour last season as he has two sacks thus far this season. Along with Houston, Shaughnessy will rush the quarterback and help the Raiders be among the leaders in sacks for years to come.
Last year was Tyvon Branch's coming out party as he had 124 tackles to lead SS. He is very good in coverage and a devastating hitter who makes WRs reconsider going over the middle.
Michael Huff was a first-round pick in 2006 and has taken time to develop. Last season teams barley threw against the Raiders because the run defense was so atrocious that they could run all over them. Huff is very good in coverage mainly because he has the strength, speed, and height to matchup with any WR. He still needs to work on his tackling as that leaves a lot to be desired but he has improved in that area and will continue to get better.
Stanford Routt has finally shown what he is made of. At 6'1", 195 pounds he is faster than Nnamdi (who is 6'2", 210 pounds). Both players are fast and strong with great leaping ability. Nnamdi is the definition of a "shutdown corner." In 2009 he was thrown at 26 times. That is a difficult task for the other CBs as they are going to get targeted more often. Stanford Routt has shown so far this season that he is capable of covering the other side of the field without getting burned all the time.
Jeremy Ware and Walter McFadden are both rookie CBs that I think will develop nicely. They have the opportunity to learn under a once-in-a-generation CB in Nnamdi. Both are notorious tacklers—just look up Jeremy Ware's hit on Colin Sanderman. Walter McFadden is very good in man coverage as he demonstrated with six interceptions in 2009 at Auburn.
The offense has several young players that will lead the Raiders to dominance and result in a very balanced team.
The offensive line has infinite potential. First among them is Bruce Campbell. Campbell has every physical tool you can look for; he is a freak of nature. He is 6'6", 315 pounds, runs a 4.85 40, and has long arms—a necessity among NFL tackles. If he develops better footwork (which he will through working with Cable) he could be a cornerstone of the Raiders offensive line for years to come.
Jared Veldheer was drafted at OT but I see being a dominant guard for years to come. He reminds me of Gallery, who was also drafted as an OT but lacked the arm length to be a dominant tackle, instead emerging as a great OG. He has started at center and has played at tackle but was dominated by Julius Peppers.
Mario Henderson has shown flashes of brilliance but has lacked consistency. He has performed well against Peppers and Mario Williams, and has the potential to be one of the cornerstones of a great Raiders passing/running game.
The two-headed monster: Darren McFadden and Michael Bush. Darren McFadden was labeled a bust but has not shown any of the characteristics of that player this year. He is an explosive running back who has big-play ability. His problem was that as soon as he was hit he was going down. This year he is breaking tackles left and right. If Darren McFadden is the lightning then Michael Bush is the thunder. Bush powers through the holes and runs people over. He is the short-yardage back who gets those difficult yards.
Louis Murphy was Tim Tebow's go to receiver at Florida and is very good. He has good hands, he's a good route-runner, and has the speed to break away from CBs in man coverage. He has the ability to out-jump most corners in a jump ball.
Heyward-Bey was another player labeled a bust, mainly because of his hands. He does not have the best hands in the league by far, but has been working on it as reported in the offseason. He had nine receptions in the past two games.
Chazz Sciliens is our best receiver if he can just stay on the field. He has yet to show that he can keep the injuries away. He has the same skill set as Andre Johnson or Larry Fitzgerald, but can't stay on the field. Chazz is 6'4", 225 pounds, with great speed, leaping ability, and very good hands. He is a decent route-runner and the most reliable receiver when he plays. Whether or not that happens is another thing entirely.
Zach Miller is an elite tight end who does not get any recognition because until now he has had no support. He is a great receiving tight end who is the quarterback's safety net if his first target is not open.
Can Bruce Gradkowski or Jason Campbell be the new Jim Plunkett or Rich Gannon? This is the real question. Both players have struggled, as did Plunkett and Gannon. Jason Campbell is not great at avoiding pressure, which Gradkowski is. Both players have good arm strength and decent accuracy. If either of them can perform nearly as well as Plunkett or Gannon the Raiders will have a dynasty for years to come.
Jacoby Ford and Nick Miller are both explosive return men who can return it for a touchdown any time they touch the ball.
Sebastian Janikowski is a great NFL kicker who has the strongest leg in the league as he has demonstrated time and time again and will continue to show in the years to come.
In the NFL it comes down to inches. It's all about field position and Shane Lechler is the best punter in the league. he has the ability to pin a team at their own 10-yard line.
Like the new article format? Send us feedback!