Getting to Know the Oakland Raiders
September 10, 2012; Oakland, CA, USA; Oakland Raiders quarterback Carson Palmer (3) hands the ball off to running back Darren McFadden (20) during the first quarter against the San Diego Chargers at O.co Coliseum. Mandatory Credit: Kelley L Cox-US PRESSWIRE
This is a team that the Kansas City Chiefs and their fans are all too familiar with. If someone is a true Chiefs fan, then there is nothing on God’s Green Earth he/she hates more than the black and silver team from Oakland during Raiders week. The rivalry goes back to the old AFL days, and is still competitive after all these years. Just last season, it was an overtime loss to the Raiders in week 16 that kept the Chiefs out of the playoffs. But there have been some changes since then.
For the first full season since 1962, Al Davis is no longer involved in the team. And while I don’t like speaking ill of the deceased, this might be a huge turning point for the team in terms of success. It was never a good idea to allow someone to be principal owner as well as general manager. And when the success has passed and the senility* has set in, you get what is called the mid-2000s Raiders. Rest in Peace, Al.
*I assume the only excuse for thinking JaMarcus Russell is a good quarterback is senility.
A new administration is in order at Oakland, with Reggie McKenzie taking over the general manager role that last season’s head coach Hue Jackson tried to give himself in the wake Davis’s death. And just like his predecessor, Jackson gave up more than he should to buy Carson Palmer, who was refusing to play and feigned retirement, from the Cincinnati Bengals after starter Jason Campbell suffered a serious injury. Mike Brown, the de-facto GM of the Bengals, obliged and let Oakland have him for a 2012 first round pick and a 2013 second round pick.*
*Good deal for a guy on his couch.
McKenzie came in as GM during the offseason after having been with the Green Bay Packers since 1994, eventually gaining the title of Director of Football Operations before his move to the Raiders. He quickly got rid of Jackson and hired Broncos defensive coordinator Dennis Allen* as head coach. Allen’s been through the ranks of the league, having been the secondary coach in New Orleans from 2008-2010 and spent time with the Atlanta Falcons before that. Allen also happens to be the first defensive-minded head coach of the Raiders since the legendary John Madden retired following the 1978 season.
*Who looks like he still gets ID’d at liquor stores.
Despite my deep and venomous hatred for the Raiders, I do believe their organization is looking up with these recent changes. I just hope they remember they are the Raiders and continue to squander talent through disorganization and dysfunction. But I digress; here are the 2012 Oakland Raiders:
Since Chiefs fans are mostly familiar with the Raiders team, this summary will be more statistics-based than the others. And the stat I want to start with is Carson Palmer’s. Palmer* is having a good year when you compare it to the Chiefs quarterback situation; otherwise, it’s been less than impressive. While Palmer’s thrown for 1,732 yards while completing 61.4 percent of his passes for seven TDs, he’s also committed eight turnovers – four INTs and four fumbles.** By the way, the backups in Oakland: Matt “Hot Tub” Leinart and Terrelle “Eight Cars” Pryor.
*Who might or might not be better looking than Tom Brady. Don’t worry, there’s a video here to explain.
**If last year is any indication, however, he should double his interceptions by the end of Sunday.
While the running back situation took a hit after losing Michael Bush to the Bears in free agency, the Raiders still have their 2008 first-round pick Darren McFadden in the backfield. And, more importantly, he’s healthy. But the Raiders haven’t run the ball often this season – just 129 total run attempts* – and McFadden only has 324 yards off 104 attempts (3.1 ypc) and two TDs. Mike Goodson, the second running back, has only 11 attempts for 89 yards.
*Chiefs have 205 attempts.
If I asked you to name the Raiders’ leading receiver this season, would you have guessed Brandon Myers? Don’t worry, me either. But that’s exactly who is, and the 2009 sixth-round tight end has 28 receptions for 334 yards. The second leading receiver is Denarius Moore, who has 323 yards and three TDs. Darrius Heyward-Bey is fourth with 183 yards and one TD, but has missed some time this season thanks to this hit against the Steelers. Juron Criner, the 2012 fifth-round pick out of Arizona, only has two catches for 29 yards.
As for the offensive line, it is a year of transition. Not necessarily for personnel, but for the scheme which they run. The Raiders have moved away from Hue Jackson’s power-blocking scheme and embraced new offensive coordinator Greg Knapp’s zone system. At left tackle, the Raiders have 2010 third-round pick Jared Veldheer. At left guard, Cooper Carlisle, the 2000 fourth round pick; at center is Stefen Wisniewski, the Raiders’ legacy,* and 2011 second-round pick; at right guard is Mike Brisiel.** Finally, at right tackle is Willie Smith, filling in for Khalif Barnes, who has been ruled out for Sunday. The Raiders’ first selection in the 2012 draft, third-round pick out of Utah, Tony Bergstrom, is a backup guard. The line has done a decent job keeping Palmer upright this season, only surrendering 12 sacks, tied for 21st fewest in the league.
*Wisniewski’s uncle, Steve, was an eight-time Pro Bowler with the Raiders.
**Who played in NFL Europe for the Hamburg Sea Devils in 2007.
Currently, the Raiders are ninth in the NFL in passing per game (273.2) and 31st in rushing yards per game (76.8).
The Raiders defense starts and ends with the seven-time Pro Bowler Richard Seymour. The anchor of one of the defensive line, Seymour can create havoc in the opposing team’s backfield at any moment, including after the play. Next to Seymour at the other defensive tackle position is Tommy Kelly. On either end of the defensive line are Lamarr Houston, the 2010 second-round pick* from Texas, and Matt Shaughnessy, the 2009 third-round pick from Wisconsin.
*Back in the olden days when Oakland didn’t trade their top draft picks.
The Raiders also have a strong linebacking corps, lead by their middle linebacker, Rolando McClain.* While living up to the Raider tradition of off-the-field issues, the 2010 first round pick out of Alabama plays between Philip “Once Upon a” Wheeler, a 2008 third round pick who is leading the team in tackles, and Miles Burris, the Raiders fourth round pick from last April’s draft. And, in case you were wondering about Aaron Curry, formerly known as the first round bust with the Seahawks, he was placed on the Physically Unable to Perform (PUP) list at the end of August.
*Cousin of former Chiefs fullback, Le’Ron McClain.
The defensive backfield is lead by strong safety Tyvon Branch, who was the Raiders franchise player this offseason before signing a four year deal for $26.6 million. Next to Branch is free safety Michael Huff, the 2006 first round pick out of Texas. At the corner positions, the Raiders are now without Stanford Routt (who, of course, is now on the much less dark side of the force), but have Pat Lee, a free agent acquisition from Green Bay, and Shawntae Spencer, another free agent pick up from San Francisco. Neither of these players were starters at their respective teams before arriving in Oakland.
Currently, the Raiders are 22nd in passing yards allowed per game (254.7) and 12th in rushing yards allowed per game (102.2).
Possibly the best special teams unit in the NFL, it features a first-round kicker and fifth-round punter (emphasis on the first-round kicker).
Kicker: Sebastian “The Polish Cannon” Janikowski* – 14/15 on FGs. Only miss was from 64 yards.
*Oakland’s franchise leading scorer
Punter: Shane Lechler* – 38.5 yards net average in 2012
*Seven-time Pro Bowler and nine-time All Pro
This rivalry goes beyond your normal rivalries. The Chiefs and Raiders split the series last season, each winning at their home field. Hopefully the Chiefs continue the trend and Brady Quinn* is able to deliver the goods for an Arrowhead crowd desperate for a win. Oh, and if you are at the game and happen to see a Raiders fan, don’t hesitate to call the police.
It’s in violation of their parole.
*For a good article on Brady Quinn and the aftermath of being named the Chiefs starter, click here.