3 OAKLAND RAIDERS

September 04, 2011

Ever the rebels, they expect to survive key losses just fine

The Raiders have always viewed the world through contrarian-tinted glasses, so it should come as no surprise that they believe they'll be better this year despite losing an All-Pro cornerback, a Pro Bowl tight end, their most consistent offensive lineman and a coach who guided them to their first nonlosing season in eight years. Their response to the free-agent departures of cornerback Nnamdi Asomugha (Eagles), tight end Zach Miller (Seahawks) and guard Robert Gallery (Seahawks), and the firing of Tom Cable? A shrug of the shoulders.

"The NFL is a business and there's always turnover with different guys in and out, so teams have to build a new identity every year," says defensive tackle Richard Seymour. "We have a new coaching staff and everyone is getting acclimated to one another, but I feel like we have some really good pieces. We're trying to build this thing the right way."

Seymour is referring to a philosophy built around running the football, stopping the run and getting to the passer. The Raiders excelled in those areas last year within their division, where they won all six of their games to get to an 8--8 finish. It was their first nonlosing mark since 2002 and easily surpassed their previous high for wins in a season during that stretch; they finished 5--11 on three occasions.

They will employ the same blueprint under Hue Jackson, who becomes the team's sixth head coach in the last nine seasons. Jackson, the team's offensive coordinator last year—a position he also held in Washington and Atlanta—was elevated, in part, because owner Al Davis felt the team underachieved. How could a team go undefeated in the division, the owner wondered, yet win only two games outside it? And how could the Raiders limit divisional foes to an average of 85.3 yards and half a touchdown per game on the ground but be gouged for an average of 162.6 yards and a little more than a touchdown a game against the rest of the league? Playing from behind so often against nondivisional foes accounts for some of that discrepancy, but not all of it. Far from it.

"First of all," Seymour says, "we don't like anybody in our division, so I think we need to take that approach with everybody else. It is a weird stat. It's ridiculous, really. It's like we smashed up and beat up everybody in the division, but outside of it we didn't approach it with the same mind-set. Now we're trying to take that next step as a team, because we know the pitfalls and what could happen if we don't."

Oakland claims not to be losing sleep over the aforementioned departures, but its protests aside, it is a steep drop from Asomugha to his replacements, Stanford Routt and Chris Johnson. And while the Raiders survived the loss of Gallery (hamstring) for four games last year, his replacement's pedigree aside (uncle Steve was an eight-time Pro Bowler with the franchise and is now the offensive line coach), Stefen Wisniewski is still a rookie. Former Giant Kevin Boss, an adequate blocker and sure-handed receiver (110 catches over the last three seasons), should ably step in for Miller.

The rest of the roster remains largely intact. "The core group of guys has been here for more than a year now, and that gives us an opportunity to have a better season and an opportunity to make the playoffs," says quarterback Jason Campbell. "Even with a coaching change, we're not learning new terminology. All we're doing is trying to continue to learn the things from last season and keep adding things to the pie."

The biggest piece of that pie is the running game, led by Darren McFadden, who had a breakout season in his third year with 1,157 yards and seven touchdowns. In his first two seasons, he had 856 yards and five scores rushing combined. McFadden's continued development will be a boon for Campbell, who begins his first full season as the Raiders' starter. Campbell has been reunited with new coordinator Al Saunders, under whom he broke into the league in 2006, with Washington.

"I expect a splurge," Campbell says of his production. "I've been knocking at that door of getting to the next level but haven't been able to get there. Hopefully this is that year. I've got an opportunity to be with an offensive coordinator that I've been with before, and I'm in my second year of running coach Jackson's system—not only me, but the other guys as well. There's stability."

Lose four key guys and gain stability. Only in Oakland.

PROJECTED LINEUP

WITH 2010 STATS

OFFENSE

2010 Rank: 10

QB JASON CAMPBELL

ATT 329

COMP 194

PCT 59

YARDS 2,387

YD/ATT 7.26

TD 13

INT 8

RATING 84.5

RB DARREN MCFADDEN

ATT 223

YARDS 1,157

REC 47

TTD 10

FB MARCEL REECE

ATT 30

YARDS 122

REC 25

TTD 4

WR DARRIUS HEYWARD-BEY

REC 26

YARDS 366

AVG 14.1

TTD 1

WR JACOBY FORD

REC 25

YARDS 470

AVG 18.8

TTD 4

TE KEVIN BOSS

REC 35

YARDS 531

AVG 15.2

TTD 5

LT JARED VELDHEER

G 16

SACKS 7½

HOLD 5

FALSE 8

LG ROY SCHUENING

G 1

SACKS 0

HOLD 0

FALSE 0

C STEFEN WISNIEWSKI (R)

G 13

STARTS 13

RG COOPER CARLISLE

G 16

SACKS 3

HOLD 0

FALSE 2

RT JOE BARKSDALE (R)

G 13

STARTS 13

RB MICHAEL BUSH

ATT 158

YARDS 655

REC 18

TTD 8

WR LOUIS MURPHY

REC 41

YARDS 609

AVG 14.9

TTD 2

DEFENSE

2010 Rank: 11

DE LAMARR HOUSTON

TACKLES 39

SACKS 5

INT 0

DT RICHARD SEYMOUR

TACKLES 48

SACKS 5½

INT 0

DT TOMMY KELLY

TACKLES 58

SACKS 7

INT 0

DE MATT SHAUGHNESSY

TACKLES 56

SACKS 7

INT 0

LB QUENTIN GROVES

TACKLES 39

SACKS 0

INT 1

LB ROLANDO MCCLAIN

TACKLES 85

SACKS ½

INT 1

LB KAMERION WIMBLEY

TACKLES 58

SACKS 9

INT 0

CB CHRIS JOHNSON

TACKLES 16

SACKS 0

INT 2

SS TYVON BRANCH

TACKLES 102

SACKS 4

INT 1

FS MICHAEL HUFF

TACKLES 84

SACKS 4

INT 3

CB STANFORD ROUTT

TACKLES 55

SACKS 0

INT 2

DT JOHN HENDERSON

TACKLES 30

SACKS 0

INT 0

SPECIALISTS

K SEBASTIAN JANIKOWSKI

FG 33

FGA 41

XP 43

PTS 142

P SHANE LECHLER

PUNTS 77

GROSS 47.0

NET 40.8

BOLD: Projected starter

Italics: New acquisition

(R) Rookie: College stats

TTD: Total touchdowns

OFFENSIVE LINEMEN

SACKS: Sacks allowed

HOLD: Holding penalties

FALSE: False starts

2011 SCHEDULE

2010 RECORD: 8--8

September

12 at Denver (Mon)

18 at Buffalo

25 N.Y. Jets

October

2 New England

9 at Houston

16 Cleveland

23 Kansas City

30 BYE

November

6 Denver

10 at San Diego (Thu)

20 at Minnesota

27 Chicago

December

4 at Miami

11 at Green Bay

18 Detroit

24 at Kansas City (Sat)

January

1 San Diego

Coach: HUE JACKSON

AGE: 45

FIRST SEASON WITH THE RAIDERS

As Oakland's offensive coordinator last season, Jackson instilled enthusiasm and attitude in his group, which ranked sixth in scoring (25.6 points per game). No Raiders coach over the past nine years, however, has lasted more than two seasons, and team insiders say owner Al Davis believes this team should reach the playoffs.

SPOTLIGHT

DENARIUS MOORE, Wide receiver

The rookie fifth-round pick out of Tennessee was among the team's most impressive players in training camp, showing good hands and running routes with veteran precision. That's welcome news for an offense whose receiving game is in flux. Former first-round pick Darrius Heyward-Bey has been a disappointment as a deep threat and is probably better suited for short and intermediate routes. Chaz Schilens, a potential No. 1 wideout, has been unable to stay healthy. And Louis Murphy, the team's second-leading receiver in 2010, will miss time after having surgery for an undisclosed injury.

All of this opens the door for Moore. He is second on the team in catches, with eight through three preseason games, and impressed not only the coaches but also quarterback Jason Campbell. "He just plays with so much confidence, he's competitive, and he has big hands," Campbell says. "He can catch the ball anywhere around his body. You don't have to hit him in his chest. It doesn't have to be around his face. He can reach and catch balls."

The 6'1", 194-pound Moore could also be a factor on special teams. He had a 57-yard punt return against the Cardinals that was negated by a penalty. The Volunteers have a tradition of delivering elite wideouts to the NFL. Moore might be the latest.

PHOTOPETER READ MILLER (MCFADDEN)JUST RUN, BABY McFadden had a breakout season in 2010, when the Raiders dominated division foes such as the Chargers but were run over by nearly everyone else. PHOTOICON SMI (JACKSON) PHOTOMATT COHEN/SOUTHCREEK GLOBAL/ZUMAPRESS.COM (MOORE)

HOLE YARDS PAR R1 R2 R3 R4
OUT
HOLE YARDS PAR R1 R2 R3 R4
IN
Eagle (-2)
Birdie (-1)
Bogey (+1)
Double Bogey (+2)