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2007 Season Previews
Oakland Raiders (Last Year: 2-14)
Veteran Additions:
QB Josh McCown, RB Dominic Rhodes, FB Justin Griffith, WR Travis Taylor, WR Mike Williams, G Cooper Carlisle, C Jeremy Newberry, S Donovin Darius.
Draft Picks:
QB JaMarcus Russell, RB Michael Bush, FB Oren O'Neal, WR Johnnie Lee Higgins, WR Jonathan Holland, TE Zach Miller, OT Mario Henderson, DE Quentin Moses*, DE Jay Richardson, CB John Bowie, S Eric Frampton.
Major Subtractions:
QB Aaron Brooks, QB Marques Tuiasosopo (NYJ), WR Randy Moss (NE), OT Langston Walker (BUF), G Brad Badger, G Corey Hulsey, DE Lance Johnstone, OLB Grant Irons, CB Tyrone Poole, S Derrick Gibson.

Offense This Year: As Fred from Endless Banter would say, "The man has lost his marbles." What was Al Davis thinking when he assembled last year's offensive unit? He paired together the most erratic quarterback ever to walk the planet (Aaron Brooks), a young signal caller with neither experience nor upside (Andrew Walter), two malcontent receivers (Randy Moss and Jerry Porter), the worst offensive line in the history of football on any level, and a head coach who may or may not have been a corpse who wandered off from his grave. Oakland was consequently shut out thrice and held to single digits on seven occasions. The team averaged 10.5 points per game, surrendered 72 sacks, threw almost four times as many interceptions (24) as touchdowns (7), and scored a whopping 12 offensive touchdowns the entire campaign. I'd continue with the negative stats, but doing so may cause a few Raiders fans to jump off a bridge.

Oakland can't possibly be worse offensively this year, can it? No - that's a physical impossibility. But I can't see the team being much better. The quarterback position has been upgraded - and I'm saying this loosely - with Josh McCown and rookie JaMarcus Russell. The Raiders have hinted that Russell will sit out the entire 2007 season because the offensive front cannot pass protect, which essentially makes McCown their sacrificial lamb. I am confident in stating, however, that the line won't permit more than 70 sacks this time around. The unit is still horrendous, but the offseason acquisition of right guard Cooper Carlisle will help. Carlisle has been a member of Denver's 1,000-yard-rushing line since 2000. There are still holes at both tackle positions, as well as left guard and center, but at least one slot is taken care of.

With the front still in flux, the Raiders will have problems running the ball once again. LaMont Jordan gained 3.8 yards per carry when he was in the lineup. Jordan will now be backed up by Dominic Rhodes and promising rookie Michael Bush, but it doesn't really matter because there won't be any holes to run through. Speaking of holes, Oakland's receiving corps is void of talent, excluding Ronald Curry (33 catches, 339 yards, 1 TD the final four weeks in 2006), who is slated to be the No. 1 wide out next season. Moss is gone, so Porter, assuming he's actually not kicked off the team, will be starting across from Curry. Travis Taylor, Mike Williams, Alvis Whitted, Doug Gabriel and rookie Johnnie Lee Higgins will all battle it out to be the third guy.

One weapon Oakland managed to obtain is rookie tight end Zach Miller, chosen in the second round. Miller, an instant upgrade over Tony Stewart and Randal Williams, could become the go-to guy for either McCown or Russell. Now, if only the Raiders had eight more players like that.

Defense This Year: It sounds odd to say that a defense bailed out a 2-14 team, but if the Raiders' stop unit would have been nearly as poor as the offense, they wouldn't have won any games last year. It's really a shame that the scoring unit wasted the effort that the stop unit exerted on a weekly basis.

The secondary really was the heart of the defense. I didn't give the young quartette of Nnamdi Asomugha, Fabian Washington, Stuart Schweigert and Michael Huff much of a chance in last year's season preview, but they stepped up and really impressed me. Corners Asomugha and Washington combined for 12 interceptions, leading a unit that limited opposing offenses to just 2,413 passing yards for the entire 2006 campaign.

What the four defensive backs did was really remarkable when you consider that the front seven produced only 34 sacks. Sure, Derrick Burgess (11 sacks) and Warren Sapp (10) were able to apply a considerable amount of pressure on opposing signal callers, but no one else on Oakland's defense was able to match their intensity. In fact, the third-leading sacker, Tommy Kelly, notched only 3.5 sacks. The Raiders consequently selected two defensive ends in the middle of the draft: Quentin Moses and Jay Richardson. Don't be surprised if one of those two players takes Kelly's spot in the starting lineup prior to Kickoff Sunday.

Another positive, defensive move Oakland made this offseason was re-signing defensive tackle Terdell Sands, who was largely responsible for the team holding opposing runners to just four yards per carry. Sands also occupied opposing linemen, allowing an upstart group of linebackers - Kirk Morrison, Sam Williams and Thomas Howard - to make plays all around the field. The three linebackers should be even better in 2007, considering that Williams is the elder statesman at age 26.

Schedule and Intangibles: The Black Hole seems like an intimidating place to play, but the Raiders are surprisingly just .500 (48-48) at home since 1995. ... Kicker Sebastian Janikowski has a powerful leg, but was only 3-of-7 from beyond 50 yards last season. He almost missed three kicks from inside 40 yards. And he's a former first-round pick? ... Shane Lechler is the best punter in the league, hands down. ... Oakland hasn't returned a kickoff or a punt for a touchdown since 2003. Hey, that matches its offense. ... Lane Kiffin, the Raiders' head coach, is only 32 years old. Still, he's better than Art Shell by default. And remember, Al Davis hired a young head coach with little experience nine years ago. His name was Jon Gruden. ... Everyone is claiming that Oakland has one of the toughest schedules in the league, but I just don't see it. Sure, the team has to play San Diego and Denver twice each, as well as Indianapolis, Jacksonville and Chicago. However, the Raiders also get Detroit, Cleveland, Miami, Tennessee, Houston, Minnesota and Green Bay.

Additional Reading: Endless Banter coming soon.

Positional Rankings (0-4 stars):
Quarterbacks
Offensive Line
No stars
Secondary
Running Backs
Defensive Line
Special Teams
Receivers
Linebackers
Coaching


Divisional Rival History:
Denver Broncos: Mike Shanahan owns Al Davis. Maybe Davis shouldn't have fired Shanahan in 1989. The Broncos have won 15 of the past 19 meetings.
Kansas City Chiefs: Kansas City has dominated Oakland the past four years, claiming the past eight games. That should continue for at least one more season.
San Diego Chargers: Not even close. The Chargers have won the previous seven meetings. That number will increase to nine in the near future.

Fantasy Football:
Josh McCown: Josh McCown goes from Anquan Boldin and Larry Fitzgerald in Arizona, to Roy Williams and Mike Furrey in Detroit, to Ronald Curry and Jerry Porter in Oakland. Someone out there hates McCown.
Projected Stats: 1,950 passing yards. 8 passing TDs. 175 rushing yards. 1 rushing TD.
Projected Fantasy Points: 169.

JaMarcus Russell: I'm not sure how much JaMarcus Russell will play this year. Don't waste your time if you're in a traditional league. I'd definitely take him in a keeper league, however.
Projected Stats: 775 passing yards. 3 passing TDs. 100 rushing yards. 2 rushing TDs.
Projected Fantasy Points: 79.

LaMont Jordan: Oakland's offensive line won't open up any holes for LaMont Jordan or anyone else in the backfield. I'd rather take a backup running back on San Diego or Chicago rather than the Raiders' starter.
Projected Stats: 575 rushing yards. 125 receiving yards. 3 total TDs.
Projected Fantasy Points: 87.

Michael Bush: Definitely a hot prospect in a keeper league, Michael Bush probably won't do anything this year.
Projected Stats: 100 rushing yards. 10 receiving yards. 0 total TDs.
Projected Fantasy Points: 11.

Zach Miller: One of two offensive players on the Raiders worth drafting in a traditional league. It's hard to say what Zach Miller will do because he's only a rookie.
Projected Stats: 550 receiving yards. 2 TDs.
Projected Fantasy Points: 67.

Ronald Curry: Ronald Curry, the Raiders' No. 1 receiver in 2006, managed only 727 yards and one touchdown. Doesn't sound too promising, but check out the stats he compiled the final four weeks of the season: 33 catches, 339 yards and one touchdown. Multiply each of those numbers by four and you get 132 receptions, 1,356 yards and four scores. That's not realistic, but Curry has "sleeper" written all over him.
Projected Stats: 1,050 receiving yards. 4 TDs.
Projected Fantasy Points: 129.

Travis Taylor: It's pretty sad when a free agent sitting out there on the market for three months is better than all but one receiver on your roster.
Projected Stats: 450 receiving yards. 1 TD.
Projected Fantasy Points: 51.

Jerry Porter: Not sure what to expect here. Will Jerry Porter play? Will he get kicked off the team? Stay away regardless; Porter has never reached 1,000 yards in his career.
Projected Stats: 400 receiving yards. 0 TDs.
Projected Fantasy Points: 40.

Mike Williams: If your fantasy league offers points for donuts eaten in the offseason, take Mike Williams in the first round. Otherwise, stay away.
Projected Stats: 125 receiving yards. 0 TDs.
Projected Fantasy Points: 12.

Sebastian Janikowski: "Sea Bass" is only 3-of-10 from beyond 50 yards the past two seasons. He hasn't hit better than 72 percent since 2004. There won't be many extra points either. I wouldn't take him.
Projected Stats: 21-29 FG (2-5 50+). 21 XP.
Projected Fantasy Points: 94.

Oakland Defense: The Raiders get a lot of interceptions and their sack total should be up, so they're worth taking as a starting unit in a 12-team league. Imagine how much more effective they'll be if the offense steps it up a bit.
Projected Fantasy Ranking: Top 12 Defense.

Analysis: The fate of Oakland's season rests on the offense's shoulders. That doesn't sound too promising, but I don't think the Raiders will win only two games again. Four or five sounds about right. That said, the Raiders are headed in the right direction. If Al Davis makes the right moves the next couple of years, his team could be in the playoffs by 2009.

Projection: 4-12 (4th in AFC West)


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