Behind Enemy Lines - Raiders Edition

With all the training camps now up and running, it couldn’t be a better time to take a look at how the Oakland Raiders competition within the AFC West.  Not only am I going to examine the rosters of the teams us Raider fans hate most, but the Fan-Sided blogger’s for the Chiefs, Broncos, and Chargers have weighed in on the same topic.  

San Diego Chargers

When honestly examining this Chargers team, it’s hard for me to talk a lot of smack.  There are to many players on this roster that I wanted Oakland before the Chargers drafted or signed them.  But one I didn’t was Philip Rivers.  I hate his cocky attitude (Jay Cutler is not a small guy, and also benches over 400lbs; makes me think one of these day’s someones gonna knock Rivers in that fat mouth).  Not much to their receiving corps, but if I played Fantasy Football, Vincent Jackson would be one of the first receivers I’d take.  Tomlinson’s a stud; nuff said.  The O-line is one of the best in the league, and needs more recognition from the guys on ESPN and Fox Sports for being so consistent.

I got no love Merriman for the obvious reasons, but he continues to dominate, so you can’t deny his impact.  I still feel there’s a weakness inside at the linebacker spot, but as long Williams continues to pick up the slack, they’ll be fine with the meager talent they have.  But if there’s one spot I think they’ve failed at, it’s utilizing the opening Williams gives them by signing or drafting a premier middle linebacker.  Their secondary isn’t a liability but isn’t anything special either. 

So again, it’s hard for me to speak poorly of the likes of Darren Sproles, Igor Olshansky, Jammal Williams, and Nick Hardwick; and those aren’t even the headliners in S.D.  All in all this team is in great shape, with tons of talent.  I don’t think they’re Super Bowl bound, and I think as a hole the Raiders have the (young) talent to supplant the Chargers, but if I had to bet on who’s got the better chance in ’08, I gotta give the nod to Chargers.

Kansas City Chiefs

A lot like the talent in San Diego, there are few player’s that I think are a joke in K.C.  They have a nice combination of young and old talent, and although it will be a weakness at times I think they will do far better than they did last year.  I know Brodie Croyle hasn’t become a steady starter, but I loved this kid at Bama, and have no doubt that he can play at this level.  It took the overlooked Jeff Garcia and the first round blue chip Rich Gannon to totally different paths to the Bay Area where they finally lived up to their abilities.  I hope for Croyle’s sake he finds his place sooner than later, but I can’t believe he’ll never make it in this league.  Larry Johnson might not last forever and Kolby Smith isn’t the best second choice, but after Smith’s performance against the Raiders last season in Arrowhead he gives me no place to say the Chiefs are in trouble at running back.  Dwayne Bowe reminds me of the Texans Andre Johnson, and he should start putting up similar numbers as the Pro-Bowl wideout.

7 of the 11 presumed defensive starters were drafted in the first and second round (Napolean Harris, Derrick Johnson, Tamba Hali, Glenn Dorsey, Patrick Surtain, Bernard Pollard, Brandon Flowers).  The lack of effort in free agency, especially since an upcoming un-caped season approaches, shows how stingy Carl Peterson is.  He knew he was going to have to give into the absurd rookie contracts ($51 million makes Dorsey one of the top paid DT’s in the league), but refused to shell out any money for veterans that were on the market.  The Chiefs are still in bad shape, and need a lot to go right and a couple of guys to come out of nowhere for them to come close to .500.

Denver Broncos

Finally a division rival that gives me reason to rip on them.  Ok, where do I start…their coach can’t win sh*t without a guy named Elway, Jay Cutler is not that good, the o-line looks pathetic, their running backs are a joke, Elvis Dummerville and D.J. Williams are the only good players in their front 7, their secondary is nothing compared to the Raiders now, and the hated Jason Elam is finally gone.  Cutler throws a nice hard pass, and is workout warrior, but he hasn’t shown me that he’s has what it takes to be a great quarterback in this league.  His size and strength will keep him in this league, but I don’t think he has the mind or magic to succeed.  Ken Dorsey’s lack of physicality has kept his great football knowledge and winning ways from excelling at the NFL level; there’s no doubt in my mind that Dorsey would’ve been a Pro Bowler in this league if he had half of Cutler’s physical talents.

No one can deny what Champ Bailey has accomplished in this league, but how much longer can the 30 year old corner be successful out on the wing.  I think Bailey will make a smooth transition from corner to free-safety, but that usually happens after a player starts getting beat outside.  Will that start this year?  I wouldn’t be surprised.  Dre Bly plays the ball better than he can play the player.  As the 31 year old Bly continues to lose speed he’ll need more man-to-man skills than ball skills to be successful.  Bly’s very similar to the Chiefs Patrtick Surtain, a former stud that’s lost a step but has improved his coverage skills to be able to stay in the league.  I look for Bly to run a step slower in each year from here on; removing his name from elite status.  Ahhhh, it feels good when one of the teams you hate gives you every reason to doubt them.  Every other team in this division can run and pass against this defense, and stop every facet of this Broncos’ offense. If the Broncos do plummet to the bottom of the league, then the front office should have no other choice but to fire Mike Shanahan.  Music to my ears.

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