The Oakland Raiders get to have McAfee Coliseum all to themselves this fall and winter, after the A’s schedule ends and the end of summer finally puts an end to the Athletics self-imposed struggling season.
The Raiders have been trying to shake off the slide the franchise has endured every since they lost to Jon Gruden and the Bucs in a humiliating Super Bowl loss in 2002. This is old news, but the message is still the same: one of the most successful clubs in the history of the NFL has been trying to regain their composure and find some youth to build the team around so that the mass retirement craze that followed the embarrassing loss will not end the team for half a decade.
Super Bowl tickets for Oakland fans may be in the difficult to see future, but this season the team has to let their young talent grow. The running back position is packed with youth. Darren McFadden and Michael Bush are the perfect one-two combo for the modern offense’s need for a dual backfield. Justin Fargas might just become the expensive odd man out. He could be trade bait for draft picks or to shore up the defense.
Meanwhile JaMarcus Russell continues to develop as a young quarterback. He may cause a lot of frustration, but the Raiders are gong to stick with him for the next few seasons. Even Al Davis cannot buck the trend to stay with a quarterback picked pretty high in the draft. Russell is going to continue to see games with numbers on the low-end for passing attempts. Part of this is because of the receivers and part of this is because of the running game.
When the top receiver on the team is a player (Javon Walker) who is really a slot guy or a number two option at best, things are not looking good for the passing game. Walker and Ronald Curry are not going to be able t make the moves that make a number one receiver. If Brett Favre was slinging passes then things might be different. Instead, a young quarterback is going to make mistakes the guys on the field are not going to help him out any.
Luckily the running backs are simply scary. If McFadden, Bush, and Fargas can keep running the defensive line and the linebackers ragged, then Oakland could control the ball and keep the weak defense off the field. Despite all the attempts to improve the defense it is just a little better the Golden State Warriors. Where Warriors games need to be faced paced to overcome the lack of anything resembling a stop on the defensive end, the Raiders need a slow, time-consuming offense to keep the defense on the sidelines and leaving the opposing offense antsy on their side of the field.
Oakland Raiders football will, at the very least, not be purely a tradition in exercise for the next few seasons. The team may not be able to take over the AFC West from the San Diego Chargers or the Denver Broncos, but they will be able to compete every week.