We’re halfway through the 2009 season and it’s time to take stock in the Oakland Raiders.
Instead of issuing grades, I’ll keep it simple and pay homage to Halloween.
JaMarcus Russell – Trick
If this was supposed to be his make or break year, it’s safe to say so far he’s broken the seal on that bust label.
Mario Henderson – Treat
Super Mario is becoming everything Robert Gallery was supposed to be. So much so that Drew Rosenhaus has taken notice.
Darren McFadden – Trick
He couldn’t stay healthy in college. He can’t stay healthy in the pros. Run-DMC is more broken record than game breaker in his second season in the NFL.
Nnamdi Asomugha – Treat
He’s the best in the business at a position where all the rules are against you. Since 2006, quarterbacks don’t even look to his side of the field. That huge contract he got this off-season is starting to look like a bargain.
Javon Walker – Trick
Walker is the invisible $55-million man. He’s in Tom Cable’s doghouse and the only way out would appear to be retirement.
Tyvon Branch – Treat
Don’t look now, but this guy is becoming a solid safety. His run support is great and his coverage skills are improving with each game.
Tom Cable – Trick
His bold play calling in ’08 has disappeared in ’09. Running McFadden up the zero hole, insisting on sticking with rookie receivers and scripting more three-and-outs than Roger Clemens has made Cable a goat for the worst offense in football.
Michael Huff – Treat
Earlier, I ate crow for my criticism of Huff. To his credit, he’s worked hard to earn field time this year. Even though he may never live up to his draft status, he deserves props for his performance thus far.
Michael Bush – Trick
What happened to Bush? After running Chucky out of the NFL and into the MNF booth, he’s become a forgotten man in a forgettable offense.
Zach Miller – Treat
If he didn’t play in the Black Hole, Miller would be among the top 5 tight ends in the NFL. He’s got the best hands on the team, is impossible to defend one-on-one and could one day be the greatest TE to ever wear Silver and Black. I can watch his TD against the Eagles all day long (Louis Murphy’s blocking too).
Darrius Heyward-Bey – Trick
Nothing shocking about this one. DHB might come around one day. Until then, he should be watching from the sideline, earning the right to play instead of being forced to earn his paycheck.
Tommy Kelly – Treat
He’s healthy and playing with Richard Seymour has really helped his game. Kelly is an athletic freak who abuses offensive lineman when he can go one-one-one with them.
Samson Satele – Trick
He’s slowly coming around but he’s been slow catching on too. The Raiders traded for Satele in hopes he’d be a perfect fit for the ZBS. If the running game is going to improve, it starts with Robert Gallery getting back on the field and Satele dominating the line of scrimmage.
Justin Fargas – Treat
Fargas and Asomugha are the only Raiders who earn their game check every time they suit up. Fargas was supposed to be the forgotten man among the running backs in ’09. Chances are he’ll lead this team in rushing yet again.
John Fassel – Trick
He’s made the league’s best special teams into the league’s worst. I’m guessing that he’ll be coaching with his dad in the UFL in 2010.
John Marshall – Treat
He blitzes, he mixes coverages and he’s unafraid to take risks. The performance of the “D” has been up and down. But to be fair, a lot of that has to be blamed on the poor play of the offense.
Johnnie Lee Higgins – Trick
Is it just my imagination, or did this guy actually look like a threat every time he touched the ball in ’08? His shoulder injury might be holding him back but JLH is getting lost in the shuffle.
Shane Lechler – Treat
Yeah, so maybe the best play in the book for the Raiders is the punt formation. Make your jokes. All I know is that seeing Lechler boom those 57-yarders on TV doesn’t do justice to his talent. If you’ve never seen Shane live you have no idea what you’re missing. He’s a modern marvel.
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Topics: Darren McFadden, Darrius Heyward-Bey, JaMarcus Russell, Javon Walker, John Fassel, John Marshall, Johnnie Lee Higgins, Justin Fargas, Mario Henderson, Michael Bush, Nnamdi Asomugha, Robert Gallery, Samson Satele, Tommy Kelly, Tyvon Branch, Zach Miller