Raiders Set to Tangle with Titans; Run Defense Takes Center Stage

Are you ready for some Oakland Raiders football? (Photo: YardBarker.com)

 If the Oakland Raiders have any serious designs on putting the last seven years of misery behind them then the NFL schedule makers have given them the best test possible to open the 2010 season.

With all the expectations lumped on the shoulders of Jason Campbell, he is but a secondary storyline in this opening weekend drama. After all, cutting JaMarcus Russell and trading for Campbell was the second most important move made this offseason.

The most important moves the Raiders made this offseason had nothing to do with the quarterback position. It had everything to do with the defense, specifically the run defense. Drafting Rolando McClain, trading Kirk Morrison and demoting Thomas Howard were moves made with three simple words in mind.

Stop the run!

There are many reasons why the Raiders have not won more than five games in any season since last going to the Super Bowl way back when. Most notably has been the horrendous run defense.

Those three simple words could be the key to this season of high expectations.

Stop the run!

Say it again.

Stop the run!

Keep saying it until it becomes a mantra as engrained in the mind the as another famous three-word saying popular in Silver and Black country.

Just win baby!

In order to have any chance of beating the Tennessee Titans this Sunday, many obvious things needs to occur.

Naturally, the running game is going to be important as the best defense is often a good offense. Moving the chains, chewing up the clock and hanging points on the board all help to keep 2,000-yard dynamo Chris Johnson sipping Gatorade instead of compiling fantasy points. Just how effective Darren McFadden and an injured Michael Bush can be remains to be seen. When healthy this preseason, Bush was the best bet. McFadden is still struggling to find his way running between the tackles.

Naturally, the passing game will have to get up to speed quickly. Darrius Heyward-Bey showed some real promise in the final preseason game but that was then and this is now. JC needs reliable targets and even though Louis Murphy has big play ability, the only consistently reliable receiver is Zach Miller.

However, in order for the Raiders to begin 2010 with a win they’ll need to dominate the trenches.

The essence of the game of football can be found in the battles waged in the middle of the field by men who play for pride more so than glory.

The Raiders can only go as far as their offensive and defensive lines carry them. There is plenty of reason for concern but also plenty of reason for hope.

With new and old faces in odd and familiar places there is going to be a certain ‘feeling out’ period for the Silver and Black.

Rookie Jared Veldheer going from small college left tackle to starting center in the NFL will be an important transition that could indicate just how this season will go. Quentin Groves going from third string linebacker to weakside starter thanks to Trevor Scott returning his natural defensive end position is another subplot that will factor heavily.

But this game is all about the run defense.

Slow the NFL’s best running back and see what happens.

Stop the run!

It starts Sunday and could set the tone for the entire season.

Say it again.

Stop the run!

Keep saying from now until the final whistle on Sunday.

Stop the run!

Stop the run!

Stop the run!

Tags: Chris Johnson Darren McFadden Darrius Heyward-Bey JaMarcus Russell Jared Veldheer Jason Campbell Kirk Morrison Louis Murphy Michael Bush Quentin Groves Rolando McClain Thomas Howard Trevor Scott Zach Miller

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