When we finally put this pointless lockout in the rearview mirror it will be opposing defenses that will be on the lookout for the Silver and Black. What happened in Denver last year was only a warning. This offense is quickly becoming a dynamic unit capable of hanging points on the board in a hurry.
How that seemingly happened overnight can be attributed to the work Hue Jackson put in from day one on the job as the OC. Don’t confuse the facts, Jackson gets much of the credit. So much so that he went from coordinator to head coach in one season flat.
Fact of the matter is much of the praise should be attributed to the personnel department in Oakland that has quietly assembled some of the most dynamic offensive talent in pro football.
The haters love to lampoon Al’s stopwatch affinity. Sure, there have been enough head scratching moves made to warrant some of the jokes. But if things continue on their upward swing it will be Mr. Davis that will truly have the last laugh.
Seeing Darren McFadden finally healthy was eye opening. After his initial struggles during his first two years in the league any number of explanations were offered. Some said McFadden’s game didn’t transfer to the more narrow hash marks of the NFL. Others claimed he didn’t have the ability to run between the tackles. What Run DMC did in 2010 silenced all of that. Now he’s on the cusp of becoming on of the most exciting players in the game.
These days you’ve got to have a balanced rushing attach which necessitates the need for two backs. Enter Michael Bush.
We all know the story of a man that could have won a Heisman but a broken leg put those hopes on ice and put a damper on his pro prospects. Good thing for Michael Bush that Mr. Davis is capable of being patient from time to time. Davis drafted Bush knowing he would sit for an entire year. That was fine by Al as he knew a healed Bush would do major damage. Over the last two seasons Davis has fielded more calls for inquiries into what it would take to get Bush than he has from Lane Kiffin on what it would take to get the rest of his contract paid out.
While the strength of the offense is clearly the running game, the arrival of Jason Campbell and the emergence of Jacoby Ford have give life to the passing attack.
While the new era vertical game is still in its infancy, there are plenty of reasons to be excited about the future.
The ground game helped play right into one of Campbell’s great strengths – play action. JC faked out entire stadiums and even camera crews in 2010 with his ability to sell the run while thinking pass all along. Those fakes helped make life easier for the young receiving corps which is still struggling to find consistency.
Darrius Heyward-Bey may never become a top 10 talent as his draft status would indicate but it is no coincidence that he had his first 100-yard game with Campbell calling signals. Louis Murphy is still trying to find his rhythm but you get the feeling that having a healthy Chaz Schilens would go a long way in defining all the roles for the receivers.
While Raider Nation breathlessly awaits the breakout of Schilens, the fans in Silver and Black all bore witness to the arrival of Jacoby Ford.
Ford’s rookie campaign was one for the record books in Oakland. From his special teams prowess to his playmaking ability, Ford is a weapons unlike any other in the NFL. Most saw him only contributing on special teams but he proved to be equally capable of making plays as a receiver as well. Hopefully the newest weapon – Taiwan Jones – will yield similar results during his rookie season.
All this talk of the offensive weapons and we haven’t even discussed the most dangerous man in the East Bay – Zach Miller.
Make no mistake Miller is the engine that drives this offense. Without him the Raiders are still deadly but with Miller they border on unstoppable. His hands, athletic ability and team first mentality make Miller one of the game’s best tight ends. But it’s his consistency that makes Miller an impossible matchup on Sundays.
With Miller in the mix every facet of Oakland’s offense becomes a problem. Suddenly defensive coordinators are pitted with the pick-your-poison scenario. Miller is that rare athlete that is as capable of making plays underneath as he is downfield.
While bolstering the defense with the Richard Seymour, Kamerion Wimbley and Stanford Routt re-signings was important, keeping Miller in Oakland has got to be priority number one once this lockout is sorted out.
If there is one glaring weakness it is the offensive line. Currently there is but one player whose job is written in ink – Jared Veldheer. There is one other name you can pencil in – top pick Stefan Wisniewski – but there’s no telling if he’ll be the starting center or a guard at this point.
In order for Jackson to truly unleash the beast he’s going to need consistent play from his line. With all the personnel issues along the line it could a real struggle to get things clicking on all cylinders out of the gate. Again, here is where the lockout is so damaging to Oakland’s early season prospects.
This is the time of year where the coaching staff would be taking long looks at players in OTAs. Be it guys that were on the roster last season or free agents brought in at season’s end, the staff would have a grasp on what they’ve up against.
That clearly is not the case this off-season.
Nobody ever told Coach Jackson this head coaching thing was going to be easy. He’s really got his work cut out from him in his first gig has the head shot caller. Luckily he was able to lay a very sturdy foundation during his one year coordinating the offense. Now all that remains is for Jackson to find new and creative ways to get all of his toys involved in an offense that could catapult the Raiders back into the NFL spotlight.