By Jerry McDonald - NFL Writer
Saturday, October 25th, 2008 at 4:38 pm in Oakland Raiders.
Random observations following a long trip to Baltimore:
– The Raiders were far from alone in this, given that the dominant defensive player of his era lasted until the 26th pick of the first round, but how would history have been different if Al Davis had been smitten with Ray Lewis instead of Rickey Dudley?
A Raiders team that has had difficulty stopping the run for most of their return to Oakland would have had the services of the one common thread in a defense which has been among the NFL’s best in that area since 1996.
– “It’s personal. It really is,’’ Lewis told reporters earlier this season. “Me being around here for as long as I’ve been around, it’s just the bottom line whenever a new person comes in here. The first thing I say is there’s something we don’t do. We don’t let people run the ball on us.
“It’s kind of a thing we all buy into from Day 1.’’
– Three linebackers were drafted before Lewis _ Kevin Hardy to Jacksonville at No. 2, John Mobley to Denver at No. 15 and Reggie Brown to Detroit at No. 17. The No. 1 overall pick was Keyshawn Johnson.
(That’s the good news for Oakland _ Denver passed on Lewis as well, meaning the Raiders wouldn’t have had to play him twice a year for 13 years).
Baltimore, getting its move-year from Cleveland off to a great start, also got Jonathan Ogden at No. 4 overall.
– The Raiders traded the No. 17, No. 48 and No. 109 picks to Houston in order to take Dudley at No. 9. Dudley wasn’t a bust _ only Tim Brown caught more touchdown passes during his time with Oakland _ but poor hands made him an unreliable receiver who never achieved the greatness Davis expected.
– The Raiders managed to get Brett Favre of their back last week. Lewis has been equally difficult in his infrequent appearances against the Raiders. The Ravens are 3-1 in the Raiders not including a 16-3 smothering of the Raiders in the AFC championship game following the 2000 season.
The only Oakland win came in 2003 when Rick Mirer made fewer mistakes than Anthony Wright, with the Raiders prevailing 20-12.
(Thanks for correction _ it was Anthony Wright, not Alexander . . . )
– In the last meeting, the Raiders managed 162 yards of total offense and Aaron Brooks left during the first series in favor of Andrew Walter with the Ravens prevailing 28-6.
– As good as Lewis is, and coach Tom Cable believes he hasn’t lost a thing, the Ravens have a rookie quarterback in Joe Flacco who has been error-prone, only one real threat at wide receiver in Derrick Mason (tight end Todd Heap can also do some damage).
If the Raiders can defend the run as they had earlier this season, and put last week’s 242 yards by the Jets behind them, there’s no reason they can’t keep the game close provided they take care of the ball.
Throw in a touchdown on defense or special teams, win the field position battle and let Sebastian Janikowski kick a field goal or three and they’ve got themselves an upset.
– Cable last coached against the Ravens in 2006 as offensive line coach of the Falcons. It was a tightly fought game which Baltimore pulling away at home largely because of two big returns by B.J. Sams.
Maybe he’ll get to the M&T Stadium, break out multiple formations and try to pass the Ravens dizzy, but Cable is selling the notion of a slugfest. The Raiders used to get Junior Seau out of position on occasion, but Cable doesn’t believe Lewis will take the bait.
“He’s played too much, he’s seen too much,” Cable said. “You try to do some things, but he’s seen a lot of football. You’re not going to trick him.”
– What to make of the John Elway blast leveled at the Raiders? Lose 10-plus games five years running and you’re a punching bag. Only way to change it is to win.
It’s worth noting that Russell’s pass protection has actually been better than expected, and through six games he’s not taking the sort of physical beating Elway was alluding to regarding young quarterbacks on bad teams.
But if the Raiders do a grand sweep of their coaching staff following the season, junk their entire offense and start over, then it’s a setback.
But so far, so good.
– The Ravens are very good defensively, but they haven’t exactly been beating up on quarterbacks. They’ve got 12 sacks _ four fewer than the Raiders _ and only bounty-hunting Terrell Suggs (4.5) having more than two.
– More impressive than the site of Camden Yards when driving into Baltimore _ the gas stations. Regular unleaded gas is $2.49 per gallon.