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Raiders’ offseason: What we know

By Jerry McDonald - NFL Writer
Friday, June 19th, 2009 at 12:03 pm in Oakland Raiders.

Things we learned about the 2009 Raiders from their mandatory minicamp through public organized team activity sessions as they go their separate ways until reporting to the Napa Marriott on July 29:

– JaMarcus Russell, passing struggles or not, is the starting quarterback. Never underestimate the ability of football fans to break into factions supporting one or the other _ Jeff Garcia already has his supporters.

A front line veteran even asked me if I thought there was a chance Garcia could end up starting.

The answer? Not unless Russell does a faceplant of major proportions. The Raiders passing game is still evolving with a new coordinator and quarterback coach, and Russell’s last six games of the 2008 season carry considerably more weight than some shaky non-contact practices.

– The deeper pass routes which Tom Cable said will be a part of the 2009 Raiders never manifested themselves in a public setting. Perhaps Russell and Co. were lighting it up at the other two-thirds of the OTAs where the media wasn’t present, but that’s not the way to bet.

– For the most part, the Darren McFadden who took the field for the Raiders as a rookie was a shell of himself. The explosion is back, and the things McFadden ought to be able to accomplish catching passes out of the backfield and in the slot should give the Raiders something to hang their hat on in the passing game until the deep game comes around.

McFadden and Michael Bush, who looks imposing and swift in no-contact situations, give the Raiders two backs who can do some real damage in the passing game.

– Darrius Heyward-Bey and Mike Mitchell are well behind the curve.

The two guys who needed the offseason the most accomplished the least through no fault of their own. For Heyward-Bey, it was a hamstring issue that’s gone on for some five weeks. If it’s any consolation for Raiders fans, the 49ers Michael Crabtree hasn’t practiced at all as a stress fracture heals.

For Mitchell, it’s the NFL rule which wouldn’t allow him to participate until school was out at Ohio University, as well as a hamstring issue.

– Many Raiders actually believe voluntary minicamps are voluntary. Derrick Burgess wasn’t around, of course, but at various times Raiders such as Nnamdi Asomugha, Chris Johnson, Tommy Kelly, Terdell Sands, Jeff Garcia and Michael Huff said thanks, but no thanks.

As for Shane Lechler and Sebastian Janikowski . . . fore!

Garcia missed because of the birth of his son. Asomugha can be excused because he was the best player on the field every moment he was there.

– If Burgess isn’t traded, he ought to be prepared for fewer snaps as a pass rush specialist. Greg Ellis moved directly into the starting lineup at left end and according to the Dallas Morning News got a three-year contract worth $10 million.

This could be a good thing. A fresh Burgess looking for a big salary next season would produce double-digit sacks.

– Don’t worry about Zach Miller. Miller had sports hernia surgery in the offseason, but when he returned, he looked as good and as sure-handed as ever. He should catch 60-plus passes this season.

– Lane who?

Cable did his best to separate himself from the Kiffin regime. The first mandatory minicamp was the day the music died. No more stereo system playing rock, rap and the occasional country tunes. Cable talked up the signing of Lorenzo Neal a year or so after Kiffin said the veteran didn’t fit the zone blocking scheme. He stayed with the program, holding dear all things Raider.

– Cooper Carlisle will fight to regain his form of two years ago. The Raiders best lineman in 2007, Carlisle wasn’t nearly as good in 2008. He got in a pair of offseason scrapes, one with Ricky Brown and the other with Tyvon Branch.

– Chaz Schilens is the Raiders best wide receiver. Considering durability was an issue as a rookie, it’s at least a minor concern Schilens couldn’t participate in the final OTA, but he showed plenty in earlier sessions. He’s a go-up-and-get it receiver who should be the go-to guy should Russell get enough time to throw on third-and-long.

– Jon Alston is bigger, but apparently not any slower. Alston has been the strong side starter all offseason and weighs more than 230 pounds after finishing last season at 214.

– Cable wants to control the message as much as he does the playing field. Al Davis prefers but does not insist on assistant coaches refraining from talking to the media. His head coaches have done it both ways.

He hired two new coordinators, passing game coordinator Ted Tollner and defensive coordinator John Marshall, both who have long NFL resumes and have managed to avoid saying anything controversial for virtually their entire careers.

Neither man was approved to talk on the record to the media, which I assume will happen at training camp. That’s pretty much how it was handled in the late stages of the Bill Callahan regime as well as the Art Shell redux.

Works great for Bill Belichick, though.

Heck, even Cleveland’s Capt. Queeg, Eric Mangini, allowed Rob Ryan to talk with the media recently.

Coming soon: What we don’t know

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  • SnB Defense

    JHill,

    It seems that its you putting the blame for team defense on a few players (Morrison, SLB and DEs). In fact you have made your disdain for Morrison quite clear. Apparently the coaches also like Morrison and feel he is doing a good job too ;) In fact one could surmise that you blame the above positions for all of the run problems….especially given your open support for the DTs.

    On the other hand, I have also spoken about the lack of a stout run-stopper at the defensive end position and the lack of a consistent SLB. I am happy that the Raiders at least drafted Shaughnessy. Its a move in the right direction although I was hoping for a bigger guy like a Jarron Gilbert, Mitch King or Tyson Jackson type of DE.

  • SnB Defense

    Priesttj & Lefty12,

    I don’t understand what you mean by having agendas or “fantasy football” type of analysis. I happen to believe that numbers don’t tell the whole story…but they make for one helluva an opening paragraph.

    We are not talking about a team that was middle of the pack….We are talking about a team that was 2nd worst to the Lions giving up 159 yards per game on the ground. The front 7 is the group that is responsible for defensing the run. To suggest that this group is beyond having a discussion too me would be “drinking the kool-aid”. I also believe that blaming Rob Ryan for EVERYTHING is a little “fantasy footballish” thinking.

    There have been few successfull teams in the NFL that are able to win consistently with a sketchy run defense. Since run defense does matter in the NFL, I feel that this is something to talk about and talk about extensively…..even if it sounds repetitive. Apparently others feel this way as Tom Cable, Kirk Morrison and others have been questioned about it extensively. Guys like Tommy Kelly, Warren and SAnds have not necessarily received rave reviews for their “outstanding” play. And yes, like JHill has discussed, the defensive end, linebackers have not held up either.

    So, I would rather continue to have discussions about a run defense that has been a disaster for 6 years….as opposed to just complaining about press coverage about D-HB, Mitchell and Al Davis.

    BTW, if Marshall does anything positive….hopefully he will get the linebackers to start saying FRONT 7 as opposed to back 7!

  • http://blstb.msn.com/i/55/90A2853B6CFBCC2AFC987BB18B832.jpg vegas raider

    Happy Father’s day to all the fathers of the Nation. Just a quick chime in from Abq, New Mexico.

    So to spur the conversation, gun to your head, who has a better ROOKIE year, DHB or Murphy?

  • http://atm Raider O

    Vegas,

    Murphy IMHO.

  • 4evaRaider

    you gonna take a little ride up 2 Taos Vegas???

  • http://atm Raider O

    Vegas,

    Murphy has a better rookie year, but DHB will be better.

    The only reason I say that, due to Murphy being in camp and making plays. Ask me again in a few months ( after pre season), and I may have a diff answer.

  • http://atm Raider O

    As Jerry said, ask me after there is contact! The only thing you see now is speed, and we all know we have that. We don’t need OTAs to show he that we have speed.

    Frantz doesn’t have speed, but he will show what he can do with contact. Same for the LBs, DEs, Ss, and DTs.

    You can’t play Football with no contact, so you we can tell much by those OTAs.

  • http://atm Raider O

    Can’t tell much, sorry.

  • http://atm Raider O

    3 Raiders players will make the PB:

    Nnamdi
    Lechler
    TH

    2 more have a great chance:

    Miller
    Gallery

    If we win 8 games or more, all 5 players make the PB. IMHO

  • Dude

    21 and 9 will be PBers. 53 hasnt a chance, not enough tackles or sacks. I do like him, hes just not a PBer. As far as the other two go, Miller probably is a PB caliber player but not in this offense and not with the other guys in the AFC(Gates, Clark, Daniels). Gallery is as well, but not while playing on a mediocre at best offense.

  • jhill

    Want more than 2 pro bowlers, better knock out the SD pro bowlers by winning the division. Other than that, I agree with it just being Nnamdi and Lechler.

    We win the division, or get to 9-10 wins, and you will see a lot of PBs. Just think of what would have to happen offensively for that to happen. We could be looking at Miller, Gallery, McFadden, JRuss, and maybe a 2nd OL guy.

  • jhill

    hopefully he will get the linebackers to start saying FRONT 7 as opposed to back 7!

    —————————————————-

    SnB,

    You know that statement above is my main issue with Morrison. I’ve been on his tail ever since he said it. Could never quite put my finger on what was holding him back, but he summed it up best himself. How can your MLB have a “back 7″ mentality? He plays as if his #1 responsibility is protecting the middle against the pass. That’s why most of his tackels are 5 or 6 yds down field. That’s why the other team is able to get such good angles on him. That’s why he always seems to be playing on his heels. He’s thinking BACK instead of FORWARD!

    I give him a clean slate this year to be honest. I don’t know if if was Rob Ryan asking him to play that way, or what. Hopefully Marshall has our MLB attacking rather than sitting and waiting.

    With that said, I wonder if Morrison is in the long term plans due to him being a FA next year. Why is Brown now moved to the middle? Why pursue Joseph so hard? Is Al going to want to pay Morrison what Morrision thinks he deserves? Or will he let him walk and plug Ricky Brown in there?

  • jhill

    SnB,

    I was the one who made the fantasy football reference as it related to most guys blaming the DTs for being 31st against the run, not Lefty and Priest. I don’t think that you are that type of poster. You can back up most of the stuff that you say with solid well thought out arguments, not regurgitated garbage that you can’t explain.

    With that said, the truth is that I am right! (a few moments for laughter, I know). If we could go to the film, you would see that the most successful runs against us last year were off edge, with a cutback underneath the DT. The film simply does not lie. The one play we went back and forth on, Williams long TD run that should have been a 7 yd gain at best, is even an example of what I’m saying. The one thing we all agreed upon was the Richardson could have made that play if he was not being “blocked” by the TE. That statement proves that the play was going off the edge, and that he cut back underneath the DE. I know you say Sands should have beat the C and made the play, byt even if I concede that, it would have been a HELLUVA play by Sands. I mean HELLUVA. Still doesn’t discount the fact that the play was designed to attack our DEs.

    If I could ever get my films loaded again at NFL.com
    I’ll show you a bunch of other opposing team highlights that reflect the same thing. Is anyone else having an issue with that?

    The question is why are 31st against the run, right?

  • jhill

    cutback underneath the DE that is …

  • http://sportmag.us/images/Lester_Hayes_November_1981.jpg RaiderDogg

    Happy Father’s Day to all of the dads out there.

  • http://atm Raider O

    Jhill,

    Kirk will NOT be a FA, if there is no cap next year. (CBA)

  • http://atm Raider O

    Some want to blame the MLB ( Kirk)
    Others want to blame the DEs
    Others want to blame the DTS
    Others want to blame RR

    I know it’s not Kirk, and that the entire Dline is to blame. Also the entire D and coaching!! I always said stopping the run is attitude, look at the Colts the year they won the SB! They were the worst team against the run in regular season, and one of the best in the POs!!

    So it’s attitude, but having a beefy traditional DT does help. IMHO

  • jhill

    HIs contract will expire, making him a FA. What does the cap have to do with that O? Are u saying we will pay whatever it takes to keep him?

  • http://atm Raider O

    Some also say it’s due to a bad offense.

    Well, an offense does help, but let’s look at the Colts. They have a great offense, but how is their Defense?!
    An offense will help, but it’s not going to make the 31st team a top 15!! Again IMHO

    We need players on the Dline, Coaching, and help from the Offense. IMO and a beefy DT lol

  • http://atm Raider O

    No!!!

    In an uncapped year, you can’t be a FA till after 6 years.

  • jhill

    Beefy?

    6’4, 335 is not beefy?

    6’6 350 is not beefy?

  • jhill

    Morrison’s contract is up after this year.

    Google it.

  • http://atm Raider O

    Jhill,

    You google it!!

    If there is no new CBA, Free Agency will require 6 years of service instead of 4.

  • jhill

    This will be Morrison’s 6th year, O.

  • jhill

    Kirk Morrison | #52 | MLB

    Oakland Raiders | Official Team Site

    Height: 6-2 Weight: 240 Age: 27

    Born: 2/19/1982 Oakland , CA

    College: San Diego State

    Experience: 5th season

    High School: Bishop O’Dowd HS [Oakland, CA]

  • jhill

    Best of all for Oakland, Morrison does it all at below-market rates. A third-round draft pick, he makes about a half-million dollars a year to lead the team in tackles on an annual basis.

    Morrison’s contract expires after next season. If the Raiders don’t sign the Oakland native to a long-term deal before then, other teams around the league will be glad to kick his tires for a look-see.

  • jhill

    Kirk Morrison | LB
    TEAM: Oakland Raiders
    HEIGHT/WEIGHT: 6’2′ / 240
    DOB: 2/19/1982
    AGE: 27
    COLLEGE: San Diego State
    CONTRACT INFO: 2009: $545,000, 2010: Free Agent

  • jhill

    Love this google thing …

  • jhill

    dead on point for you O,

    Heading into his contract year, Raiders MLB Kirk Morrison is keeping a close eye on the Collective Bargaining Agreement negotiations between the players’ union and league owners. If no new deal is reached, the league moves to an uncapped season in 2010 and Morrison, a fifth-year veteran who has built a reputation as one of the best middle ‘backers in the game, would revert to being a restricted free agent rather than an unrestricted one. As a restricted free agent, Morrison would likely receive the highest one-year tender from Oakland. Teams would have the opportunity to offer him a long-term deal but would have to part with draft picks to sign him away from Oakland. As an unrestricted free agent, Morrison could sign with whichever team he chooses with no cost of draft choices. “I want an agreement to get done,” Morrison told PFW. “I don’t want to see an uncapped year.” Morrison said he’d like to stay with the Raiders, his hometown team, but appears willing to move on if a better opportunity presents itself. “When you’re going into the last year of your contract, you want some stability, so basically my thing right now is I just want to go out and play the game the right way,” he said. “I love Oakland. … I’d love to stay here. … This is a business. Sometimes business outweighs the way people think. … If something happens and I’m not able to be here after season, that’s just the business side of it.”

  • http://atm Raider O

    I’m getting Old, and I need a break.

    You ARE RIGHT Jhill, he played 5 years with us. I’m sorry sir, I thought he played 4yrs instead of 5. I’m as some would say, ignorant. lol

    Please excuse me.

  • jhill

    So like I said, I wonder if Kirk is in the long term plans since he hit free agency next year?

  • jhill

    It’s all good O …

  • jhill

    So do you think he deserves to be one of the highest paid MLBs in the game? Or should we let him go and plug in Ricky Brown?

  • http://atm Raider O

    I like kirk, and he loves Oakland. I think he stays, and gives Al a discount. IMO

  • jhill

    0000uhyygdgggggeeegeekerhr9rgrbh

  • jhill

    temkjhg

  • Nnamdi21

    jhill Says:
    June 21st, 2009 at 7:11 pm
    Kirk Morrison | LB
    TEAM: Oakland Raiders
    HEIGHT/WEIGHT: 6′2′ / 240
    DOB: 2/19/1982
    AGE: 27
    COLLEGE: San Diego State
    CONTRACT INFO: 2009: $545,000, 2010: Free Agent

    ================================

    Maybe unless they don’t get a new deal between the owners and NFLPA. If it goes un capped we get him an extra contract year.

  • jhill

    Sorry,

    My 4 year old wanted to post some stuff, lol!

  • jhill

    If it goes un capped we get him an extra contract year.

    ——————————————–

    What, for free?

    His contract is up after this year, no matter how you slice it.

  • http://atm Raider O

    If 2010 is uncapped, then the Raiders will have more options. His contract is up in 2010, and it doesn’t matter what happens with the CBA, he did his 6 years of service. We can use 3 tags next year if it’s uncapped: 1 Franchise and 2 Transition tags.
    Like I said, more options for us. A players can’t become FAs till after 6 yrs of service.

  • http://atm Raider O

    Players like TH, Walter, JLH, and others will not be abltti become FAs till after 6 yrs of service with the Raiders.

  • http://atm Raider O

    Able to become, sorry.

  • http://atm Raider O

    People talk about how bad we draft, bit I like the 07 draft:
    1- JR: starter
    2- Miller: starter and can make the PB this year IMO
    3a- Q M: cut in camp
    3b- Mario: starter 3c- JLH: starter and punt returner
    4- Bush: would start in many teams, but since we have DMC, he will have to share the load. Great talent IMO
    5- Jay: Solid backup who can be a starter.
    5/6- Eric : cut after camp
    6- Oneal: starter
    7- J Holland: backup at best.
    Other than QM and Frampton, this was a good draft for us.

  • http://atm Raider O

    08 draft:
    1- DMC: starter, and a play maker
    4- Arman: injury, I think he will be cut
    4- Branch: may start this year
    5- T Scott: may start this year, and lead all rookie DEs with 5 sacks last year.
    7- Chaz: starter.

    I like this draft too!

  • http://atm Raider O

    Out of the last 2 draft:
    7 starters, 2 more may start this year, Bush, and 1 Great Backup and a descent starter ( Jay). Not too bad!!

  • http://atm Raider O

    Correction, not too bad for a team that can’t draft!! lol

  • http://atm Raider O

    Happy Fathers Day, and good night Nation.

  • NoMoreFargas

    What’s up fellas, I’m always drinking the kool-aid way to much in June just imaging Jruss/Dmac blowing it up together or Mitchell/Branch bringing back Raider toughness to our D.

    GO RAIDERS!!!!!!!

  • 4evaRaider

    Good Morning NATION!!!

    I’ll have a tall glass with you NMF!!!

  • 4evaRaider

    HAAAAAAAAAAA 420 and didnt even try!!! just in the blood I guess