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Writer Report: Oakland Raiders

by Photo of Ross Bernhardt

Levi Daniel talks Carson Palmer, Darren McFadden, and the expectations for the Raiders this year.

Writer Report: Oakland Raiders

In this article…

With the training camp and preseason games well underway, CHARGED.fm is getting ready for the NFL season. As part of that, we reached out to writers/bloggers for all 32 teams to get their takes on the upcoming season. Here is Levi Daniel of Silver and Black Pride to shed some light on the Oakland Raiders.

The Oakland Raiders haven't made the postseason since 2002, where they lost in the Super Bowl to Jon Gruden's Tampa Bay Buccaneers.  The last decade hasn't been kind to the silver and black, but they have at least seen improvement on the field in the last two seasons.  They have finished 8-8 in consecutive years, and although there have been many issues on and off the field with the team, it looks like Oakland might finally be ready to get back to winning football.

With Carson Palmer fully integrated, Darren McFadden healthy (for now), a hungry defense, and a new coach and organizational culture, Oakland is poised to compete.  I spoke with Levi Daniel of the SB Nation Blog Silver and Black Pride to get a better idea of Oakland's expectations entering the season.  Here's what he had to say.

1. This will be Carson Palmer’s first full season with the Raiders after last seasons trade. With a full camp and a more thorough understanding of the offense, how productive can Palmer be for Oakland this year?

There are high expectations for Palmer in the new West Coast Offense. He hasn't looked great in the preseason while he is still soaking up the playbook and getting used to all of his new teammates. Things look a bit rough at the moment and he is throwing some ill advised passes that have resulted in interceptions, but he and the coaches insist that he won't take those same chances in the regular season. If you watch his backup, Matt Leinart-- who was in the system under offensive coordinator Greg Knapp in Houston-- play with his familiarity in the offense, you get a glimpse of the possiblities. The two of them are pretty similar in skill set and played at USC together.

2. Darren McFadden is now the man at running back with Michael Bush gone to free agency. He’s yet to play a full season in his four years in the league. How concerning is his injury history and what’s Oakland’s contingency plan should he get injured again?

It is quite concerning. The Raiders have placed their offensive success at his feet-- literally and figuratively. He is the star of this team and there is not much in the way of a contingency plan. If he goes down, the offense will likely go down with him. Even in the zone blocking scheme which is known for turning seemingly average backs into stars, there is nothing to suggest the team will still be successful offensively without McFadden. 

Taiwan Jones hasn't shown he can be an NFL back and neither has Mike Goodson. Early in camp Mike Goodson looked like the frontrunner to backup McFadden but then he was injured for the first preseason game and had two lost fumbles in the second game. After that there's just Lonyae Miller who has looked barely serviceable. There are no great options out there as free agents at the moment. Dennis Allen has said they will be scanning the waiver wire when cuts are made but there's no guarantee they will find their answer there.

3. The defense was very poor in several areas for Oakland last year. They gave up the second most passing touchdowns and were dead last in rushing yards per attempt. What did the Raiders do this offseason to improve the defense? 

They added a new set of starting corners in Ron Bartell and Shawntae Spencer. With the new zone heavy cover scheme, getting rid of Stanford Routt and his bloated salary was an easy decision. Bartell and Spencer are both former starters with something to prove. The jury is somewhat out on whether they will prove they are still worthy of being starters but they are both smart and with the team no longer being trapped in the man coverage, that will help a lot. 

The defensive line looks fantastic so far. Getting Matt Shaughnessy back healthy has help tremendously. He went out for the season in week three of last season. The linebackers are still suspect and that was the main issue last season. They lacked gap discipline. Philip Wheeler has been a pleasant surprise as a free agent pickup at strong side linebacker and Rolando McClain has been playing better in light of his recent conviction and appeal of his assault with a firearm charge. Weak side linebacker Aaron Curry has been injured and his replacement has been rookie round four pick, Miles Burris. That is a bit of a cause for concern. Burris has been overwhelmed and there is no telling exactly when Cury will return. The team has tried to improve their defense while cutting the huge contracts but there are still question marks.

4. Oakland will have its third coach in three years with new coach Dennis Allen taking over for Hue Jackson. Will the lack of continuity be an issue for the Raiders, and what will Allen bring to the team?

The continuity issue has more to do with the complete overhaul of the staff, front office, and philosophy than just the head coach. In addition, the direction the team was headed with Hue Jackson was not a good one and continuity in the wrong direction is never a good thing. Allen brings discipline, mostly. I realize that is what is always said but with the Raiders it has long been an issue. And when I say "long" I mean like their entire history. Hue Jackson caused even more havoc. Dennis Allen has reined that in and the players are responding to it. There are a lot of veterans on this team so I don't see the continuity being an issue in and of itself.

5. Who is one player to watch this season that is going to surprise people for the Raiders?

I'd have to say Matt Shaughnessy. He is this team's best pass rusher and somewhat of a "best kept secret" type guy. He started to really come on in the latter part of the 2010 season and then was lost after week three last season. He is a relentless pass rusher and plays the run very well. He makes the whole line better. Kamerion Wimbley and Lamarr Houston's sack numbers went down because Shaughnessy wasn't there to occupy blockers and the gameplan of the offensive coordinator.

6. What is your prediction for the Raiders this season?

I hate to take the easy way out of this question but I honestly don't know. I have not seen enough from this new team to get a solid feel for what to expect. I hope to get some kind of feel after their third preseason game at which point, I can dive into their schedule and make a prediction.

Levi Daniel is the editor of the SB Nation Raiders blog Silver and Black Pride.  You can follow the site on Twitter @silverandblackp.

Let CHARGED.fm get you tickets to see the Oakland Raiders this season. 

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