So we, admittedly, underestimated the commitment required for us both to preview all 32 NFL teams together in a little more than a month. It's tedious, thankless work. So from now on we're splitting the rest of the teams among the two of us to get done twice as quick (and with half the work). It is with that that we're proud to bring to you the 24th of our 32 team previews for the upcoming NFL season, the Oakland Raiders.
KYLE'S TAKE: Everyone has regrets. So many people out there have broken up with someone and come to regret it later on in life. Usually, there's nothing we can do about it. Art Shell and Al Davis are the football equivalent of my relationship metaphore. And Al Davis was able to do something about it. He fired Art Shell after a 9-7 season in 2004 -- they'd be dreaming about 9-7 seasons over there right now. It took them six years to even break .500 again. Art Shell was Coach of the Year in 2000 and lead the Raiders to AFC Title game. Al Davis regretted firing Shell so he brought him back to try to revive the franchise.
Unfortunately for Shell, this offense is in a state of disarray. They went out and acquired Aaron Brooks, who was cut by the Saints during the offseason, and are putting their hopes in his hand. Brooks proved the move dumb in the preseason game against Minnesota when he was 1-6 for 16 yards. At least he does it with a smile. Randy Moss already said he wouldn't mind backup Andrew Walter, who was 10 for 19 for 148 yards, one touchdown and two interceptions in that same game, to take over. The Raiders shouldn't have needed a preseason game to realize that Brooks was a bad move. He was no good in New Orleans last year. Hopefully, Shell will replace Brooks with Walter soon enough before he ruins their season.
That's not their only offensive problem. Jerry Porter is pissed that he wasn't playing with the starting squad -- that honor went to Randy Moss, of course, and Doug Gabriel. Gabriel prospered last year from lining up opposite Moss and had a good year with 554 yards and three touchdowns as a third man. Porter's frustrations have been worsened by a strained calf that's kept him out for a bit. The Raiders will want Porter on their receiving core for any chance of success. However, that receiving core will be moot if they have Brooks starting.
The bright spot on the offense is LaMont Jordon, who even on a poor Raiders team had 1,025 yards and nine touchdowns rushing and 563 yards and two touchdowns receiving. He will continue to impress as a starter and the Jets, who let him go two years ago, will continue to lament the loss. Zach Crockett is a strong fullback who also got some carriers in series' that Lamont was not too effective.
The Raiders were defensively poor last year and haven't really made too many strides to change that. They drafted Michael Huff from Texas to play safety, although he played all secondary positions in Texas. He'll be an upgrade from Charles Woodson, even though Oakland fans must be wondering why they didn't use their pick on a QB -- Leinart and Cutler were still available. Kirk Morrison had a productive year at middle linebacker. Derrick Burgess was a rather effective end, and Warren Sapp, although no longer at his prime, should do his part. However, the rest of the defensive unit is rather young and they still need some work before they can be really effective. They have been called underacheivers and if that is the case, maybe they could come around under new coaching to make the season exciting. If not, the season could end early for them.
Unfortunately for Oakland, I don't see the Raiders making any improvements, at least until Brooks is off the field. For a questionable defense, you want them off the field as much as possible, but with Brooks' love for fumbles and interceptions, that won't happen. They are in a tough division with Denver, Kansas City -- although they didn't impress in their first preseason game -- and San Diego. Maybe with less success, we don't have to hear Chris Berman do his annoying "The Raiders" voice, but that's just a hope. The same hope that I'm sure Oakland fans will have that Aaron Brooks will soon see bench-warming action.