2006 Oakland Raiders Preview

All I can say is, it’s a damn shame to see how far the Raiders franchise has fallen – and it’s a great thing to see owner Al Davis turn to someone who knows a thing or two about winning in Oakland.

However, new head coach, Art Shell had better have a bottle of some serious pain medication on hand at all times because the 2006 season isn’t going to be pretty.

Shell however, knows that this rebuilding plan is going to take a minimum of three years. Hopefully Davis will give him that much time. If he doesn’t, I say it’s time for Davis to hand over his ownership keys to someone else.

Quarterback
I’ve already written one column questioning whether or not Aaron Brooks was the answer for the Raiders at quarterback and after seeing him this preseason, I can’t tell if it’s Brooks’ personal incompetence or that of the Raiders overall, but the Raiders had better address this issue immediately. Marques Tuiasosopo is a career backup and 2005 draft pick Andrew Walter isn’t ready. Maybe Shell could give former Raiders legend, Ken “The Snake” Stabler a call. I;m sure, even at his advanced age, he’s better than these three combined

Running Backs
LaMont Jordan wanted the ball more in 2005 and he will certainly get his chance under Shell in 2006. However, if it were up to me, Jordan would be my “big back” and complement another smaller quicker back that is more elusive and can score from anywhere on the field. If the Raiders think that Justin Fargas or Zack Crockett are the answer, they are sadly mistaken.

Wide receiver/Tight End
I can see the Raiders receivers crying all season long about not getting enough balls. Heck, that noise has already started and it’s still only the preseason. Randy Moss and Jerry Porter are as talented a pair as there is in the league, Too bad they’re both major head cases whose whining takes an immeasurable toll on their teammates.

Offensive Line
Shell and offensive line coach, Jackie Slater need to come out of retirement, along with Gene Upshaw to help this sad-sack unit. Robert Gallery looks lost and every other Raiders offensive lineman, is either incompetent or just plain old, overmatched. Unfortunately, Jake Grove, Langston Walker, Barry Sims and Brad Badger will make any Raiders fan long for the good ‘ol days.

Defensive Line
Former Philadelphia Eagle, Derrick Burgess had a Pro Bowl season last year and veteran, Warren Sapp is still a competent run stuffer. Former Raider and Philadelphia product, Lance Johnstone is back and should help immensely with the pass rush. Tommy Kelly, Terdell Sands and Anttaj Hawthorne are young players with plenty of room to grow.

Linebackers
Well, there certainly isn’t a Ted Hendricks in this group, although he could probably come out of retirement and start for this team. Starters, Kirk Morrison and Danny Clark are the mainstays of this unit, which, in a year or two, should look completely different from what it is right now.

Defensive Backs
Charles Woodson is gone to Green Bay and veteran Renaldo Hill also walked in free agency this past offseason. The Raiders did however, draft hard hitting, playmaking safety Michael Huff in the first round and signed veteran corners Duane Starks and Tyrone Poole from New England. Starters, Nnamdi Asomugha and Fabian Washington, return as do Stuart Schweigert and promising youngsters Chris Carr and Stanford Routt. The Raiders recorded a league-low five interceptions last season, so there is plenty of room for improvement.

Special Teams
The Raiders actually have a pretty good special teams unit. Kicker Sebastian Janikowski needs to return to being a little more consistent, but punter, Shane Lechler, was a Pro Bowl player in 2004 and was pretty good last year also. Both return positions are up for grabs, so there certainly shouldn’t be a lack of competition.

Coaching
To be honest about it, there isn’t one coach who has ever lived that would win with this group. I’m talking, Don Shula, Billa Walsh or Vince Lombardi. Shell didn’t do bad his first time and got the shaft after leading the Raiders to several playoff appearances. Shell win need at least three years to fix the mess that the Raiders have become. Hopefully, some of the Raiders young players will learn what wearing the Silver and Black means. All I can say is, I’m getting old. I remember the days of Stabler, Shell, Upshaw, Cliff Branch and Fred Bilentikoff, Willie Brown and Jack Tatum, like they were yesterday. Unfortunately for the Raiders – it isn’t.

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