Oakland Raiders: Looking Forward to 2012
Bret Armstrong – Mar 3, 2012It's definitely a new era in Raiders football in 2012. Gone will be the supposed scholarship players of the past and the bloated contracts.
While General Manager Reggie McKenzie is strapped for cash in the Raiders' budget this season, odds are that in 2013, the Raiders will be one of those teams that has plenty of cap space for spending.
But 2013 is a long way from now, and frankly there's no point in talking about that at the moment. There are a lot of things that have yet to be determined as far as this season goes, but nonetheless there are currently things in place thatÂ I'm looking forward to seeing in 2012.
The Chemistry of Palmer
Over the past two seasons, only two teams in the NFL have started more quarterbacks than the Raiders, the Jacksonville Jaguars and the Minnesota Vikings.
There's no doubt that Carson Palmer still has an elite arm, one of the best in the NFL, however there are doubts about his ability to make good decisions under pressure.
There has been criticism of Palmer that his best days are behind him and that he hasn't been the same quarterback since he blew out his knee in the playoffs against the Pittsburgh Steelers.
After 10 years in the NFL, few will doubt that a fresh start in Oakland could be just what the doctor ordered for Palmer. With a roster of young players to groom and develop around him, it could very well rejuvenate his career and it may be salvageable after all.
If not, the Raiders were sure to be smart in the restructure of his contract when they traded for him and can release or trade him as soon as 2013.
Rolando McClain's 3rd Year
McClain has been highly scrutinized by fans and media alike for his play on the field as well as his character off of it. Late in 2011, he was arrested for assault and he has been known to dodge talking to media as much as humanly possible.
His play on the field has left a lot to be desired, but I tell you, I'm excited to see what he can do under this new system that will be coming together this offseason. This will be McClain's third defensive coordinator in as many years, but this may be the best defensive coaching staff that the Raiders have assembled during that time.
The thing that makes me the most intrigued with McClain, however, is that the third year has been the charm lately for the Raiders' first round picks. In 2010, Darren McFadden's third year, he busted out withÂ 9 TD's and led the league in rushes over 20-yards. He capped it with the Raiders 4th 1,100 yard season in team history.
In 2011, Darrius Heyward-Bey racked up 64 for 975 yards following a preseason in which everyone and their grandmother was throwing him under the bus. But much like his first two seasons, DHB caught none of that. Amongst mounted criticism he proved that hard work, perseverance, and talentÂ overcomes the shadows of doubt.
In 2012, Death Ro's career turns three. What will we see from the Alabama product?
Development of Cornerbacks
You may think that the Raiders are crazy for parting waysÂ withÂ Nnamdi Asomugha and Stanford Routt in back-to-back years, but lest we forget that those players were developed in Raiders' uniforms.
The player I'm most looking forward to seeing this year, perhaps out of all of them, is second year cornerback Chimdi Chekwa.
I remember being fascinated by Ohio State quarterback Terrell Pryor (whom ironically enough ended up on the Raiders' roster) so much so that I found myself watching as many Buckeyes games as I could. Two players stood out to me on the defensive side --Â one was linebacker James Laurinitis and the other was cornerback Chimdi Chekwa.
So when the Raiders drafted Chekwa in 2011, I was excited because I had watched plenty of games with him and I knew that he was a solid player. Last season, we were able to get a little dose of Chekwa when he was made a starter due to injuries at the position. Unfortunately, his rookie season was cut short due to injury.
Prior to the injury he looked really good for a rookie. His man-to-man coverage was solid and he has a lot more ability than I initially thought. Seeing the length of his limbs in silver and black reminded me a lot of the aforementioned, Nnamdi Asomugha.
But one thing he has over N/A-21 is that he plays a lot more physically than Nnamdi did despite being 2" shorter and almost 20 pounds lighter. That was one of the qualities I liked before the kid came to the Raiders, his physicality makes him versatile and I think he could actually play safety for the team also.
To be honest,Â I wasn't sure he was cornerback material, but from what I saw last season, he can ball at cornerback in the NFL too.
Getting back to the secondary overall, the return of Tyvon Branch is something to be excited for as well. Branch is making a name for himself in NFL circles. It's true what Chuck Bresnahan said about him, when NFL offenses prepare to play the Raiders defense, they want to know where #33 is at all times.
Speculation is that free safety Michael Huff will return along with Branch. There are also rumblings that he will make a conversion to cornerback fulltime if the Raiders can't manage to bring in some help through free agency. It's a good thing that he had last year to practice the position in the Raiders nickel packages. He proved he can play there if they need him to.
With Huff on one side and Chekwa on the other, I'm not sure that CB is that big of a need for the Raiders, although I still think they'll bring in New Orleans Saints' free agent Tracy Porter. With DeMarcus Van Dyke waiting in the wings, the addition of a single free agent CB could make this unit formidable.
What the Raiders are really going to need is to either re-sign Matt Giordano or hope that third-year safety Mike Mitchell can step up and fill the free safety position in the unit.
Moore Than Enuff
Some people think that the Raiders need to look for a wide receiver in the market this offseason, but I beg to differ. I think Denarius Moore is going to draw enough attention for DHB, Jacoby Ford, and Louis Murphy to become very effective role players in the Raiders offense.
Carson Palmer's recent acclaim of second-year tight end David Ausburry as well as the presence of Kevin Boss also lead me to believe the Raiders have "Moore than Enuff" firepower in their passing game.
There are more daunting needs in the roster than wide receiver. Instead of bringing in Saints' wide receiver Marques Colston they should consider bringing in their guard Carl Nicks. That would be a splash worth making.
More than likely, they will also develop a glaring need for linebackers in the coming weeks. With Kamerion Wimbley given the ultimatum of re-sign or you're out, odds are the strong-side linebacker position will at least need filling.
And if the team can't get weak-side backer Aaron Curry signed up for a longer deal, they may cut him to saveÂ nearly $6 million in cap space as well. So even if the "underdog" of the squad, Travis Goethel actually makes it onto the field this season, they may still needÂ no. 3 and possibly no. 4, plus some depth behind those guys.
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