2012 Oakland Raiders: Who Will Be the Next Great Raiders Super Star?
John Doublin – Apr 10, 2012
As the Oakland Raiders enter their "new era" led by general manager Reggie McKenzie and new head coach Dennis Allen, a new philosophy of player management and roster building has begun. Raider Nation will no longer see over-paid, under-performing players like Kamerion Wimbley or Stanford Routt be handed their starting jobs.
Every player will be given a chance to succeed, and each will have to earn their playing time.
Every season in the NFL fans hear names of players that were nearly unheard of the previous year, but emerge as potential super stars. Last season was Jimmy Graham of the Saints, Rob Gronkowski of the Patriots, Hakeem Nicks from the Giants and some others that exploded onto the scene.
This causes one to ponder: Who are the next great Raiders? Who are the men currently on the team that have the potential to breakout and become instant legends?
Here are just a few names of players who have a chance at super stardom.
Brandon Myers-TE: When Myers was drafted in the 6th round of the 2009 NFL Draft, there wasn't a lot of fanfare surrounding him. Considered by most to be a decent, but not great pass receiving tight end that would be an okay compliment to then starter Zach Miller.
In his first two seasons, Myers didn't get a lot of opportunities to display his talent. Just 16 catches for only 99 yards in 2009 and 2010 isn't exactly burning up the stat sheet. However, he played very well on special teams and proved to be a reliable blocker in goal-line situations.
When Miller bolted for "greener pastures" in Seattle to start the 2011 season, some thought Myers would finally get his shot at being "the man" at tight end. But alas, it was not to be as the Raiders signed New York Giants' cast-off Kevin Boss who was quickly handed the starting job despite injury concerns.
In 2012, McKenzie and the Raiders haven't added a single tight end to the roster, making Myers the most experienced player at that position still on the roster. With Allen and McKenzie's first words in their announcement pressers being "competition," it's likely Myers will finally have a legitimate shot at earning the job based on performance, rather than having it given to someone else based on salary or hype.
The only possible thing that could derail Myers' chances is for the next player on this list to out-perform him and emerge as a super star in his own right.
David Ausberry-TE: Ausberry was drafted in the 7th round of the 2011 draft as a wide receiver from USC. However, due to his 6'4", 243 pound frame many thought he'd be the next David Boston—big, slow, unproductive and a wasted pick.
Nothing could be further from the truth. Ausberry showed great skill in the 2011 pre-season and has been working diligently on his blocking technique. Possessing better speed than most tight ends, Ausberry has all the physical tools to become less like Boston and more like Jermichael Finley of the Packers.
To top things off, Ausberry has been spending his off-season working with quarterback Carson Palmer to achieve chemistry with the signal caller, as well as taking instruction from Terrell Owens, a former teammate of Palmer.
With the re-emergence of the tight end position to prominence in the NFL, Ausberry has every chance to fight for playing time and become the "next big thing" in Oakland.
Mike Goodson-RB: The former Heisman Trophy candidate from Texas A&M was acquired in a trade with the Carolina Panthers straight across for under-achieving offensive tackle Bruce Campbell. Goodson brings a much-needed change of pace at the running back spot and will push second year player Taiwan Jones to be better.
Goodson isn't a big back like the recently departed Michael Bush. He is more diminutive in size and a whole lot faster and more agile. It's likely Goodson won't be filling a similar role as Bush, but more likely will become the Raiders' version of Darren Sproles.
Getting Goodson on the edge with screens and swing passes, as well as isolating him on linebackers in coverage is a win for the Raiders and could result in big plays for the silver and black.
The only concern with Goodson is injury. He missed most of the 2011 season with a hamstring injury. Assuming this is behind him, Goodson could put some real diversity into the Raiders' offense.
Chimdi Chekwa-CB: The standards for cornerbacks in Oakland is very high. Names like Willie Brown, Lester Hayes, Mike Haynes, Eric Allen, James Trapp, Charles Woodson and Nnamdi Asomugha are quite intimidating for any young player assuming this position.
However, Chekwa has what it takes to live up—or maybe even exceed some of these legends.
In limited time last season, Chekwa was thrown into the Week-3 game against the New York Jets and expected to cover the wile veteran Plaxico Burris. Not only did the young, 4th round rookie from Ohio State step in and play well, he shut down the former Super Bowl champion wide receiver.
This was only a glimpse of what Mr. Chekwa is capable of as his work ethic and desire to be great are on display every time he takes the field. Unfortunately, Raider Nation didn't get to see much of him due to a hamstring injury that landed him on the injured reserve on November 17th of last season.
McKenzie saw a weakness in the Raiders' secondary and has cut Routt and Chris Johnson, then added Ron Bartell and Shawnae Spencer. Under the new philosophy of "competition at every position," Chekwa has every opportunity to earn the starting job—and has the talent to do so.
Philip Wheeler-LB: Signed via free agency to fill the void left by the over-paid Wimbley, Wheeler is likely to be the opening day starter—not because Allen or new defensive coordinator Jason Tarver will hand it to him arbitrarily, but because he's far-and-away the best man for the job.
Wheeler isn't know as an elite pass rusher like the guy he's replacing, but he's a much better tackler in the open field and astronomically better in pass coverage. That isn't to say he can't pass rush, he can. Wheeler has the long frame and body-type to be very effective as a rusher if he's asked to do that.
While it's still not clear what positions will be addressed by McKenzie in the draft, it's not at all likely he will trade up far enough in the order to obtain a player with the ability to unseat Wheeler from his starting gig.
That being said, players like Travis Goethel and Carl Ihenacho will be competing with incoming rookies for the back up roles, not the starting role. However, if one of these young players shows the ability to challenge Wheeler, don't expect the veteran to lay down. He'll compete—just like he did in Indianapolis when he beat out Tyjuan Hagler and Clint Session!
Raider Nation should look for Wheeler to make an instant impact on the Raiders' anemic run defense. Perhaps enough to become the next great Raiders' linebacker.
Closing: It's not likely that all of the aforementioned players will become overnight sensations, but some of them absolutely will. McKenzie and Allen's new theory of every player having to earn a starting spot will only improve the overall play of the Raiders—forcing out the "Al Davis scholarship" atmosphere and inserting players that want to compete, want to win, and more importantly—want to be Raiders!
Like Raider Nation Times
How Would You Grade the Raiders Live Mock Draft?