Hue Jackson did such a good job as offensive coordinator for the Raiders last season, he was rewarded by club owner Al Davis with his first pro head coaching job this season.
Be careful what you wish for.
Jackson was a good choice to replace the buffoon Tom Cable, who was fired by Davis for his off-field behavior, which included a tussle with an assistant coach.
Click on the picture for the Raiders' schedule.
But no matter how good Jackson is as a coach, there are substantial reasons for doubting the Raiders can match last year’s 8-8 record, starting with the fact that all three of their division rivals seem to be improved.
Last year, the Raiders pitched a shutout against the rest of the division, going 6-0 — while going 2-8 against the rest of their league opponents. There seems little chance they’ll be able to repeat that intradivisional success.
The rest of their schedule is tough, too. They have two three-game stretches that will probably doom them. The first one is early: games 3-5, when they play the Jets and Patriots at home, then go on the road to play the Houston Texans. The second three-game stretch, games 11-13, is even tougher: the Chicago Bears at home and the Miami Dolphins and world champion Green Bay Packers on the road. It’s easy to see the Raiders going 0-3 in that stretch, and their playoff hopes vanishing.
The Raiders suffered some significant losses to free agency: cornerback Nnamdi Asomugha went to the Philadelphia Eagles, tight end Zach Miller and guard Robert Gallery went to the Seattle Seahawks.
Gallery, an early disappointment at tackle, had developed into a very good guard, but the other two losses are more significant. Asomugha is regarded as the best corner in the league, so good that quarterbacks seldom even look his way. Davis signed Stanford Routt to a big contract to replace Asomugha, but Routt is a clear step behind Nnamdi, and the Raiders now have no depth behind Routt.
The Raiders moved quickly to sign Kevin Boss, a good tight end, but they’ll still miss Miller, who was their most reliable pass receiver, either for a first-down pass or a touchdown, and a strong blocker in the run game.
The Raiders should still have a strong offense. Jason Campbell is not a top-tier quarterback, but he has a strong arm and plays well when he gets good pass protection and has an effective running game, as he should have again with both Darren McFadden and Michael Bush back, to make play-action passes effective.
With Bruce Gradkowski, a Cable favorite, gone, Campbell has more job assurance. Backups Kyle Boller and Trent Edwards have both been starters in the NFL, but there is no doubt they are there in case Campbell gets hurt, not as competition for No. 1.
Still, there is uncertainty up front, with rookie Stefan Wiesnewski, nephew of former Raiders great Steve Wiesnewski, scheduled to start at guard, and the disappointing Samson Satele at center.
The Raiders will have some exciting moments when everything clicks, but there won’t be enough of them. The Greatness of the Raiders is still in their rear-view mirror.
Glenn Dickey has been covering Bay Area sports since 1963 and also writes on www.GlennDickey.com. Email him at email@example.com.
New coach tries to return team to old glory
Early in Hue Jackson’s first training camp as Raiders head coach, he staged movie night for his players. Instead of a Hollywood blockbuster, Jackson pulled out a historic film that depicted the history of a once-proud franchise that has fallen on tough times.
Former stars talked about what it meant to be a Raider and highlights were shown from the team’s glory days of three Super Bowl titles in eight seasons.
“My job is to make sure these guys understand the history of the Raiders, and we did that,” Jackson said.
The recent editions of the Raiders have fallen far short of the standard set in the 1960s, ’70s and early ’80s when Al Davis built one of pro football’s best franchises. Jackson hopes to turn back the clock by building a team that can dominate physically to get Oakland back to the playoffs after improving to 8-8 last season.
“I expect to win here,” he said.
The dynamic receiver became one of the biggest game-changers in the NFL in his rookie season in 2010. Ford scored seven TDs — three on kickoff returns, two rushing and two receiving — and showed how valuable an asset he can be despite standing just 5-foot-9. Ford could be asked to do even more in the passing game in 2011, with long TDs likely to follow.
In his short time with the Raiders, the former Patriots defensive lineman has become a steady force. Seymour picked up 5½ sacks in 2010, but the numbers don’t show the type of impact he had on a defense that was second-best in the NFL against the pass. After a 2020 season in whch he earned a Pro Bowl berth, Seymour will be counted on as a leader even more in 2011.
GAME TO WATCH
Bitter rivals: When the Raiders and Chargers play each season, there’s no love lost between the two sides. After Oakland swept through the AFC West (6-0) last season and with San Diego the consensus favorite to win the West in 2011, even more pressure will be on their Thursday night NFL Network matchup on Nov. 10. Kickoff is set for 5:20 p.m.
The offense took great leaps when Hue Jackson was offensive coordinator last season and should continue to thrive with him as coach. But the defense has had a difficult time stopping the run for years and with corner Nnamdi Asomugha gone, the secondary could be vulnerable, too. The 8-8 mark in 2010 was the best in years, but a step back in 2011 could be in order.
BY THE NUMBERS
155.9 Raiders’ rushing yards per game in 2010, second best in NFL
189.2 Passing yards per game the Raiders allowed in 2010, second best in NFL
25.6 Points per game the Raiders averaged in 2010, sixth best in NFL