Team Needs: Oakland Raiders

Scout
Posted Mar 11, 2005


Norv Turner deserves some credit for keeping the Oakland Raiders focused throughout a trying 2004 season. While there were issues within the team, the Raiders were not an embarrassment despite a 5-11 record. There was no constant outpouring of player issues or reports of division in the locker room.

Cornerback Charles Woodson was a holdout, safety Rod Woodson retired and veteran receivers Tim Brown and Jerry Rice were sent packing. The offense bordered on stagnant and was inconsistent, and the defense ranked near the bottom of most statistical categories. Also, high-profile free-agent acquisitions Warren Sapp and Ted Washington weren't factors for the Raiders, who expected quality play and leadership from the two veterans.

Despite the lack of production defensively, the players and coaching staff backed coordinator Rob Ryan’s scheme. According to the players, it was their fault the team ranked 31st in points allowed and sacks and 30th in both overall and pass defense.

The Raiders' 2004 season could be summed up by the following comment from running back Tyrone Wheatley.

"A lot of guys this offseason need to think about whether they want to be here," Wheatley said. "The last two years here, we've had some guys who think they can just line up on Sunday and play football. It doesn't work that way."

LOOKING AHEAD

The Raiders have the makings of an explosive offense. The re-signing of wide receiver Jerry Porter, the trade for receiver Randy Moss and the free-agent addition of running back LaMont Jordan filled their pressing offensive needs.

Turner wanted a running back that could handle the load and give balance to the offense. Adding a game-breaker in Moss and the productive Jordan, the Raiders should become a team that can stretch the field vertically with their speed and pound the ball with Jordan behind an improved offensive line.

Quarterback Kerry Collins, who played well in place of the injured Rich Gannon last season, possesses the big arm and mentality to be successful in Turner's offense.

The defensive side of the ball is where the majority of the Raiders' issues reside. It remains to be seen if cornerback Charles Woodson, who surprisingly signed his franchise offer, will be in Oakland when the season starts. Also, because they have no room under the salary cap to sign impact defensive linemen or linebackers, the Raiders will have trouble against the offensive-minded teams in the AFC West.

Turner will need to identify the potential of his defense and determine if the 3-4 scheme is going to be effective with the current talent. The play at cornerback opposite Woodson is a question mark since Phillip Buchanon and Nnamdi Asomugha have yet to fulfill their potential. Without a pass rush, the defensive backs must perform at a high level, particularly safety Derrick Gibson.

SALARY CAP STATUS

The Raiders are approximately $1 million under the league-mandated 2005 salary cap.

TEAM NEEDS

Defensive end – The Raiders suffered from not having a pass-rushing end last season. Prize catch Warren Sapp did not play well as an end in the Raiders' 3-4 defense and the free-agent market is void of many high-quality pass-rushing ends. Look for the Raiders to evaluate defensive end types such as Aaron Kampman (Green Bay) or Derrick Burgess (Philadelphia) to fill the void.

Linebacker – The overall speed and quickness on the outside or perimeters of the defensive front seven must be improved. The outside linebackers in the 3-4 defense are required to generate some pass-rushing advantages, but this was an issue for the Raiders in 2004. After an active opening to free agency, the Raiders don’t have sufficient salary-cap space to make a significant acquisition, thus leaving them to rely on second-tier linebackers and the draft for help.

Offensive line – Depth is critical for the Raiders, but they appear to be solid at tackle and center. Acquiring an average to high-quality guard would provide this unit the tools to become a powerful foundation for Turner's offense.

FREE AGENCY AND OFFSEASON

KEY ACQUISITIONS: WR Randy Moss (Minnesota), RB LaMont Jordan (Jets), WR Jerry Porter (re-signed), G Ron Stone (re-signed).

KEY DEPARTURES: OG Frank Middleton, DB Ray Buchanon, DT John Parrella.

FRANCHISE PLAYER: CB Charles Woodson.

TRANSITION PLAYER: None

UNRESTRICTED FREE AGENTS: RB Amos Zereoue, OT Chad Slaughter, FB Chris Hetherington, S Jarrod Cooper, DE Bobby Hamilton (re-signed), RB J.R. Redmond, SS David Terrell.

RESTRICTED FREE AGENTS: SS Marques Anderson, LB Tim Johnson.

EXCLUSIVE RIGHTS FREE AGENTS: WR Ronald Curry, S Keyon Nash, QB David Rivers, WR John Stone.


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