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Recent posts by Eli Kaberon
With NFL teams stuck in a state of limbo thanks to the lockout, we are looking at where teams stand as they await the opening of the 2011 league year. Today, we take a look at the Raiders.
Top three story lines
1. The lack of a free-agency period thus far has delayed the inevitable for the Raiders: they are going to lose CB Nnamdi Asomugha. The free agent is the best player on the market regardless of position, and it's highly unlikely that Al Davis will write the check that will be needed to keep Asomugha in Oakland. The team prepared for his departure by selecting two cornerbacks in the draft, and has some solid pieces already at the position. Still, losing Asomugha will be a serious issue for a franchise that is low on star power. On the field, the team needs to replace the center of a stop unit that finished second in the NFL in pass defense a year ago.
2. Though Al Davis' decision to fire Tom Cable after last season's 8-8 campaign and promote Hue Jackson to head coach caught many by surprise, it likely was a relief to QB Jason Campbell. Jackson offered the quarterback support last season when he was offensive coordinator and Cable moved Bruce Gradkowski into the starting lineup. Now Jackson has stated publicly that Campbell will be under center for Week One. The Raiders had an 8-5 record in games Campbell played last season and the team opted not to draft a young QB, a strong sign that it has great faith in him to lead the team this season.
3. Jackson isn't the only new coach for the Raiders this season; instead, there was a complete overhaul to the staff. While Jackson will call the offensive plays, Al Saunders is the new offensive coordinator and Chuck Bresnahan steps in as defensive coordinator, reclaiming the position he held from 2000-03. Also joining the staff is Hall of Famer Rod Woodson, who will be the secondary coach, and former Raiders great Steve Wisniewski, now an assistant offensive line coach. The new faces on the sideline hope to spark a franchise that hasn't won a playoff game in eight years, the longest drought in franchise history.
2011 free agency — whenever that happens
Unsigned players: CB Nnamdi Asomugha (8), OT Khalif Barnes (6), MLB Ricky Brown (5), DT Desmond Bryant (2), RB Michael Bush (3), LS Jon Condo (4), OLB Bruce Davis (2), QB Charlie Frye (6), OG Robert Gallery (7), QB Bruce Gradkowski (4), OT Mario Henderson (4), WR Johnnie Lee Higgins (4), OLB Thomas Howard (5), S Michael Huff (5), WR Nick Miller (2), TE Zach Miller (4), DE Jarvis Moss (4), QB J.T. O'Sullivan (8), RB Marcel Reece (1), C Samson Satele (4), OT Langston Walker (9), OLB Sam Williams (8). [Editor's note: The number after a players' name is his years of service in the league. If the NFL decides to go with free agency under the same rules as used in 2010, then a player would become a restricted free agent after three years and an unrestricted free agent after six years.]
Analysis: There are key players on both sides of the ball not under contract for the Raiders, leaving plenty of questions on the depth chart as it is currently constructed. Asomugha is all but gone, as his previous contract was structured so that in order to retain him, the Raiders would have to pay the cornerback the equivalent of the sport's top quarterbacks. Oakland placed early-round tenders on both Bush and Zach Miller and would like to keep them for at least one more season. Gallery was the team's top offensive lineman last season, but his price tag might be too large for the Raiders. Huff is a quality player as well, but he, too, might be looking for more than what the team is willing to pay.
2011 rookie class
Second-round C Stefen Wisniewski (No. 48 overall) — Steve Wisniewski's nephew should step right in and start at center. He's technically sound and has a great mind for the game.
Third-round CB DeMarcus Van Dyke (No. 81 overall) — A classic Al Davis corner, based on the fact that he was the fastest player available in the draft and has good man-coverage skills.
Third-round OT Joseph Barksdale (No. 92 overall) — Exceptionally strong, Barksdale could compete for a starting job but is more likely to be a reserve early on.
Fourth-round CB Chimdi Chekwa (No. 113 overall) — More insurance for Nnamdi Asomugha's departure, Chekwa has great speed and solid size, but is most likely to be used on special teams.
Fourth-round RB Taiwan Jones (No. 125 overall) — Another speedster, Jones is a change-of-pace back who can sub in for Darren McFadden and Michael Bush. Fumbling problems could limit his opportunities.
Fifth-round WR Denarius Moore (No. 148 overall) — A solid fit for the team's vertical passing game, Moore has good burst and can beat defenders downfield.
Sixth-round TE Richard Gordon (No. 181 overall) — Highly recruited out of high school, Gordon failed to live up to expectations in college despite his athleticism and good quickness for the position.
Seventh-round WR David Ausberry (No. 241 overall) — Like the rest of the Oakland wideouts, Ausberry has speed. He'll need to be very impressive to make it out of training camp.
Lockout fallout: How impacted will the Raiders be by the work stoppage?
On a scale from 1 to 10 (with 10 being the most significantly impacted), the Raiders rate a 7. With a brand new coaching staff and the loss of their best player, the Raiders would love to fill the empty spots on their roster with some established veterans to offset all the youth that's expected to contribute. The only thing keeping them from being in complete panic mode is having a veteran QB in Jason Campbell and the momentum from last season's 6-0 run through the AFC West Division and 8-8 overall record.