05-02-12 11:01 pm pac
Photo Jed Jacobsohn / Getty Images RB Darren McFadden
RB Darren McFadden
McFadden's been injured much of his pro career so its not beyond the realm for people to sing his praises but claim his health makes him too unreliable.
Thats a sad fact but the injuries the former Razorback has suffered have not been chronic and to this point (although his most recent, a Lis Franc injury, once sustained may have a tendency to re-occur) the 6-2, 220 lb backs injuries have been not only frustrating but random.
Some have blamed his upright running style for his injures but toe, foot and hamstring injures have had nothing to do with taking hits. In fact, ask many Safeties around the League. McFadden often gives more than he receives.
Again, this year, if DMC can stay healthy for an entire season fans think Oakland can make the play offs.
They may be right.
When healthy McFadden is simply the best running back in the game.
RB Taiwan Jones 6-0, 195 lbs
Jones swiveled heads at OTAs this pre season and will be asked to tote the rock much more the regs. In his 2nd yr, former fellow RB Michael Bush is gone. (Bush was never used correctly here anyway. More later...) Jones could've broken out last season but like McFadden, the starter he was replacing, succumbed to injury as well.
Jones quickness, ability to "get skinny" and fall forward for yards make him much different from most speed backs and hes rarely tackled for a loss.
Where he excells over McFadden is reading / exploiting blocks. He may need some adjustment time but the ZBS could be very kind to Taiwan Jones.
His speed in the open field rivals McFadden's and WR Darrius Heyward Bey but having seen him play in college, Jones may actually be faster. (!)
As we mentioned, Jones is like McFadden in another way, plagued by injury. He's broken his leg twice in his football career and missed significant playing time with a nagging hamstring injury.
Ditching durable, versatile work horse Mike Bush may come back to haunt the Raiders, "new" ZBS or no.
RB Mike Goodson 6-0, 210 lbs
Goodson was acquired this off season in a trade from Carolina in exchange for Raider 4th round OL Bruce Campbell.
Goodson had three 100-yard rushing games in 2010 for the Panthers, but was stuck behind a healthy DeAngelo Williams and Jonathan Stewart at running back and did not carry the ball in 2011. He was the team's primary kick returner to start the year, but fumbling issues landed him in the doghouse.
Goodson was replaced on kickoffs and was de-activated. He had been making progress in practice before a hamstring saw him placed on IR.
Goodsons not a great blocker either and like Jones has average hands but he caught 30 passes and managed 4.4 yds per carry in 2010. The 6-0, 210 lb vet is a solid runner who should also do well in new coordinator Greg Knapp's Zone Blocking Scheme.
Before he was injured, he looked good in OTA's making one cut and bursting up field.
Oaklands new regime has a mission statement with "Run the Ball" at the top of the list. We've no doubt they'll be a success.
As long as they stay healthy.
05-23-12 3:38 am pac
Photo / Tony Gonzales MLB Travis Goethel
Even with news that embroiled MLB Rolando McClain still has full club endorsement questions remain at the core of Oaklands second level.
Chief among them, 3rd yr LB Travis Goethel.
With the news of McClain's conviction on 4 misdemeanor counts for an Alabama assault arrest many including Bay Area reporter Tim Kawakami had McClain all but shipped off from Oakland.
That meant the core of Oaklands new hybrid 4-3, 3-4 defense would likely be manned by Goethel and others.
With yesterdays open endorsement by the new powers that be meaning McClain's clearly back in the fold, Goethel might not have to take center stage but hes likely to figure prominently.
Is that a good or a bad thing?
Hes been bitten with season ending injuries in pre season two years in a row but flashing enough promise in pre season to challenge Rolando McClain for the starting MLB job.
Thats impressive considering in 2010, McClain was taken 8th overall in the first round and Goethel was taken 182 picks later in round 6.
Unfortunately the former ASU standouts rookie season was derailed by unexpected back surgery in October of 2010, effectively washing out his year.
Goethel was healthy as the strike shortened 2011 off season program began and again impressed. Some had him slated for a starting slot at WLB but a torn ACL on August 23rd cost him the entire year.
Goethel seems like a Reggieballer but has he been over sold?
Hes got a high motor, instinct for the ball and is a solid tackler which helps make up for the 6-2, 240 lb Linebackers average speed and athleticism but one wonders what kind of football shape Goethel can be in after sitting out for 2 years in a row back to back.
The truth is Goethel did see time in 8 games his rookie year but had little input, struggled with reads, diagnosis and in coverage.
In short, he looked a step slow and in over his head. He'll have a full off season to get coached up, we just hope he survives it.
Some have compared Goethel to former Raider great Greg Biekert but the 6-2, 255 lb "Biek" was not only an instinctual LB, he was crazy smart and almost never over ran plays or jumped the wrong gap.
Biekert is the reason for Peyton Manning often spouting gibberish at the LOS to confuse the D. Biekert deciphered Manning during a game and un-nerved the wily signal caller so badly it changed the way Manning played the game.
Right now Goethel reminds us more of LB Ricky Brown whose claim to Raider infamy was lining up against QB Joe Flacco and getting burned ona deep pass from Troy Smith in the Wild cat formation. That and having more concussions than Super Dave Osbourne.
In college, he made up for his smallish size with guile and instincts but will that be enough to carry the smaller LB through at this level if hes not yet up to speed physically?
For some it can take the entire next season to recover from a torn ACL. Goethel has yet to get up to speed, nor even prove he can play at the next level.
Challenging McClain or anyone else for a starting slot, especially in a 4-3, 3-4 hybrid D like new DC Jason Tarver is implementing, will be a daunting task.
If Goethel pulls it off we'll be the first to celebrate his remarkable feat with horrible puns like "Goethel it on the Mountain!".
We hope stays healthy and was worth the wait.
His Nation needs him.
05-21-12 12:12 pm pac
Photo / AP MLB Rolando McClain
There are several options for Oakland as it moves forward with or without former 8th overall draft pick Rolando McClain.
We're of a mind that McClain will stay and play through 2012 at least since his appeal and possible jury trial could delay legal action till after the season.
Even if McClain is no longer with the Raiders or suspended (according to the new CBA the League can now only suspend players 4 games max) at the beginning of the season Oakland could feasibly still launch its 4-3, 3-4 hybrid defense.
The question McKenzie and co. will have to answer is wether they are gambling on McClain being part of their team or wether they are starting from scratch with unknown depth and limited resources.
The latter is more likely and a tall order considering the new owner, GM, HC, DC, motley group of cast offs and rookies at all levels of office, management and roster but implementing a new hybrid defense is not beyond realm of impossible.
Though it may not be pretty.
There are other reasons Oakland might reconsider pushing their ambitious hybrid defense back a year. No one really knows what Oakland has on its roster right now.
Not even Oakland.
They appear to be stock piling DEs, LBs and an ecclectic band of walking wounded, "system fits" and a group of wacky, wild long shots that may or may not have football in them but evaluating them all could be as difficult as getting them up to speed.
New coaches, new systems, rookies in the mix in the front office and the field and Oakland has to decide one thing:
Are they better off with or with out Rolando McClain?
Do they cut bait now or do they bite the bullet and hope hes finally healthy and ready to clean his act up?
Optimism runs high in Raiderland but Rolando and the unknown loom large for a Raider Nation with new leadership, a new philosophy and many more questions than answers.
05-16-12 11:54 am pac
Photo Jose Marcio Sanchez / AP FB/WR Marcel Reece
Last January 28th Contra Costa Times' beat writer Steve Corkran said:
"There is a "106.392 percent" chance the Raiders re-sign restricted free agent FB Marcel Reece."
That was then, this is now.
NFLN's Jason LaCanfora mentioned Oakland FB Marcel Reece recently switched to agent Joel Segal at Legardere Unlimited.
We mentioned it on April 10th but the crux is, Legardere reps such players as RB Chris Johnson which leaves people un-sure where things are going to end up and what the long term out come will be for dynamic Raider Fullback Marcel Reece.
Both sides of the fence have expressed interest in a long term deal but leverage and fate seem to be against the former University of Washington Wide Out.
Oakland is moving forward with its recent trend and going hybrid this season on Defense but even with a scheme change its still not clear if the Offense will follow suit.
Recent addition Owen Schmitt may or may not be leverage or a replacement for Reece. Lets just say the former Seahawk / Eagle Fullback gives Oakland options.
Right now the Raiders could use Schmitt as a compliment to Reece. He could catch on as a short yards and goal line blocker in the more traditional sense. This is an area Oaklands revisited Zone Blocking Scheme struggles mightily in. Chews up big yards between the 20s and stalls out in the crucial red zone.
Veteran Schmitt could be there not only as insurance but to compliment. Or Oakland could be looking to ditch Marcel "The Match Up Mightmare" Reece.
New GM Reggie McKenzie and HC Dennis Allen have both stated they know Reece is a valuable hybrid weapon but just how valuable remains to be seen.
Returning to revive the ZBS, "new " OC Greg Knapp has made it clear, Oakland will be a running team next season. Reece is not the best run blocker. Not exactly the greatest time to ask for more money.
Whether the Raider powers that be will continue to appreciate his contributions to the passing game is unknown but one would think the 6-3, 245lb speedster would be the perfect weapon for a team looking to the future and seeing themselves on the leading edge of hybrid theory.
The way it stands, Reece is signed through this season and slated to become a Restricted Free Agent in 2013 so, he can play this year for $540 K, sit it out, hope for a trade or try to scratch out a long term deal with the broke and stingy new Owner and Manager.
Or he could be cut.
So far, Reece has been a no show at "voluntary" team activities. No big deal, he hasn't signed the tender offered by Reggie and Co. so hes not going to participate because if he were injured...Same with others veteran players like McClain and Seymour but then again, they aren't trying to get a new deal.
With the new West Coast Offense and ZBS installed maybe the Raider front office thinks Reece is expendable.
We sure hope not.
As of now, the question remains, are they taking a giant leap forward or are they going back to the future?
One thing is clear, which ever way management leans in this situation could be a strong indicator which direction the new Oakland O is heading in.
Onward with the successful hybrid experiment or back to a traditional bruiser at FB?
Frankly, we hope its both.
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