Day: August 24, 2010

Gridiron Blitz: Oakland Raiders Season Preview

The next team up on our Gridiron Blitz is the Oakland Raiders

Music to listen to: 2 Legit 2 Quit by MC Hammer

 

The first-ever album I ever bought with my own money was 2 Legit 2 Quit by MC Hammer. This music choice was easy!

Current State: 12,11,12,14,12,11,11. Those are the number of losses that the Raiders have had in each of the past seven seasons dating back to 2003.

Not to sound like your father or old uncle but this was once a proud franchise. There was a time when the Raiders could be penciled in as a contender for a division title, to at least have a winning record. Now, if this current edition gets six wins this year, it would be considered progress.

Any discussion of the Raiders has to start with owner Al Davis, an individual who may be the most identifiable member of his front office more than any other team in the NFL outside of Jerry Jones of the Dallas Cowboys and maybe in all of professional sports.

Davis has reached an advanced age when most of his contemporaries would have relinquished control of player management. Instead, he has continued to act as the de facto general manager of the team, including the hiring of head coaches which has been an unsuccessful venture since the release of Jon Gruden earlier this past decade.

The draft picks of the past five to six years have been bad and the Raiders are now paying for it dearly. However, this past offseason has been quiet by Raider standards and the organization has even added a potentially above-average quarterback. Maybe things are getting better in Oaktown.

Biggest Offseason Change: While I described the offseason as quiet, the Raiders have actually made solid moves since the start of this calendar year.

The organization did retain Tom Cable as head coach, which I wasn’t a fan of, but I’ll save that for later in the post.

First, the Raiders retained defensive lineman Richard Seymour. The price may have been a little steep but it was a good step to sign a proven veteran who has already been in the organization.

Than Oakland had one of the best drafts in the entire NFL with the addition of talents such as linebacker Rolando McClain, offensive linemen Bruce Campbell and Jared Veldheer along with wideout Jacoby Ford. The Raiders acted like an organization that did its homework and didn’t pick players beyond where they should have been like in the past.

Finally, the Raiders actually made a legit attempt to land quarterback Donovan McNabb before settling on former Washington Redskins QB Jason Campbell. While we won’t have to find out what suit jacket size Campbell wears for his Hall of Fame induction in the future, he is a welcomed departure from former starting QB JaMarcus Russell, arguably the biggest draft “bust” in NFL history.

For most well run NFL organizations, this would have been a normal eight month period. However, for the Raiders, this may be the best one that they’ve had in over a decade.

Uniform Grade: I’ve always liked the Raiders uniforms. Similar to the Chiefs, there have been minimal changes because when you come upon aesthetically pleasing colors like silver and black, why mess with it. Grade: B+

Best Player: Having your cornerback be the best player on your team is a mixed bag. The good part of it is that you can easily scheme against offenses in a league that has increased the usage of the pass over the past few years. The elite cornerback allows you to not worry about one side of the field.

The bad part is that if your cornerback is doing his job, you won’t see as much of his impact as a quarterback, running back, offensive and defensive lineman, linebacker or even a safety, the preferred positions of having an elite player.

Nnamdi Asomugha may be the best cornerback in the NFL the fact that he is definitely the top player on the Raiders hasn’t translated to the success the team has hoped for.

Most Important Player: If actual games were replaced with physical skills or combine tests, the Raiders have a roster that may actually reach .500. Obviously this isn’t the case and that’s why candidates for this category like running back Darren McFadden are out.

The most important player for the success of the Raiders this year is Campbell, who was under trained during his time in Washington. He played with up to ten different systems during his four year career. To compare, Peyton Manning , Tom Brady, Philip Rivers and Aaron Rodgers have played with the same system in some form their entire career. Brett Farve and Drew Brees have used the same system the majority of their careers.

Campbell still makes mistakes that a pro at his level and experience shouldn’t but he hasn’t had the chance to grow like his contemporaries. Hopefully this will be the place he can establish consistency in his career.

Best Case: Campbell finds some good moment in Oakland. The rest of the high draft picks finally mature and develop into comparable pros. Six wins.

Worst Case: The past eight months were an exception to the chaos of the organization and things return to its unfortunate normal for fans of the team. Three wins

Coaching: Despite all of the changes to the organization mentioned earlier, the one that many thought was most likely to happen, the release of head coach Tom Cable, didn’t happen. In fact, Davis has allowed Cable to coach out the final year of his contract without an extension. There was uncertainty that Cable would even return to the Raiders as late as February of 2010.

The problem is that Cable has shown a lack of control on and off the field. He has been in physical altercations with his own coaching staff and has been accused of being involved in physical abuse with women off the field.

Despite all of this, he has been retained. Davis may have kept him on staff to avoid paying another head coach or just to keep some form of continuity. Either way, the coaching situation is unsettled.

Davis may fire Cable before the start of the season or sign him to an extension during the bye week and it wouldn‘t be surprising. No one knows what’s going to happen.

First memory of team: Bo Jackson. That is all.

Schedule: The Raiders will have to deal with Denver, Kansas City and San Diego in the division.

The home games are against St. Louis, Houston, Seattle, Miami and Indianapolis. The away games are at Tennessee, Arizona, San Francisco, Pittsburgh and Jacksonville.

City Nicknames: There are some good choices. Oaktown, Oaksterdam, The Town and The Bay are my favorites

Fantasy Focus: Zach Miller would be a nice tight end selection for your team.

Overall Outlook: The Raiders are a work in progress but things are looking up for the team. They have a favorable schedule with winnable contests. They aren’t going to have a winning record and probably have double-digit losses again but won’t be the embarrassment they have been the past few seasons.

Final Record: 5-11

Gridiron Blitz 2010 Season Previews:

AFC East:

Buffalo Bills

New England Patriots

New York Jets

Miami Dolphins

AFC North:

Cincinnati Bengals

Cleveland Browns

Baltimore Ravens

Pittsbirgh Steelers

AFC South:

Indianapolis Colts

Jacksonville Jaguars

Houston Texans

Tennessee Titans

AFC West

Denver Broncos

San Diego Chargers

Kansas City Chiefs

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Gridiron Blitz: Kansas City Chiefs Season Preview

The next team up on our Gridiron Blitz is the Kansas City Chiefs

Music to listen to: Blurry by Puddle of Mudd

Current State: In the past three years, the Chiefs have a total record of 10-48.

While we may mock the Raiders for the ineptitude and dysfunctional state of the ownership, the calamities of the Browns, the prospects of the Bills playing in Canada, Kansas City has become one of the most forgotten franchises in the NFL and that’s a shame. The Lions may have gone winless two years ago but top draft picks have some talking about four wins this year. The Bucs are struggling but have won a Super Bowl in the past ten years for fans to remember. Even the Rams have Sam Bradford and Justin Smith to hopefully build around.

Kansas City is just Kansas City.

However, there is hope on the horizon. Starting last season the Chiefs began a complete rebuilding plan that will hopefully reap benefits for the future but may make for a rough current season.

Biggest Offseason Change: The larger changes took place last year with the removal of former general manager Carl Peterson by ownership with former New England GM Scott Pioli.

The new GM hired former Arizona Cardinals assistant Todd Haley and signed quarterback Matt Cassel to a large contract to provide security to the position.

Now the Chiefs have focused on bringing in new talent through the draft like Eric Berry and Dexter McCluster to merge with established players such as Jamaal Charles, Chris Chambers and Thomas Jones.

Both sides of the ball lacked production last season so the Chiefs now have two new coordinators with a strong pedigree in the NFL, Charlie Weis for offense and Romeo Crennel on defense.

All of this means is that Kansas City may continue to have struggles this season, but it won’t be from a lack of effort to make positive changes.

Uniform Grade: The Chiefs have had the same uniforms for at least the past forty years. I respect that. The red and yellow color scheme looks very good, especially the red jerseys with the white pants. I wouldn’t make any changes. Grade: B+

Best Player: If you asked the Chiefs personnel what ranking order it would like for its best non-rookie players to be it would be Cassel, receiver Dwayne Bowe, running back Thomas Jones, defensive lineman Glen Dorsey and than probably Charles.

However, that hasn’t happened. Cassel had to deal with a bad offensive line and injury woes but it still wasn’t an excuse for throwing as many interceptions as touchdowns (16). Bowe has been inconsistent with his work ethic and maturity even though he has had some solid moments in his short career.

The best players have been the running backs. Charles emerged as a surprise player in the second half of the season by nearly rushing for 1,000 yards over the final eight games. His outside speed will be a nice compliment to new free agent running back Jones, who rushed for a career-high 1,402 yards for the New York Jets last season., his fifth consecutive season of more than 1,000 yards rushing. If the Chiefs can get about 2,400 yards rushing between the two players, maybe the offense wouldn’t have to be as reliant on Cassel to make throws with the poor offensive line.

Most Important Player: For any 3-4 defense to be productive, the defensive linemen have to produce at a high level to allow the linebackers to make open tackles in space.

For Kansas City to attain any success in the win-loss column, the defense has to improve. For the defense to improve, the line has to become much better therefore the unit qualifies as the most important player(s) on the team.

The Chiefs must receive more production from their former first-round picks, defensive linemen Dorsey and Tyson Jackson. Both guys try hard but are too small to be effective in the defensive scheme set up for them. Kansas City is relying on them to improve because the rest of the unit will still be one of the worst in the league if changes aren’t made.

Best Case: The defense and offensive lines find a way to reach respectability. Cassel stays healthy and shows the skills he had in his last year in New England. The running backs become the top tandem in the NFL. Six wins and the growth of the entire organization continues.

Worst Case: The lines continue their struggles. Cassel doesn’t develop into the top-five NFL quarterback that his salary and expectations require. Another three-win season.

Coaching: Haley is the head coach but this section is more about the four men in the power positions of coaching and management merging to build a winning team.

Pioli helped built a dynasty in New England which builds his credibility with the project of improving the Chiefs. Weis and Crennel may have had a lack of success as individual head coaches but have shown an excellent skill level of being the coordinator of their sides of the ball.

The jury is still out on Haley. One year is not enough to judge the ultimate success of a head coach but last year was not a good harbinger of what may happen in his tenure with the Chiefs. For the sake of Kansas City, hopefully another year as a head coach will give Haley experience to improve on the job.

First memory of team: The Chiefs always seemed to be the team to me in the early to mid 1990’s that would have a great regular season, look like it would make a big run in the playoffs but than lose in its first postseason game. Sounds a lot like the current edition of the San Diego Chargers. I wonder what man coached the Chiefs during that period and than moved on the Chargers to find the same woes?

Oh I did jump on the Christian Okoye band wagan as a kid. He wore big shoulder pads and I was easy to impress.

Also, Derrick Thomas was a monster on defense. Great, great player who deserved to go to the Hall of Fame.

Schedule: The Chiefs will have to deal with Denver, Oakland and San Diego in the division.

The home games are against San Francisco, Jacksonville, Buffalo, Arizona and Tennessee. The away games are at Cleveland, Indianapolis, Houston, Seattle and St. Louis.

City Nicknames: The names are varied. You have KC, Big KC, KCMO, City of Fountains, Heart of America and Paris of the Plains. Good diversity overall, even though I don’t think you can consider the initial of the city to technically be a nickname but I’ll allow it.

Fantasy Focus: Jones and Charles would be nice additions to your running back unit but I’m unsure who will get more carries and more opportunities to score more points for you so beware if you draft one of them.

Overall Outlook: The Chiefs has a front office that has won championships in the past and started out in the same low state that KC is in right now. However, the talent, especially on defense, isn’t there to make a significant run. Establishing techniques and practices while increasing the talent level should be the goal. Making the playoffs and winning divisions aren’t in the immediate future.

Final Record: 5-11

Gridiron Blitz 2010 Season Previews:

AFC East:

Buffalo Bills

New England Patriots

New York Jets

Miami Dolphins

AFC North:

Cincinnati Bengals

Cleveland Browns

Baltimore Ravens

Pittsbirgh Steelers

AFC South:

Indianapolis Colts

Jacksonville Jaguars

Houston Texans

Tennessee Titans

AFC West

Denver Broncos

San Diego Chargers

Triple Option Attack: #12 Wisconsin

Next up on the Triple Option Attack is #12 Wisconsin

Music to listen to: Jet Airliner by The Steve Miller Band

My dear frined back in the NYC, Jennifer K., wanted to hear some Jet Airliner so she wins the contest.  I had a lot of choices from Steve Miller. Between 1974-78, he released Jungle Love, Fly Like an Eagle, Take the Money and Run, Jet Airliner, Rock’N Me, The Joker and a lot of other hits. That may be the most underrated run of great music from a rock artist that I can think of over a period of a few years. Good stuff plus he went to the school that is the focus of this post.

The Story: Prior to Barry Alvarez arriving at Madison in 1990, the Badgers hadn’t won a Big Ten title since 1962. He won three over a six-year period. Furthermore, he led Wisconsin to three Rose Bowl game victories as well. Replacing any legend, especially at a place with success tied to that one person, is difficult but Bret Bielema has done a solid job running the program since 2006. With a light schedule on paper and coming off a 10-win season with a good amount of starters returning, especially on offense, Wisconsin fans are optimistic for another Big Ten title and maybe even more.

Last Season: Finished the season with a record of 10-3, including a victory over Miami in the Champ Sports Bowl. The losses were of more concern when reviewing the season. All three losses came in Big Ten contests with dropped contests at Ohio State, at Northwestern and to Iowa. If you add Penn State, those are the four main teams that Wisconsin will have to contend with for the Big Ten this season.

Offense: Since the arrival of Alvarez, Wisconsin has used a pro-set offense that rushes the ball the majority of the time. This philosophy hasn’t changed and the Badgers have another elite running back in the fold with Heisman Trophy candidate John Clay.

He will have the fortune of running behind an offensive line that returns all of its starters including potential All-Americas, guard John Moffitt and tackle Gabe Carimi.

The receiving group is adequate, which is all it needs to be for Wisconsin.

The main question is whether quarterback Scott Tolzien can elevate his play in the more important games on the schedule. The Badgers had the top offense in the Big Ten last season but put up a majority of those numbers against overmatched opponents. Tolzien must make the proper throws when needed to relieve the opposing defenses off of the rushing attack.

Defense: The defense is similar to the offense in that its been operating under the same scheme for years and has been just as consistent in that period.

It will be led by elite strong safety Jay Valai and linebacker Chris Borland, who won the Big Ten Freshman of the Year award last season.

The Badgers return a majority of its linebackers and secondary but must find a way to rush the quarterback from the defensive line with the loss of end O’Brien Schofield.

The Schedule

Sept. 4 at UNLV

Sept. 11 San Jose State

Sept. 18 Arizona State

Sept. 25 Austin Peay

Oct. 2 at Michigan State

Oct. 9 Minnesota

Oct. 16 Ohio State

Oct. 23 at Iowa

Nov. 6 at Purdue

Nov. 13 Indiana

Nov. 20 at Michigan

Nov. 27 Northwestern

If all comes together, the Big Ten title may come down to a two week period of hosting Ohio State and then traveling to Iowa. If Wisky wins both of those games, than an undefeated regular season is possible. The only other game that may be of concern is at Purdue because it’s a road conference game. The Badgers also seem to struggle in its early non-conference home games over the years against foes like Fresno State and Bowling Green, which means the San Jose State game may cause drama as well.

Most Famous Sports Alum: The list is decent but I’ll go with the commissioner of Major League Baseball, Bud Selig. I think he has done a below-average job but he’s known and that’s the purpose of this section.

 

Celebrity Alum “Crush:” This was a decent list but I’ll go with Tamara Braun, who has been on soap operas such as General Hospital and Days of Our Lives.

Prediction: 10-2

Wisconsin should win all of its games accept the two big games against Iowa and Ohio State. The difficulty of that for the Badgers’ aspirations is that they can’t slip up against a lesser foe on its schedule.

Sports Inquirer Top-25 Preseason College Football Poll:

#25 West Virginia

#24 South Carolina

#23 Auburn

#22 Oregon State

#21 Arkansas

#20 Florida State

#19 Georgia

#18 North Carolina

#17 Georgia Tech

#16 LSU

#15 Pittsburgh

#14 Penn State

#13 Miami