Things Are Starting to Change
by, 05-01-2010 at 06:39 AM (2979 Views)
Thatís what Coach Cable intimated in his post 2010 draft press conference.
Aside from the 9 rookie players in the 7 rounds of the draft, we also used draft picks to pick up some young vets that are still wanting to prove themselves. I know there will be some un-drafted rookie free agents that will join the roster, too.
Plus one. But Iíll get into that later.
For now I am going to talk some about the guys we brought in before the draft.
The first one, well over a month before the draft, is DE/LB Kamerion Wimbley. Wimbley was selected in the first round by the Cleveland Browns back in 2006. During his tenure as a Brown, he averaged over 6 sacks per season with a total of 26.5 sacks and had 7 forced fumbles. He had 183 solo tackles, 65 assists, 4 passes defended with one interception. Back in 2006, as a draft prospect, he was thought to be raw, but with a 4.61 40, this 6'3" player had some speed. Heís added about 7 lbs since his draft weight, and is currently 255 lbs. The Raiders have him currently slated to play linebacker. My thoughts : heíll be playing in the outside slot when we show a 3-4 defense. His draft prospectus alluded that this would be a position he could play. This is how we were using Trevor Scott last season with success. I like the idea of having either one of these guys to use on passing downs rushing the quarterback. With both on the field, they both have the speed to cover a tight end over the middle, but either one could rush, too. Fooling the offense, or having them wonder where the pressure will be coming from can only help. Add to that: he can tackle. This could help us stop the run. And we need the help. With the 4 years experience he brings, he cost us a 3rd round pick. While this shows Cleveland didnít value him too highly, this young man fits with what the Raiders are building.
Our 2nd pre-draft acquisition, Quentin Groves, came to us for a 5th round pick. Back in the 2008 draft, the Jacksonville Jaguars traded up to select this defensive end that they converted to a linebacker. We have him slated as defensive end. His numbers arenít much to look at, but he had only 7 starts in his 2 years there, and it was thought his time would be ending soon. He had a slightly slower 40 at the combine than Wimbley, a 4.57, but at 6'3" and 254 lbs., is pretty much the same size. Perhaps the switch to his former college position will give this young man the opportunity to live up to the potential he showed when he earned a Coaches All-SEC First Team Selection. Another important thing to consider, this young man knows what it is like to win. His senior class was the winningest in Auburn history, with 50 total wins.
The NFL draft itself showed the Raiders were serious about correcting the problems within the defense.
Though many mock drafts had the Raiders opting for an over-hyped and much maligned OT Bruce Campbell in the first round, the Raiders, according so some so-called experts, reached a bit and selected Rolando McClain. It is said he sat out the combine due to injury, but another report stated it was a decision based upon a problem with his Crohnís disease.
Playing for Alabamaís Crimson Tide, this middle linebacker was signal caller, team leader and the most active defensive player on the field.
Ranked by some as the 10th of top 100 draft prospects, I donít understand the whole ďreachĒ frame of mind for this Butkus Award recipient. Now it could be his average numbers at his pro-day may have had some questioning him. For me? Numbers at pro-days and combines may be indicative of what a player can do, or you need to see what a player has done in the game. This is a PLAYER. We can over look the average pro-day numbers. Some may have decided his Crohnís Disease could be an issue. Properly controlled and monitored, this shouldnít be an issue. Many of his team mates at Alabama werenít even aware he had the disease, so I donít foresee that as a problem. Add to that, the most recent reports are now that Mr. McClain may not even have Crohnís. There is no definitive test for it, so while there is a health concern, the cause is currently unknown. But as I said, proper monitoring of his health should cover this.
No, I think the ďreachĒ train of thought has to do with the fact that not many figured us to go with him. Add all the press about the multiple talks the Raiders had with Mr. Campbell, I canít help but think the so-called experts just had a little too much egg on their faces to wipe off and had their precious little egos bruised. It is a solid pick. The idea of a middle linebacker being able to cover the short zone on pass plays, directing his team mates will be a nice change for the Raiders. Donít get me wrong, I love Kirk Morrison. How could I not? Heís led the team in tackles more than once. However, he just doesnít bring to the table what the Raiders need. Rolando McClain has an upside that can bring an immediate impact to our defense.
The second round, many figured weíd be going for defensive tackle and team mate of Rolando McClain, Terrence Cody. For sheer mass, this guy could plug a huge hole as nose tackle for any 3-4 defense. In fact, his ďunmatched sizeĒ is considered one of his strengths. However, with that ďunmatched sizeĒ comes lack of speed, weight issues and problems with endurance. Also, he doesnít show the strength for a player his size, so he also has conditioning issues. His 40 time - 5.64, and for all the claims of athleticism, his broad jump was 7.5 feet. His vertical, which could be important, a mere 20.5 inches. He didnít bench press at al at the combine. He did improve these numbers some at his pro-day, but had only 22 reps in the bench press. For players this size, the speed of the game at the pro level is huge. These are all reasons why I didnít want him. I still figured we would draft him because it really appears to me that we are, at least in some situations, going to a see a 3-4 defense, and that requires a good sized nose tackle.
We didnít draft him. (I did my happy dance...)
Instead, they went for DT/DE Lamarr Houston. Originally thought of as a 2nd to 3rd round pick, he moved up to possibly late 1st round because of his combine results. These results include 40 time of 4.85, a vertical of 33.5 inches, a full foot higher than Codyís, while his broad jump was 9.5 feet, 2 feet longer than Codyís. He had 30 reps in the bench press, 8 more than larger Cody. Now there was a DWI charge against Houston back in his sophomore year, but no issues since then. One writer commented about his tights and yellow shoes in the combine, implying he was drawing attention to himself. I can understand if that were the case. The combine, after all, is a form of job interview. Standing out could be a good thing. And Houston did, for the right reasons. He can play DT or DE and shows a versatility we need. Another solid pick on a name that didnít come with hype or splash.
For round 3, the Raiders applied a trick they learned back in the Ď81 draft when in round 2 they selected a guy named Howie Long from Villanova. The majority of the NFL world asked ďWho from where?Ē He was a reach from a school no one considered could produce an NFL pro. From Hillsdale, which is in Michigan for those that didnít know, the Raiders selected Jason Veldheer, a 6'8" 318 lb. Offensive tackle that, in his college career, never allowed a sack. Okay, close your jaw and accept it as fact. The Raiders didnít select Bruce Campbell, AGAIN. I donít know what to say about a guy that can clean jerk 425 lbs. without his neck and head exploding. I donít know what to say about a player that large, yet whose physique has had him compared to Adonis, because there just isnít the blubber, the fat, the belly roll or the done-lapped-over-the-belt gut one sees with many offensive line men. He is the only offensive line man to score in the top 10 in every combine event. Talk about athleticism! He turned heads. So what if heís from a Division II school?
When pick number 106 came up in round 4, the Raiders seemingly started to listen to the talking heads and drafted the player they were expected to take in the first round, the hyped up, and now hopefully humbled, Bruce Campbell. Many talked about the free fall of Golden Domer QB Jimmy Clausen. Who expected Bruce Campbell to last until round 4? He was originally expected to go in the bottom half of round 1, with the possibility of going earlier based on his combine numbers which had some thinking of him as abnormally physically gifted . With the 4th fastest 40 time recorded by an OT and as fast as tight ends were logging, (4.85), one could understand why he was projected so high. But he fell. And fell. And fell. As strong as he is, (34 reps in the 225 lb. bench press), he has technique issues. He has stamina issues. He hasnít been able to complete a single college season. Red flags that caused him to drop. Drastically. As a 4th round pick, this is what one calls draft value. Every issue can be corrected if Bruce is willing to work on himself. Hopefully the massive 3 round drop will give him a big enough chip on his shoulder and have him wanting to prove how every team that let him slide made a mistake.
With another 4th round pick, this one acquired from the Jacksonville Jaguars in a trade involving Kirk Morrison, the Raiders moved up to grab speedy Clemson receiver Jacoby Ford. Key words when considering Jacoby Ford: elusive, shifty and , music to my ears, top return man. Anyone that watched the Raiders knows the return game struggled with Johnnie Lee Higgins having trouble running towards the team that kicked the ball, and Gary Russell being a full back attempting to be a return man. Whatís even sadder is Russell seemed to be more successful than fleeter -footed Johnnie Lee Higgins. Concerns of durability, (heís just under 5'9" and 186 lbs.), and questionable hands haunt Jacoby Ford, but there had to be at least one sub 4.3 40 player drafted, and this is him. As long as he can return the rock, I donít care if we never see him running a route. The drafting of this young man may see Mr. Higgins looking for another contract elsewhere.
The 5th round draft pick had the Raiders looking back to their defense with Walter McFadden, an Auburn Tiger. At just under 5'11" and 181 lbs., he isnít one the larger cornerbacks to take the field. Projected as a possible 4th rounder, none of the talking heads could call this pick a reach. His pro day results had only 5 reps while pressing over 40 lbs more than his body weight, but I consider it something that he accomplished that. His 4.4 and 4.43 40s and the 35.5 vertical are far more telling for a defensive back. And that music I heard earlier just gets better when I read that he was an excellent gunner on special teams. He doesnít back down from tackles. And the best part about this? The tackles are the wrap-up kind, low on the body, that bring a player down. His run support is his biggest weakness, but he can cover in both man and zone, though he doesnít have the size often seen in man-on-man coverage. He may bite on the play action fake, but he can recover and can sniff out a screen play so as to properly defend it.
An intriguing prospect that could find himself in dime coverage while earning his keep on special teams.
Continuing to look to the defensive side of the ball, Arizona Sun Devil Travis Goethal may have been surprised to hear his name called in the 6th round. Considered slow for a linebacker, considered to have the athleticism a linebacker needs, Goethal started all but 9 games (those being in his freshman year), in his college career. The Jaguars thought enough of him to take special note of him. The Cowboys were looking at him and asked him to work out as full back, a request he didnít turn down. Words that have been used to describe him: tough and nasty. He may end up being a strong special teamer that sees back up time on the field at the LB and/or FB position, both of which are needs for the Raiders.
In the 7th round, the Raiders stuck to defense, selecting 2 defensive backs: Jeremy Ware, a former Gamecock that ended his college career as an MSU Spartan, and Stevie, (please heís in his 20s, can we just call him Steve?), Brown, a Michigan Wolverine.
Jeremy Ware was the only Spartan selected in the draft. He was told the coaches from Oakland liked his ability to tackle and his man to man coverage skills. Oh , and yeah, his 4.3 40 time probably helped. I am sure his 37.5" vertical didnít hurt any. At just about 5'10" and 183 lbs., he isnít a real big guy. His senior year he put up 52 tackles and 3 tackles for a loss, 2 sacks and 5 passes defended. He doesnít have the play time we might like to see, but heís coachable, and with his speed, could see some time as a gunner on special teams, or we may see what he can do in the return game.
Steve Brown is the last of defensive backs chosen, just under 6 ft and weighing in at 212 lbs., heís a bit larger than the other DBs selected by the Raiders, though not surprising as he played safety. In his 4 years of play, he had over 100 solo tackles, 82 assists, but only 4 interceptions. 8 of those tackles his senior year were for a loss, and he also had 4 passes defended in the same season. While he can hit, and is good in run support, he seems to have a tendency to not do so well in man coverage. Possible dime back and special teamer. Speed canít be taught, but this kid had 23 reps in the bench press, so there is some upper body strength that can be utilized. He even saw time as a linebacker. The Packers and the Jets seemed to have an interest in him. It will be curious to see what he can do at the next level.
Now the plus one.
Itís no secret that JaMarcus Russell hasnít been the chosen one, despite the bling he likes to wear. He has been a disappointment to many, though he manages to hang on to a few staunch supporters that have turned a blind eye to the continuing weight gain, the increasingly bad passing, the total lack of consistent improvement as well as inability to throw the ball to the guys wearing the same color jersey he is wearing, as well as his penchant for fumbling. These supporters have also turned a deaf ear to rumors of an alleged liking for ďsyrupĒ, a combination of cough syrup and soda.
The Raiders signed both Bruce Gradkowski and Charlie Frye to contracts. Kyle Boller was brought in. And during the last day of the draft, adding insult to injury to Jason Cambell? After acquiring of Donovan McNabb earlier this April , Jasonís former team traded him for a 4th round pick... 2 years from now. He is now a Raider. We acquired him during the 4th round of activity. He was drafted in 2005, though he saw no play time that year. Largely a disappointment to the Redskins, he is an improvement over Russell, as Jasonís QB rating is actually in the 80s. He has fumbled quite a bit, but hopefully a new and improved offensive line , with a system better suited to him will help his numbers. I have mixed feeling about this. However, this another 1st round pick with real game time experience that has shown flashes of good play that came cheap.
With 2009's hero, Bruce Gradkowski requiring surgery to repair a torn pectoral muscle, I can understand wanting someone with experience, rather than drafting a developmental rookie like Dan Lefevour.
I can only hope that he turns out as well as another quarterback that we took in after be considered unworthy of starting. This player went on to lead the Raiders to 2 Super Bowl victories, being named MVP in Super Bowl, at that time being the ONLY team to have come from a wild card berth and take home the Lombardi. Would it be wrong of me to put a sign on him stating: ĎLightning , please strike hereĒ?
As I mentioned, weíd be signing players that didnít get drafted. So far, those signings include:
Kellen Heard, DT Texas A &M (Once ejected for a late hit on Colt McCoy)
Manase Tonga, FB, BYU
Alex Daniels, DE, Cinci
Alex Parsons, RG, USC
Chane Moline, RB, UCLA
We have also signed a couple of players from out of the blue.
John Owens, TE, from Seattle
Joey Thomas, DB, from Dolphins (most recently)
Most recently we are taking a look at Michael Bennett running back.
Over all, I have to say that I am pleased with the Raiders draft. I think they did well. There were no early selections of flashy, hyped up players. There were no reaches, despite what the self-proclaimed experts say. This was a solid draft that could produce some immediate impact players.
This is a young team, with some solid veteran leadership. Times they are a-changiní and I think the villain big and bold may be laughing when heís conquered and won sooner than some have thought possible .
Win, lose or tie, RAIDERS tile I DIE!