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The enduring image of the Raider Nation is the iconic figure of Al Davis. And one thing the Davis hated was the word rebuild. The Raiders never rebuild, they only reload. Unfortunately, the team didn’t always live up to that motto and we find ourselves in a desperate need of a rebuild. Last year the team made one of the best they have in many years, bringing in general manager Reggie McKenzie. Over the last two offseasons he emptied the roster of all the high priced talent and has begun to reshape it will young players signed to one-year minimum contracts. That will allow him to mold the roster the way he wants without the burden of being limited by the salary cap. It is the most fundamental way to rebuild the franchise.
First year offensive coordinator Greg Olson likes playing to the strengths of his personnel. He has a young, untested quarterback in Matt Flynn, though he does come in with a lot of promise. Flynn has very good accuracy, though he lacks mobility and ideal arm strength. However, he has more than enough physical tools to be successful in the league. Most important of all he has the intelligence to learn a new offense quickly and deliver results on the field.
The real star of the offense is running back Darren McFadden. The team plans to return to a power blocking scheme which will really benefit McFadden. He doesn’t excel in the zone-blocking scheme and he should be able to produce at his highest levels once again. When he is on the field defenses have to respect his abilities and that should help take some of the pressure off new quarterback Flynn and allow him more time to develop. Only thing is, McFadden needs to stay on the field for that plan to work. He has an unfortunate knack for getting injured and the team really doesn’t need that right now.
The team has defensive coordinator Jason Tarver returning for his second season leading this unit. They started to play much better at the end of last year and leads to team to think they have some real promise. However, many of the starters are gone so the team is really relying on Tarver to be able to shape the young talent into what they want.
The defensive line has seen the exit of three starters and two key backups. Gone are Seymour, Kelly and Bryant and in step some lesser known players in their place. The team wasn’t looking to add any big names or someone who can instantly provide production. Instead they wanted to go young and cheap so they can keep the players who fit the mold they are trying to shape the team in.
The linebackers aren’t in much better shape. They lost two of their starters which means only 33% of their veterans return. However, the team acquired proven veteran Nick Roach from the Bears to play in the middle. McClain was a big bust in the middle and Roach will big a major improvement. Also, the other veterans they picked up will allow the team more flexibility so they can play in a 3-4 when the situation is advantageous.
Even though the team is clearly headed in the right direction, it is going to be a rocky road for most of the year. They only managed four wins last year and we may see more of the same this time. There was a massive amount of turnover on the roster and until the team gets the foundation on personnel they want you can’t expect any real success. Playing in a much improved AFC West doesn’t help matters much either. The level of competition they face is only going to expose the holes they have more.