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Then the 2010 Raiders came along.
They won all six of their division games and yet still somehow managed to go 2-8 in the remaining contests on their schedule. That resulted in Tom Cable’s firing and a lot of angry confusion in the Bay Area.
A much worse trait’s percolating around the Black Hole though: cautious optimism. Since Oakland’s fall from grace following their 2002 Super Bowl loss to the Bucs, Oakland hasn’t just been a lost cause. They’ve been the poster child for bad management.
2010 didn’t change that, but Raiders fans will probably try and tell you otherwise. Hue Jackson moving from offensive coordinator to head coach will give Jason Campbell some much-needed stability, and it should bode well for both the continued improvement of Darren McFadden and Oakland’s stockpile of burners at the wide receiver position.
But personnel losses on the other side of the ball -- Nnamdi Asomugha, mainly -- and a focus on scoring points might not exactly guarantee any more success in 2011.
Part of the Raiders second-ranked passing defense was Asomugha’s ability to shut down half of the field. But part of it was also their inability to stop opposing offenses from piling up yardage on the ground; running backs averaged 133.6 yards per game (and 4.5 yards per carry) against Oakland.
That was good for 29th in the NFL and it’s pretty clear that “losing games” and “not stopping the run” go hand-in-hand. Chris Johnson (142 yards), Arian Foster (131), Frank Gore (149), Ricky Williams (95), Rashard Jennings (109) and even Dominic Rhodes (98) all put up pretty big numbers when Oakland lost.
Oddly, not once in a Raiders’ win did an opposing back tote the ball more than 20 times. Many times -- though not always -- that was because Oakland jumped out to big leads early.
And it’s possible that Jackson can continue that trend into 2011, but improved defense against the rush will avoid the need to make big and sometimes luck-driven leads a requirement.
Stanford Routt’s the new No. 1 in Oaktown with Asomugha now departing to, um, somewhere. (We don’t know where yet, but he’s probably not coming back to Oakland.) Routt and Chris Johnson can work well together, but there’s a pretty good chance that losing Nnamdi will expose other areas in the secondary as teams work the entire field against Oakland. It’ll also stretch their safeties even thinner than before, something that could become a problem if Michael Huff and Tyvon Branch can’t step up their game.
2. Front Office Contract Guy
No, but seriously -- the fact that Asomugha and Kamerion Wimbley somehow BOTH managed to end up with funky as all get-out finales to their contracts is pretty indicative that something ain’t stirring the Kool-Aid in the front office when it comes to the guy who draws up the deals. Either that or Oakland really wanted to dump Nnamdi this offseason. Which makes less sense than accidentally messing up a pair of big-time contracts.
3. Outside linebacker
Branch and Huff were the leading tacklers for Oakland in 2010, which is good, because tackles are nice. It’s bad because it means that teams were pretty easily getting to the furthest layer of the Raiders’ defense. Letting people break big plays (the Raiders allowed 17 rushes over 20 yards, third-worst in the league, and 51 passes over 20 yards, 11th worst) was a nasty little problem for Oakland last year. And even with "franchise" player Wimbley sitting on the outside, Oakland needs some more run stuffers.
Oh yes, and they're still the Raiders too.
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