2007 Season Preview: Oakland Raiders

Leading up until the regular season, there will be team capsules brought to you of every team in the NFL. These capsules will serve as a primer for the NFL regular season opening up. Today we examine the Oakland Raiders, owner of the 2007 NFL Draft #1 Pick.

Is Lane Kiffin the right man for the job?
One must believe that Lane Kiffin must have something special about him to assume the job of the man that will take over the Los Angeles Raiders’ Head Coaching position after the lowliest point of the franchise’s existence. Kiffin, 31, has no NFL or prior head coaching experience, which would make one scratch their head on the choice Al Davis made when naming Kiffin the head coach. The son of Defensive master, Monte Kiffin, Lane takes over the head job of the Raiders after spending the last several seasons as Wide Receivers coach and Offensive Coordinator of the USC Trojans.

Al Davis got his guy, and in letting go of Art Shell for the second time, he believes he has found a fountain of youth by hiring the youngest coach in NFL history. He also may have found a potential gold mine and a guy who could be a lot like Bill Cowher in terms of career path. You have to have a feeling this is going to be a long run for Kiffin, a players coach who will command respect but relate well to the young Oakland Raiders roster.

I think Kiffin is indeed going to be a great coach and the man who fully brings the Raiders back to respectability and once again being a force in the National Football League for the first time since Jon Gruden was at the helm in the late 90’s until 2001.

JaMarcus Russell: sink or swim?
You know what you’re going to get with Russell don’t you? You’re going to get a guy who has a better arm than Daunte Culpepper, which is about the best arm in the entire NFL. You’re going to see a ton of 3 TD, 300+ yard ballgames out of the guy. Big plays made with the feet, buying time for the arm and making up for the lack of decision making. The physical aspects of Russell’s game are a definite plus that will make up for his youth and inexperience, probably allowing him to start soon in his NFL career. It is interesting because I think that Russell is Culpepper of this draft class, and Brady Quinn is Tim Couch, but both are in even better situations than they were when the ’99 QB’s came into the league with their respective teams. This is especially good news for Quinn, who I believe has a brighter future. The tandem should both add to an All-Pro list already in the AFC. In 5 years, the Raiders will be on top again in the AFC West, and Russell is going to be a big part of it. He’s going to look awfully big and strong in the silver and black and playing on that field that has the baseball field dirt for part of the season until late October. The Raiders have themselves a swimmer at QB.

The Randy Moss experiment flopped….
I think the organization; spear-headed by the new positive Kiffin, decided that the best course of action in dealing with Randy Moss was addition by subtraction. Moss fit the bad-boy aura that Al Davis was aparently trying to create in Oakland but no value on the playing field. The Raiders acquired only a 4th round pick from the New England Patriots in giving up Moss. This is not going to hurt the Raiders as much as some might think, especially if Kiffin can get Jerry Porter to play hard and return to form for this season. The team also has former North Carolina standout Ronald Curry, who may be the next big time receiver in the division. Remember this, no matter what kind of success story Randy Moss works out to be in New England with Bill Belichick and Tom Brady, the Raiders are not going to miss him. They don’t want him poisoning the mind of the youth like Russell and company.

What’s the crystal ball looking like? Is it wearing an eyepatch?
I’m seeing 6-10 for this team and in a ton of ballgames. Maybe an upset or two where they beat someone that is a Superbowl type contender late in the season with Russell at the helm. Look for a slow start, and then Kiffin quickly turning the reigns over to Russell. Maybe they go on a similar run that the Titans did last year with Vince Young at the helm. This team should be exciting on offense, and it’s a matter of time until Kiffin, Russell, and Al Davis are images seen in the playoffs once again.

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