Taking a Closer Look at the NFC North

say yaeah

Who will win the NFC North in 2013?

After publishing my article on the NFC West, my friend took a look and immediately disapprove. Why? his exact words were: “C’mon Arteen, the NFC West is the best? The NFC North is stacked beyond belief and the NFC North is way more competitive.” I still believe the NFC West is the best, but the NFC North may very well be second. After all, it did have two playoff teams last year. Let’s start off by taking a look at last year’s division champs.

Green Bay Packers

Key Additions:

Eddie Lacy, RB (via Draft)

Datone Jones, DT (via Draft)

David Bakhtiari, OT (Draft)

Matthew Mulligan, TE (via FA)

Vince Young, QB (via FA)

Key Losses:

Charles Woodson, DB (via FA)

Bryan Bulaga, LT (Injury)

Desmond Bishop, ILB (Released)

Greg Jennings, WR (via FA)

Donald Driver, WR (retired)

Jeff Saturday, C (retired)

Tom Crabtree, TE (via FA)

Erik Walden, LB (via FA)
Cedric Benson, RB (did not re-sign)

Let’s start things off by looking at Green Bay’s free agent signings. With Tom Crabtree (3 TDs last season) going to Tampa Bay, the Packers needed another reserve end zone TE target and they got that in Matthew Mulligan, formerly of the Rams. Mulligan and Crabtree are practically the exact same height and weight/size so it’s basically a complete replacement. Both had 8 receptions last year but Crabtree had more yards (203 compared to just 84) and 2 more TDs. Still, Mulligan started 9 games last year and actually specializes in run blocking, plus he can help out on special teams. In fact, he is a strong run blocker and although he may not bring the same receiving ability Crabtree did but they didn’t want to have to use their tender. Next, they brought in veteran Vince Young to man the clipboard duties. This was smart because VY is very talented and has something to prove, plus he is miles better than the guys behind Rodgers beforehand. Here are his highlights in his last NFL season:

He was cut last season by the Bills before the season starting. But for what it’s worth here are his pre season highlights:

Moving on, the Packers didn’t sign any big name free agents, but instead re-signed their current key players and built through the draft. Aaron Rodgers was re-signed, as was Clay Matthews. The Packers didn’t miss a beat in the passing game when Jennings left because they now have a solid trio of James Jones, Jordy Nelson, and Randall Cobb. Jennings departure will lead to the development to these players. Most notably, Randall Cobb who is a dynamic slot receiver. Plus he has a reliable, big TE in Jermichael Finley. Now let’s look at their OL. They took a massive hit when LT Bryan Bulaga went down with injury. Rodgers is a great QB with a quick release but now he has suspect tackles. Trying to fill in at LT with the absence of Bulaga, is Iranian-American David Bakthiari. He is a fourth round selection (109 overall) of this year’s draft. Protecting Aaron Rodger’s blindside is a lot to ask from a rookie, but the Packers are putting their faith in him. So far, he has impressed in camp. At the other tackle position, it’s a battle between Marshall Newhouse and I expect Derek Sherrod to be in the mix when he comes back from injury. Sherrod is a 24 year old first round pick from 2011. Originally brought in to be the franchise OT, he has only played 5 games due to injuries. In the interior is Pro Bowler Josh Sitton who moved to the left side. At center, is Evan Dietrich-Smith (EDS) , who is attempting to replace the duties of pro bowler Jeff Saturday (arguably the worst pro bowler ever, he had no right to be in the 2012 pro bowl game despite his great career). Yes EDS is the one who was stopped on by Ndamukong Suh. With that being said, the Packers are high on him: “Like last year, the steps he’s made from a professional standpoint are coming to the front for him: leadership, energy, very smart, understands everything,” OL coach James Campen said. Dietrich-Smith took over for a fading Jeff Saturday last season, starting the Packers’ final four games at center. The 2010 undrafted free agent also made four starts at left guard. He started four games last season. At RG is TJ Lang, who is transitioning from RT. These Packers line has it;s questions, but it could be worse. It helps that at RB they have the power back Eddie Lacy who has looked great thus far. Lacy, was once considered a first round pick, but fell due to a poor pro day allowing GB to snatch him up at the very end of the second round. After him they have a solid core of Johnathan Franklin, Alex Green, DuJuan Harris, and James Starks. GB can’t afford to keep all of them but whoever gets cut will most likely find a job somewhere else. I expect Franklin, who is a fourth round rookie, to make the team due to his potential and elusiveness. Looking at the defense, let’s take a quick look at their depth chart:

3-4 Defense

DE: Datone Jones (first round rookie, has a lot of potential and has impressed in camp. Can rush the passer and stuff run, will replace the role of Cullen Jenkins)

NT: BJ Raji (Elite run stuffer, brings penetration on every play)

DE: Ryan Pickett (great run stuffer with no pass rushing ability)

OLB: Nick Perry (first round rookie in 2012, suffered wrist injury his rookie year causing him to miss a lot of time, looks great so far, pass rusher)

Mike: AJ Hawk (took major pay cut, solid against run liability in pass coverage)

WIll: Brad Jones (re-signed as offseason priority, PFF graded out as top 10 ILB in NFL)

OLB: Clay Matthews (re-signed to mega contract, excellent pass rusher)

CB: Tramon Williams (was once one of the better CBs in the NFL, trying to revive his career after injury set backs)

CB: Sam Shields (great young CB)

NB: Casey Hayward (ditto)

FS: Morgan Burnett (Again re-signed as priority, 16th best safety in NFL via PFF)

SS: MD Jennings (trying to keep his job away from Jerron McMillan)

The defense that was massacred by Colin Kaepernick in the playoffs does’t look so bad anymore with the additions of Datone Jones and a returning Nick Perry. Not to mention Brad Jones, and the two young CBs are only going to get better. Outside of the SS spot this team is set. Even with the suspect OL this team will be great next season unless injuries or melt downs occur. I expect them to win the division and be contenders.

Record Prediction: 11-5, Division Champions

Now let’s look at their biggest competitors in my eye’s, a team that did everything in their power to get better this offseason.

Minnesota Vikings

Key Additions

Greg Jennings, WR (via FA)

Xavier Rhodes, CB (via Draft)*

Desmond Bishop, LB (via FA)

Matt Cassell, QB (via FA)

Sharrif Floyd, DT (via Draft)*

Jeff Locke, P (via Draft)

Cordarrelle Patterson, WR (via Draft)*

Seth Olsen, OG (via FA)

Lawrence Jackson, DE (via FA)

Key Losses

Percy Harvin, WR (Trade)

Jasper Brinkley, ILB (Via FA)

Antoine Winfield, CB (released)

Chris Kluwe, P (released)

*=First Rounder

Three players who have played in Minny all their careers are gone. It’s time to say goodbye to Percy Harvin, Antoine Winfield, and Chris Kulwe; and say hell to Cordarrelle Patterson, Xavier Rhodes, and Jeff Locke. Add that to the additions of 2x Pro Bowler Greg Jennings and first round pick Sharrif Floyd and this team look pretty good. Their biggest weakness last year was the QB position but Christian Ponder has progressed and they brought in former pro bowler Matt Cassell to provide competition, although I think Ponder will maintain. Their OL is very solid as they have a great young LT in Matt Kalil, one of the best centers in the NFL in John Sullivan, and a great RT in Phil Loadholt. Their guards are the young Brandon Fusco (16 game starter last year) and the veteran Charlie Johnson who’s been an every game starter for a while. Taking a look at the defense, it isn’t easy seeing Antoine leave. Still, even though Harrison Smith will only get better and Xavier Rhodes looks promising, the secondary got worse. Jamarca Sanford is not ideal and neither is Chris Cook. On the DL you got all kinds of depth. Sharrif Floyd, Kevin Williams, Brian Robison, Everson Griffen, Lawrence Jackson, Fred Evans and Letroy Guion are the notables. Their LB core is great with All Pro Chad Greenway, Erin Henderson, and Marvin Mitchell. Former GB anchor Desmond Bishop was brought in to man the middle but he has been a flop thus far still dealing with injuries. This team has Adrian Peterson, the best RB in the NFL and the MVP, but that’s not all. They brought in Greg Jennings, Cordarrelle Patterson, and Kyle Rudolph will only get better. That plus a stud OL should mean Ponder will have no reason to fail. He has never had weapons like these before, as Harvin was always injured. Their front 7 is stout and makes up for their mediocre secondary.  This team has talent everywhere but more importantly young talent.

Record Prediction: 10-6, Wild Card

I gave the Vikings the wild card but what about this team?

Chicago Bears

Key Additions

Martellus Bennett, TE (via FA)

Jermon Bushrod, OT (via FA)

Steve Maneri, TE (via FA)

Tom Zbikowski, S (via FA)

Matt Slauson, OG (via FA)

DJ WIlliams, LB (via FA)
Jon Bostic, LB (via Draft)

Jordan Mills, OT (via Draft)

Kyle Long, OL (via Draft)

Khaseem Greene, LB (via Draft)

James Anderson, LB (via FA)

Jordan Palmer, QB (via FA)

Klye Moore, DE (via FA)

Eben Britton, OL (via FA)

Tony Fiammetta, FB (via FA)

Key Losses:

Nick Roach, LB (via FA)

Sedrick Ellis, DT (retirement)

Brian Urlacher, LB(retired)

Johnny Knox, WR (Injury/retired)

Israel Idonije, DT (via FA)

Chilo Rachal, OG (via FA)

Gabe Carimi, OL (Trade)

Kellen Davis, TE (via FA)

Matt Spaeth, TE (via FA)

Chris Spencer, C (via FA)

Geno Hayes, LB (via FA)

Jason Campbell, QB (via FA)

Turk McBride, DL (injury/waived)

DJ Moore, CB (via FA)

Evan Rodriguez, FB (via FA)

Lance Louis, OG (via FA)

Just by looking at the additions/losses chart you can already tell the Bears had a busy offseason. It started when they controversially fired HC Lovie Smith after missing the playoffs despite a 10-6 season. They replaced him with CFL head coach Marc Trestman. This was a move I was against for many reasons. So the Bears are transitioning from being a defensive minded team to an offensive minded team (Trestman is an offensive coach, while Smith was defensive). Long time pro bowl LB and face of the Bears Brian Urlacher is leaving and the Bears have some nice offensive players to utilize with Brandon Marshall, Matt Forte, and Jay Cutler. I can respect their logic there but I still don’t agree with it. Even with Urlacher gone this is still a defensive team. Urlacher’s replacement was planned to be Nick Roach but he went to Oakland so the Bears brought in Jon Bostic through the draft and signed veteran DJ Williams. This is an obvious downgrade leadership wise, but actually an upgrade in terms of play making. Urlacher was pretty bad his last year, he simply had no gas left in the tank. Bostic on the other hand has looked great and layed this monster hit in his last night:

still not impressed? see what he did to Teddy Bridgewater:

DJ Williams has been limited thus far due to injury but solidified himself as an above average LB in Denver.

Back to the topic, the Bears are still a defensive team. They have a top 5 CB in Charles Tillman and a top 10 CB in Tim Jennings. In the LB core, they have Lance Briggs, who was ranked very highly by PFF last season and is a 3x All Pro and 7x Pro Bowler, they have Bostic manning the middle and James Anderson as the SLB. Anderson was a good player for the panthers before getting signed by Chicago this offseason. On the DL, you have one of the best DT duos in Henry Melton and Stephen Paea. At DE you have the elite Julius Peppers and Corey Wooton (the man who ended Brett Favre’s career). They also have Shea McClellin who was the 19th overall pick in 2012. He’s trying to redeem himself after a disappointing rookie season. At safety they have Major Wright who is a good player. Their only hole is at FS where they currently have Chris Conte. This is clearly a defensive team and Trestman will take away some of that identity. Pointing out the obvious, Trestman has no NFL head coaching experience and he has only had success in the Canadian Football League. Several teams gave him an offer as an OC and that would be his best position on the coaching staff. You can’t convince me he’s an upgrade over Lovie Smith. Let’s take a look at offense. Their biggest weakness is the OL. The front office recognized they needed a LT considering Jamarcus Webb was putrid, so they gave Jermon Bushrod a 5 year $36M contract. This deal made no sense. Cutler needs a great pass blocker and Bushrod is poor in that area. He’s a great run blocker but offers zilch in pass protection. The only reason Drew Brees wasn’t killed every play last year was due to his lightening quick release, a trait Cutler does not have. Still Matt Forte will benefit, so there is a plus. The Bears replaced Kyle Long and Gabe Carimi with Kyle Long (first round rookie) and Matt Slauson (veteran OG formerly of Jets). This were both wise moves. Long has looked great thus far and has a ton of potential. Slauson is a vet who can provide solid pass protection. Dumping Carmimi and Rachal needed to be done as both were terrible. Unfortunately, the Bears couldn’t get rid of Jamarcus Webb and instead moved him to RT. He’s looked terrible so far. I wouldn’t be surprised if fifth round rookie Jordan Mills wins the RT job. This OL improved but Cutler won’t have much time to throw as his tackles are horrible in pass protection. Lucky for Matt Forte (a great RB) he has a great new run blocker in Jermon Bushrod as well as Kyle Long. He should have a big year. Cutler was sacked twice vs the Chargers last game even though they have a bad pass rush. He also fumbled once. He was only sacked once vs Panthers the game before. The Bears made a smart move by signing Steve Maneri to a two year deal. He is one of the best blocking TEs in the NFL. He’ll open up lanes for Matt Forte. Helping out Jay Cutler, the Bears brought in Martellus Bennett who is a massive upgrade over Kellen Davis. For some reason Cutler has not been building chemistry with him this offseason in pre season games. He’s yet to have a target despite having a great season with the Giants last year. Brandon Marshall is a top 5 WR and a complete beast he’s shown that so far. Alshon Jeffery is a guy who I expect to get better, he was a pleasant surprise for the Bears last season as a second round pick. He will start opposite of Marshall. The Bears don’t have much depth and they lost a lot of leadership with Urlacher, Roach, and Lovie Smith all leaving. Still if Cutler can buy some time their offense will be deadly. Trestman is an offensive genius but I’m not sold on him as a HC.

Record Prediction: 8-8

Finally, we make our way to the Lions

Detroit Lions

Key Additions

Reggie Bush, RB (via FA)

Ezekiel Ansah, DE (via Draft)

Glover Quinn, S (via FA)

Israel Idonije, DL (via FA)

Rashean Mathis, CB (via FA)

Rocky McIntosh, LB (via FA)

David Akers, K (via FA)

Havard Rugland, K (via FA)

Jason Jones, DL (via FA)
CJ Mosley, DT (via FA)

Jake Scott, OG (via FA)

Larry Warford, OG (via FA)

Leroy Harris, OG (via FA)

Michael Spurlock, KR (via FA)

Darius Slay, CB (via Draft)

Key Losses

Cliff Avril, DE (via FA)

Corey WIlliams, DT (not re-signed)

Gosder Cherilus, OT (via FA)

Titus Young, WR (released)

Justin Durant, LB (via FA)

Jason Hanson, K (retired)

Jeff Backus, OT (retired)

Kyle Vanden Bosch, DE (not re-signed)

Lawrence Jackson, DE (via FA)

Jacob Lacey, CB (via FA)

Stephen Peterman, OG (via FA)

Sammie Lee Hill, DT (via FA)

Drayton Florence, CB (via FA)

Jahvid Best, RB (injury/retired)

This Lions team had to say goodbye to a great player in Jahvid Best. But life is more important than football and the Lions made the right choice. They replaced him with Reggie Bush who is a good running back and will be a weapon for Matt Stafford coming out of the backfield. Looking at their roster it starts at the QB. Matt Stafford is generally considered a good young quarterback by most, but I disagree and think he’s very overrated. Fans look at the high amount of yardage he throws but he throws more pass attempts than any other player in the NFL and plays recklessly. He is the quintessential “Lob” QB as his signature move is throwing a jump ball to Calvin Johnson. Johnson is one of the post dominant players in the NFL and he makes that offense. Stafford is also known for poor ball security (interceptions/turnovers) and that cost them some games last year. The Lions have another great weapon in Brandon Pettigrew. If Brandon was more focused he’d easily be one of the best TEs in the NFL even though he’s already pretty good. The Lions still lack a WR #2 but they are getting Nate Burleson (old) and Ryan Broyles (injury prone) back. The worst part of this offense is the OL. LT Jeff Backus retired and RT Gosder Cherilus signed a mega contract with Indy. Now the team is forced to start poor blindside protector Riley Reiff and the injury prone Jason Fox at RT (he’s played 5 career games). SCARY…in the wrong way. On the Defense, they made a great pick bringing in Ziggy Ansah and Darius Slay. Both will start their rookie years and have looked great. In his first game ever in the NFL, Ansah made his mark:

Next to him on the DL, is in my opinion the best DT duo in the NFL, Ndamukong Suh and Nick Fairley. They brought in Jason Jones from Seattle. Jones is extremely versatile,e being able to play any position on the DL. He is a three down DL and will be asked to play in an expanded role this season. This can be a breakout year for him even though he already has the reputation as a good DL. In the LB core they have Stephen Tulloch, the veteran leader. They lost a key piece in Justin Durant but their banking on youngsters DeAndre Levy and Ashlee Palmer to carry the load. In the secondary they have one of the most underrated safety tandems wit Glover Quinn and Louis Delmas. Their CBs are the talented Chris Houston and Darius Slay. Ron Bartell and Bill Bentley will battle it out for slot duties.

This team has a lot of talent but evidently a poor OL and a reckless QB just won’t get the job done.

Record Prediction: 5-11


Taking a Closer Look at the NFC West


Who will win the NFC West? How will each team fair?

The NFC West was not too long ago dubbed the NFC Worst. Now, it is hands down the most stacked and competitive division in the NFL. Still, looking at this debate at this time last year the Niners were the clear cut favorites to win the division and even Super Bowl favorites. That is no longer the case, as the Seahawks proved they were legitimate contenders and the Rams refused to lose against the Niners and showed promise including a win over Seattle as well. Even the Cardinals who had tremendous quarterback issues showed flashes of a nice defense and got off to a 4-0 start including wins over Seattle and the Patriots. During the offseason each team did everything in their power to improve. With the season coming to a start, it’s time to take a close look at each team in this division and get a nice look on just how competitive it might be. Let’s start off by evaluating the defending division champions.

San Francisco 49ers

Key Additions:

Eric Reid, S (via Draft)

Anquan Boldin, WR (via Trade)

Nnamdi Asomugha, CB (via Free Agency)

Vance McDonald, TE (via Draft)

Glenn Dorsey, DL (via Free Agency)

Colt McCoy, QB (via Trade)

Phil Dawson, K (via Free Agency)

Key Losses:

Dashon Goldson, S (via Free Agency)

Isaac Sopoaga, NT (via Free Agency)

David Akers, K (released)

Alex Smith, QB (via Trade)

Chris Culliver, CB (via Injury)

Michael Crabtree, WR (via Injury)

Delanie Walker, TE (via Free Agency)

Ricky Jean Francois, DL (via Free Agency)

Just to quickly explain why there is an asterisk next to Nnamdi and Glenn, both were brought in to be contributors and even starters. So far Dorsey has lost his starting job to Ian Williams and is looking like a cut candidate and Nnamdi is the 4th string CB even WITH Culliver out. Now, that’s not to say these guys can’t turn things around. Particularly Nnamdi who showed flashes in the first pre season game and is a good fit for the Niners scheme. The Glenn Dorsey signing just didn’t make any sense considering it was already a known fact he was not a fit in the 3-4 Defense. The Niners tried moving him from 3-4 DE to Nose Tackle but it hasn’t worked for obvious reasons. I’m curious to see what he can do in a 4-3, a scheme he dominated in at Louisiana State. Before going to far into that, let’s look at the positives. The 49ers first round draft pick, Eric Reid, has been looking great. He’s been solid in camp at already made an impression in his first game:

In case you’re wondering how his style of play is, it is very similar to that of Dashon Goldson, the All Pro safety who he’s trying to replace for the Niners. The Niners brought in several other intriguing players through the draft such as Tank Carradine (round 2) and Marcus Lattimore (round 4) who are expected to be stashed on IR in their first season. To replace Delanie Walker, the Niners drafted Vance McDonald. The interesting thing is that the two are different players. Walker was known as being arguably the best blocking TE in the NFL and was a weapon for the Niners run heavy offense. But with the team putting their future into big armed QB Colin Kaeperinick they brought in McDonald who is a great receiving TE. Vernon Davis is a great blocking TE already. Let’s look at the clear cut upgrades. Phil Dawson is an easy upgrade over David Akers. Akers started the year off great with a record breaking (tied) 63 yard field goal. Then he played miserably the rest of the year. Phil Dawson on the other hand was a Pro Bowler last year for the Browns and while he doesn’t posses an exceptionally strong leg he is very accurate. The Niners added Anquan Boldin a great possession receiver who can make all the tough catches over the middle. He should be a reliable target for Colin Kaepernick. Michael Crabtree would have created a nice duo with him but unfortunately he will be out for most of the season, if not all of it with a torn achilles. Still, giving Kaepernick a full offseason as the starting QB should help him and I expect him to be better next season. The Niners are also hoping to get Kendall Hunter back healthy do create a very good RB core. Gore, Dixon, LaMichael James, and Hunter could very well be the best core in the NFL at RB. The Niners made some smart moves locking up Anthony Davis and Justin Smith. Still this team is getting killed by injuries. Chris Culliver was supposed to step up as the team’s best CB but he tore his ACL. The secondary and receiving corps of this squad have a lot of question marks. The team also lacks depth in my opinion. Behind Willis and Bowman they don’t have a proven depth ILB and their depth on the DL is shallow. With all that aside, the RB core, TE core, Colin Kaepernick, and the LBs make this team a contender. But, I wouldn’t go so far to say they will win their division easy like some analyst insist.

Record Prediction: 12-4, Wild Card

Let’s look at their biggest challenge:

Seattle Seahawks

Key Additions:

Cliff Avril, DE (via free agency)

Antoine Winfield, CB (Via FA)

Michael Bennett (via FA)

Percy Harvin (via Trade)

Tony McDaniel (via FA)

Tavaris Jackson (via FA)

Christine Michael (via Draft)

Key Losses:

Matt Flynn (Trade)

Alan Branch (via FA)

Jason Jones (via FA)

Leroy Hill (not re-signed)

Leon Washington (via FA)

The Seahawks had a great season last year, this year they’re expecting to be even better. Similar to Kaepernick, Russell Wilson is only going to get better. The Seahawks had a solid draft and added Christine Michael to create a solid RB duo with Marshawn “Beast Mode” Lynch. The team’s number one goal was bolstering their pass rush this offseason and they definitely did that. Chris Clemons was their sack leader last year with 11.5 but he blew out his knee. The team added Cliff Avril who had 9.5 sacks last year and Michael Bennett who had 9. Add that to Bruce Irvin who had 8 sacks last year as a rookie and all of a sudden this pass rush is beyond scary. Their interior DL was among the NFL’s best last year with a trio of Mebane, Jones, and Branch. Two of them left but the team still has the best out of the three in Brandon Mebane and they also brought in veteran Tony McDaniel. They also drafted Jordan Hill (round 3) out of Penn State and Jesse Williams (round 5) out of Alabama. Williams was once considered a first round prospect but fell drastically due to knee issues and immaturity concerns (he tattooed YOLO on  his face, neck and back of his head). Also, Michael Bennett has the size and skill to kick inside and play DT in a 4-3. This DL is among the NFLs best and has a lot of versatility. Their defense doesn’t end there. They have a great LB core. Rookies Bobby Wagner and KJ Wright were terrific last year and are only going to get better. Their secondary is easly the best with top 3 NFL CB Richard Sherman, solid CB Brandon Browner, top 10 SS Kam Chancellor and maybe the best safety in the NFL in Earl Thomas. They just added Antoine Winfield who is a number one CB on most teams and the best Slot CB in the NFL. Their offense is solid but it’s too much of a shame we won’t get to see Harvin play this year, but this team is stacked and easily SB contenders. They will give SF a run for their money and I think they will go farther.

Record Prediction: 13-3, Division Champs

Moving on to a potential dark horse team:

St Louis Rams:

Key Additions

Tavon Austin, WR (draft)

Stedman Bailey, WR (via Draft)

Jake Long, LT (via FA)

Jared Cook, TE (via FA)

TJ McDonald, S (via Draft)

Alec Ogletree, LB (via Draft)

Key Losses

Danny Amendola, WR (via FA)

Brandon Gibson, WR (via FA)

Steven Jackson, RB (via FA)

Quintin Mikell, S ( not re-signed)

Craig Dahl, S (via FA)

I’d like to say losing Craig Dahl was an addition by subtraction for the Rams but they haven’t addressed the Safety position as if losing the top 5 best safety in the NFL by Pro Football Focus in Mikell wasn’t enough. The Rams drafted TJ McDonald in the third round to compete for a starting spot and they have Darian Stewart who some think can be a breakout candidate. Their CBs are stellar with the veteran Cortland Finnegan and sophomore Janoris Jenkins. Their front 7 is scary. Here’s a quick breakdown:

DE: Chris Long (stud, great all around DE who can do it all)

DT: Kendall Langford (underrated, up and comer)

DT: Michael Brockers (young stud)

DE: Robert Quinn (ditto)

LB: Alec Ogletree (first round pick, very solid LB in coverage moves like a DB)

LB: James Laurinaitis (beast)

LB: Jo-Lonn Dunbar (underrated, had 115 tackles)

As you can see their defense is stout outside of the safety position.

On offense, they have a great receiving core of Brian Quick (breakout candidate), Chris Givens, Tavon Austin (rookie of the year candidate), and Stedman Bailey (Tavon’s teammate in HS). The team has a young talented QB in Sam Bradford but no proven RB. 2012 7th round pick Daryl Richardson is expecting to be the starter but he has little to no upside moving forward. I hope Isiah Pead figures out how to play to his potential. Jared Cook is a great receiving TE and in fact lines up as a WR a lot. He should be a weapon and security blanket for Sammy. Their OL features exceptional tackles in Jake Long and Roger Saffold. This team is talented but they won’t be able to compete in this division, not yet.

Record Prediction: 8-8

Finally, here we are

Arizona Cardinals

Key Additions:

Carson Palmer, QB (via Trade)

Karlos Dansby, ILB (via FA)

John Abraham, OLB (via FA)

Yeremiah Bell, S (via FA)

Jerraud Powers, CB (via FA)

Jasper Brinkley, ILB (via FA)

Eric Winston, RT (via FA)

Kevin Minter, ILB (via Draft)

Johnathan Cooper, OG (via Draft)

Alex Okafor, OLB (via Draft)

Rashard Mendenhall, RB (via FA)

Matt Shaughnessy, DE (via FA)

Honey Badger, DB (via Draft)

Antoine Cason, CB (via FA)

Key Losses:

Kevin Kolb, QB (via FA)

Beanie Wells, RB (not Re-signed)

William Gay, CB (via FA)

Paris Lenon, ILB (not re-signed)

Greg Toler, CB (via FA)

Kerry Rhodes, S (released)

Adrian Wilson, S (released)

This team is certainly doing everything they can to make them competitive. In fact they’ve built a solid roster. They just won’t be able to compete against NFC West opponents, they have a legit shot of going 0-6 in their division and they’re not even bad. Don’t believe me? Check out their depth chart:

QB: Carson Palmer

RB: Rashard Mendenhall

TE: Rob Housler

WR: Larry Fitzgerald

WR: Micharl Floyd

WR 3: Andre Roberts

LT: Levi Brown

LG: Johnathan Cooper

C: Lyle Sendlein

RG: Bobby Massie

RT: Eric Winston

That’s the offense, not so bad huh? Quickly, it’s important to note that Bruce Arians does not use a FB and that Rob Housler is an underrated solid TE. Anyway, the weakness on this team is easily OL. WInston and Cooper are the only above average players. Their WR corps is superb (just by having Fitz would make them good) and they have a competent QB who can get his targets the ball. Their RB is solid and has good ties  with Bruce from Pittsburgh. Moving on to their 3-4 Defense:

DT: Darnell Dockett

NT: Dan Williams

DE: Calais Campbell

OLB: Sam Acho

ILB: Daryl Washinton (suspended for four games)

ILB: Karlos Dansby

OLB: John Abraham

CB: Jerraud Powers

CB: Patrick Peterson

FS: Rashad Johnson

SS: Yeremiah Bell

Again, not so bad huh? In fact, the only glaring weakness I see is at the FS position. Plus this squad has nice depth with guys such as Kevin Minter, Lorenzo Alexander, Jasper Brinkley, Antoine Cason, Frostee Rucker, Matt Shaugnessy, Javier Arenas, and of course the Honey Badger. Still this squad doesn’t match up with their division rivals even though it’s pretty good. 6 games will be tough and they actually have a pretty hard schedule.

Record Prediction: 6-10


This division is tight. The division champions is a toss up between the Niners and the Hawks but I give it to Seattle for now. Mainly due to SF’s poor secondary and injury bug. The other two teams are not far away and have built solid squads, what makes this division so deadly. Unlike last year, all four teams have dangerous offenses to go along with stout defenses. It will be interesting to see how it all rolls out. So many questions to be asked. Who do you think will win this division?

Please leave all thought, comments, questions, and suggestions below!

Getting to know the new Raiders


Some of you may know I’m a Raiders fan. I did this article a while back on silverandblackpride.com (under the username of Nflfan123) and decided I’d share it here for my fellow Raider fans who are reading. This article contains all of the background information of the new players the Raiders acquired (draft, trade, and free agency), as well as some of my input. I made this for those who may not be familiar with all of the new players the team acquired. I will go through all of the Raiders’ draft picks, main free agent signings, and some undrafted free agents who I think have a shot of making the team and making an impact. I’m not going to bother doing Charles Woodson. His legacy is so great there is no need for analyzing his greatness. Plus, he’s not a new Raider either.  Just letting you know this will be long 🙂


Hello Raider Nation!

I will be making a thread of background information of the new players the Raiders acquired (draft, trade, and free agency), as well as some of my input. I made this for those who may not be familiar with all of the new players the team acquired. I will go through all of the Raiders’ draft picks, main free agent signings, and some undrafted free agents who I think have a shot of making the team and making an impact.

So let’s start things off with the first free agent signed:

Name: Kaluka Maiava

Age: 26

Position: Will Linbacker/Strongside Linebacker

Scheme: 3-4 ILB, 4-3 OLB

2009 Rose Bowl Defensive MVP

2005-06 USC Special Teams Player of the Year

Height: 6’0

Weight: 229

Draft Status: Picked 104 (fourth round) in the 2009 NFL draft

College: USC

Contract: 3 years, $6 million

Maiava started 13 games last season for Cleveland with 30 solo tackles, two sacks, two forced fumbles and three passes defensed. Maiava has played 50 games over four seasons with the Browns. For the bulk of his career, Maiavia has been a two down linebacker and one of the top special teamers in the league. His ST play will be huge for us, considering how horrible we were in that regard last season. Not only that, but he has proven himself to be a capable run blocker, as he has had the ability to shed blocks and get around larger players to stuff the run. Maiavia generally shows good technique, however he tends to bite on play fakes and needs to work on keeping his pad level down. Last season, Kaluka was asked to be the Browns starting WLB and played well, which earned him a positive grade by Pro Football Focus. Over his career, he has not been known as a proven coverage LB, but last year he showed improvement in coverage, but not on the level of other LBs. Another pro is his pursuit. Maiavia is an example of the hard working players Reggie is trying to bring in. For example, against the Philadelphia Eagles in Week 1, RB Lesean McCoy had gotten past the DL and was heading for the secondary. Maiavia missed a tackle in the process, but got back up and used his pursuit skills to bring down Shady and stopped a potentially huge run for Philly.


Kaluka may not be a major factor, but his run defense skills and ethic give him a shot at starting at any of the three linebacker positions due to his versatility. He could even be featured in some 3-4 looks set up by coach Tarver. He will be a major factor on special teams and will add to the Raiders improved LB rotation.

Fun Fact: He is the nephew of Duane “The Rock” Johnson

Next Player, our first round pick

Name: DJ Hayden

Age: 22

Position: Cornerback

First-team All-C-USA (2012)

Height: 6’0

Weight: 190 lb

Draft status: selected in round 1 (12) in 2013 NFL Draft

College: Houston

Contract: unsigned

Who hasn’t heard of Hayden’s miracle story? Well if you haven’t already, here you go:


It’s a miracle.

Now on to the football side. The Hayden pick was a surprise to some, including me. It was reported that the Raiders were very interested in Hayden a few days before the draft. However, with both Floyd and Star available, I was sure Reggie would pick a DL. Instead he took his favorite prospect, DJ Hayden. He is a beast on tape, and a playmaker. He ran a blazing 4.33 forty at his pro day, showing his athletic ability. Once Hayden was medically cleared, Mike Mayock of NFL.Com stated that Hayden was indeed the best CB prospect in the draft. Like all prospects, time to evaluate his game.


His quickness allows him to excel in man coverage on the outside as well as in the slot. He has very fluid coverage, and does not give up his position. He has great awareness and can halt to a stop when needed. He is very tough and fights for 50-50 balls like it’s nothing. He is a solid tackler who can wrap up. He also does a good job of avoiding blocks. Also his speed allows blind side blitzing opportunities. He has a strong knack for knocking the ball away.


He did not play against elite competition at Houston. That doesn’t necessarily mean he is bad, but he may not be used to covering NFL receivers. Just average size and strength could hurt him and give him a disadvantage against bigger receivers. His life threatening injury seems to make people skeptical about his health.

Conclusion: Hayden has the potential to reach the level of Darrelle Revis and he’s got a lot to prove. He feels he is ready to play and should make our secondary solid, especially compared to last years…


That’s it for today, the series will continue! Stay tuned and go raiders!

Day 2

Hello again Raider Nation!

Next, let’s do the new guy in town, the man Reggie Traded for

Name: Matt Flynn

Age: 27

Position: Quarterback

Scheme: West Coast Offense

Most passing yards in a single game in Packers history (480)
Most passing touchdowns in a single game in Packers history (6)
Super Bowl Champion (XLV)
BCS National Championship Offensive MVP (2008)

Height: 6’2

Weight: 225

Draft Status: Picked 209 (seventh round) in the 2008 NFL draft

College: LSU

Trade: Seahawks trade Flynn to the Raiders for a 2014 5th round pick and a conditional 2015 draft pick.

Contract: 2 years, $11.5 million

When Matt Flynn was brought in, mixed feelings came all across Raider Nation. Some were happy to bring him in, others were not. I was fine with it, we gave up little and a cheaper option than Palmer

Matt Flynn has been a backup to Aaron Rodgers throughout the majority of his career, but he turned some heads in a 480 yard, 6 touchdown performance against the Detroit Lions in 2011. The Seahawks liked what they saw, and gave him a 3 year deal worth $19.5M. Just when Flynn thought he would finally be given a chance to start, the seahawks drafted QB Russell Wilson in the third round, and we all know what happened from there. However, it isn’t because Flynn under performed, Wilson was a pro bowler and a rookie sensation. Flynn comes from a successful background as he won the 2007 BCS game, 2011 Super Bowl and has played for a playoff team every year of his career. The Raiders are hoping Flynn brings some of that winning leadership and atmosphere to Oakland. He has just started two games, but in those two starts he has thrown a combined 9 touchdowns and 731 yards and a QB rating of 123. Statistically, that is very impressive. But let’s not forget those games were against the Lions and Patriots defense, and he had stud receivers to throw the ball to. For those of you who want to see the plays themselves, here you go:

First Start VS Pats: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_C8F0cWvAfo

Second start VS Lions: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Adud3fLmUJ8

To analyse his game, he is very good at reading defenses and decision making. However, he has an average arm, meaning that his skills are best utilized in a west coast offense, which is what Oakland runs. It’s hard to examine Flynn’s play in just two games, but he has potential to be a very good QB in the right system, with enough talent around him. One thing I noticed about Flynn, is his mobility is above average. He has good statue presence and can step up into the pocket, and elude pressure when necessary. I also noticed he likes to hold on to the ball a lot, which can either be smart, or harmful. However, his instincts are good. To see another analysis of his game:


Another thing to add is his familiarity with GM Reggie McKenzie. Reggie McKenzie was the man who originally drafted Matt Flynn, back in Green Bay. He has known him for years, and saw him in practice every day, so he probably knows more about him than anyone one else. If Reggie was that impressed with Flynn that he was willing to trade draft picks for him, that may be a good sign.

Conclusion: Matt Flynn is unproven and unknown. However, Reggie has seen him throughout most of his career, the starting job this season is his to lose. This is a make or break year for Matt Flynn to prove if he can be a starting NFL QB.

Now another one of Reggie’s first signings:

Name: Jason Hunter

Age: 29

Position: Pass Rush

Scheme: 4-3 DE/3-4 OLB
First-team All-SoCon (2005)
Second-team I-AA All American (2005)
Height: 6’4

Weight: 271 lb

Draft Status: Undrafted in 2006

College: Appalachian State

Career Stats: 148 tackles, 11 sacks, 3 forced fumbles, 1 interception, 6 pass deflections

Best Season: 2009, 14 games (9 starts) 34 tackles, 5 sacks, 3 pass deflections, 2 fumble recoveries

Contract: One year, $715k

Hunter may be the only player on the team who is familiar with both head coach Dennis Allen and GM Reggie McKenzie. He was signed by the Green Bay Packers in 2006 as an UDFA. McKenzie at the time the director of player personnel. McKenzie must have been intrigued by Hunter’s pass rush ability as he racked up 24 sacks over 50 career games in college. Not to mention he ran a blazing 4.5 40 (for a DE) coming out of college. Hunter worked hard enough and impressed McKenzie enough to earn him a roster spot after camp. Hunter was extremely key to the Green Bay packers special teams throughout his years there, meaning he could have the same contribution for Oakland. His two biggest plays as a packer were his onside kick recovery and his 55 yard fumble return for a TD vs the Chicago Bears. Hunter has a knack for fumble recoveries, as he has 6 for his career, including one of 75 yards in 2010. After Hunter left GB, he signed with the Detroit Lions, and became a starter at DE. He was praised for his high motor and disruptiveness, yet he was surprisingly not retained the following season, after having his best so far. He then went on to sign with the Denver Broncos, where he first met coach Dennis Allen, who has the Broncos DC at the time. This is where DA moved him to OLB, in the Donkey’s 3-4 base defense. DA must have liked his speed on the edge. Hunter said it was his first time ever playing LB, but he played well. He also stated he would have to work hard every day to adjust, showing how he is one of the hard working guys RM and DA like. In his first season as OLB, he put up 61 tackles, 3 sacks, 1 forced fumble, 2 fumble recoveries, 1 interception, 2 pass deflections, and 9 stuffs. He was once again a key part of ST as well. The following year his play dipped, and he unfortunately sat out all of last year he sat out with injury. He know is back, and has something to prove. His familiarity with DA and RM, along with his work ethic, and pass rush ability (an area where we were very thin at) got him a deal done.

Conclusion: Expect him to be a key member of special teams and a rotational DE and OLB for us and a situational pass rusher. His versatility along with the versatility of other players allows us to play a multi front defense.

On a non-football related note, Hunter was stabbed before going to Denver. This was just another challenge overcome by Hunter, to find out more: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=VwXbd8Ko-jY

Now to talk about another Raiders draft pick:

Name: Sio Moore

Age: 23

Position: LB

Scheme: Any (he’s that good)

First team all big east (2012)

Height: 6′ 1

Weight: 245

Draft Status: picked 66 (3rd round) in the 2013 NFL Draft

College: UConn

College Stats: 41 games(31 starts) 274 tackles, 16 sacks, 44 tackles for lost, 4 interceptions

Contract: 4 years, $3 million

One of the biggest sleepers in the draft. Just to start of with some personal information about Sio, he was born in Liberia, Africa and grew up in Connecticut before moving to North Carolina and going to high school there. His full name is Snorsio, meaning “god is the greatest”. According to him, it is a name of heaviness and great purpose. When Sio was drafted by the Raiders he made the bold claim that he was the best linebacker in the draft and that Oakland was the perfect fit for him. In his own words: The thing with me is I was a guy that was overlooked and you know, I had to work my tail off each and every way in everything that I have to this day,” said Moore. “Everything I do, I do with juice. I was glad [the Raiders] picked me up because I know that was the right fit. They know me and they didn’t need to do the interview process and all those things. Like I said from the beginning of this whole draft process, there’s going to be one team that’s going to fall in love and make the right pick and there’s going to be 31 other teams that are going to be pissed off. The Oakland Raiders got the best linebacker in the draft, I don’t care who went before.” Sio is correct that he was overlooked in the draft and that he has a great work ethic. He may very well be the most complete LB in the draft and the sky is the limit for him. He can cover, hit, run defend, and pass rush. He’s the complete package. Linebacker was not a need for Oakland, but Sio Moore was to good to pass up for the Raiders. Mike Mayock of NFL.Com said it best: “When I say trust the process, the process means East-West, combine, pro day. He excelled in all those. Coaches love that he’ll line up on the slot, inside and cover man to man. He came from nowhere, but because of his work ethic, he’s now a third-round pick. With the Raiders, this is a solid double.” Sio Moore has been dubbed a work out warrior, what remains to be seen is how that will translate on the football field, his versatility is huge, as he can play any LB position. For some evaluation:


  • Disciplined LB who understands his assignments and responsibilities
  • Maintains his gap, prevents cutbacks
  • Solid tackler, can hit and wrap up effectively, doesn’t give up extra yards
  • Great agility and coverage, can cover Tight Ends and large Wide Receivers, jumps slants and wins 50-50 balls, has decent hands to pick off balls, can make plays on the outside
  • good combination of size and speed


  • Average closing speed, won’t be an elite play maker
  • Needs to shed blocks better

Conclusion: Sio will bring intensity and passion to the football team. He is another hard worker and a leader who RM and DA are very fond off. He has a huge chance of starting for us at any LB position in 2013 and for years to come. His athleticism and versatility is huge, as he can play any LB position in any scheme, including Mike Linebacker, as well as Rush line backer. He could turn out to be a steal in the third round.

Here are some highlights: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=KvnFHgq2pS8

Day 3

Time to do the Rolando McClain replacement, the man in the middle

Name: Nick Roach

Age: 27

Position: Linebacker

Scheme: 3-4 Mike, Will/4-3 LB

Academic All Big Ten (2006)

Brian Piccolo Award (2012)

Height: 6’1

Weight: 234

Draft Status: Undrafted in 2007

College: Northwestern

Career Stats: 80 games(59 starts), 234 tackles, 3.5 sacks, 14 pass deflections, 5 forced fumbles, 3 fumble recoveries

Best Season: 2009, 16 games (15 starts), 75 tackles, 2 sacks, 3 forced fumbles, 3 pass deflections, one fumble recovery, 7 tackles for loss

Contract: 4 years, 13 million

Nick Roach was a star at Northwestern, leading the team in tackles his senior year, despite playing in only 8 games and was named team MVP. He played Will Linebacker and was considered one of the most underrated linebackers. However, he suffered a broken leg injury his senior season, ending his college football career. After going on drafted, he signed with the San Diego Chargersand was added to the practice squad. The Chicago Bears took a chance and signed him, adding him to their 53 man roster. As a rookie he failed to contribute much, but the team knew the potential was there. By his sophmore year, he became the Bears starting WLB and has stayed there since, playing in a LB corp featuring Brian Urlacher and Lance Briggs. However, this past season, Urlacher was not playing well and had injuries, the team called for Nick Roach to become the new starting Middle Linebacker. He rose to the occasion, and became known as Urlacher’s replacement in Chicago. He racked up 46 tackles, in six games as the starting Mike Linebacker. The position Dennis Allen confirmed he will playing for the Raiders in 2013. Roach, was known as a great teammate in Chicago, as he was awarded the Brian Piccolo award by his teammates. It is a prestigous award given to a Chicago Bears who best exemplify the courage, loyalty, teamwork, dedication and sense of humor of the late Brian Piccolo. Piccolo was a running back for the Chicago Bears from 1966 until his untimely death from embryonic cell carcinoma on June 16, 1970, at age 26. The Raiders hope he can bring the same spirit and hard work to Oakland, and hope that it rubs off on the other players. Head Coach Allen, is very high on Roach and has said some great things about him, including referring to him as the “quarterback” of the defense. To sum things up, Allen loves Nick Roach, to know more:



Nick Roach will become the new starting Middle Linebacker for the Raiders. He will bring energy and leadership to the team. He is currently in great terms with the coaching staff, so Raider Nation can expect to see big things from him in the future. Roach was given a four year deal by Oakland and will work hard to be the star linebacker Rolando McClain never was.

Now I will do our new defensive tackles, starting with the first one we signed

Name: Pat Sims

Age: 27

Position: Defensive Tackle

Scheme: 3-4 Nose Tackle/4-3 Defensive Tackle

First Team All SEC (2007)

Height: 6’2

Weight: 335 lb

Draft Status: picked 77 (round 3) in the 2008 NFL Draft

College: Auburn

Career Stats: 60 games(33 starts), 138 tackles, 5 sacks, one fumble recovery, 8 tackles for loss, 2 pass deflections

Best Season: 2010, 14 games(8 starts), 31 tackles, 2.5 sacks, 1 pass deflection, 2 tackles for loss

Contract: One year, $1.5 million

For years in Cincinnati, Pat Sims was known as the teams best run stuffer, and was a key part of the defensive rotation and at times looked like the teams best interior lineman. However, injuries have affected him greatly throughout his career. Many have said that if Sims could have stayed healthy, he would have started over Peko. Part of the reason he was a rotational player, was because the team didn’t want to risk injury. Whenever Sims was hurt, his presence in the run game was greatly lacked and the team and fans could tell, which is why fans were upset to see him go. After starting the 2012 season on the PUP list, he made immediate impact when he came back, getting his first interception in his first game back. Sims has missed 20 regular season games throughout his career, with injuries such as broken forearm, knee surgery, damaged ligaments in ankle, and hamstring woes. For most of his career Sims has been known as a one dimensional run stopper, a job he is very good at. However, now he is given his opportunity to start, and will prove to scouts every where that he is more than a one trick pony. The Raiders run defense was porous last year (Tampa Bay game, Miami game come to mind…) and Sims will fill a role, but know he is being asked to do more. The only thing stopping him from doing so is injuries. It was reported that Cincy offered Sims the same deal Oakland did in free agency (https://twitter.com/GeoffHobsonCin/status/311975297027284992), but he chose to sign with the Raiders because he wants to prove he can be a starter.


Injury concerns have been an issue for Sims, but he has made a name for himself as one of the better run stuffers in the NFL. Sims still has great upside, and is looking to prove he can be an NFL starter. McKenzie may be rolling the dice here, but if Sims rises to occasion, he can be a very good player. Reggie McKenzie was smart to sign Sims to a one year “prove it” deal, in case the experiment fails. If it succeeds, RM has all the cap space in 2014 ( estimated 70 million) to bring him back at a deserved price.

Now the other DT…


First off, how awesome is it seeing him sack Peyton? Hope he can do it for us 🙂

Name: Vance Walker

Position: Defensive Tackle

Age: 26

Scheme: 3-4 DL/4-3 DT

2 time First Team All ACC (2007, 2008)

Third Team AP All American (2007)

Height: 6’2

Weight: 304 lb

Draft Status: picked 210 (round 7) in 2009 NFL Draft

College: Georgia Tech

Career Stats: 58 games (11 starts), 79 tackles, 5 sacks, 2 forced fumbles, one fumble recovery, two pass deflections, 8 tackles for loss

Best Season: 2012, 16 games(9 starts) 32 tackles, 3 sacks, one forced fumble, 2 tackles for loss

Contract: One year, 2 million

Vance Walker was a force at Georgia Tech and one of the top defensive tackles in college football. However, he injured his ankle in a game against North Carolina, which led to a bad senior bowl performance and he struggled in the practices. That mixed with a poor combine made him fall in the draft. But it was a shocker to many that he was available in the seventh for the Falcons to take, as he once was considered a second to mid round prospect. It did not take him long to out perform his teammate Peria Jerry, the team’s first round selection in that same draft class. Walker still has a ton of potential and has been a great run stuffer for the Falcons. For most of his career, he was used as a rotational player in Atlanta, but last season he battled for a starting job and succeeded. Starting nine games, not only did he continue his reputation as an efficient run stopper, but he showed flashes of pass rushing ability (5 sacks over past two seasons). He also showed his athleticism and ability to keep up with the NFL’s modern mobile quarterbacks, sacking Cam Newton twice(http://tinyurl.com/q9kceno), as well as sacking Russell Wilson in the playoffs(http://tinyurl.com/ofeymf5). Another nifty move by Walker, was once again against the Panthers where he was pushed around Cam Newton, but used his arms to knock the ball lose (http://tinyurl.com/oafnxea). these plays show that Vance also has pass rush ability, something he has not proven yet in the NFL, but he has room to grow to make his mark and he will be happy to show he can be a starting caliber NFL player, similar to what Pat Sims is doing. Vance Walker was asked to start last year and he played well, now he will be asked to start a full season and he must prove he can rise to the occasion. He at times looked like the Falcons best DT and has a high ceiling. Falcons fan were angry to see him go, his run defense will be missed.


Vance Walker has all the tools and potential to become an elite NFL DT. Like Sims, Walker was given a one year “prove it” deal to show he can be an everyday starter in the NFL. Few players are better at stopping the run and his bull rush, rip, and swim moves are effective and he will complement playing with Sims and Houston on the DL. Together, they should be able to open up holes for the LBs and make our run defense much better than last years group. If Walker can reach his potential, RM has more than enough cap next year to give him a long term deal so us fans don’t have to see another Philip Wheeler episode.

Fan Reaction: Just to show how mad Atlanta fans were about seeing him go…

“but this is fucking bullshit!!! We’ve struggled to develop D-linemen for quite a while. The ONE guy we’ve been able to develop we let walk away? So now we have a 32 yr old starter and a 29 yr old bust who hasn’t done shit except suck up Gatorade on the sidelines and hoard cheesburgers under his pads. Oakland has less cap space than us, so you know Walker signed for next to nothing. I don’t know how anyone can look at Jerry compared to Walker and honestly say the he is more deserving of a roster spot. There is really no fucking excuse for this!! It just goes to show: on this team, if you are a 1st rounder, the FO will always believe in you no matter how bad you struggle”-leonw92

Day 4

Another rookie, can he be the franchise QB?

Name: Tyler Wilson

Age: 23

Position: Quarterback

Scheme: West Coast
SEC Community Service Team (2012)
Cotton Bowl Offensive MVP (2012)
First-team All-SEC (2011)

SEC Offensive Player of the Week (Weeks 5 & 12, 2011)

Height: 6’2

Weight: 215

Draft status: picked 112 (round 4) in the 2013 NFL Draft

College: Arkansas

Contract: unsigned

Ok so who hasn’t heard about Tyler Wilson? Well just to give you some background info, he was a two sport athlete in high school. Ranked the number 9 pro-style QB in the nation as well as winning the 2007-08 Gatorade Player of the Year for baseball. Wilson has lived in Arkansas all his life, so moving to California is new for him, but I’m sure all of us hopes he can stay here for a a while. So he was named the teams starting QB in 2011 (his fourthy year in college) and led the team to an 11 win season (tied for most in team history) He was named first-team All-SEC by the AP and coaches, which made him the first Razorback in school history to be named first-team All-SEC quarterback and broke all kinds of school records. He currently holds 29 Arkansas records,which include pretty much every major stat for QBs. One of his best games of the season was against Mississippi State (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=S9cAm-FJ8Eo) where he broke the school record in passing completions with 32 (previous record stood for 40 years) in a 44-17 win. He was named SEC Offensive Player of the week for his efforts. His best game of the season was in a 42-38 come from behind victory against number 14 seed Texas A&M (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=q-6mYMb0EG4). He finished the game with a school record 510 passing yards, 30/51 completion rate(59%), with 3 touchdowns. This was just the fifth time in SEC history a player threw for 500 yards and the first time since 2001. All in all, his first starting season was strong. He was a finalist for the Manning Award and the Johnny Unitas Golden Arm award, as well as a semifinalist for the Davey O’Brien Award. His season was so strong that he was projected to be the first overall pick in the 2013 draft by Sports Illustrated. That’s right the number one pick. Unfortunately for Wilson, the team fell apart in 2012. Their head coach Bobby Petrino was fired due to an improper relationship with a 25 year old woman (which he denied) and the team hired John L. Smith, previously of Michigan State, who is famous for his meltdowns. The team went just 4-8 and Wilson’s stats declined. However the talent was still there, breaking the school record with five 350 yard passing games and was once again a finalist for the Johnny Unitas Golden Arm trophy. His best game of in a 49-7 victory over Kentucky, where he tied the Arkansas single-game record with five passing touchdowns, he finished the game 23-of-31 passing for 372 yards (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=uo3i2Zo4wFE). Wilson had his ups and downs in 2012, and went from being a projected first round pick, to a projected day 2 pick. He was so confident he would be a day 2 pick, that he held a draft party on day 2 with all of his family and friends. Unfortunately he was not taken until the third day, where he got the call while he was at Walmart. Anyway, when Reggie picked him in round 4, I was very happy. Although that pick most likely meant Pryor will most likely never start in Oakland, I was happy that we got a once projected first overall pocket passer in the fourth round. It was a great value pick and I knew Wilson would end up being a good QB. Which is why I wasn’t very surprised that he got rave reviews in rookie camp. I’ve seen him play a lot of games and I’ve been impressed. So to break down his game:


  • One of the toughest QBs I have seen. Will stand in the pocket and deliver the ball even though he knows he’s about to get railed
  • Good decision making, understanding of progression reads
  • Pocket mobility, good stop and pop (quick and accurate), feels the rush, functional scrambling
  • Has a laser for an arm, above average zip especially over the middle and when he has a window


  • Needs better footwork, throws of balance a lot
  • Inconsistent misses
  • Needs to work on his deep ball, floats/under throws a lot b/c he drops his elbow sometimes

Some important tape (see for yourself):

Tyler Wilson vs LSU 2011-http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Q6PI0L7-xnk

Tyler Wilson vs Rutgers 2012-http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=918Kg5KYW3w

Vs Texas A&M 2012-http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=yk13DTBGuzg

Vs South Carolina 2011-http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2PFZ-nQhCCA

Vs LSU 2012-http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Q6PI0L7-xnk

His first game vs BCS Champs Auburn 2010-http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=0BlUNnThoTQ

Career Highlights: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=FwP77akozPs


So the question is, will he be our franchise quarterback?

Too early to say. If you ask me, don’t buy into rookie camp/OTAs success too much. Nate Davis for the 49ers looked great in camp and all, but I don’t he ever played in the NFL, and a lot of 49er fans thought he could be there QB of the future. When pre season rolls around, it would be great to see his game and how he does against NFL defenses. The way Matt Flynn’s contract is worked, he is pretty much guaranteed the starting job in 2013, so unless he really out does Flynn in practice/pre-season he most likely will sit year one. However, 2014 is a toss up. Flynn is making less money, and most of the guaranteed money is only in year one. This is where Wilson can win the starting job. If Tyler Wilson can perfect his footwork and deep ball, we could have a very good QB in Oakland for years.

Another rookie….

Name: Nick Kasa

Age: 22

Position: Tight End

Previous Positions Played: Defensive End, Fullback

Height: 6’6

Weight: 269

Draft status: picked 172 (round 6) in the 2013 NFL Draft

College: Colorado

Contract: Four years, $?

Nick Kasa is as raw and as unproven as it gets, however he as tremendous outside and the potential to be a dominant TE. Kasa moved from defensive end to tight end for 2012 and showed some natural ability as a pass receiver. He has a ton of upside and should get better as he gains more experience. The senior caught 25 passes for 391 yards and three touchdowns. A lot of scouts are high on Kasa’s potential because he has a serious combination of size and speed. He entered the combine as the heaviest TE, yet ran a solid 40 time of 4.71 (fifth highest among TEs at combine). After starting off his college football career with a knee injury that cost him the first three games of the season, he missed five more games with mononucleosis (yep, mono) and was not rewarded a red shirt season. Following that, he made little contribution as a DE so he asked to be moved to TE in the middle of his junior season. It wasn’t until his senior year until he made his mark. Kasa worked his way into the starting lineup and finished up the year with 25 catches for 391 yards and three touchdowns. What impressed scouts the most was not Kasa’s receiving ability, but instead his willingness to block and overlooked straight-line speed on vertical routes. The Raiders coaching staff got an extra long look at Kasa as he played for Dennis Allen’s team at the Senior Bowl. He is a project, but he is very physical and the starting TE job is wide open. I for one was extremely happy when we took Kasa in the sixth round. I was mainly shocked he was available that late, as he was a projected 3-4 rd pick by scouts. At the time of the pick, I thought we had an immediate replacement for Myers, however I quickly realized that he has played only one year and a half as a TE and is still learning his new position, but senior offensive assistant Al Saunders is a great TE coach so he is in the right place. It will be seen if he can win the starting job this early in his career. Rob Rang of CBS Sports did a pretty good job of analyzing his game, considering the little tape on him.

STRENGTHS: Thick, broad-shouldered athlete who physically looks the part. Possesses surprising straight-line speed and good mobility and balance, overall. Physical, competitive run-blocker. Strong hands to turn and seal defenders from the ball-carrier and has an idea of what his opponent is trying to accomplish based on his previous experience playing on the defensive line.

Developing pass-catcher who routinely finished practices during his senior season catching 100 passes from the JUGS machine. Has the size/speed combination to be an effective special teams performer early in his career. Possesses clear untapped potential and could be an ascending player and matchup headache for defenses at tight end.

WEAKNESSES: Raw. Lacks awareness as a route-runner and too often fights the ball as pass-catcher. Plays a bit tight and bulky. Faster than he is quick and needs to show greater flexibility and explosiveness to generate separation. Has struggled with various bumps and bruises throughout his career, though none of the injuries caused him to miss considerable time, raising concerns about his toughness. Was knocked out of the Arizona game (2012) with concussion-like symptoms.

-Rob Rang


I am rooting for Nick Kasa and I think he is a solid player and has all the tools to be a solid athlete. He has a shot at winning the starting job, but will have to battle in camp for it. Luckily for him, it seems that Reggie McKenzie is evolving with the modern NFL and it’s 2TE system that is being used a lot more (I will get into great detail about this when I do my next Raider) so Kasa has an opportunity to fight for as many snaps as possible

Highlights: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=xH-GspDtxeo

Nick Kasa vs Washington State and Arizona State in 2012:http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=k9RdSSWC-SQ

Back from the long break…

Now for RM’s next pick

Name: Mychal Rivera

Age: 22

Position: Tight End

First Team All SEC (2012)

Height: 6’3

Weight: 245

Draft status: picked 184 (round 6) in the 2013 NFL Draft

College: Tennessee

Contract: 4 years, $?

When Mychal Rivera was picked I had the same reaction many did. “Seriously? two tight ends in a row?”. At first I was scratching my head on why RM didn’t draft a DL or a CB. Then I realized there
was two reasons RM made this pick. The first reason was simply BPA. McKenzie saw Rivera’s hands, athleticism, and work ethic and viewed it as a player too skilled to pass up. The second reason (and the most important) is RM is simply evolving with the modern NFL. If you haven’t noticed, 2TE sets have been extremely common in today’s NFL. The most recognizable is Rob Gronkowski and Aaron Hernandez of the Patriots. Vernon Davis and Delanie Walker had also been effective for a while. Teams are copying that scheme and using more 2TE sets and are creating mismatches for their opponents. The Raiders now have two young TEs to groom. The thing about Kasa and Rivera is that they are two completely different players. Kasa is a tough, physical inline blocker, while RIvera is an athletic, mobile pass catching TE. If the two of the can be used together effectively they can create a dominant duo at TE. Both players have the upside/potential. Kasa has the size and physical attributes to be dominant and Rivera has very good hands and mobility. RM is doing something Al Davis had a tough time doing, progressing with the modern NFL game.

Now let’s go with some background info on Rivera. Rivera signed with Oregon out of high school in 2008. However, Oregon had a ton of depth at TE and Rivera wan’t getting enough snaps. In fact, they had so much TE depth that coach Chip Kelly asked Rivera to move to the offensive line. Rivera understood that the position didn’t utilize his skill set so he requested to be released from his scholarship. He then went on to play for College of the Canyons (JUCO) and had a successful season. He then chose to go to Tennessee despite a lot of teams after him. After spending year one on the bench, backing up TE Luke Stocker (2011 4th round pick of the Buccaneers) . He didn’t get a chance to start until his second year. In his first year as a starter he finished with 29 catches, 344 yards, and one TD. His senior year he broke out, recording 36 catches, 562 yards, and five TDs. He was named first team all SEC because of this. On to evaluate his game more in depth:


Good hands and athleticism to make tough catches. Solid move the chains kind of guy. He will fight for the extra yards and has long, strong arms. Can haul in the throws on the run and continue over the middle. Can stiff arm to gain yards and uses his agility to avoid LBs. Always gives 100% and not a bad in-line blocker. Good feet, very mobile. Has strider’s speed.


Needs to bulk up to be a better blocker (however playing alongside Kasa can make this less of an issue). Doesn’t posses great speed. Average quickness and strength. Can get pushed around at times.


One of the overlooked things about Rivera is his character. He is a good person and a hard worker and fits the frame of the guys RM is trying to bring into Oakland. To find out more of his story (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=cQOw56jkr-Y). He’s a guy that will always give it his all and just wants to get better. His hands are great and can be utilized as a good pass cathcing TE. Look for a lot of 2TE sets with him and Kasa in the future.

Highlights: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=TMyhDNMcADw

Rivera vs Georgia and Missouri 2012: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=BZ5DiaOfM30

Rivera vs Florida and South Carolina 2012: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ExmyKkchlU0

Now for another 2013 draft pick (it’s rookie week I guess)

Name: David Bass

Age: 22

Postion: DE/Pass Rush

Scheme: 4-3 DE, 3-4 OLB, 4-3 DT, 3-4 DE

2x First Team Selection All-MIAA (2011, 2012)

Height: 6’4

Weight: 262 lb

Draft Status: picked 233 (round 7) in the 2013 NFL Draft

College: Missouri Western State

Contract: 4 years, $?

Every year there are a few small school sleepers who get overlooked in the draft process. This year it was David Bass. Bass shined at the East-West shrine game and was the most consistent pass rusher there. He played at Missouri Western until his senior years and broke two school records in the process. The first being most sacks (40.5) and the second being most consecutive starts (50). He became an everyday starter starting from his freshman year and he played well, recording 47 tackles and 6.5 sacks. Each year he gets better. Sophomore year he had 47 tackles along with 8 sacks. In his Junior year he had 14.5 sacks and a whopping 20 tackles for loss. His senior year he had 11.5 sacks. However at that point teams were well aware of his presence. The Raiders have little depth at DE and a weak pass rush, so Bass has a good chance of emerging as the team’s key pass rusher. Bass compares himself with Aldon Smith due to their similarities in size and pass rush production. Bass has a lot of speed and talent which can make him a beast at the next level. Coach Dennis Allen has recently placed Bass as an OLB when the team ran 3-4 sets. He said it was his first time playing LB. His ability to rush the edge is there, but his coverage will need developing. Bass can play many sets and is very versatile, he will be a good fit in the team’s new hybrid offense they are planning to install next year. Keep in mind he ran a 4.65 40 time showing off his athleticism. To go into his game in depth:


Good quickness and natural burst off the snap. Fluid movements and lateral speed. Has good awareness and instincts. He gives effort and is very motivated, a true competitor. Another strong character guy with good locker room presence.


Needs to improve his technique and block shedding. He played against bad competition in division 2 football.


When Bass was asked to describe himself in one word he said “beast”. He will have to transition and work hard to become a beast in the NFL. He has the talent to do so, but he needs to perfect his technique to be a successful pass rusher. Bass was a great pick by RM that late in the draft. He may be an unknown but the production is there.

Highlights: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=07oa1NBqcVg


Now for a fellow seventh round draft pick…

Name: Brice Butler

Age: 23

Position: Wide Receiver

Espn Pac 10 All Freshman team

Height: 6’3

Weight: 205

Draft Status: picked 209 (round 7) in the 2013 NFL Draft

College: USC/San Diego State

Contract: 4 years, $?

When Brice Butler was picked, I had no idea who he was. Doing some research on him, Butler seemed to be the typical Al Davis pick. He was a workout warrior and his pro day made him draw heavy interest. Butler ran a blazing 4.36 40 yard dash. That would have made him the third fastest receiver had he participated in the combine. However there was more than just his 40 time that made teams interested, he finished with a 6.6 mark in the 3-cone drill, a 10’9 broad jump, and a 39-inch vertical. Those would have landed him in the top 3 of all wide receiver drills. He’s more than an athletic freak however. His routes looked crisp and he has already made several impressive catches in both rookie camp and OTAs. In fact, he was Tyler Wilson’s favorite receiver in rookie camp. Oddly, Butler stated he had no idea who was throwing him the ball in camp and he made sure to just go out and make the play no matter who was throwing the football. Butler was a top prospect coming out of high school, but became a bust in college in terms of production. He had just 41 catches for 541 yards over three seasons with the Trojans. After his fourth year at USC (redshirted) he graduated and then went on to transfer to San Diego State (playing with Gavin Escobar) and had his best collegiate season, but finished with just 24 catches, 347 yards, and four touch downs. The Raiders are hoping they can mold his natural gifts and turn him into a deep threat. His size and speed combo makes him very comparable to DHB. Let’s take a look at the pros and cons of his game:


Electrifying athlete, has incredible size and speed combo. Good focus and concentration, can make tough catches. Posses solid hands and crisp route running.

Weaknesses: Lacks a quick release and down the field burst. Had very little production in college.


When you look at his strengths, you see everything you could want in a receiver. What makes you scratch your head is how little he produced in college. If Butler can make the most of his potential, he could end up being a huge steal for the raiders. He has all the tools to be a top receiver, just needs to put it together.

Highlights: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=lc7Lrts-lB4

Already seven rookies done (three more to go), let’s keep it rolling

Name: Latavius Murray

Age: 22

Position: Running Back

Scheme: Power Run

First Team All C-USA (2012)

Conference USA Championship MVP

AutoZone Liberty Bowl MVP

Height: 6’2

Weight: 223

Draft Status: picked 181 (round 6) in the 2013 NFL draft

College: UCF

Contract: 4 years, $?

I think I was one of the few people who new who Latavius “LT” Murray was when we drafted him. He’s been one of my favorite sleeper picks for a while. I’ve been watching tape of him and have been very impressed. For some reason, he was not very recognized by the media and I was surprised he was not invited to the combine. One of my friends is a huge UCF fan and he told me all about him, so I did some research and I was impressed. This was about a few months before the draft by the way. He finally gathered buzz at his pro day, after running a reported 4.38 seconds in the 40-yard dash at his Pro Day to go along with a 10-foot-4 broad jump and a 36-inch vertical jump. These are all impressive numbers for a back as big as he is. He is a beast of an RB, a power runner to say the least. Murray could be a huge steal for the Raiders in the sixth round. Unlike Butler, not only is Murray athletic, but he had great production in college. He finished college with a total of 2,424 rushing yards, 37 rushing touchdowns, 50 receptions, 524 receiving yards and 6 receiving touchdowns. As a rookie, Murray has a serious shot of taking the number two RB job behind DMC. Murray is a complete back, he can catch, run, pass protect, and he hasn’t fumbled since 2008 (407 carries without a fumble). I had a feeling Reggie would draft him because here was a report that the Raiders were interested, which is why I wasn’t surprised at all we drafted him. I am very happy with this pick because I feel like he has a lot of potential. Another great thing, is that he’s a great teammate and a hard worker. His teammates are fascinated by his effective stiff arm and gave him the nickname “LT”. Murray participated in the Texas vs The Nation game and led all players in rushing yards and carries. He practiced with current Raider UDFA Brian Leonhardt (who led all receivers in receptions and receiving yards) as they were on the same team. I’m sure GM Reggie McKenzie was paying attention to that game as another Raider UDFA, Matt McGloin, was also in the game and playing on the same team as the other two. Immediately after he was picked there was speculation that he may have been the steal of the draft (http://tinyurl.com/mhtembd). If Murray does indeed end up being a steal, he could be one of many of the Raiders draft class. Reggie picked guys based off potential and hard work, one of the reasons I was very happy with our draft. Now to take a look at some key strengths and weaknesses:


Big, power running, straight-line running back with the ability to run over the defender or put a move on him. Good running vision and takes advantages of his blocks. Fights for tough yards, keeps his feet moving. Good burst through the hole, and can break tackles. Solid pass protector and good receiver out of the backfield, possesses soft hands. Great ball security.


Not very good when changing directions, loses too much momentum. Runs upright (similar to McFadden).


Murray is already impressing in camp and in drills. Murray is a grind it out running back. He’ll fight for yards and uses his big body to truck opponents. However he is very athletic and has good speed, even though he doesn’t play as fast as his 40 time suggest. He has the tools to be a solid RB and could be a very good complement to McFadden. He is another guy I’m rooting for and can be the next beast. He is very comparable to McFadden in a lot of ways, but not as injury prone.

Highlights: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=PAu8aoMGz60


Murray vs Marshall: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=MJvCTzM2c0E

Murray vs SMU: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=KoWesK_820U

Continuing with the theme of rookies, lets go with the fellow sixth round pick

Name: Stacy McGee

Age: 23

Position: DT

Scheme: 4-3 DT, 3-4 DE

Height: 6’3

Weight: 308

Draft Status: picked 205 (round 7) in the 2013 NFL draft

College: Oklahoma

Contract: 4 years, $?

Stacy McGee was a surprise pick to some. Interior defensive line was a huge need, however McGee has some serious baggage, which led many to think that he may not get drafted. McGee has been suspended and arrested various times. In fact there are to many to list. McGee had so many off the field problems he could hardly manage to stay on the field. Just starting 17 games over three years. He started 11 games his sophomore season and was ready to be the every game starter in 2012 but was suspended for the first six games. He finished his college career with 63 tackles, 9.5 tackles for loss, and 2.5 sacks. The talent in McGee is there, but the best news is he is putting his off the field issues behind him. McGee recently stated that he looks forward to grow as a person and “become a man”. Those are some strong words. McGee also said that he plans on changing the people he is around, hanging with a better crowd can help transform him. However, the Raiders seem high on McGee. Head Coach Dennis Allen had some words to say: “You know, we’re big on character,” said Dennis Allen. “We want good character guys. Guys are going to make mistakes, nobody’s perfect. When we did all our research on him. We felt like he was a guy we wanted to give a second opportunity to. We’ve had a lot of conversations with him. I think he understands the mistakes that he’s made in the past. He’s ready to learn from those and move on from it. I think if he can do that, then he’s got a lot of ability, and there might be a football player there for us.

“He’s got really good size and strength and for his size, he moves really well. He’s a guy that I think has got really good ability to stop the run, pass rush is an area where he can continue to improve on, but he’s a guy that I’m anxious to see when he really gets a chance to get out there and work.” Allen believes that McGee deserves a second chance and know it is up to McGee to make the most of it. McGee is still recovering from a foot injury which caused him to miss his pro day. Once he recovers, he has a lot to prove. McGee was a top high school recruit, he was ranked the second best player in Oklahoma, the 8th best DE in the nation, and the 86th best player overall. Time to go over his game:


Has smooth movement and is an explosive defensive linemen. Has the quickness to burst in any direction, can play up and down the line of scrimmage and make plays on the sideline. Has long arms and strong arms to finish plays. Very powerful and closes his gap. Good block shedding and bull rush. Plays with intensity.


Needs to work on his technique and fundamentals, relies to much on his physical tools. Obvious character issues. Saw minimal action in college. Streaky effort, doesn’t always give it his all, other times he does


The potential is there, and if McGee really can put his previous troubles behind him and develop his game, he could turn into a solid rotational player who can stuff the run. He is a tough nasty DL who showed flashes of dominance, he needs to work on consistency and technique to be dominant in the NFL. McGee may have been a risk, but he was a compensatory sixth round pick. So either he works out and becomes a steal, or gets cut with little penalty. McGee may be a project, but he could be worth it.

Highlights: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9KeMsRQDo-s

Moving on to a more interesting rookie

Name: Menelik Watson

Age: 24

Position: Offensive Tackle

Scheme: Any (strong and athletic, Power Blocking or Zone Blocking)

All-ACC honorable mention

Height: 6’5

Weight: 310

Draft Status: picked 42 (round 2) in the 2013 NFL draft

College: Florida State

Contract: unsigned

Watson was born in Manchester, England from a tough family background. He loved sports, and he viewed it as a way to get out of poverty. He lived with just his mother and four brothers. He loved soccer and had high hopes that he could one day play for Manchester City, but he shattered his ankle in 2001 while playing the game. He decided to pick up the game of basketball when he realized he would never be the same soccer player again. He joined the basketball team and was acknowledged by American basketball coach Robe Orellana. Orellana signed Watson up for his Canarias Basketball Academy, one of the top basketball academies in Europe. He was named the captain of his basketball team and showcased his skills in the US. He was offered a scholarship by Marist College to play basketball. Being the big man he was, he played center and power forward, but lacked the height at just 6’5. He wasn’t producing what he hoped and averaged just 4.7 points per game and 3.3 rebounds per game. Once he realized basketball wasn’t going to work out, he started boxing (defensive linemen must beware his powerful punch) but he realized he couldn’t have a career like that so he transferred to Saddleback College in Mission Viejo, California where he played American Football for the first time in his life. The team saw his incredible upside and talent, so he became the immediate starting right tackle. Starting on the left side was Kyle Long, son of Raider great Howie Long. Each of them impressed greatly, and Kyle Long transferred to Oregon, while Watson fell in love with Florida State. He actually loved Florida State Seminole football from the beginning, that’s how he got into football. Before he went to Saddleback, he attended a Seminole game, and fell in love. His dream came true. Watson proved he could play football at a high level and won the starting RT job. He played great, and some scouts stated he had more upside than any other offensive tackle in the draft. Mike Mayock had him ranked as the 31st best player in the draft and a lot of mocks had him going in the first round. Luckily for RM, not only did he get the BPA but he filled a huge need, Khalif Barnes has proven he cannot start in the NFL. Watson has also shown he has the athletic abilty to play left tackle, but with Jared Veldheer, that is not a need, but he could serve as an emergency option. The only knock on Watson is experience. He is too raw. Just two years of football in his life, one of them being in Junior College. Luckily, he has a great OL coach in Tony Sporano to coach him up. Watson could develop into a great player, but can he start as early as next season? Tough call, we’ll see how he does in the offseason.

To take a look at his pros and cons,


  • Physical specimen. Great size, strength, and athleticism. Incredible upside
  • Quick feet, good mobility and moves well laterally
  • Great range, can get to the second level and make cut off blocks
  • Powerful punch, former boxer
  • Flexible, bends well


  • Incredibly raw, sometimes looks lost
  • Inconsistent footwork
  • Needs to work on hand placement, hit on the frame
  • Needs to work on play recognition


Watson has come a long way and is one of the best stories of the draft. He has all the potential in the world, but little experience. His athletic ability is rare and he has an explosive first step. He needs to work on his technique, if he can perfect he could be a perennial pro bowler. The main question is, when will he be ready?

Watson vs Florida: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=E5v4n6MuSOQ

Watson vs Miami: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ag5wLMJ65xU

Watson vs Northern Illinois: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=nkupPUvnJ6U

This next player is being done by request, he is a rookie, but not a well known one

Name: Billy Boyko

Age: 21

Position: Linebacker

Scheme: 3-4 ILB, 4-3 LB

Patriot League Defensive Player of the Week

Sports Network National FCS Defensive Player of the Week

Height: 6’2

Weight: 240

Draft Status: Undrafted in 2013

College: Lehigh

Boyko has never visited California before. In fact, the farthest he’s ever traveled from his hometown of Northhampton, Pennsylvania is North Dakota. He is now coming all the way to California to fight for job. To be honest he is more of a camp body, but a request is a request, so let’s bring out the facts. Boyko said he was invited to rookie mini-camps by Tampa Bay, Seattle and Kansas City, but the Raiders were the only team to offer him a contract. The Raiders were one of 15 teams at his pro day and had been in contact with him leading up to the draft. The fact that he’s on good terms could mean that he could have a potential shot at making the final roster if he performs that great, but most likely practice squad. So far he’s been having a nice training camp.

Name: Conner Vernon

Age: 22

Position: Wide Receiver

ACC All Time leader in receptions and receiving yards

Second team All ACC (2010, 2011, 2012)

Height: 6’1

Weight: 200

Draft status: Undrafted in 2013

College: Duke

First off, let me just add I was thrilled when I found out we had signed Conner Vernon. I remember it was a few days after the draft and I was searching the top UDFAs on twitter to see where they ended up. I searched Conner Vernon and to my pleasant surprise he had chosen to sign with the Raiders. Vernon was a projected late round selection however a lot of analyst had stated he had been overlooked. Vernon seems like he could be a classic overachiever given playing time. Vernon came off a terrific senior season finishing with 85 catches, 1074 yards and 8 TDs in 13 starts. However he has been a weapon for Duke for years. He started 8 games his freshman year, catching 55 balls for 746 yards and three touchdowns. He came out of the gates strong and the next year played he payed even better. He started 12 games and finished with 73 catches and 946 yards to go along with 4 TDs. He was also a kick returner and in those two years and had returned 18 kickoffs for 483 yards and a 24.3 yards per return average. His junior year he finished with 70 receptions and 956 yards with 6 TDs. This made him the first player in ACC history to have multiple 70+ catch seasons. Vernon was an outside receiver and used his size to act as a possession receiver. However, his quickness allowed him to excel in the slot as well, which is the position he has been playing well at so far in camp. He uses his size to pick up yards after the catch which makes him effective on bubble screen plays. Now before I get carried away, let’s go with the traditional pros and con layout to further evaluate his game.


  • Has the size and quickness to line up anywhere
  • Uses his size and agility to pick up yards after the catch
  • Good route runner, knows how to get open
  • Good awareness


  • Lacks speed (4.68 40), not an explosive athlete
  • Not a great down the field blocker
  • Needs to work on jump balls


Vernon was a quality UDFA signing and has a good shot of making the team. He’s a reliable possession receiver and won’t necessarily make the “sexy” plays. He could turn into Tyler Wilson’s best friend in the future just because he is so reliable and consistent. His ceiling seems limited but he could potentially have a lot to offer having a role as a “big slot” receiver. He seems comparable to Wes Welker although he is four inches taller than Welker, which makes me want to compare him to Fred Biletnikoff.

Fun Fact: His cousin, Al Del Greco was a kicker in the NFL for 18 seasons. He has the 14th most points than any other player in the NFL ever.

Highlights: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=CZpSgie2PNA

Vernon vs Cincinnati 2012 (Bowl game): http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=OXlpkZ9qfDU

Vernon vs Virginia 2012: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=FZZA0HTuv1M

Vernon vs UNC 2012: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=q3m94_1hCDM

Please continue to check back and enjoy part 2. If you haven’t already seen part one check it out!

Now let’s go back to learning about our free agent pickups

Name: Kevin Burnett

Age: 30

Position: Linebacker

Scheme: 3-4 ILB/4-3 LB

First Team All SEC (2004)

Second Team All SEC (2003)

2003 All-SEC Coaches (2nd)

AFCA Good Works Team

2004 All-America Playboy Preseason

SEC Good Works Team

Academic All-SEC

2002 Academic All-SEC

Height: 6’3

Weight: 240

Draft Status: picked 42nd overall (round 2) in the 2005 NFL Draft

College: Tennessee

Career Stats: 120 games(59 starts), 525 tackles, 17.5 sacks, 7 forced fumbles, one fumble recovery, 4 interceptions, 21 pass deflections, 23 tackles for loss, and three touchdowns.

Contract: 2 years, $5.25 million

For the past three seasons, Burnett has been a three-down everyday starting linebacker. Last season with the Dolphins was his best, as he finished with 110 tackles, 2.5 sacks, 5 pass deflections, one forced fumble, and two tackles for loss. He proved that he was starter material in 2009 as a player on the San Diego Chargers. That year was his breakout year where he had 11 games (7 starts) with 66 tackles, 2.5 sacks, and one pass deflection. The next year he was upgraded to full time starter and he did not disappoint he had 95 tackles, six sacks, two forced fumbles, one fumble recovery, two interceptions, five pass deflections, seven tackles for loss and a touchdown. Before Burnett made his way to the Dolts, he was drafted by The Cowboys in the second round. Unfortunately, he played little as a rookie as he was battling with knee injuries. But during his time in Dallas he was nothing more than a quality backup and key special teams player. It wasn’t until he signed with the Chargers when he was given his chance, and as we know, he took advantage of the opportunity. Once he became a free agent, he signed with the Miami Dolphins and had back to back 100 tackle seasons. However, In the offseason, Miami GM Jeff Ireland wanted to get younger so he released the 30 year old Burnett and replaced him with 28 year old, more athletic, Philip Wheeler, which ironically played for the Raiders the year prior. This allowed the Raiders to sign Burnett and reunite him with his brother, Kaelin, who is already on the team. Burnett was a great pickup, he was ranked the fourth best 4-3 OLB in the NFL last year by ProFootballFocus.


Burnett will step in and fill the role of Philip Wheeler. He has good coverage ability, is a solid tackler, and can get to the quarterback. He could also act as a mentor to rookie LB Sio Moore. Burnett adds to our talented LB core. We have a solid corps of Roach, Sio, Kaluka, Burris, and Burnett. I expect to see looks with all five of them this upcoming season. Burnett was signed to a two year, 5 million dollar deal. Great value signing by Reggie. At 30 years old, it may seem that age is a factor, but he’s coming off his best season, so to him, he’s just getting started.

I’m back Raider Nation, remember to keep checking for updates

Moving on to another key FA signing

Name: Tracy Porter

Age: 26

Position: Cornerback/Nickle back

Scheme: Man to Man

First team All Big Ten (2007)

Second team All Big Ten (2006)

Super Champion (XLIV)

Height: 5’11

Weight: 186

Draft Status: picked 40th overall (round 2) in the 2008 NFL draft

College: Indiana

Career Stats: 49 games (43 starts), 215 tackles, one sack, four forced fumbles, two fumble recoveries, 8 interceptions, two touchdowns, 38 pass deflections, 11 tackles for loss

Best season: 2009, 16 games (16 starts), 57 tackles, four interceptions, one touchdown, 2 forced fumbles, 12 pass deflections

Contract: One Year, $2.5 million

The Tracy Porter signing follows a couple of similar paths of other players that have been signed. One, he has super bowl winning experience. Two, he has familiarity with Head Coach Dennis Allen. And three, he is a man to man cornerback. Nearly all of the CBs currently on the team excel in man to man coverage.This is because Dennis Allen’s best area of expertise is in man to man coverage. He was the defensive backs coach of the New Orleans Saints from 2008-2010. This is where he won his super bowl ring and where he met Tracy Porter, and developed him into a starting CB in NOLA. Dennis Allen was successful as the New Orleans Saints finished with the third most interceptions in 2009. Anyway, it seems apparent that the Raiders are switching back to the aggressive man to man defensive Al Davis used to run. DA has confirmed this by saying, We’re not going to exactly do what Mr. Davis’ teams did, we will be more exotic, there will be some different looks,” Allen said. “But man-to-man is where we are going to start. It all starts with coverage. You have to win your coverage battles.” Tracy Porter is best known as a clutch performer. Most notably his key 74 yard pick six vs the Colts in the Super Bowl during the closing minutes of the game (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=DBlvjtfpPAg). However, this isn’t the only clutch play Porter is known for. For example, in just the game before that (The NFC Championship) Tracy Porter did the same thing. Vikings Quarterback Brett Favre was in field goal range with less than 30 seconds remaining, yet he opted to pass on 3rd and long and it was picked off by Tracy Porter (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=0UUeqvquXZI). Which led the Saints to eventually win 31-28 and go to the SB. Porter also made another key play in that same game. In the fourth quarter, the Vikings were in the redzone and about to score. Brett Favre threw the ball to Bernard Berrian and it was caught, but Porter punched the ball out of his hands and the fumble was recovered by the Saints. When Tracy Porter became a free agent, Dennis Allen wanted him. But Porter chose to sign with the Broncos instead, where he continued his clutch play. In week 1 (his first game as a Donkey) he intercepted Ben Rothtard in the closing minutes of the game with the Broncos up 25-19 to seal the victory (http://www.nfl.com/videos/nfl-fantasy/0ap1000000061000/Broncos-defense-INT-TD). Unfortunately for Porter, he suffered from a seizure shortly afterward, and when he finally came back, Donkeys CB Chris Harris had broken out and as soon as Porter started to play again he suffered a concussion and missed the rest of the season. Porter is now back and he has something to prove after finishing last season with a bad taste in his mouth. The Raiders are hoping he brings his clutch gene and winning experience to Oakland.


Porter was signed to a one year “prove it” deal, and will most likely be a starter for the Raiders in 2013. However, nothing is guaranteed as he has fellow free agent pickup Mike Jenkins and youngster Philip Adams breathing down his neck. Porter is talented, and has had plenty of successful seasons in the past. However, he struggled last year but at just 26 he has room to improve. Porter will try and prove that he is an NFL starter in his contract year, if he does than the Raiders have more than enough cap room to bring him back in 2014.

Speaking of fellow free agent man to man corner

Name: Mike Jenkins

Age: 28

Position: Cornerback

Scheme: Man to man

Pro Bowl (2009)

First-Team All-American (2007)

First-Team All Big 10 (2008)

Second team All Big 10 (2007)

Height: 5’10

Weight: 198

Draft Status: picked 25th overall (round 1) in the 2008 NFL draft

College: South Florida

Career Stats: 71 games (48 starts), 161 tackles, one forced fumble, 8 interceptions, one touchdown, 43 pass deflections, one tackle for loss

Best Season: 2009 (pro bowler), 49 tackles, 5 interceptions, 19 pass break ups, one tackle for loss

Contract: One Year, $1.5 million

Mike Jenkins was an up and coming corner coming into the league. He showed a lot of promise and after a quiet rookie season he followed it up with back to back solid outings. But in 2011, he was plagued by injuries. First, he suffered a neck stinger in training camp which caused him to miss the whole pre-season. On top off that, he had gotten a hamstring strain, a sore shoulder, a bum knee and he finished it all with a dislocated shoulder that required offseason surgery. However, despite all injuries he battled through them and managed to play 12 games, starting all of them. Jenkins proved he was a tough player, overcoming all injuries. However, in the final year of his rookie contract, Jerry Jones went on to sign Chiefs CB Brandon Carr to a mega contract and draft CB Morris Claiborne 6th overall in the NFL draft in which they traded up to do so. To make things worse, Jerry Jones gave Cowboys CB Orlando Scandrick a contract extension. These moves suddenly moved Jenkins from number one on the depth chart to number four. The cowboys knew that Jenkins was still rehabbing from shoulder surgery and they felt it was best to go in a different direction and have him walk in free agency. Once teams noticed Jenkins was not in the Cowboys future plans, several trades were offered to the cowboys for Mike Jenkins. However, all of them were declined, not sure why though. The Cowboys then stated they had no intentions of trading Mike Jenkins period. Despite being fourth on the depth chart starting the season, he managed to start two games in the 14 he played. Jenkins have himself the reputation of being a solid coverage corner with good ball skills. He’s particularly good at covering the deep ball. He’s a solid tackler as well. Jenkins is the type of player who doesn’t always seem focused but when he is, watch out. He has the natural ability. Now, Jenkins is looking to revive his career on another one year “prove it” deal given by Reggie McKenzie.


Mike Jenkins declined a multi year contract offer from the Jacksonville Jaguars to join the Raiders. Here he will compete for a starting job and put his natural ability to good use. Jenkins, another aggressive man to man corner adds to a pretty interesting secondary. The starters seem to be Tracy Porter and DJ Hayden at first glance. However, in nickle packages we may see Jenkins and Hayden on the outside and Porter in the nickle. I expect Porter, Hayden, Jenkins, and Philip Adams to rotate on the outsides regularly and Porter and Joselio Hanson rotating as the slot CB. Third year players Chimdi Chekwa and former RB Taiwan Jones are interesting pieces as well. Any player could win the starting job and that’s the beauty of competition.

Summers been busier than I thought, but I’m finishing this series so y’all better stay tuned

Name: Josh Cribbs

Age: 30

Position: Wide Receiver/Return Specialist

3x Pro Bowler (2007, 2009, 2012)

2x All Pro (2007, 2009)

NFL Special Teams Player of the Year (2009)

Cleveland Brown’s MVP (2009)

Cleveland’s Pro Athlete of the Year (2010)

NFL’s All Time Kickoff Return Leader (8)

NFL 2000s All Decade Team

NFL Record: Two kickoff return touchdowns of 100 yards or more in a single game

NFL Record: Most kickoff return touchdowns in a single game (2)

Browns Franchise Records:

  • Most career Kickoff return yards (10,015)
  • Most career combined Kickoff and Punt return yards (12,169)
  • Most career All-purpose yards (14,128)
  • Most kickoff return yards in a single season: 1,809 (2007)
  • Most kickoff return touchdowns in a single season: 3 (2009)
  • Most All-purpose yards in a single season: 2,510 (2009)
  • Most career combined Kickoff and Punt return touchdowns (11)

Height: 6’1

Weight: 215

Draft Status: went undrafted in the 2005 NFL Draft

College: Kent State

Career Stats: 124 games (31 starts), 107 receptions, 1,161receiving yards, 7 receiving touchdowns, 128 rushing attempts, 753 rushing yards, two rushing touchdowns, 195 punt returns, 2154 punt return yards, 3 punt return touchdowns, 387 kickoff returns, 10015 kickoff return yards, 8 kickoff return touchdowns, 4-12 passing completions to attempts, 45 passing yards, one interception, zero passing touchdowns, long pass of 18 yards, 10.8 career passer rating, 103 tackles, one fumble recovery

Contract: 1 year, $865,000

First off, notice how I added the contract part in the beginning. I just decided to add that in because I fee that it is very important to know how long and how much the player will be a Raider. So I’m gonna add it in to the players I already did and moving forward. This means, check back at the other players I did, and revisit part 1 (link is at the top of this article) to see how much those guys are making. Now to get things started, Josh Cribbs was another guy I was thrilled when I found out we signed. He is one of the greatest returners in NFL history. Not only that, but he is a solid receiver that can create yards after the catch and he will be a happen in the Raiders new quick pass offense with Matt Flynn. Plus, he can operate the wildcat package. Obviously, he’s a great athlete. He played football in HS, but he also a star baseball player, basketball player, and swimmer. He played QB in HS and was teammates with Vernon Davis (whom he also played Bball with). He was very successful winning three consecutive DCIAA titles as well as the 2000 Turkey Bowl. He made the All-Met selection by the Washington Post his senior year. Him and Vernon Davis formed a great tandem. He went on to Kent State University and remained playing quarterback. He put up great numbers, starting as a true freshman. He is one of only four quarterbacks in NCAA history to rush for 3,500 yards and throw for 7,000 yards in his career. He ended up going undrafted and signed with the Browns, where he made instant impact as a kick returner. He set the franchise record his rookie year. The next year, he signed a six year extension and broke his own record. He continued to be an explosive return man every year and got touchdowns. Cribbs wasn’t used as a WR much, but when he was, he was explosive. In 2010, the Browns offered him another extension, but he felt it was way too low and stated his time in Cleveland was done. However, the Browns caved in and gave him a three year 20 million dollar extension. The catch? He had to play WR more. He returned the favor, catching 41 balls for 513 yards and four touchdowns the following year. He was named to the NFL 2000s All Decade Team, an incredible feat. Cribbs continued to be an explosive player in 2012, having 1136 kick return yards and 450 punt return yards but he was no longer used as a WR. Earlier in the offseason, the Browns again wanted to resign Cribbs, however he was seeking around 2 million dollars a year annualy and the Browns thought they could look else where and they were not willing to commit that much to a specialist. This led several teams into wanting him, such as the 49ers, Chargers, Giants, Cowboys, Patriots, and most importantly the Cardinals. Later in the offseason, it seemed the Cardinals had signed Cribbs and won the sweepstakes. All he needed to do was pass his physical, which is generally a given. The Cardinals wanted him to take over as the RS so that Patrick Peterson can focus on CB. But, when the physical was given, it was revealed that his knee was not fully healed. He had meniscus surgery earlier and he hadn’t fully recovered. The deal was off and the Cardinals drafted LSU CB Tyrann Mathieu in the third round of the draft to take over return duties. His market then became dead due to the knee. However, was later cleared healthy and teams came lining up to sign him. Unfortunately for the Cardinals and Patriots (the two teams originally most interested) they had already signed KRs because they didn’t trust his knee. The new teams that became interested were the Lions, Giants, Jets, and Raiders. He chose the Raiders in the end because he would have more opportunities playing as a WR. The Raiders are preparing to run a short, quick pass offense that best suits Cribbs strengths. Here, he can catch some short passes and use his explosiveness and elusiveness to take it all the way to the house. Jacoby Ford is a great return man, however he is always crippled. The two of them will now rotate returns, preserving Ford and allowing him to be the playmaker he is.


Cribbs originally wanted 2 million annually over several years, but the knee made him take less than a million for one year. Now he has something to prove and that he deserves the more lucrative contract, even at his age. Cribbs will make our return game very dangerous and he will be useful in other packages. In the modern NFL, athletic QBs are good to have, he could even teach Pryor how to transition (I don’t see him succeeding in the NFL as a QB). Cribbs will be out until training camp, so the his injury is valid. If it does’t affect come when it’s time to play, he can be a great asset. Again, he is on a one year “prove it” deal. We have roughy 70 million dollars of cap space next year, so Reggie will decide if he’s worth it. At the price, he could potentially be a steal.

Another signing, this one will have some competition and will serve as insurance

Name: Rashad Jennings

Age: 28

Position: Running Back

Scheme: Man Blocking Scheme (PBS)

2008 Big South Preseason Offensive Player of the Year
2008 Big South Preseason All-Conference Selection

Height: 6’1

Weight: 235

Draft Status: picked 250th overall (round 7) in the 2009 NFL Draft

College: Liberty

Career Stats: 38 games (9 starts), 224 carries, 944 rushing yards, 4.2 yards per carry average, 7 rushing touchdowns, 61 receptions, 454 receiving yards, 13 kickoff returns for 297 yards (22.85 average)

Best year: 2010, 13 games (3 starts), 84 carries, 459 yards, 5.5 yards per carry average, 4 rushing touchdowns, 26 receptions for 223 yards

Contract: One year, $630,000

Rashad Jennings looked like a steal for the Jags early on. In his first two seasons he averaged over 5 yards per carry. Last year he was terrible. MJD was either injured or holding out his contract, this allowed Jennings to step up into the starting lineup. He averaged just 2.8 yards per carry and ended the season on IR. He was once a promising player, but he was a total flop last year. RM is taking a gamble on him, but this is minimal risk financially. He originally was the starting RB for Pittsburgh but his father had become ill, forcing him to transfer to Liberty, closer to his hometown of Forest, Virginia. He was a star there, breaking the Big South Conference record with 3,633 yards with 42 TDs and a 5.7 yards per carry average. He earned himself a draft selection and immediately went to work his rookie year. Jennings calls himself a “complete back” however, he was a total flop in his first opportunity to start. Call it a down year, but in Oakland he needs to be prepared in case DMC goes down. He showed flashes as MJD’s assistant. Hopefully he will do the same here in Oakland. However, if Rashad doesn’t pick up his game, I think Latavius Murray has a real shot of stealing the number two job (for his assessment see part one).


Rashad Jennings is coming off a bad year, but prior to that he had back to back seasons averaging 5+ ypc. He is making close to nothing, and if he bounces back to his old form he could help a lot in the run game. The number 2 job is not being handed to him, he will have to win it, competing with Jeremy Stewart (averaged 4.0 ypc for us last year as a UDFA) and Murray. He needs to be prepared to take over if DMC goes down. If he continues to under perform in camp, he will be cut with no penalty. However, if he does bounce back, he would be a hell of a bargain at just 630k. A low risk high reward signing, because the capability is there.

First off, I think I may create a part three so the article is on the front page, easier to check it. I’ll talk more about that later. Moving on to the next players

Name: Usama Young

Age: 28

Position: Strong Safety/Free Safety

Second Team All-Mid-American conference (2006)

Super Bowl Champion (XLIV)

Height: 6’0

Weight: 200

Draft Status: picked 66th overall (round 3) in the 2007 NFL Draft

College: Kent State

Career Stats: 81 games (25 starts), 229 tackles, 2.5 sacks, 3 fumble recoveries, 7 interceptions, 22 pass deflections, 5 tackles for loss

Best Season: 2012, 13 games (11 starts), 53 tackles, 1.5 sacks, 3 interceptions, 1 fumble recovery, 7 pass deflections

Contract: One Year $985,000

Usama Young was drafted by the New Orleans Saints as a CB coming out of college. At the time, Dennis Allen was the DB coach for NOLA and realized Young was a better fit at Safety so he moved him. Usama served as quality depth as he registered 50 tackles in one season coming off the bench. He continued to service the team, earning him a Super Bowl. He was later signed by the Cleveland Browns where he earned himself a starting job at Safety. However, the team never had complete trust in him. His first year in Cleveland, he had 70 tackles, and an interception, despite starting just 8 games even though he played in all 16. He is able to play both safety positions as well. Young is best at stopping the run (something the Raiders definitely need help with last year). According to Pro Football Focus, he graded out very well in stopping the run (+6.1) and finished with 70 tackles and a respectable 9.9% tackle frequency and was among the top 15 safeties in run stop percentage (8.1). The reason he didn’t start every game is because the team preferred Eric Hagg, even though he graded out negatively. Last year he started more games (despite missing some with injury) and returned the favor. He was ranked 3rd best in tackling and 11th best in coverage. Young had his best season in terms of coverage last season, picking off three passes. The Browns never trusted Young, as they were reluctant to start him and the new management just released him. However, his production shows otherwise. However, on tape he has been afraid to hit at times (against Houston for example) and he has gotten lost in coverage before (vs Colts in the SB). However, the good news is he gets better each year. On the Raiders, he will be reunited with several former teammates, Tracy Porter, Kaluka Maivia, Josh Cribbs, and his former DB coach Dennis Allen.


Usama Young will serve as quality depth behind Charles Woodson and Tyvonn Branch. He will come in at either safety spot and in three safety packages. His familiarity with Coach and winning experience should help. He was signed to a cheap contract so there is no risk financially and he play with a lot of effort to earn himself a multi year contract next year. Young isn’t getting his chance to be a full time starter yet, but he’ll get a chance to showcase his skills. The Raiders seems to have a solid safety group.

Name: Alex Barron

Age: 30

Position: Offensive Tackle

Scheme: Power Blocking Scheme

Consensus All-American (2003, 2004)
First-team All-ACC (2003, 2004)
Rams Rookie of the Year Award (2005)

Height: 6’8

Weight: 316

Draft Status: Picked 19th overall (first round) in the 2009 NFL draft

College: Florida State

Career Stats: 87 games, 75 starts

Contract: One year, $715K

Alex Barron was once  a top NFL prospect. He was one of the best OTs in the country and he was able to play both Left Tackle and Right Tackle. He was viewed as being a franchise left tackle in the NFL. He had great size, athletic ability, and a terrific wingspan. He has quick feet along with good agility and balance for a player his size. He gets into his stance quickly, but has a tendency to get a little high and loses leverage. He handles speed rushers well, and engulfs smaller defenders once he gets his long arms on them. He was drafted by the Rams and had a ton of penalty issues in the NFL. He led the NFL while playing with the Rams and finished with over 70 penalty calls in that time span. Still, he was a good blocker and impressed the Rams early, his detrimental penalties were an issue. Due to his poor play he was traded to the Cowboys after five years. Teams were willing to take a chance on him due to his potential and versatility. In Dallas, he struggled as well. Since he’s bounced around the league until he finally came to the Raiders. He was originally signed to serve as nothing more than depth and to bring in competition. But Barron wanted to rejuvenate his career.So far in training camp, Barron has been great. He’s coming in at both LT and RT and his blocking has been great so far. Dennis Allen had some positive things to say. He said he’s been impressed and called him a “nice surprise”. He even said he could win the starting RT job. If Menelik Watson doesn’t return from injury soon, Alex Barron could take the job. He has all the talent, he just needs to stay focused. Today, NFL refs were watching the practice and they stated they didn’t see many penalties. This is great news for Barron.

Name: Andre Gurode

Age: 34

Position: Center/Offensive Guard

Scheme: Power Blocking Scheme

First-team All-Big 12 (2000, 2001)
Consensus All-American (2001)
5× Pro Bowl (2006, 2007, 2008, 2009, 2010)
2× All-Pro (2007, 2009)

Height: 6’4

Weight: 318

Draft Status: Picked 37th overall (secondround) in the 2009 NFL draft

College: Colorado

Career Stats: 151 games, 127 starts

Contract: One year, undisclosed

Gurode is the newest Raider. Not to long ago, Andre Gurode was one of the best interior linemen in the NFL. He made five straight pro bowls. Coming out of college he was a guard. He was viewed as a top prospect and was taken early in the second round by the Cowboys. Gurode got a chance to play with some of the greats in his first years, but when Emmit Smith hung it up, the OL Coach, Tony Sporano, who is currently the OL coach of the Raiders moved him to center. Coach Bill Parcells said Gurode was better at guard, but Sporano acknowledged some of the early struggles and viewed him a better fit at center. He was right as Gurode starting playing his best football. Then he injured his knee, years later. He needed surgery and the team wanted him to restructure his contract. He refused and was released. The team saw a lot of potential in Phil Costa and decided they rather roll with him. Since, Gurode bounced around with the Ravens, Lions, and Bears. Now he is with the Raiders. Until he proves otherwise, he’s here for his versatility and competition. He can play all interior OL positions and provides depth behind the starters. He can even challenge Mike Briesel for the starting job at RG if he plays well enough. One advantage he has is his style of play is it for the Raiders scheme, while Briesel is a better fit for the zone blocking scheme. Andre recently made a statement saying he feels better now than he did three years ago. Similar to Alex Barron, Gurode is trying to revive his career and he has something to prove. This is a low risk signing and at worst he will serve as a camp body. At best he can revive his career and win a starting job.

Taking a look at the Detroit Pistons after the Brandon Jennings Trade

Hello all, I am back. I’ve been trying to post more articles but every time I’m  in the middle of one my computer crashes. Let’s hope this one works. Earlier today, the Pistons completed a sign and trade to acquire Brandon Jennings. They gave him a three year deal worth $24M which is great value. The trade details were:

Pistons get: Brandon Jennings

Bucks get: Brandon Knight, Khris Middleton, and Viacheslav Kravtsov

I’m not going to go too far into this trade because I will do one of these for the Bucks as they are looking to get into the playoffs. But I’d like to say I think Brandon Jennings is an upgrade over Knight. I also don’t view Knight as a true point guard and if I were a HC I would even be uncomfortable putting him there. This draws concern because he is too undersized to play SG at 6’3 and 189 pounds. Knight has shown nice flashes and is a good scorer, I’m actually a fan of his and I think he can be a high quality scorer later on, but I don’t think he is a long term answer due to his small frame and the fact that he lacks PG skills, he’s also shown an incositent jump shot. Jennings on the other hand has more polished skill and has had more success playing the PG position. Jennings has had a history of jacking shots in Milwaukee, but he never had talent around him. In Detroit, they have some nice young players allowing him to facilitate the game better and due to the fact he has nice passing skills I expect a nice bump in his assist.  Jennings also has a nicer jumper. Yes, he is a career 39.4% shooter, but he forced to take a lot of difficult shots in efforts to keep his team competitive. In Detroit he has options to move the ball around and hit an open shot which he has proved he can do on several occasions most notably here:

Jennings worked with that screen and knocked down the open jumpers consistently. It’s also important to note Jennings is only 23 years old and already has 4 years of NBA experience (2 years of playoff experience). Jennings can improve a lot has a higher ceiling than Knight. Let’s see how Jenning will mesh with his teammates. Here is the projected starting lineup:

PG: Brandon Jennings

SG: Rodney Stuckey

SF: Josh Smith

PF: Greg Monroe

C: Andre Drummond

Already you can see a great inside out game forming between Jennings and the three frontcourt players. My only area of concern is how Stuckey and Jennings will cope. Stuckey plays a game similar to Monta Ellis’ and as excited as that was, and it did lead to a playoff berth, Jennings looked like he could have played much better in a different environment. Luckily, new pistons signee Chauncy Billups says he thinks Stuckey can become “a great player” and that he will guide him throughout the season. This is great news because Billups is one of the smartest players in the NBA and he can teach both young guards how to play with each other in the best way possible. Inside you have two young bigs in Greg Monroe and Andre Drummond. Monroe has looked really good so far, especially the past two seasons. Just 23 years old, he’s coming into his fourth NBA season after averaging 16 points and 9.6 rebounds.  He has been getting better year by year and showed great progress last year. He can be one of the best bigs in the NBA moving forward. Next to him is Andre Drummond, coming off his rookie season he averaged 7.9 points and 7.6 rebounds in just 20 minutes a game. These are great numbers in that time span and he got better each game.  He was one of the team’s most efficient players, he and Monroe could be a dominant force inside for years, as both have a nice complete game. The team’s biggest acquisition was Josh Smith. Smith is super athletic and talented who plays well on both sides of the court. He’s been labeled an all star snub in recent years. On defense, he’s a terrific shot blocker and uses his athleticism to stick with opponents and give them headaches. On offense, he has a nice mid range jumper and is nearly unstoppable when he gets into the paint. Plus he is a great dunker. He needs to limit the amount of three point shots and improve his shot selection however. With Jennings working with him, they could create a nice one two punch. He is also versatile, able to play both Small Forward and Power Forward effectively and he’s a solid rebounder. These starting group looks like they can easily play together and I expect a lot of inside and outside scoring. Now Jennings can work that screen with the bigs he has, as he did in his 55 point game. The team’s first round pick (8th overall), is Kentavious Caldwell-Pope. Caldwell-Pope, the SEC player of the year and is a great athlete like Josh Smith, which he uses to play good defense, an area where he has potential to improve upon. He has a great shot but he needs to use his athletic ability to get to the rim. He’s good at getting skills and uses his speed to finish in transition. He’s athletic but he has great instincts as a shooter. His only glaring weakness is ball handling, if he figures out how to get to the rim with he could be a valuable piece for years. Another move I really liked was bringing in Italian League MVP Luigi Datome. He is 25 years old and a great shooter. He is 6’9 and he averaged 16.4 PPG in 33 minutes while shooting 46.7% from the field, 39.4% from three, and 92.6% from the stripe. He plays small forward with all the tools to be successful. This was a low risk high reward move as he’s just making $3.5M over two years. From what I’ve seen of him, he seems like a smart player who is a good scorer. Here are some highlights:

Still my favorite signing was Chauncey Billups. At this point in his career he’s not a game changer but he’s a hell of a mentor and with all the young guys, especially at guard positions he will serve a great purpose. In Detroit, he’ll play for two years at $5M and retire a piston, where he won an NBA title and was named finals MVP. He’ll be moved back to his natural PG position (he was played as an off guard in LAC). He’s still a good player, while he averaged only 8.4 PPG last year as a starter, he had injury problems and he averaged 15 the year prior, although he only played 20 games until injury. In Detroit, his minutes will be reduced, so he most likely will stay healthy. It helps that Mr. Big Shot comes through in the clutch. The Pistons have some other valuable pieces, such as Kyle Singler who showed promise last year and was named to the All Rookie second team, Jonas Jerebeko is solid guy off the bench and is a hard worker that makes hustle plays. Charlie Villanueva is still somewhat serviceable, and though he may be over looked Peyton Siva is a favorite of mine as I liked him when he played at Louisville. Finally, they have Will Bynum, who has been a solid player. He’s a been a good sixth man for them, averaging 10 PPG in 18.8 MPG is impressive. Many people don’t know he once had 20 assist in one game. Concluding, I think Jennings really takes the team to a new level. They are in serious playoff contention. This team is young and talented, Joe Dumars has done a nice job.