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 Raiders Blueprint for Success in 2009 
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Post Raiders Blueprint for Success in 2009
[Note: Although dated, this article is provided for informational purposes. - Admin]

Raiders Blueprint for Success in 2009
by: Chris Limburg

Historically, it is no secret that Al Davis has been noted for his love of the bomb. Tell Cliff Branch to run as fast as he can and let Ken Stabler and Jim Plunkett throw it as far as they can and hope for the best. For years this worked but the 2009 Raiders offense will prove to be far different than from era's gone by. If he is wise, Head Coach and former offensive line coach Tom Cable will lean on a talented trio of running backs and a rebuilt offensive line to pound defenses into the ground with the running attack.

The Raiders boast a 9-23 record over the last 2 years and have a current streak of 6 straight years with 11 plus losses. However, although there has not been a whole lot to cheer about in the Black Hole recently the running game is one source of optimism. The Raiders running game has ranked in the top 10 each of the past 2 years and has real potential to become one of the NFL's elite. The Raiders possess 3 backs all of whom are capable of pounding out 100 yard games. Most teams are thankful to have 1 such ball carrier and the Raiders have 3 and that will lead to a balanced mixture of inside and outside running. A blend of speed and power if you will much in the same way the NY Giants have built their running game the last several years with Brandon Jacobs, Ahmad Bradshaw, and Derrick Ward. Former 4th overall pick Darren McFadden is the primary back who excels in the perimeter and in open space. Miss a tackle and he is gone. It is that simple. His burst is outstanding and allows him to reach the 2nd level of the defense in the blink of an eye. Furthermore, McFadden is an excellent receiver out of the backfield and some have compared his pass catching ability to Marshall Faulk. Many people have forgotten about McFadden on account of the stubborn toe injury that plagued him much of his rookie year. The breakout campaigns of Chris Johnson, Matt Forte, and Steve Slaton also cause people to ignore McFadden but trust me he has more pure talent than any of the aforementioned runners so do not be surprised at all to see Dmac break out this year. First, the toe is not going to be an issue this year as he has had trainers place a steel toe in his shoe to prevent such an injury from happening again. Secondly, the Raiders recently signed FB Lorenzo Neal which is a HUGE variable McFadden has in his corner. Neal's blocking had such an impact on the running of Ladanian Tomlinson that when LT goes into the the HOF he should have Neal induct him.

Justin Fargas led the Raiders in rushing in 2008 with 853 yards and is a tough, wily between the tackles runner. Fargas possesses sneaky strength and power and rarely goes down from the first contact. Moreover, Fargas knows what it takes to be a real pro and his work ethic and leadership qualities will no doubt have a positive impact on McFadden. Michael Bush constitutes the last component of the Raiders 3 headed monster at running back. The Raiders literally stole Bush in the 4rd round of the 2007 draft after he suffered a broken leg during his final year at Louisville. Bush had so much potential that he was projected as a top 15 selection before his injury and that potential was on display for everyone to see during the Raiders season finale against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers where he rushed for 177 yards and 2 TD's. That performance led to Bush garnering interest from several teams most notably the San Diego Chargers who ultimately offered the Raiders a trade for Bush. If Cable is smart he will utilize the talent he has which right now is the running game with the hopes of bringing the Raiders back to respectability.

What gives me the impression that Cable is smart and will implement this philosophy? Well, for starters as a I mentioned he is a former offensive line coach and most OL coaches favor the power running game. Moreover, every move the Raiders have made this off season indicates a firm commitment to the run in 2009. First, gone are several of the OL that struggled with Cable's zone blocking schemes and in their place come players that are more apt to succeed in such a system. Kwame Harris and Jake Grove struggled mightily with the zone assignments last year and are no longer with the team. Meanwhile the Raiders added center Samson Satele from the Dolphins and tackle Khalif Barnes from Jacksonville. Both players should fare better than their successors. Barnes is athletic and will team with Robert Gallery on left side to potentially give the Raiders a dominant side to their running game. Satele gives the Raiders a far more physical presence than Grove did and his ability to control the line will become paramount to the ground game.

The final piece of the equation however, lies in the acquisition of the battering ram Neal who will be paving the way for McFadden this year. I cannot overstate how critical this signing is for the Raiders and Dmac especially. Neal has blocked for various 1000 yard backs during his career including Eddie George and Tomlinson and both had their best seasons with Neal blocking for them. Look for McFadden to be no different and to make some big strides as a result of Neal being there.

The fact that the Raiders possess a jacked up running game means that hopefully we will also see marked improvements out of 3rd year QB JaMarcus Russell. Defenses will surely have to play 8 man fronts against the Raiders this year and that should open things up downfield for Russell and his cannon arm. Furthermore, the middle of the field will be more open as well and that is good news for TE Zach Miller who has shown continual improvement during his 2 years in the league. Russell's accuracy still has to be there though and it remains to be seen if Russell takes a step forward this year with all the added help and that is not even including newly drafted WR Darrius Heyward-Bey.

All in all the Raiders are still not a playoff team. Not even close. However, if Cable stays true to his guns (and I think he will) and utilizes the weapons he has at his disposal in the backfield than I really believe that 8-8 is a real possibility for this team and sad to say but us here in the Raider Nation would be pretty excited about an 8-8 season after all we have had to endure since our Super Bowl loss to the Bucs.

About The Author
Chris Limburg is the fanatical purveyor of A Oakland Raider and fantasy football blog that provides commentary on everything that is the NFL and fantasy football. Sign up for my free newsletter at:

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[Note: Due to a size limitation, the title, above, had to be abbreviated. Apologies to the author and - Admin]
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Thu Feb 24, 2011 10:32 am
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