2005 Team Report: Oakland Raiders
Starter: Kerry Collins
Backup(s): Marques Tuiasosopo, Andrew Walter [r]
Starting QB: Kerry Collins has never been in a better situation. Even if the team remained intact from a year ago and made no offensive improvements, Collins would have already been a solid sleeper. But the Raiders went out and added superstar Randy Moss and potential star LaMont Jordan to the mix, without even considering changes at quarterback. That, coupled with the impending retirement of Rich Gannon, has afforded Collins the confidence that this is his team. If Collins can't get it done as a fantasy starter with this cast, he never will. Several years ago, Collins was coming off a 4,000-yard season and appeared primed for big things. The talent around him, however, left much to be desired. Granted, Collins isn't much more talented now than he was then, but his opportunity for success is greatly increased by his supporting cast.
Backup QB: Rich Gannon's retirement is official, as he ends his career to pursue broadcasting. Thus, Marques Tuiasosopo will open the season as the backup. Where have we heard that before? Tuiasosopo came out of college with the skill set to have a solid pro career, and is apparently still looked upon as the future of the Raiders. That's not so much a vote of confidence as it is an observation that they haven't made any moves to address the backup QB situation. Tuiasosopo will be the #2 guy heading into training camp unless Oakland decides to bring in another veteran for some competition. Andrew Walter, the highly regarded rookie, will serve as the team's emergency QB in 2005, but has the chance to develop into the Raiders starter a few years down the line.
Starter: Lamont Jordan
Backup(s): Justin Fargas, DeJuan Green
Fullback(s): Zack Crockett
Starting RB: Lamont Jordan is going to start and play the vast majority of the time. Justin Fargas is talented, but the Raiders have invested heavily in Jordan and no doubt want to see a big return on that investment. Jordan had several good years in New York with the Jets, looking spectacular at times. He is surprisingly quick and agile for a big man, and has longed for an opportunity to start for years. Combine great strength and excellent quickness with a hunger to get on the field (not to mention several years of apprenticeship under one of the league's all-time greats in Curtis Martin), and you've got yourself a bona fide potential stud sleeper for 2005.
Backup RBs: Justin Fargas has had several opportunities to carry the load, but never really grabbed hold of the chance. Now, he is clearly a backup running back, albeit one with excellent speed and quickness. Keep in mind that last year Fargas was in his first year back from ACL surgery on his knee. It typically takes running backs about two years to fully recover from an ACL tear, meaning Fargas shouldn't really be back to his old form until later this season. He'll be a more than capable backup to LaMont Jordan, and will probably have a defined role in the offense in relief of Jordan, whose career high in carries is last year's 93.
Fullback: Zack Crockett returns to the Raiders for another year of potentially vulturing touchdowns. Actually, Crockett wasn't quite as adept at finding the end zone last year as he's been in years past. Crockett hit pay dirt 33 times over the first five years of his Raiders career, but scored just twice last year. And now that the Raiders have a big burly runner like LaMont Jordan to carry the load, it's unclear if Crockett's role in the offense will be further reduced. Despite the lack of touchdowns, Crockett averaged an impressive 4.8 YPC last year, showing that he isn't only a short-yardage threat. He also had a career-high 16 receptions, which may be more a product of the team not having a RB threat to lean on. In any event, Crockett's fantasy value will be limited because even if he does score 6-8 touchdowns, one never knows when they're going to come. And if he's not scoring, he's not helping fantasy owners.
Starters: Randy Moss, Jerry Porter
Backups: Ronald Curry, Doug Gabriel, Alvis Whitted, Carlos Francis
Starting WRs: Moss and Porter form arguably the most explosive WR duo in the entire NFL. Moss hasn't played with this good of a receiver since Cris Carter retired, and Porter hasn't played with a WR as good as Moss since, well, ever. This tandem is the main reason why people are expecting such big things from the Raider offense this year: they've got receivers whose best trait is the ability to stretch the field, a quarterback whose strength is throwing the deep ball, and a talented surrounding cast. Moss is one of the greatest receivers to ever put on an NFL uniform, and Porter's physical talent has drawn comparisons to that of Terrell Owens. We expect big-time fireworks in Oakland this year, and fantasy owners should be happy to have either Raider WR in their weekly lineup.
Backup WRs: In a sign of how good this offense should be, the two backup receivers are capable of starting for several NFL teams. Ronald Curry is returning from a serious Achilles tendon injury (it was torn late in the year), but his rehab is going well and he's expected to be ready for training camp. Doug Gabriel is a solid player who will never be a star in this league, but, as he showed last year, can contribute as a steady producer. Either of these players is a capable fill-in for Moss or Porter should the situation arise.
Starters: Courtney Anderson
Backups: Zeron Flemister, James Adkisson
The Raiders claim that Courtney Anderson is their expected starter at tight end. For a player who is a 7th-round pick coming off a knee injury that cost him nearly half the season, that is a lot of confidence to be showing in him. Anderson is a capable blocker and pass-catcher, and the Raiders see him as a more complete player than Teyo Johnson, who was released before the start of the season. Zeron Flemister has had an excellent training camp and preseason, and is the best blocker of the Raiders' TEs. He should get the goal line work because of his blocking, which could also result in some receiving TDs.
: As a pro prospect coming out of college, Sebastian Janikowski had it all: accuracy, range, and a cannon leg on kickoffs. His only problem had been a pattern of misdemeanor activities and charges. After entering the NFL, he was an average kicker for three years, but he is finally starting to live up to the hype with 88.0% and 89.3% on FGs the last two seasons. Last year was also the first that he didn't have a run-in with the law.
Kick and Punt Returners
Kick Returners: Chris Carr, Doug Gabriel, Carlos Francis, Lamont Jordan
Rookie CB Chris Carr emerged from preseason as the primary backup KR, and will start until WR Doug Gabriel returns from a finger injury. Gabriel led the team in KRs the last two years (29 returns, 22.3 avg, 1 TD in 2003, and 53 returns, 21.5 avg in 2004). WR Carlos Francis tore his ACL after five games (14 returns, 18.5 avg) and was placed on IR. If he has adequately recovered, he could contribute this year. Recently acquire RB Lamont Jordan returned kicks periodically for the Jets (14 returns, 20.3 avg last year), but it's not likely that the Raiders will have their primary RB doubling as their KR.
Punt Returners: Chris Carr, Doug Gabriel, Carlos Francis, Charles Woodson, Fabian Washington
Rookie CB Chris Carr emerged from preseason as the top PR guy. CB Phillip Buchanon was the Raiders leading PR the last several years, but he is now a Houston Texan. Gabriel is the likely candidate to step into that role. He was their second leading PR last year with only 2 returns (3.5 avg). Francis is also a possibility (again depending on his health). Although he hasn't done so often, CB Charles Woodson can return punts if needed. First round draft pick CB Fabian Washington was an early contender for PR, but faded from view by the end of preseason. The Raiders were one of the worst PR teams in the NFL last year, ranking 30th in average, and last in total yardage.
Projected Starters: RT Robert Gallery, RG Brad Badger, C Jake Grove, LG Langston Walker, LT Barry Sims
Key Backups: G Chad Slaughter, C Adam Treu
The Raiders offensive line experienced some growing pains with two rookies in the starting lineup a year ago, but they will be better for it this season and definitely down the road. Both Robert Gallery and Jake Grove made giant strides as rookies last season and should be much more comfortable this season. Gallery in particular has All World potential and could begin dominating his competition as soon as this season with his remarkable athleticism and tenacity. Tackle Langston Walker is another young player who is getting better and should be given the chance to start in 2005. Barry Sims gives the team veteran leadership and is a player who can slide in at both guard and tackle (depending on where he's needed). This unit is still a year away from possibly being outstanding, but it will be improved this season as they continue to train their young talent.
When the best thing you can say about a defense is that they ranked 22nd versus the run, you know it's ugly with the emphasis on UG! Statistics like 61.8% completions allowed, 30th against the pass, 31st in scoring, 31st in sacks and 29th in total takeaways with only 9 interceptions, emphasize just how bad it was but they don't tell the whole story. The Raiders defense lacked an identity in '04. They flip flopped back and forth between 4-3 and 3-4 defensive alignments all season and when it was over they still didn't even know what their base defense was. Maybe worst of all, half their personnel were (and still are) suited to one alignment and half to the other so they don't really have the horses in place to excel in either scheme. The additions they have made this offseason suggest they will go in the direction of a 4-3 in 2005. The club has added talent at all three levels of the defense this offseason. They addressed the pass rush by adding DE Derrick Burgess and were happy to land linebacker LB Kirk Morrison in round 3 of the draft. They most strongly addressed their deficiencies in the secondary on draft day by using their top pick on CB Fabian Washington and a second rounder on CB Stanford Routt. They also added Renaldo Hill via free agency. It would be hard for this unit not to show some improvement after last season but they are a team in transition and have a long way to go. At this point they can't even get through a minicamp without having disgruntled Pro Bowl corner Charles Woodson get into a heated argument with the defensive coordinator. It could be another long season for the Raider Nation.
Starters: RDE Derrick Burgess, LDE Bobby Hamilton, RDT Warren Sapp, LDT Ted Washington
Backups: DE Tommy Kelly, DL Ed Jasper, DT Terdell Sands
Starting DL: The addition of 4-3 end Derrick Burgess and the fact that Tyler Brayton and Warren Sapp were both flops, at OLB and DE respectively, in the 3-4 last season are strong indicators that the Raiders will rely mostly on a 4-3 this year. In Burgess the club may have more questions than answers, as well. Entering his 5th NFL season he has missed more games with injury than he's played in and recorded just 3 sacks last year in 13 starts for the Eagles. Bobby Hamilton will be 34 when the season opens. He is a dependable early down player who can stand up against the run but has never been more than an average pass rusher. He made a good DE in their 3-4 a year ago but isn't a good fit in the 4-3. If they stay in a 4-3 the Raiders will likely be in good shape up the middle. Both Sapp and Washington are elder statesmen in NFL terms but both still have some football left in them. Sapp's failure to excel last season has some saying he is done. He isn't the player he was in the late 90's but if you put this fish back in the water he can still swim.
Backup DL: Oakland doesn't appear to have any stars-in-waiting along the DL. The player who comes closest to matching that description is 2nd year player Tommy Kelly, who led the team in sacks last year with 4 in 10 games played. Kelly can line up at both DE and DT and could platoon with Burgess at one end spot to keep him fresh. Former Falcon Ed Jasper also figures into the defensive line rotation, and at worst should provide a solid veteran leader in the locker room. Terdell Sands was plucked off waivers last year to backup Washington at nose tackle. The 340-pounder has the size to get that job done but he isn't in Ted Washington's class.
Starters: MLB Danny Clark, OLB Tyler Brayton, OLB Grant Irons
Backups: ILB Kirk Morrison [r], ILB Tim Johnson, OLB Ryan Riddle
Starting LBs: There are a lot of questions surrounding the Raiders linebacker situation as well. For starters they traded away their most talented linebacker (Napoleon Harris) in the Randy Moss deal. Danny Clark made just 28 starts over 4 seasons with the Jaguars before going to Oakland last year and most of those came as a fill-in for injured starters. He had a big statistical year in '04 but in reality is still a marginal talent. Travian Smith had been with the club since '98 but couldn't stay healthy and was released this preseason. Sam Williams was also expected to start, but he will miss the 2005 season with a torn ACL. Tyler Brayton is a former 1st round pick at DE who struggled making the transition to OLB last year. He has just 5 total sacks to show for his 31 starts but we can't really call him a flop because he hasn't been given much opportunity to play at his natural position. Grant Irons is expected to fill the other starting OLB job, but he's a former DE and career backup. Things aren't looking too good when Danny Clark is your best linebacker.
Backup LBs: Kirk Morrison is the player to watch here. He doesn't have ideal size or speed but the kid simply got the job done at San Diego State. The Raiders were happy to land him in round 3 and expect that he will push for playing time right away. He can line up at any LB position and may also push for time in the team's nickel package. Ryan Riddle may have been a 6th-round pick but don't be surprised to see him on the field a lot this year. The Raiders don't have much depth at OLB and the young backups will be given an opportunity to get some on the job training. DeLawrence Grant has bounced back and forth between end and linebacker so many times he has to feel like a tennis ball. He's another 3-4 OLB playing out of his comfort zone. That said, with the uncertainty surrounding the 2 starting OLBs, don't be surprised if Grant sees significant action at some point this season as well. Tim Johnson is a career backup and great special teams performer who will provide depth on the inside.
Starters: LCB Charles Woodson, CB Nnamdi Asomugha, FS Stuart Schweigert, SS Derrick Gibson
Backups: RCB Fabian Washington [r], CB Denard Walker, CB Renaldo Hill, CB Stanford Routt [r], FS Jarrod Cooper
Starting DBs: Even though Oakland has parted ways with an unhappy Phillip Buchanon there is still unrest in Raiders camp with Charles Woodson. While he remains one of the best corners in the game, it's not a very well kept secret that Woodson doesn't see eye to eye with members of the organization and/or the coaching staff. 2003 first round pick Nnamdi Asomugha was given the first crack at replacing Buchanon and he played well enough in the preseason to hold onto the job. Derrick Gibson missed most of last season with a shoulder injury and was on thin ice before he was hurt. He has underachieved in the eyes of the organization that spent a first round pick on him back in '01. Gibson, however, had been showing improvement over the '03 season and right up until he was injured. Stuart Schweigert saw extensive action as a rookie last season after Gibson went down. He played like a rookie at times but showed a ton of potential at other times. This unit is both fast and talented. If they can overcome some inexperience and possibly some chemistry issues, this should be the strength of the defense.
Backup DBs: One thing the Raiders do have going for them this year is a very deep secondary. The club took steps to offset the loss of Buchanon when they used their first draft pick on Fabian Washington. Washington is blazing fast and has all the tools to make a very good NFL corner. Veterans Renaldo Hill and Denard Walker are also solid corners with plenty of experience. Second round pick Stanford Routt could get a look as well though he is a dark horse. The team decided to go into the season with just 3 safeties after the release of Marques Anderson. Jarrod Cooper is a versatile player who is solid in coverage and is a big contributor on special teams.
Last modified: 2005-09-08 07:33:56