Tuesday, January 31, 2012

Dennis Allen Faces Decisions on Offense in 2012

In his first press conference, new Raiders head coach Dennis Allen surprised me a bit. Maybe I had pie in the sky expectations but I was sure Allen would bring a completely new approach to the head coaching position. Instead, I heard the exact same thing we always hear when any new coach is hired. It never ceases to amaze me that so many new coaches talk championship immediately. To me, that is promising the moon and sets yourself up for disappointment.

Why go on a limb so soon? Give yourself some time to work into the role before the word championship or super bowl is mentioned.

For Dennis Allen to say that the Oakland Raiders defense has the talent in place for a championship is outright pipe dreaming. As noted, there are a vast array of holes to fill of defense. You have at least half the starting 11 of 2011 up for free agency and a questionable secondary on their very best day. With no high draft picks this year you have to wonder if Allen has really looked at what he has or if he is spouting what he thinks people want to hear.

On offense, it's hard not seeing them go with a proven commodity in Carson Palmer as number one QB. If Palmer stays healthy, we know we are getting an excellent QB. You need a capable backup so keeping Jason Campbell makes sense too if they can re-sign him for the right price. Though, personally I would like to see what Terrell Pryor can do. I think we have seen enough of Kyle Boller to know he is not an answer. Rhett Bomar is an intriguing prospect if he makes it into training camp. You always need guys to play through preseason.

Tight End Kevin Boss and WR Chaz Schillens are brittle and unreliable in the receiving corps. Though Boss is due 2 million and will therefore be counted on to make his presence felt. There's no question Darrius Heyward-Bey has finally developed as a professional receiver. Jacoby Ford is an excellent third option but with the regression of Louis Murphy, Denarius Moore stands as the only solid number 2 receiver on the roster.

Who will be at RB seems less clear, despite the encouraging development of Darren McFadden at the beginning of last season and the ability of Michael Bush to pick up good yardage totals (256/977). McFadden simply cannot remain healthy and therefore, is unreliable as a number one back. Michael Bush is a free agent and just might be done in Oakland.

Worse news is dynamic FB Marcel Reece is a free agent. Oakland will need to pay him to stay around. I hope they do.

It would be nice if Taiwan Jones emerged to replace McFadden as a number one back. Well, Jones has shown some flashes of ability at the pro level but he needs open space to be effective. Once he found his game, McFadden found ways to bang through a D-line. Maybe that is what makes him get injured so much but that's what it takes to rack up yards in the NFL. Taiwan Jones is not a Darren McFadden clone. I don't see Jones being able to break lots of tackles up the middle.

What makes the offensive effective will be the offensive line. This has been a weak spot of the Raiders for years while Al Davis overspent on fruitless defensive talent (DeAngelo Hall anyone?). While the O-line has played much better than in season's past, it is still a suspect unit, proven by leading the league with 24 offensive holding penalties, most of which were called on the O-line:

Veldheer 7
Wisniewski 4
Satele 4
Barnes 3
Carlisle 2

Despite the penalties, I'm in favor of Jared Veldheer continuing to develop. He is turning out to be a solution at left tackle. Stefan Wisniewski is certainly a keeper either at guard or center (we all could have predicted that but it is nice to see actually happen). Khalif Barnes? Is that really the best we can do at right tackle?

Coach Allen has lots of roster considerations to make on offense. I'm just not sure handing Greg Knapp the keys to the offense is a good idea.

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