Raiders Team Report

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Speed has always been at the top of Oakland's draft checklist, but does the success of last year's draft class alter the Raiders' strategy? Also, news on the new signings and the areas the Raiders must target this offseason...

Speed always what Raiders searching for


HOT TOPIC

More than any other team in the NFL, the Raiders feel the need for speed.

Opposing coaches refer to it every week in conference calls with those who cover the Raiders regularly. Speed is as much a part of the Raiders' tradition as silver and black.

Want to turn the head of Raiders owner Al Davis? Have a track background as a sprinter.

"You've got to have speed," Davis said on Jan. 18, the day Hue Jackson was hired as head coach. "You can't coach it, and you've got to have it."

Jackson was eagerly awaiting 40-yard dash times in Indianapolis.

"You've got to have guys that run fast or you can't score touchdowns or you can't catch people," he said. "We put a premium on speed. There's no question we do. But we also put a premium on football player too."

As Raiders coaches and scouts evaluate talent at the NFL Scouting Combine in Indianapolis, the stop watch will go a long way toward determining whether Oakland will come calling on a specific player when the NFL draft begins on April 28.

According to a story in the National Football Post, there have been nine 40-yard dash times of under 4.3 seconds since 1999. Not surprisingly, four of those players ended up on the Raiders. No other team had more than one.

The sub-4.3 club includes cornerbacks Fabian Washington (4.25) and Stanford Routt (4.28) in 2005 and wide receivers Darrius Heyward-Bey (4.25 in 2009) and Jacoby Ford (4.28 in 2010).

Success on those four has been mixed. Ford, the fastest player at last year's combine, scored seven touchdowns as the No. 108 pick in the draft, three on kickoff returns, two receiving and two rushing. That's six more than Heyward-Bey, a controversial size-speed pick the previous year, has in two seasons. He's struggled to justify the No. 7 overall selection.

Washington, a first-round pick (No. 23 overall) in 2005, started for the Raiders but was eventually sent to the Baltimore Ravens. Routt, the second-round pick that same year, started opposite Nnamdi Asomugha last year and had his best season, giving up a 40-percent completion rate.

Oakland retained Routt with a first-and-third round tender last year, a designation which drew a gasp league-wide since he has only been an occasional starter.

Last year's draft was a departure in a sense that the Raiders waited until the third day for their speed picks.

With their first pick in the fourth round, No. 106 overall, the Raiders took combine warrior Bruce Campbell of Maryland, whose 4.79 time in the 40 blew away the rest of the offensive linemen and whose strength and speed was off the charts.

Ford was selected with the pick the Raiders acquired from Jacksonville in exchange for linebacker Kirk Morrison and made an immediate impact for a sensational rookie class.

Oakland's first pick, middle linebacker Rolando McClain out of Alabama, and second-rounder Lamarr Houston were drafted as instant starters because of production more than the stopwatch time.

They were drafted as football players now instead of specimens to be developed later.

In this year's draft, the Raiders do not have a first-round pick, having traded what turned out to be the 17th overall selection to New England in 2009 for defensive tackle Richard Seymour.

Davis, however, did not rule out trading back into the first round if a player caught his fancy. If players and owners do not reach a collective bargaining agreement, any deal would have to be with draft picks either this year or in future drafts.

No trades of existing players can take place until there is a CBA in place.

PLAYER/PERSONNEL NOTES

--When a buyback of Kamerion Wimbley's contract exceeded the NFL's 30-percent rule on existing deals, the six-year veteran got a much bigger raise with a new deal.

The Raiders opted to make Wimbley their franchise player at the deadline, meaning Wimbley is due a salary of approximately $10.1 million once he signs the contract. Oakland is still hoping to sign him to a long-term deal.

Wimbley started at strong-side linebacker after being acquired for a third-round draft pick from Cleveland and was a nickel pass rusher, leading the team with nine sacks.

-Cornerback Stanford Routt, who validated a first- and third-round tender last season with a solid year when he gave up a 40-percent completion rate playing opposite Nnamdi Asomugha, cashed in with a three-year contract extension with $20 million guaranteed.

Routt, a six-year veteran, could make $31.5 million in the deal. Routt's signing means it's unlikely the Raiders would bring back Asomugha, whose contract voided when he failed to reach statistical incentives.

The Raiders are hoping to get Zach Miller under contract to a long-term deal. It's possible that under a new CBA, Miller, a four-year veteran would not be an unrestricted free agent, giving Oakland the option of tying him to the roster.

--Coach Hue Jackson said he was in no hurry to name a defensive coordinator as the Raiders instead focused on getting players signed.

"Honestly, I don't think that's the issue right now who the defensive coordinator is because our system's our system. We know exactly what we're going to do. The guys who are there know exactly how we're going to coach that particular side of the ball. Everything is moving in that direction."

--Running back Michael Bush received a vote of confidence from Jackson despite a recent DUI arrest in Clarksville, Ind.

"I know there was a little hiccup there, but that's part of the process and that will run its course and take care of itself, but Mike's in great spirits and looking forward to playing for the Raiders," Jackson said.

QUOTE TO NOTE: "All the stories you hear about this and that and the other, I haven't experienced that yet. If it's coming, then when it does, I'll deal with it. But I don't see it."

-- Raiders coach Hue Jackson on dealing with Al Davis.

STRATEGY AND PERSONNEL

OFFSEASON STRATEGY

The Raiders have yet to cut any players or sign any to new contracts in advance of the March 3 deadline, after which all business will be suspended in the event of a lockout.

Among the many issues to address are how to best deal with three key players who are scheduled for unrestricted free agency because of voidable years on their original contracts -- cornerback Nnamdi Asomugha, left guard Robert Gallery and free safety Michael Huff.

Davis was non-committal on Asomugha, with the Raiders looking to compete but not necessarily overpay once he hits the market. Gallery's status is up in the air with a new offensive line staff and his commitment to former coach Tom Cable.

Huff is the only single deep free safety with considerable experience on the roster and he generally had a solid 2009 season, if not representative of a player taken No. 7 overall in the 2005 draft. Wimbley played as a rush end in nickel situations and as a strong-side linebacker. He had nine sacks, the most since 11 in his rookie year.

TEAM NEEDS

1. Offensive line: Could be a guard, center or tackle. The Raiders will continue a transition to a power blocking team, with only second-year tackle Jared Veldheer an absolute lock to start.

2. Cornerback: Asomugha is scheduled for unrestricted free agency and even with the re-signing of Stanford Routt, there is a need there.

3. Tight end: Hue Jackson likes to use packages with more than one tight end, and after Zach Miller, who may or may not be an unrestricted free agent, only Brandon Myers was on the roster.

MEDICAL WATCH: No updates.

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