The Oakland Raiders have undergone extremes on both sides of
the ball the last two seasons when it comes to change.
Last season, the Raiders only returned cornerback Charles Woodson and
defensive end Tony Bryant. Woodson and Bryant also combined to miss 15 regular
Oakland improved steadily after
going through a four-game losing streak. The Raiders gave up an average of 153.4
rushing yards per game in that stretch. Before its Super Bowl loss to Tampa Bay,
the Raiders yielded just 78.4 rushing yards in winning nine of 10 games.
On the flip side this season, the
offense represents the other extreme. Oakland returns all but one starter from
last season with fullback Jon Ritchie having signed with Philadelphia. Well,
potentially two starters if Adam Treu replaces Barret Robbins as the starting
center as the latter tries to come back after his Super Bowl Eve disappearance
and May knee surgery.
While the defense undergoing mass
changes should not be a surprise given the increasing volatility of free agency.
The fact that Oakland was able to keep virtually the entire offensive unit in
tact was somewhat surprising.
When Bill Callahan was named the
replacement to Jon Gruden as the head coach, many assumed the former would be
little more than a caretaker. Instead, Callahan implemented his stamp on the
club with the Raiders developing a potent aerial game.
“I think having veterans allows
you to implement more creativeness in your offense,” Callahan said. “That’s what
we’ve done. It’s exciting for me because we’ve advanced so much in the offseason
and now we’ll advance further. Our volume has always been quite a bit. If you
don’t like football and you don’t like studying, you’re not going to have much
success in this offense. It makes you work at your craft.”
It is also a plus that quarterback Rich
Gannon, who was the NFL MVP, is well-versed in terms of knowing the intricacy of
the offense and defense’s assignments.
“It’s very important,” Starting
right tackle Lincoln Kennedy said of having the group intact. “It’s a tribute to
our success. If we can keep the same guys in tact as much as possible then we’re
putting ourselves in the best possible position.”
Vince D’Adamo can be reached via e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org