While many mock drafts have the Raiders selecting a wide receiver with their first-round pick, there's been growing speculation Oakland will use that pick on a defensive lineman. But head coach Tom Cable isn't certain that's the route the franchise needs to take. The Raiders haven't finished better than 22nd against the run since 2002, so it's obvious shoring up that area has to be a key focus if Oakland is to become a playoff contender. Last season the Raiders were 31st out of 32 teams defending the run, allowing 159.7 yards a game on the ground.
Having paid $55 million to defensive tackle Tommy Kelly last offseason, the Raiders expected far more. Because it didn't happen, the general consensus among fans seems to be that Al Davis -- who passed over defensive tackle Glenn Dorsey last year in favor of taking running back Darren McFadden with the fourth overall pick -- should make fixing the run defense a priority in the draft.
Cable, who spoke to reporters earlier this week, wonders if Oakland doesn't already have the pieces in place to get the run defense problems corrected. At the same time, he didn't rule out adding some help through the draft either.
"I think you've got to look at your scheme, you've got to look at how you're coaching it and you've got to look at your players and does the draft help any or all of those," Cable said. "Maybe. Do you have enough to do it with here? Yeah, I think so. We gotta clean some things up how we teach it within the scheme. But certainly you want to add and make your team better every chance you can."
In terms of schemes it will be interesting to see how new defensive coordinator John Marshall differs from departed DC Rob Ryan, whose failure to blitz along with the problems stopping the run were critical factors in Oakland's problems on defense.
It's also clear the Raiders need more from Kelly, Gerard Warren and Terdell Sands. Oakland re-signed William Joseph in the offseason and also added Ryan Boschetti but Davis may still be lured to grab some help in the draft.
The obvious trophy in the draft is Boston College defensive tackle B.J. Raji, a player the Raiders would undoubtedly love to get their hands on but who probably won't be there when Oakland goes on the clock with the seventh pick in the first round.
One player to keep an eye on is San Jose State's Jarron Gilbert. Though he's definitely no sleeper -- some publications have him projected to go in the second round -- Gilbert didn't get a lot of national recognition playing for the Spartans. But he put together a solid senior season and performed very well at the Scouting Combine, and as a result, his stock has risen.
Other possibilities are Missouri's Evander Hood and Auburn's Sen'Derrick Marks but beyond that the pickings slim up.
There's also been some speculation the team might go after a defensive end in the first round considering the Raiders' lack of pass rush the past two seasons but that would seem to be second or third on the list of priorities.
With word that John Madden has retired from broadcasting, the NFL is without one of its most colorful, animated and entertaining characters.
For years Madden has been the voice of the NFL, more or less. Many viewers grew up listening to his analysis every Sunday morning and he was a easily the most recognizable figure in the broadcast booth wherever he went.
Others know Madden from his video game series MaddenFootball.
For me, I remember Madden the coach. Growing up in the Bay Area I was captivated by watching Madden storm up and down the sidelines, his hair in a mess and his arms often flailing about as he screamed at officials.
When he retired from coaching I wondered how the Raiders would go on without him. They did, obviously, but it seemed that none of his successors -- not even two-time Super Bowl winner Tom Flores -- could match up to the standard Madden set.
We'll all miss him now that he's stepping away from television but he deserves it. All legends do.
Interesting to hear Cable say that wide receiver Javon Walker is working out but not with the team. If ever there was a player who needed to attend OTAs to make up for lost time, it's Walker.
Right now he could be spending his afternoons getting timing down with quarterback JaMarcus Russell. That's critical because Walker missed half the season in 2008 and had talked about the importance of getting his timing down with Russell before he got hurt.
In the big scheme of things it probably doesn't mean squat but it would have been a definite step forward if Walker had chosen to work out with his teammates.
Running back Michael Bush's name has been bandied about in trade rumors ever since last season. At one point there was talk of the Raiders shipping him to Cincinnati as part of a deal for disgruntled Bengals wide receiver Chad Ocho Cinco.
But Cable subtly put those rumors to rest when he was asked what Davis meant when he talked about Oakland's need to add more power to zone blocking schemes.
"Michael Bush," Cable said bluntly. "A little stronger, maybe. I don't know. Power to the zone blocking scheme . . . maybe just have a little more consistency, like the Tampa and Houston game there, I'm not sure."
Bush didn't play on offense in the Houston game last year but rushed for a career-high 177 yards and scored two touchdowns in Oakland's season-ending 31-24 win over Tampa Bay.
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