While exactly what was going on in the four weeks when Al Davis and Tom Cable met while the Raiders' head coaching future remained unclear (according to the media) or unquestioned (according to the Raiders), it's certain the two men spent a good portion of the time evaluating the team's roster.
It's also fair to say they agreed there's much work to be done, a fact hammered home by Oakland's 5-11 record.
Not all is doom and gloom, however. If there's one thing the 2009 season proved, it's that the Raiders have plenty of talent to compete with some of the top teams in the NFL. They had impressive wins over Cincinnati, Philadelphia, Pittsburgh and a Denver team that was fighting for its playoff life, though the luster of those victories dulled with the inexplicable losses to teams like Kansas City, Washington and Cleveland.
Over the next week, we'll take a brief position-by-position look back on the 2009 season and offer up ideas for what the Raiders need to do to improve in 2010. We'll start below with the offensive skill postitions.
Looking back: No other position defined the Raiders more clearly than at quarterback. JaMarcus Russell, the No. 1 overall pick in the 2006 draft, lost his status as the face of the franchise — and his starting job — and became public enemy No. 1 among most of the Raider Nation. Journeyman Bruce Gradkowski provided a lift to the passing game but ended the season with a pair of injured knees, leaving Charlie Frye and Russell to finish the year.
Our plan: Despite what many people think, the Raiders haven't given up on Russell and are almost guaranteed to have him on the roster in 2010. Yes he's due a hefty roster bonus in March but Davis has never been worried about money so don't expect that to be much of an issue. Management may want to give the young QB a weight requirement to reach a day before that bonus comes due. Keeping Gradkowski would appease the fans — and many players as well — and there's no reason to think he won't be better with another year under his belt. Frye is a favorite of Cable's so that helps his cause, but we'd still like to see the Raiders go after another veteran QB in free agency.
Looking back: Oakland's three-headed attack of Justin Fargas, Darren McFadden and Michael Bush never hit a consistent stride, partly because teams rarely had to worry about the pass. Injuries slowed Fargas and McFadden while Bush had big games, but then would disappear for long stretches.
Looking ahead: Bush's name will probably come up in trade rumors during the offseason and Davis may be more tempted than ever to move him if he can get something worthy in return, like a second- or third-round draft pick. Injuries have robbed Fargas of his speed so expect him to take a reduced role in 2010. As for McFadden, it's paramount the team keep him healthy and find better ways to take advantage of his skills, which so far have been muted in Oakland's offense. That means splitting McFadden out as a receiver or in the slot, putting him in motion, etc. It also means doing a better job with the play-calling. Bush should be the guy running between tackles while McFadden's speed is better suited for sweeps, and off-tackle plays.
Looking back: It was a bittersweet season for the receiving corps. Top pick Darrius Heyward-Bey was a huge disappointment in his rookie season while fourth-round pick Louis Murphy and second-year player Chaz Schilens came up big, though Schilens missed a chunk of the year following a training camp injury. Tight end Zach Miller was his usual self, which resulted in him being named a Pro Bowl alternate, and rookie Brandon Myers also gave the tight ends a big lift.
Our plan: The core group is solid so the Raiders don't have to use a draft pick or worry about chasing down a veteran receiver in free agency. DHB had a free pass all season and was a starter until he got hurt. That has to change. Like JaMarcus Russell at quarterback, if he's not producing he needs to be replaced. Murphy is a keeper who has tremendous upside, as is Schilens. Playing more two tight-end sets isn't a bad idea, either, given the way Myers came on late in the season.
Coming up next: Offensive/Defensive Lines
State of the Raiders: Offense
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