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Sir Winston Churchill


Those Woeful Raidas

Having stitched up my open wounds, here's my updated analysis of the Monday Night Football debacle in Week 1:

1. Is JaMarcus Russell ready to play quarterback in the NFL?

He sat out most of last year in a contract dispute. The former top draft pick has a cannon for an arm, but can he play at this level?

Yes. The 2nd year rookie went 17/26 for 180 yards with 2 TD and no picks. He took what the defense gave him, stayed cool, and demonstrated a strong arm and very accurate passing. He needs to work on his game management and his leadership, but what young QB doesn't?

A solid performance.

2. Can the Raiders run?

One of the few bright spots in the 2007 season was the performance of Justin Fargas, a rare runner who gives his all every down. The draft of Darren McFadden could return the franchise to the Marcus Allen or even Bo Jackson glory days, or spiral back to the Tyrone Wheatley days of disappointment.

Yes. Last year's breakout back Justin Fargas ran 18 times for 97 yards (including a 42-yarder) while rookie Darren McFadden showed promise by carrying 9 times for 46 yards. Moreover, the Raiders running game consistently produced short-yardage 3rd down situations, taking the pressure off of the passing game and JaMarcus Russell.

3. Will the line block?

Poor protection and plenty of penalties has been the standard performance of a woefully-underperforming O-line, typified by former 1st rounder Robert Gallery, who had to move to Guard last year after proving unable to play Tackle in the NFL.

Sometimes. The run blocking was fairly solid, but Russell had to rollout often and managed to sack Russell twice, leading to an early crucial red zone turnover.

4. Can Javon Walker still play the game?

A depleted Raiders receiver corps puts pressure on free agent acquisition Javon Walker, who toyed with retiring before the season began and who famously got mugged in Vegas. Is his head in the game?

Don't know, but sitting out the home opener on Monday night against his old team for a hamstring injury may indicate he retired and didn't bother to tell the coach.

5. How much leg do Shane Lechler and Sebastian Janikowski have left?

We've been blessed with strong-legged kickers to anchor special teams play, but Lechler's old and Janikowski's always been erratic.

Lechler's still the man---51 yard per punt average (the Raiders needed every yard and then some) including a booming 62-yarder. Janikowski didn't get to do much---no field goal attempts, 2 PATs.

6. Will the D show up?

Lots of turmoil due to head coach Lane Kiffin trying to get defensive coordinator Rob Ryan fired after a poor defensive performance in 2007. Al Davis stood by Ryan, causing Kiffin to consider tendering a resignation Davis would have been happy to accept. Will the D avoid the drama and play as a unit? Not likely---kumbaya isn't in the Raiders' vocabulary. Watch Derrick Burgess and Michael Huff---if either just puts in the plays, the D will be awful this year.

Nope. DeAngelo Hall got eaten alive by rookie Eddie Royal. The D got tagged for 142 rushing yards and 41 points, most of which looked easy. The only thing that stopped the Broncos was the SI camera crew at the back of the endzone.

Rob Ryan should have been canned.

7. Is Lane Kiffin a dead man walking?

Al Davis doesn't brook dissent from head coaches, much less young ones who haven't made their NFL bones yet. If the offseason turmoil leads to a poor start, Kiffin may be going elsewhere to get Shanahan-esque revenge on Davis. Art Shell should probably stay close to the phone until November.

Yes. Kiffin probably won't last past Game 3. Davis hates losing to the Broncos, and hates losing to Shanahan at home even worse.

My prediction: Too much turmoil for a return to excellence----4-12 on the year, beginning with an L tomorrow night.




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