Oakland Preview, Wonder does the AFC East

Levi “Dizzle” Damien of Thoughts from the Dark Side, Bloguin’s Oakland Raiders Site, gives us a preview of the Oakland Raiders.  We answered Dizzle’s questions about the Giants at TFDS, so we recommend you pay a visit over there. 
  
Q1: Is the offense all on Russell?
 
A1: Russell is still slated as the starter.  Either Gradkowski or Frye would be a step up from Russell. Russell has been truly terrible this season and is the main reason this team is 1-3 instead of 2-2. His lack of work ethic and commitment have led to accuracy and timing issues along with a simpleton playbook.

Q2: Jeff Garcia referred to certain players in the lockerroom just cashing a paycheck.  From the outside looking in, it makes sense.  Which players (beyond Russell) is he referring to?
 

A2: I would say honestly that Russell is the only remaining check casher on this team. The other was Terdell Sands and he was cut in the preseason. Others may not be worth their paychecks but they work hard. Of course this is as far as I know. I am sure there are a few isolated incidents with the overall lack of discipline that Al Davis promotes in the Raider lockeroom.
Q3: Where (what units within the offense and defense) are the Raiders most vulnerable?
 
A3: The Offensive line is beat up right now. LG Robert Gallery is missed the most and the running game suffers because of it. RT Cornell Green is now out for a few weeks as well. Green was a weak link before but the Raiders don’t have many better options to replace or they would have before. Chris Morris has been starting at center because Samson Satele was not on picking up the zone blocking scheme the way Cable had hoped. Now the Raiders may be forced to move Morris to left guard, Satele back to center, and Eric Pears to right tackle. Russell and two rookie wide receivers to go along with the injured Oline make the entire offense vulnerable. On the defense, the linebacking corps is most vulnerable.
 
Q4: The Raiders offensive woes are known, but the defense is respectable.  Who should Giants fans be watching beyond Asomugha and Seymour?  How do you beat this defense? 
 
A4: Also keep an eye on DE Greg Ellis who has 4 sacks already this season. The addition of Seymour and Ellis has brought up the play of the interior line so Tommy Kelly and Gerard Warren have been quite good. Kelly led the team in tackles (9 solo, 4 assists) against Houston. The entire starting secondary of Asomugha, Tyvon Branch, Michael Huff, and Chris Johnson have been great this season. Huff has 3 interceptions already this season after only have one interception his entire 3 year career prior to this season. He seems to have figured things out. Branch is a hard hitter who has a nose for the ball. Chris Johnson is a solid shut down style corner that only sees as many passes as he does because Asomugha is the best in the game. However, after those starters, there is quite a drop off.
 
Q5: The Giants lost their Starting Safety to Injured Reserve.  Is there a Safety on the Raiders who is worth trading that Al Davis would (be stupid enough to) let go? Is Al Davis mentally incompetent? 
 
A5: Hiram Eugene was the starting free safety last season but with the surprising emergence of Michael Huff (finally), he only fills in spot duty. Eugene can and has played strong safety because he is as solid a tackler as they come. The backup strong safety is rookie second round pick Michael Mitchell. So Eugene would be the most likely candidate for a trade to a team that is in need of a starter. The Raiders were happy enough with their current rotation of safeties that they let recently signed S Keith Davis go in training camp. 
 
Q6: Final Score?
 
A6: If Eli starts, it will be Giants 34-6.
If Carr starts, it will be Giants 20-13.
Thanks, Dizzle. 

We’ve got Wonder commenting (as only he can) on the AFC East after Q1 of  the season below the page break. 
Send your AFC East (Jets, etc..) people over here and click the “Read more” icon on the right side to continue.
The AFC East is basically comprised of 2 divisions or as I call it, the have and have-nots:
 
The “HAVE-NOTS” :
 
1. The BILLS- #26 in my book… has any more underachieving, yet extraordinarily mediocre coach ever flew “under the radar” for as long as Dick Jauron?
They just don’t get it….ever since Bill Polian left, the front office has NO CLUE…you sign an over-valued, over-paid, under-performing 35-year old diva WR…yet you trade one of the best Left Tackles in football ?? Are you kidding ?? You took a TE and turned him into an all-pro LT capable of protecting your developing (and yes, has talent) QB’s for years to come, and instead shipped his LT to the Eagles for a LATE 1st round draft choice?? and why ?? because you didn’t want to PAY him ??…and while I may be wrong, I doubt that Edwards will ever survive this beating…just ask David Carr…they will have to hand off to Lynch and Jackson 40 times a game just to keep their QB upright…add to it the season-ending injury to talented CB McKelvin (despite the “fumble”) as well as the oft-injured Pods and this will be a LLLLOOOONNNNNGGGGG season for the Bills’ fans….my prediction at year-end:
   a. T.O. will NOT be re-signed;
   b. Jauron will be fired;
   c. 5-6 wins at best
   d. Edwards applies for “risky hazard pay”
At present:
 
Offense: C-….mostly based on the ineffective, inexperienced OL…p.s.- I DO like their 4th round TE Nelson..but he’ll have to block
Defense: C….was not too bad before the injuries began…I’m NOT sold on Maybin….wasn’t before the draft..and not now
Special teams….B…was an “A”, but loss of McK hurts…well-schooled however..and Moorman/Lindell solid
Coaching: D….NOT in control of team OR inspiring…the terms BORING and LOSING MENTALITY go along with Jauron
Momentum: D….the Dolphins ran OVER, AROUND, and THRU them…they are a beaten team only 1/4 of the way in…
Schedule: D…just WHO are they going to beat ??? Cleveland, KC ?? and then who ??
Injuries and Depth…whoa is them….they should shoot for a top draft pick to replace LT Peters….Edwards will “chip in $$$” !!
Wall St. Value: They’re like Randolph and Mortimer Duke at the end of “TRADING PLACES” screaming “SELL, SELL, SELL”
POSITIVES: Whitner, Mitchell,Kelsay,Schobel,Stroud (playing well again) and nice fill in by Ellison on DEF
                   Jackson, a “new” Lynch, a GOOD OFF. PLAN inc. LEE EVANS/parrish/reed may HELP
 
NEGATIVES: simply put, they DON’T know HOW TO WIN…nor am I convinced, they actually care enough to make winning contagious…and it’s REALLY HARD in the NFL to “turn it around”…and I must admit I was wrong, at least until now, about 1 guy I thought could play for the bills- that tall red zone demon James Hardy has not materialized…I’m not sure it’s the system, the QB, the other WRs demanding the ball…but I thought he would be Ok before the draft…oh, well..can’t be perfect !! MUST FIRE COACH, GM in off season…and you know who they SHOULD HIRE, IF he wants the job? Gruden, Cowher, Shanahan with EACH picking their own GM and STAFF…maybe Holmgren…but not sold on him..and a LLLLLLOOOOOOOONGshot: JIM KELLY, MR. BUFFALO BILL HIMSELF!!              
 
2. The slightly better “have-not” MIAMI DOLPHINS!!! come in at #22…do NOT get sucked into the “they were GREAT last weekend” trap…Vegas did and only made the Jets 1-point favorites…Miami has some beef on their lines…not always the best beef, but pretty good…not crazy about their OL…I think it’s improved, but to try to hold off that Jet D coming to rip off that last hanging CHAD, it won’t be pretty…Miami will try to run, and specifically execute the Wildcat ALL GAME….guess what ? IT WON”T WORK !!!! the Jets may play TEN in the box…I seriously doubt this top-rated rushing team can ram it down the Jets…which means: Oops, Chad Henne is FISHBAIT to HARRIS, SCOTT, and PACE with hooks being thrown out to Rhodes, Thomas, Smith, and Leonard…Ellis and Jenkins will control the MIDDLE and Revis shuts down ANY hope of throwing the ball…only hope for MIA is to generate turnovers from the Rookie, the SANCHIZE”…and it CAN HAPPEN…but after last week Rex may have installed the equivalent of a  chastity belt when it comes time for questionable passes…however with his GREAT NEW TOY WR EDWARDS, that will eliminate a whooooolllllllleeeeeeeee ton of INT’s the rest of the year…so I believe Maimi’s year of extraordinary effort leads to a pedestrian 6-7 wins at best..they won the division last year because:
         a. Brady went down week 1
         b..Favre went  down in week 11 and was too “proud” to get his 2-3 week arthroscopic surgery…so instead played Frisbee last 5 weeks….and JETS ALL QUIT at that point; AND
         c.  The fins had a JOKE SCHEDULE…..while jokes on them this year…their sched is BRUTAL:
              tell me : WHICH OF THEIR REMAINING OPPS. will be a VEGAS underdog the rest of the way:
              Jets (twice)…NAH….Pats (twice)..yeah, sure…jags, titans, buff, car, tb on the road? yeah, maybe they win 2-3 of those games and one or two random games they were dogs….all adds up to 6-7 WINS AT BEST…as for the team itself:
 
ranking…slightly worse than “middle of the road”….will stay competitive in SOME games, while getting blown out a LOT…SELL, SELL
expected record: 6-10
Offense: C-…I know it’s tough to give top 1 or 2 rushing teams a C…but running over bills is not like running over Jets, Pats, N.O., etc…they have a (basically) rookie QB and NO GO TO  WR’s…OL ok to run…but Pass blocking may be an issue……they don’t SCARE anyone…and Henne should be looking at 8-9 in the box w/ blitzes the whole year….trouble
Def….B….wellllllll, they’re actually stopping the run…but stats are misleading….if their secondary stinks and you can pass, why bother banging your head against the wall…porter, taylor…WAY OVERRATED/long in the tooth…but they’ll play you tough and won’t quit on Coach Tony…which is why the’ll win more than they should and reach 6-7 wins for the year
special teams: Ginn sometimes good at PR…but NO ONE really scares me…their K and P are just “ok”: c
coaching: B+ …I think sporano will be the ONLY reason this bad group can overachieve and win 6-7 games….maybe !!
Momentum: A- …after whipping Bills….goes back to a C- after MON. night loss to Jets…BADLY
Scheule: F,F,F !!!! other than Bucs, who would you make a CLEAR CUT VICTORY for the fins ?? seriously, WHO ??
 
Prediction for offseason: Parcells maintains STABILITY…they’ll wheel and deal to get OL,DL, LB, help…also a BIG TIME RECEIVER and pass-catching TE you could split out wide makes a lot of sense…lastly, they MUST FIND OUT: IS HENNE AN NFL QB ?? Jets found out Clemens was NOT…so they made bold move to get Sanchez….this year’s crop includes Bradford and McCoy, not to metion others…it’s TIME for Fins to FINALLY find the next Marino…do what the JETS did…which is WHATEVER IT TAKES!
 
The “HAVES” 
3. THE YOUNG-UNS (Jets)…have the gutsiest GM in the league…had MOVED UP to get: Sanchez, Revis, Harris, Greene, and KELLER as well as traded FOR : Jenkins (STEAL), Favre (Limited 1 yr value after injury..sad) LITO (marginal steal), T.Jones (unreal STEAL), and now, best of all Braylon Edwards !!..as for FA: Fanneca, Woody, B. SCOTT, Leonhard, and the BEAST- PACE…re-upped RG MOORE another solid deal…put that alongside an already talented team with a SUPERB xxx’s and ooo’s guy on DEF and a “hey let’s kick some butt and WIN for the coach kind of attitude and you have the makings of a great team in a year or two..you just need to have patience and let the kid develop/mature/learn.
 
Rating..STRONG..BUY…they will go 4-0 next 4 unless Jets lose focus or get “sanchized” beyond any hope..which I don’t think will occur…sanchez has a LOT of poise and moxie talking to media…”it was my fault we lost…I learned from my errors..let’s move on”
The trade for B. EDWARDS makes it EASIER on their O-line…much, much, more cover 2 looks…no more 8-9 in the box…thereby giving Jets’ backs RUNNING ROOM…p.s.- watch for RB GREENE after Nov.29….their O-Line very solid, but OVERRATED and not GREAT at pass blocking….Ferguson is esp. overrated as “premier”LT…heck, I’d take Peters or McNeil RIGHT NOW instead…and would even take young players like Joe Thomas, Clancy, Oher, Otah over D’Brick….Mangold truly great center; Fanneca good, but no longer great; woody getting a little “slow”/long in the tooth against great speed rushers…Moore better than ave. road grader…
 
OFFENSE: B….the ONLY thing keeping this grade from being an “A” is Sanchez…WILL He IMPROVE/LEARN,ETC. with each passing game ??? IF SO, this O MAY be B+ or A- last 1/4 of the year, making this a VERY SCARY TEAM in playoffs..and yes, I used the “p” word..happy now, MANGENIUS ??
 
Defense:  A….just HOW GOOD WILL THIS D BE after Pace comes on Board, and they have a few games under their belt ?? Scott and Harris EASILY/NOT EVEN CLOSE, the BEST pair of ILB’s in the NFL…Rhodes/Leonard ONE of the best safety duos and Eric Smith has been phenomenal so far..very unexpected…in short, this team has NO WEAKNESS ON D…and with Rex being his usual aggressive self, NOTHING TO worry about…just let Revis and Shepard cover the outside…and we’ll take care of the rest !!
 
Special teams: A…Mike Westhoff…need I say more ? ok….Brad Smith, Wallace Wright,and yes, even gholston!! great coverage teams..as for receiving: Leon, Leonard …need I say more ??
 
Coaching: A….Ryan has:
   1. brought an anti-mangini, anti-jauron atmos into the locker room…his Def. game plans and the team’s execution of those plans has been nothing short of phenomenal
   2. has allowed the sanchize to RELAX..which means GROWTH, KNOWLEDGE, AND understanding by the rook !!
   3. made great moves to get sanchez, greene, and edwards….you watch the summer of 2011 and tell me who’s the scariest off…remember, will also have Leon, Keller, and Cotchery….SCARY GOOD
 
Momentum: weird..I actually DON”T think this team will have ANY kind of momentum the whole year…look at week 1…they were road dogs, and cooly destroyed a “playoff type” Texans team behind a first-start rookie…still, no great “positive” mo…week 2…HUGE win over hated Pats…reaction? on to the NEXT game…week 3…beat a desp Titans team…still no let down or “mo”…just football…week 4… HORRIBLE game by Sanchize leads to -14 pts off TO’s and Jets lose by 14…NOW, let’s SEE if they still “just play their game”
 
Schedule: really only 2 “no chance” serious dogs left…at PATS NOV 22…and at COLTS 12/27…only hope for Jets is Cots already clinched ,etc….
 
Injuries/Depth: so far, very few inj…although losing Strickland and Sheppard were HUGE against Saints..except they prob couldn’ help bail out the sanchize…as for depth, they have NONE..so to speak…suppose 1 of these gets injured:
   Sanchez, any interior OL member, D’Brick, Ellis, Pace, Scott, Harris, Revis, Rhodes…so they are THIN…quality..but thin against inj
 
Projection:   10-6 with a  SLIGHT chance to go 11-5 or with miracle and no injury to go 12-4
 
4. Pats (oh, how I despise those successful, superbly-coached PATS)
Pats started slow with no off. rhythym to thier O, not with Welker out..This team will get BETTER, and BETTER, and BETTER each of last 3Q of the season…again, no real discernible weakness in thier squad
even though everyone though Pats STOLE a top 5 draft pick by getting rid of a soon to be 30 yr old superstar DE Seymour, I didn’t think they would lose as much as they have lost….harrison, vrabel, brushi, ALL GONE.. so I guess I’m questioning their DEF at the end of the year….their YOUNG secondary needs to GROW TOGETHER, etc…rating : #4
 
Offense: A….hmmmm, Brady, Moss, Welker …ENOUGH !! they are SCARY and their passing game OPENS the runnning game with Faulk, Maroney, and now, Taylor….
 
Defense…B- This COULD be an A- by year’s end…or a C+..WHO’S GOING TO RUSH THE PASSER ??????
 
Special Teams b+….Gost is a weapon himself…and they DON”T MAKE MISTAKES VERY OFTEN
 
Coaching: Belechick…A- need I add more ?? I think not..!!
Momentum: YES..after beatin Atl and Balt…veteran team..needs it
 
Schedule: A-
 
They have some “mini-tough” games…but ONLY 3 or so “tuff” ones:
    1. at denver
    2. at IND
    3. at NO
 
soooooooo, I see NE winning division at 12-4 or 13-3
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