With the start of NFL training camp right around the corner (July 29th for the Raiders), I figured now would be a good time to review what went on with each Bay Area football team this offseason, starting today with the Oakland Raiders.
The Raiders have had a pretty active offseason, as they brought in 14 new players, not including the ones they drafted. However, not all of the adds have been marquee names. The three biggest adds were former Dallas defensive end Greg Ellis, former Niner and recent Buccaneer Jeff Garcia, and former San Diego Charger fullback Lorenzo Neal. Both Ellis and Neal will be counted on to play big roles with the Raiders. Ellis will likely be on the field for all passing situations on defense to take advantage of his premiere pass-rushing skills, but also to ease his work load and keep him from being an every down player at age 34. The Raiders are hoping Lorenzo Neal will come in and provide some of the same type blocking that helped lead LaDanian Tomlinson to all those rushing and touchdown tittles. Last year, in his first full season without having Neal lead the way for him, LT rushed for a career low 1110 yards and had just 11 rushing TD's, his lowest total since his rookie season in 2001. Darren McFadden and Justin Fargas have to be licking their chops at a chance to run behind the big fellow. Not to mention, the improved running game should also help ease the load for JaMarcus Russel.
Another guy the Raiders are hoping will give Russel a ton of help is their top draftee Darrius Heyward-Bey. The speedster from Maryland wasn't the ideal choice at number 7, but he should end up being a pretty exciting player, in some facet. He'll likely be counted on as a slot, or third receiver to start his rookie year, but he could move up the charts quickly, as only Javon Walker and Chaz Shillins are above him on the depth chart. 2nd and 3rd round picks, Safety Michael Mitchell and linebacker Matt Shaughnessy, will also have significant roles on the defensive side of the football for the Silver and Black.
There weren't many players that left the Raiders this offseason. The biggest effect will likely come from the loss of defensive end Kalimba Edwards, who was amongst the team leaders in sacks a year ago. He failed a physical and was dismissed from the team. Ronald Curry, who played 75 games for the Raiders at wide receiver and had a few very solid seasons was also released from the team. The team also suffered a tragic loss this offseason in Marquis Copper, who lost his life with a few other football players in a boating accident back in the early spring.
The Raiders could still make another add or two before the start of training camp, but I wouldn't count on anything significant. They're hoping that they're young players will start gelling and are going to play them this year, rather than trying to plug holes with veterans, and that's a refreshing change for the Raider Nation.