The Raiders have entered a new era, and the effort and the culture of the Oakland Raiders is in the beginning to undergo a major change. The team still hasn’t reached the playoffs since 2002 and now its time for Coach Dennis Allen to de-emphasize the stopwatch train of thinking that has previously dominated the Raiders’ drafting strategy.
Under the late owner Al Davis speed was known as obsession, to the point that it had become a joke amongst NFL analysts and scouts. The Raiders now won’t neglect prospects’ 40-yard-dash time this week in the NFL combine. However, looking at speed of a prospect will now be just a portion of their evaluation, and not the entire thing.
This past Friday, Allen was interviewed at the combine and he said a few things that are really important in understanding where he will take the Raiders.
"If you got two guys that when you look at the tape, these guys are about the same football-playing-wise, well let's take the faster guy," "But we're not going to take guys just because they run real fast. Because that doesn't correlate to being a good football player."
Of course all of this doesn’t come easy and in order to fill his roster with good football players, Allen inherited some challenges. Oakland is reportedly $11 million over the salary cap and at this time only have two draft picks a fifth- and sixth-rounder but prior to the draft in April the shall receive several compensatory picks.
By releasing cornerback Stanford Routt a year into his five-year, $54 million contract earlier this month Allen and general manager Reggie McKenzie have already started shaking up the roster. These moves are starting to provide Raider Nation with an optimism that was not there with Al Davis, under whose leadership fan excitement had grown a bit stale.
Great things were said on Friday by Allen including his indication that defensive tackle Richard Seymour is a Raider for the long term-perhaps the rest of his career. But he did leave some questions unanswered for now. In terms of the plans for linebacker Kamerion Wimbley and safety Michael Huff he was evasive. Huff a first round draft pick by the Raiders under Al Davis, has $4 million guaranteed salary in 2012, is due $4 million bonus March 16 by the team. According to Allen if he were to remain on the Raiders he could play cornerback. Wimbley is due $11 million in 2012, and many speculate that he could be the next player on the chopping block.
"Right now, with all those guys, we're looking at all our options and what we have to do from a financial standpoint to make sure we put ourselves in the best position to get the best players out there and be on our final 53-man roster," Allen said. "So between Reggie and myself, we're working through all those scenarios right now."
The future of running back Darren McFadden is less topsy-turvy after he was inactive for more than half of the season due to a Lisfranc foot injury, Allen said that McFadden was in the Bay Area working out last week and that he expects him to be ready for the start of the team's offseason conditioning program, which begins April 2.
The Raiders expect both McFadden and quarterback Carson Palmer to headline the offensive unit under the new look Raiders in the direction of offensive coordinator Greg Knapp, who spent two seasons with the Texans and Al Saunders (who is the now the senior offensive assistant). The two offensive minded coaches will most likely conduct a West coast offense, one in which the quarterback is constantly on the move, and relies on assortment of bootlegs and rollouts.
Palmer won’t find this easy to adapt to, at 32 he is a traditional drop back quarterback that hasn’t played in a West Coast system since his college days in USC, and he has never been known for his athleticism. Dismissing all those concerns Allen has relied on Knapp to work with the nine-year veterans strengths to adapt to the offense to tweak it to suit Palmer well.
As Allen said "We're not going to force-feed something if it doesn't fit what a guy does really well," "... But I do think when you look at Carson Palmer, that he does have the same type of athleticism. He's as athletic as (Texans quarterback) Matt Schaub, who they had in Houston, to really be able to run that same package."
The Raiders are moving in the right direction, led by their new leader, who is looking to bring Oakland back to glory. Raider Nation is ready for the new regime led by Mark Davis, McKenzie and Allen and this is only the beginning going into the combine we already see the culture is changing.