Getting to Know the Detroit Lions 2011 Opponents: Oakland Raiders
By Zac Snyder
With the NFL draft behind us and a lockout raging on, the opportunities to talk about real football are becoming fewer and fewer. That being the case, I have sought out bloggers that cover teams that the Lions will play in the 2011 season to get a glimpse into what is going on with those teams.
Granted, this exercise presumes that no games will be lost due to the lockout. These Q&As aren’t meant to be any sort of game preview, it is obviously way too early for that. The subject teams may end up looking much different when the Lions play them compared to how they look now, but I anticipate this being a good introduction to each teams’ hopes, fears, needs, expectations, etc.
The Lions will play their third AFC West opponent of the season whent the Oakland Raiders visit the Lions on December 18. I was able to send some questions to Chris Shellcroft, staff writer at Just Blog Baby, and he was kind enough to provide responses. Here we go…
Zac Snyder: What is your take on the Raiders draft? Which pick do you like the most and which do you like the least?
Chris Shellcroft: Considering the state of Oakland’s offensive line I’m not too happy with the draft. Stefan Wisnewski was a great pick and should start from day one. Joe Barksdale is a bit of a dark horse so we’ll have to wait and see how that goes. I feel they could have done more to address the needs in the trenches but Al Davis is banking on Bruce Campbell to take a big step forward in his second year and for Jared Veldheer to continue his improved play after an eye opening rookie campaign.
The pick I liked the least was DeMarcus Van Dyke. No surprise Davis would select the combine’s fastest performer but he was a bit of reach for the third round. DVD looks like he could be a nickle back at best. Time will tell but my gut feeling was they could have used the pick on another O-lineman and still got Van Dyke in the 4th if not in a later round.
The pick I liked best is Taiwan Jones. This is a guy with big play potential every time he touches the rock. Were it not for his grades, Jones would have been at a much bigger program, no disrespect to Eastern Washington who did win a national title. Hue Jackson has got some serious weapons at his disposal and Jones is a guy I’d expect to see used in a variety of ways.
ZS: Do fans believe that the Raiders can still be a championship caliber team with Al Davis in control or has all faith been lost?
CS: As a Raider fan you have to make your peace with Al Davis. His resume dictates that he’s more than earned the benefit of the doubt even when his ego gets in the way of common sense. This team is very much capable of winning another Lombardi. These days NFL teams can go from the bust to boom quickly. One year ago the Raiders looked dead in the water then Davis hires Hue Jackson, trades for Jason Campbell, has a great draft and just like that they’re in the playoff hunt.
While canning Tom Cable came at a bad time there is a lot of support for Coach Jackson after he took a bottom of the barrel offense and made it a top 10 terror almost overnight. What can I say? In Al we trust!
ZS: Which team to you believe will be most likely to be fighting for a playoff spot when the Lions and Raiders meet on December 18?
CS: To be honest I don’t see any reason why both teams won’t be in the playoff hunt. The Raiders have the benefit of playing in a much weaker division than Detroit so Oakland might be in a better place come December. Still, Detroit is a team with real talent and a competent coaching staff. It wouldn’t surprise me if this game is the best of the bunch during the week. Amazing to think Detroit and Oakland could be a marquee matchup but that’s exactly what I expect.
ZS: The AFC West may not be the best division in football but it seems pretty balanced, what do the Raiders need to do to compete?
CS: Last season proved why success in the NFL so tough. The Raiders owned the AFC West going a perfect 6-0 against their rivals. What killed their playoff hopes were some bad losses to teams like Arizona and San Francisco. In order to continue to dominate the AFC West the Raiders need to forget about last season. That was then. The division is truly up for grabs so if Oakland wants to dominate they need to get better play from the O-line, find some impossible way to replace Nnamdi Asomugha (if he leaves) and get more consistent play out of Jason Campbell.
ZS: What are your expectations for the Raiders in 2011?
CS: There is no reason why the Raiders shouldn’t be in the playoffs. To be honest, anything short of playing in January will be viewed as a failure. There is no tomorrow in the NFL and with the way the young talent came on strong combined with the steady plays of the veterans the time is now for the Raiders to reassert themselves as title contenders.
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