The entire time I was writing this column, a little voice in my head was saying, “The Raiders? Really? The Raiders?” It has been that long since the silver and black has been relevant. But credit must be given where credit is due.
There are a few reasons why the Raiders have had success this year. Luckily for Oakland, Jason Campbell is not as fond of cough syrup as the team’s former quarterback JaMarcus Russell. It has to be hard to hit a receiver coming across the middle on a crossing route when you’re a little hungover on sizzurp.
But with the Raiders, it all starts with the front office. It seems the only explanation for Oakland’s success is that Al Davis — who eerily resembles a cross between an orc from “Lord of the Rings” and some sort of sea monster from “Pirates of the Caribbean” — is, in fact, dead. The franchise is finally able to function normally without him.
On a serious note, Davis has made some great personnel decisions as of late, including the acquisition of Campbell and deciding to keep Head Coach Tom Cable while relieving him from play-calling duties. First-year offensive coordinator Hue Jackson has taken over this role, and the normally stagnant and even laughable offense has seen a major boost. Just halfway through the season, the Raiders’ offense is well on pace to pass their offensive production from all of last year in the next few weeks.
It seems a stable quarterback and a little bit of continuity in the coaching staff can go a long way. Take notes, 49ers.
The star of the silver and black has been third-year running back Darren McFadden. If you haven’t seen him play, the dude is amazing and is finally living up to the hype that surrounded him when he left Arkansas. It seems the talent is back, and after two frustrating, injury-plagued seasons (believe me, I would know after owning McFadden in fantasy leagues the past two years) he has finally put it all together.
In addition to boasting some of the best stats in the NFL so far this season, McFadden also boasts one of the bests nicknames in the league: RUN DMC (Get it? He runs. His first name starts with a D. And his last name has the MC… there goes the light bulb for some of you slower ones).
Halfway through the season, the Raiders are currently second in the NFL in rushing, while DMC leads the league in yards per game with 108.1 and in yards after contact with 358 (more than his entire rushing yards total from last season), is fourth in rushing yards at 757 and third in yards per carry at 5.4.
The Raiders have also fought to overcome adversity. The team started off 1-3 before turning their season around and going 4-1. After beating the Chiefs on Sunday, Oakland sits only a half game out of first place in the AFC West.
The team has shifted its philosophy as of late, actually making strategic moves instead of the usual Oakland head-scratchers. Refraining from getting greedy in recent offseason free agency markets, building a good team through the draft and strategic acquisition such as Campbell and veteran defensive end Richard Seymour have paid dividends for the Raiders.
Seymour has been an unbelievable pickup. Earlier this season, it looked like the Patriots’ front office had done it again, when the Raiders seemed destined for a top five pick — a pick that they traded to New England for Seymour. However, that pick is not looking to be as valuable as previously thought. Meanwhile, Seymour has provided leadership and excellent play on the field. The defensive line has been the strength of the Raiders’ defense, which is seventh in overall defense and third in passing defense. Seymour — who has 4.5 sacks and 4 tackles for loss on the year — constantly demands double-teams, which frees up other players.
The bye week actually may be coming at the wrong time for the Raiders, who are riding their first three-game winning streak since their 2002 Super Bowl season. I say the Raiders are for real. Although we shouldn’t get too ahead of ourselves due to their recent success, the silver and black seem destined to challenge the Chiefs and the Chargers (who will make their usual late-season run) for an AFC West division title.
Daily Nexus NFL columnist Ryan Porush sells purple drank by the barrel, and at a very reasonable cost.