How good were the Oakland Raiders running backs in 2007?

22 04 2008

How much did Fargas contribute to the running game?

Now with less than a week left until the NFL draft, there is going to be serious consideration for all of the top draft prospects. Darren McFadden has already met with the Raiders and many believe he will be drafted by the Silver and Black. One thing that could help determine whether or not he goes to Alameda is how effective or running backs were in 2007.

It should be noted that running back performance is directly related to how the offensive line performs. The folks at FootballOutsiders.com attempted to distinguish the performance of a running back from the performance of the offensive line. The following chart shows some offensive line advanced statistics for the 2007 season. In brief, Adjusted Line Yards separate the performance of the running back from the offensive line by assigning yard values contributed by the offensive line and not the running back. Also, Running back yards are the yards per carry by the team’s running backs. And the 10+ Yards % is the percentage of the team’s running yards that were 10 yards or greater, showing the amount of running plays unaffected by the offensive line. Find out about more Adjusted Line Yards and 10+ Yards % through these links.

Adjusted Line Yards Running Back Yards 10+ Yards %
Oakland Raiders 4.17 4.21 16%
NFL League Average 4.08 4.17 18%

We can deduce several things from this chart. The offensive line was responsible for most of the running backs success, due to the high adjusted line yards figure. Also, the 10+ Yards % was below league average, indicating that our running backs did not break huge runs and relied on the offensive line to do much of the blocking. However, the average yardage for our running back was above league average indicating that our running backs performed very well compared to the rest of the league. Our trio of running backs set the tone for the offense in 2007. In fact the Raiders were sixth in the league in average rushing yards per game. The running backs will only get better in 2008, especially if Michael Bush can emerge. The running backs did rely on the offensive line a lot in order to get their yards, but that does not indicate a lack of talent. It indicates the adeptness of the offensive line in the zone-blocking scheme to open up holes for the backs.

The interesting thing about our offensive line last year, is that is slightly above average in both in run blocking and in pass blocking. And, with Barry Sims gone, the line should look to get even better in 2008. Meanwhile, Robert Gallery has emerged as a mean run blocker at left guard. Our current stable of backs did very well in 2007 with an offensive line that can only get better. The line clearly showed an improvement with coach Tom Cable running the show. The front office also made some interesting signings during the off season such as offensive tackle Kwame Harris formerly of the 49ers. Many have dubbed him a draft bust, but who knows if he can rejuvenate his career in Oakland. There is still a big question at left tackle for the Raiders. If it is not addressed in the draft, then the possible starters will be either Mario Henderson or Kwame Harris.

A brief synopsis of the running backs in 2007:

Lamont Jordan

Lamont’s 2007 season was derailed by injuries. After starting out strong in the first two games of the season, Lamont injured his back and lost the starting job to Justin Fargas. However, with 144 carries he did get a decent amount of rushing attempts for the season. The Raiders will either restructure his contract to retain him for 2008 or will cut him to reduce the impact of his contract. Alternatively, the Raiders could trade him to a team looking for a starting running back for some picks in the NFL Draft.

Dominic Rhodes

Rhodes was suspended for the first four games of the 2007 season, which severely hampered his chances of winning the starting job. He did start the last two games against Jacksonville and San Diego and blew up for 337 yards combined against the two teams. He renegotiated his contract to reduce the financial hit it would make on the Raiders payroll. He seems content with his current situation and will likely challenge Justin Fargas for the starting role in the 2008 season.

Justin Fargas

Fargas started the season as a reserve but was promoted to starter with Lamont Jordan injured and Dominic Rhodes suspended. He showed that he belonged with several strong outings, especially in the two game win streak against Kansas City and Denver. He finished with over 1000 yards rushing for the season and will look to increase that number coming into 2008. He signed a three year extension in the offseason worth up to $14 millon. He looks to be the starter heading into the 2008 season.

Michael Bush

Bush was expected to play during the last half of the season but was kept on the Physically Unable to Perform list because the Raiders did not want to cut a running back and have him sign with a division rival such as Denver or Kansas City. The Raiders would definitely like to see how he performs in a game situation, but for now all he can do is wait till 2008.

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Jake Long or Vernon Gholston to Miami Dolphins?

11 04 2008

Which is the answer to the Dolphins’ woes? (Another classic Ohio State vs Michigan showdown)

Reports have been flying that the Dolphins are in contract negotiations with the agents of Jake Long and Vernon Gholston, either of which they could select with the top pick. This is surprising since many draft pundits had the Dolphins selecting either Matt Ryan or Chris Long with the first overall pick. The Dolphins need both defensive and offensive line help and it looks like Bill Parcells is going to address them in the draft. Remember, the Dolphins have two first round picks since New England lost their own first rounder, the Dolphins second round pick essentially becomes a first round pick. The pick that would make most sense would be Jake Long being the top overall pick. The Dolphins cut a few offensive tackles and he would be able to start at right tackle immediately. Also, Gholston to the Dolphins also makes sense since he would be playing across from Jason Taylor and helping out with the pass rush. The combine really helped increase Gholston’s draft stock and he could go as high as number 1. If one of them is selected, it would definitely change who the Raiders select at number 4. It could mean that the Raiders would have a chance to draft Chris Long. A new revised draft of the first five rounds could look like this:

1st pick- Dolphins select Jake Long

2nd pick- Rams select Vernon Gholston

3rd pick – Falcons select Glenn Dorsey

4th pick- Raiders select CHRIS LONG!

Chris Long would help our beleaguered defensive line with the pass rush. He also does not give up on plays and will chase the running back down. This would be an amazing pick and not even Al Davis could screw this one up. However, if Chris Long is gone and Gholston is still around, I would not hesitate to pull the trigger. Check out this video of Gholston bull-rushing past Jake Long because it certainly makes you think about who should be the first overall pick. Also, if Jake Long is still around, I would just as easily draft him since he has great potential and he displayed some speed in the combine. Size and speed would be great in our current offensive line zone-blocking scheme. I would get Tom Cable’s opinion on this pick, though.





Pick Number 4 Addressing Needs

7 04 2008

The Raiders have the 4th pick in this month’s coming draft and there is still not a consensus choice among Raiders fans. Some say they want to address the defensive line by drafting Glenn Dorsey or Vernon Gholston. Others want to draft McFadden or Jake Long. Where do we really need help?

Needs

Offensive Line

Jake Long                                                            Ryan Clady

This offseason, the Raiders cut last year’s starting left tackle, Barry Sims. This was an interesting move since it alludes to the fact that our offensive line coach, Tom Cable, thinks Mario Henderson is at least as good as Sims. If that is the case then Jamarcus Russell’s blindside could be in a dangerous position. We traded this year’s third rounder for Mario Henderson and he has not accomplished much in his one season with the Raiders. It would seem a little risky to put the livelihood of our future superstar quarterback in the hands of a second year player who failed to supplant anyone on the offensive line last year. It should be noted that we signed tackle Kwame Harris from the 49ers this offseason, but he played primarily at right tackle and did not impress across the bay. Kiffin has mentioned that they have been practicing with Kwame Harris at left tackle, which must mean that he has more mobility than average for a tackle. Ever since last year’s improved offensive line play, I have faith in Kiffin and Tom Cable to fix any problems. Since the Raiders utilize a zone-blocking scheme, the traits we look for in our offensive line differs from traits that might be seen in traditional offensive linemen. For instance, speed and athletic ability are much more valuable than size and bulk for linemen. This scheme decreased the amount of sacks allowed last year and increased the amount of rushing yards. If we were to draft for the offensive line, we would be looking at Jake Long or Ryan Clady. Long not only has size and strength, but he has mobility too. He ran one of the fastest offensive line 40s at the combine. If he is taken, he could probably start at left tackle on opening day or right tackle at the very least. Clady is slightly smaller but he played in a zone blocking scheme during his college years at Boise State. He is quick and has huge potential at left tackle. However, he is not valuable enough to draft him with the number 4 pick. Best case scenario: Either draft Jake Long or trade down and grab more draft picks and take an offensive lineman early.

Defensive LIne

Chris Long                                                                   Sedrick Ellis

The Raiders locked up defensive tackle/end Tommy Kelly this past offseason. He will predictably fill Warren Sapp’s retired presence as a three-technique on the defensive line. Currently, our other starting tackle is Terdell Sands, who played dismally last year right after signing a huge contract. The Raiders were horrible at stopping the run last year and an improvement on the defensive line is the starting point for improving this. Drafting Glenn Dorsey or Sedrick Ellis would improve our sack count and allow our linebackers to make plays on the running back. As is, our defensive line is not adequate since the only change that occurred was the loss of Warren Sapp to retirement. Best case scenario: We draft Sedrick Ellis with number 4 or trade down and hope he falls to us. In terms of our defensive ends, the only presence we have on the pass rush is Derrick Burgess. He had a downer last year, but he looks to bounce back, especially if he gets help opposite from him in the draft. This help could come in the form of Chris Long or Vernon Gholston. Both played defensive end and outside linebacker in college and both are tremendous athletes. Both can get to the quarterback and help stuff runs outside the offensive tackles. Best case scenario: Chris Long amazingly falls to us and we draft him with the 4th pick overall.

Outside LInebacker

Keith Rivers

Kirk Morrison and Thomas Howard can both be future Pro-Bowlers. They are great in coverage and look to improve on run-defense. However, the platoon of Robert Thomas and Sam Williams at outside linebacker is not enough. Neither are sure tacklers and an upgrade is at the bottom of the list of needs but it could still be addressed. Best case scenario: Trade down and draft Keith Rivers in the middle of the first round.

NOT Needs

Darren McFadden

To start with, I should say flat out that we do not need another running back. Last season we we’re among the top in the league in rushing yards even though we had a mediocre offensive line. Not to mention the fact that we have Lamont Jordan, Dominic Rhodes, Justin Fargas and Michael Bush as possible starters. What could Darren McFadden bring to the Raiders in the event that we do draft him? Well, I’m sure by now you’ve seen highlight videos of him at Arkansas running past everyone in the SEC. You may have even seen him throwing a pass or two in their Wildhog formation. Bottom line, McFadden has the ability to break the game open with a huge run. Paired with J-Russell, our quarterback and running back positions would be set for a decade. However, in case some people forgot, we still have a home-run threat in Michael Bush. Look up some videos of him busting out huge plays back at Louisville. We picked him up in the fourth round of the 2007 draft after he broke his tibia early in the college football season. He was projected to be a top ten pick when the 2007 draft came around but he dropped due to his injury. Now he is fully healed and will look to compete for playing time against our other running backs. Dominic Rhodes took a pay cut in order to come back in 2008 which means that Lamont Jordan will be either cut or traded. Hopefully we can get a draft pick for him.

Availability

Who will be available when the Raiders draft at number 4?

Jake Long will be gone to Miami at number 1.

Chris Long will be gone to St. Louis at number 2.

Glenn Dorsey will be gone to Atlanta at number 3.

And with number 4, the Raiders select Sedrick Ellis or Vernon Gholston

Vernon Gholston on the prowl