Print and Go Back ESPN.com: AFC West [Print without images]

Tuesday, January 18, 2011
Hue Jackson: moving forward

By Bill Williamson
ESPN.com

The following is a look at five foundations new Oakland head coach Hue Jackson can build upon and five areas Oakland needs to improve in if it is going to take the next step and become a playoff team:

Foundations

Points scored: Oakland scored 410 points in 2010, Jackson’s first season as offensive coordinator. It more than doubled its points total from 2009. Jackson’s influence on this unit will only get stronger with him in the big chair.

Darren McFadden: This is a special player. He was terrific in 2010 after a slow two-year start to his career. McFadden is a threat as an inside and outside runner, and he is a weapon as a receiver.

Jacoby Ford: This is one of the most exciting young players in the NFL. I wouldn’t be stunned if Ford catches 70-80 passes in his second NFL season, and his ability as a returner is stunning. I can’t wait to watch him play for a full season.

Special teams: In Ford, punter Shane Lechler, kicker Sebastian Janikowski and snapper Jon Condo, Oakland has a superior group of specialists. These guys help the Raiders win games.

Rookie class: Ford was part of a special group that included linebacker Rolando McClain, defensive lineman Lamarr Houston and left tackle Jared Veldheer. Expect guard Bruce Campbell to get a chance to play at some point. If the Raiders become a playoff regular in the next decade, the 2010 rookie class will be pointed to as the nucleus of the organization.

Needs to improve

Clean up penalties: The Raiders led the NFL in penalties in 2010. They have long had problems with on-field discipline. Jackson has to work on cleaning this area up.

Big plays allowed on defense: The defense has to work on limiting big plays. Oakland’s defense improved in 2010, but it was still exploited by big plays and gave up too many points.

Receiving group: Ford is a bright spot, and young receivers such as Chaz Schilens, Louis Murphy and Darrius Heyward-Bey have a chance to be good. But there are no guarantees any of those players are going to be consistent threats. Oakland needs a veteran presence. Cincinnati’s Chad Ochocinco could be available, and he played for Jackson in the past. He could be a possibility down the road.

More consistency at quarterback: If Jason Campbell can play at a more consistent level under Jackson in his second season in Oakland, the Raiders could be in good shape. Campbell did well at times, but he also struggled for long periods. He will be in Oakland for a complete offseason after being acquired last year during the draft. He needs to take advantage of the extra time with Jackson.

Keep core free agents: Oakland won’t improve if top players like Nnamdi Asomugha, Richard Seymour, Zach Miller, Michael Huff, Robert Gallery and Michael Bush all bolt as free agents. Oakland likely won’t be able to sign all of these guys, but it needs to keep as many as possible.