AFC West: Robert Gallery

Moore-Streater USA TODAY SportsDenarius Moore (left) and Rod Streater could be the vanguard of a receiving rivalry in Oakland.
One of the bigger issues for the Oakland Raiders in their decadelong malaise has been the inability to develop a dynamic group of receivers.

Oakland, which has not had a winning record since the 2002 season when it went to the Super Bowl, bypassed future superstars Larry Fitzgerald (2004) and Calvin Johnson (2007) high in the draft in favor of busts Robert Gallery and JaMarcus Russell. The Raiders made a blockbuster trade for Randy Moss. He essentially took a two-year vacation when he was in Oakland before re-energizing his career after he was dealt to New England.

Particularly in the past five years, Oakland has drafted a slew of young receivers in hopes of striking it rich. Promising players such as Chaz Schilens, Darrius Heyward-Bey and Louis Murphy have all come and gone without making a major impact.

Although the receivers in Oakland’s current stable are young and, for the most part, unproven, there is hope for a franchise that is perpetually waiting for receivers to reach their potential. The Raiders enter the 2013 season hopeful the wait is nearing its end.

“It’s as green as grass,” Oakland coach Dennis Allen recently said of his group. “But there is all kinds of talent here.”

I asked Allen whether he could see himself waking up one morning in the near future and proclaiming that his group of receivers has finally arrived.

“Absolutely,” Allen said. “It’s coming. We just need the guys to step up.”

Oakland has done a nice job of drafting promising receivers late in the draft or adding them as undrafted free agents. All of the receivers projected to make the Raiders’ 53-man roster have potential to be impact players. But they also have to show they can be consistent threats.

The focal points of Oakland’s receiving group are third-year player Denarius Moore and second-year player Rod Streater. They are expected to be the starters. Moore was a fifth-round pick in 2011, and Streater was an undrafted free agent last year. Although both were training camp stars and have shown glimpses of their potential, neither has proved he is an impact player.

A lot of that has to do with their youth. Moore was a bit inconsistent last year, and he had some hands problems. Streater was incredibly fluid for an undrafted rookie, but, as to be expected, he didn’t always show up. Moore ended up with 51 catches for 741 yards and seven touchdown catches. Streater had 39 catches for 584 yards and three TDs. Oakland is hoping both players will make significant strides in 2013.

“I think we have a chance to be a good group,” Streater said. “There are a lot of good athletes in this group. We all are trying to get better together.”

ESPN analyst Matt Williamson likes the potential of Moore and Streater as a long-term starting tandem.

“I am really high on Moore, but he needs to stay healthy and be more consistent as a route runner,” Williamson said. “[Can he be] a true No. 1? That might be a bit of a stretch, since I rarely throw that term around, but he’s right on that cusp in terms of talent. Streater is a good complement to Moore, as he is bigger and more physical. He’s a possession guy to Moore’s explosiveness.”

Although the Raiders’ receiving success starts with Moore and Streater, the group has more to offer. Jacoby Ford has shown he can be a dynamic No. 3 receiver with explosive big-play ability. But he has had trouble staying healthy. He missed nearly the past season and a half with foot problems.

Juron Criner, a fifth-round pick last year, impressed on a daily basis last summer with one phenomenal catch after another. Yet he was pretty quiet in the regular season. Oakland added two more prospects this year with seventh-round pick Brice Butler and undrafted rookie Conner Vernon. Vernon is a prototype slot receiver who looked good in the offseason camps.

All of these players will have the time to develop together and show they belong on their own merits. New quarterback Matt Flynn thinks positive results are possible this season.

“We have some weapons on this offense that I think we can really take advantage of this season,” Flynn said.

Raiders score three comp picks

March, 26, 2012
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The Oakland Raiders received three badly needed compensatory draft picks.

While these picks are far from ensuring the team they are going to get contributors, it does help salvage a weak class. Oakland received picks in the third, fourth and fifth rounds in next month’s draft. Oakland has the first comp pick in the third (No. 95) and fifth (No. 168) and the second comp pick of the fourth round (129). The comp picks will be added at the end of the third-through-seventh rounds. Comp picks cannot be traded.

The picks more than doubled Oakland’s draft class. Oakland has its own picks in the fifth and sixth rounds. It’s certainly not ideal that Oakland has to wait until the 95th pick to join the draft and having two picks in the first 129 picks is a tough road, but the Raiders’ draft is in better shape than it was going into Monday.

Under the rules for compensatory draft selections, a team losing more or better compensatory free agents than it acquires in the previous year are eligible to receive compensatory draft picks.

In 2011, Oakland lost free agents Nnamdi Asomugha, Robert Gallery, Bruce Gradkowski, Zach Miller and Thomas Howard and signed Kevin Boss and Stephon Heyer. Teams do not get credit for comp pick consideration for cutting players.

San Diego will receive a comp pick in the seventh round (No. 248) even though it did suffer a net loss of compensatory free agents last year. Under the league’s formula, the compensatory free agents lost by San Diego were ranked lower than the ones they signed (by a specified point differential based upon salary and performance). San Diego lost Darren Sproles and Kevin Burnett, while it signed Takeo Spikes and Travis LaBoy.

In total, 15 teams received a total of 32 picks.
As the Denver Broncos continues to wait for Peyton Manning to decide if he will sign with the team, they may have seen the door close on a potential trade partner for Tim Tebow.

The Jacksonville Jaguars signed former Miami Dolphins quarterback Chad Henne to back up 2010 No. 10 overall pick Blaine Gabbert. Tebow is from Jacksonville and the team’s new owner, Shahid Khan, has said he would have drafted Tebow in 2010 had he owned the team.

The Jaguars may not have any room for Tebow now. It would be surprise if there was much interest in him on the trade market elsewhere around the league. If Manning does sign, Tebow may have to be kept to season behind Manning.

In other AFC West news:

Oakland linebacker Kamerion Wimbley has yet to hear from the Raiders. More than $17 million in salary and bonuses will kick in by the weekend if the Raiders don’t cut or restructure the deal. Odds are Wimbley will be cut, because there has been no communication. Wimbley is open to doing a new deal, but is not taking a pay cut.

Maybe the Raiders are resigned to keeping the strong pass-rusher, since they won’t get better by cutting him. Again, the odds are Wimbley will be cut, but Oakland’s silence makes one wonder what its plans are.

The agent for former Oakland guard Robert Gallery said the Seahawks will cut him. San Diego could be a possible destination if the Chargers want a veteran left guard and he conceivably could go back to Oakland if the Raiders want to move Stefen Wisniewski to center. Both teams could do a lot worse.

AFC West mailbag

January, 7, 2012
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Weekend mail call:

Tommy from San Diego wants to know if I think Philip Rivers will have a bounce-back year in 2012.

Bill Williamson: I would think so. Rivers just turned 30 and he is still in the prime of his career. He finished the season fairly strong. As long as the offensive line is competitive and the Chargers make some upgrades on offense, Rivers should be fine no matter whom his coach is.


Joe from St. Louis wants to know if I think the Chiefs will add a running back in the offseason.

BW: The talk is that Kansas City will add a bigger back to complement Jamaal Charles. Thomas Jones is not expected to be back. The Chiefs could add the back through free agency or in the draft. Charles is still the guy, but the Chiefs want to bring in a pounder to help.


AJ Prine from Victorville, Ca. wants to know what type of compensatory picks Oakland will get after the free-agent losses of Nnamdi Asomugha, Robert Gallery and Zack Miller.

BW: Compensatory picks are awarded on a complicated formula that puts several things into account. I think the Raiders, and this is just an educated guess, will get two third-round picks. The comp picks will be announced in March.

Raiders stocked with top-10 picks

October, 21, 2011
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The Raiders have added to an impressive collection in the past nine days.

What do linebacker Aaron Curry and quarterback Carson Palmer have in common, other than being recent trade acquisitions by Oakland? They were both top-10 draft picks.

The Raiders now have eight players on their 53-man roster who were top-10 picks. According to Elias Sports Bureau, it is the second most in the league. The 49ers have nine. Kansas City is tied for the fourth most with four.

Palmer was the No. 1 overall pick by Cincinnati in 2003. Curry was the No. 4 pick by Seattle in 2009.

They join linebacker Rolando McClain (No. 9, 2010), receiver Darrius Heyward-Bey (No. 7, 20009), running back Darren McFadden (No. 4, 2008), safety Michael Huff (No. 7, 2006), defensive tackle John Henderson (No. 9, 2002 by Jacksonville) and Richard Seymour (No. 6, 2001 by New England).

Oakland saw quarterback JaMarcus Russell (No. 1, 2007) and guard Robert Gallery (No. 2, 2004) leave the team in the past year.

It is clear, though; the Raiders are turning their fortunes around with a roster built on top collegiate talent.

A look at Raiders' 2012 draft

October, 18, 2011
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Thanks to ESPN Stats & Information for putting together this nice chart on the Raiders 2012 draft picks:

Oakland Raiders 2012 draft picks:

1st round: Traded to Bengals for Carson Palmer

2nd round: Traded to Patriots for 2011 3rd- and 4th-rd picks

3rd round: Exercised in 2011 supplemental draft (Terrelle Pryor)

4th round: Traded to Redskins for Jason Campbell

5th round: Still own pick

6th round: Still own pick

7th round: Traded to Seahawks for Aaron Curry

Of course, the Raiders should get some relief. They are expected to be assigned two or three comp picks next spring. They will receive picks for the free-agent losses of players such as Nnamdi Asomugha, Zach Miller and Robert Gallery. The comp-pick process is a complicated formula based on play time and performance.

Still, it wouldn't be a shock if the Raiders get the top comp pick of the 20012 draft. That would be No. 97, at the end of the third round.

Meanwhile, Oakland coach Hue Jackson wouldn’t say Tuesday if Palmer will play Sunday against Kansas City. I’m sure it will depend on whether Palmer shows anything in practice, doesn’t have rust and if he knows the playbook enough.

Also, Jackson said he is behind Davis’ son, Mark Davis, and CEO Amy Trask the Raiders post Al Davis list of hierarchy list. Still, he appears to be the highest-ranking football man and he clearly has a lot of say in football decisions.

Meanwhile, the Raiders made another roster move besides acquiring Palmer on Tuesday.
The Oakland Raiders made their first move in the post-Al Davis universe and it was a very-Davis like move.

Oakland acquired Aaron Curry from Seattle. The linebacker was the No. 4 overall pick in the 2009 draft. He lost his starting job this season to a rookie, K.J. Wright.

Davis made a career of resurrecting the careers of former first-round picks. Curry has a chance to help Oakland at linebacker. He is known as an over-the-tight-end, strongside linebacker. He could compete with Quentin Groves at weakside linebacker.

The Raiders gave up two picks for him. Seattle will receive a seventh-round pick in 2012 and a mid-round conditional pick (fourth or fifth round) in 2013 based on Curry's playing time with Oakland, a source told ESPN senior NFL analyst Chris Mortensen.

The Raiders don’t have second-, third-, fourth- or seventh-round picks in 2012. They should get compensatory picks for the losses of Nnamdi Asomugha, Zach Miller and Robert Gallery. The highest compensatory picks come at the end of the third round. The Raiders will be informed of what their compensatory picks are in the spring.

Reunion night in Seattle

September, 2, 2011
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Friday night, new Oakland head coach Hue Jackson and former Oakland coach Tom Cable will likely talk (postgame handshake is the likely venue) for the first time since the Raiders didn't extend Cable’s contract (nice, way of saying you’re fired) and promoted Jackson from offensive coordinator. Cable is now Seattle’s offensive line coach

Jackson indicated that there is no bad blood, but the lack of communication is just part of the process. There will be a few familiar faces for the Raiders in this game. Cable helped lure free agents Zach Miller and Robert Gallery to Seattle this summer.

In other AFC West nuggets:
  • With backup cornerback Syd'Quan Thompson out for the season with a torn Achilles, watch for Denver to scour the waiver wire closely for cornerbacks. It was already an area the team was thin at.
  • Denver quarterback Kyle Orton (sort of) addresses if he could welcome a contract extension in Denver in an interview with a Denver radio station. He is a free agent after the season.
  • San Diego receiver/returner Bryan Walters has an “outstanding” chance of making the 53-man roster.
  • The Chargers will get somewhat of an advantage by not having to face Minnesota star defensive tackle Kevin Williams in Week 1. Williams was suspended by the NFL for two games as part of the StarCaps saga.

Late-summer AFC West checkpoint

August, 26, 2011
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This unusual NFL season is about to start in two weeks. A lot has happened in the month since the lockout has been lifted. With the signing period and training camps over, let’s take a checkpoint look at each AFC West team:

Denver

Key pickups: Running back Willis McGahee, defensive tackle Ty Warren (he could be out for the year with a triceps injury), defensive tackle Brodrick Bunkley, defensive end Derrick Harvey, tight end Daniel Fells.

Key losses: Offensive tackle Ryan Harris.

Story of camp: There has been quarterback news nearly at a daily clip. The fallout is this: Kyle Orton is the starter, Brady Quinn looks like he has the edge to be the backup and second-year quarterback Tim Tebow is currently the third-stringer after a less-than-spectacular training camp. Don’t expect Denver to trade or cut Tebow. He should be in Denver this year, but perhaps being nothing more than a special-package player. Give credit to both Orton (who was nearly dealt to Miami in the days right after the lockout ended) and to Quinn. Both have played well during the tumultuous time at the position.

Keep an eye on: Denver’s defense. The Broncos took a hit with Warren’s injury. He was the team’s big-ticket pickup and he was signed to give stability at the team’s weakest area. But the Broncos seem to have made some strides on defense this summer. The unit, which was No. 32 in the NFL last year, seems more aggressive and it has some playmakers. Pass-rushers Elvis Dumervil (back from missing all of last season with a pectoral injury) and No. 2 overall pick Von Miller look like they could give this unit life. It's clear new head coach John Fox has already positively impacted this unit.

Scouts Inc.'s Matt Williamson's view: "Denver may be better than people realize. I don’t love the offense, but it will be OK. Defensively, I think they will be much better. I think the front office had a promising offseason as they rebuild.”

Kansas City

Key pickups: Receiver Steve Breaston, defensive tackle Kelly Gregg, fullback Le'Ron McClain, offensive tackle Jared Gaither, linebacker Brandon Siler (he is out for season with a torn Achilles).

Key losses: Defensive linemen Ron Edwards and Shaun Smith

Story of camp: The defending AFC West champions had a nice, quiet, productive camp -- until the final days of it. The Chiefs built great momentum after adding several key veterans to an already-impressive roster. The only controversy was whether or not coach Todd Haley was taking a chance by taking camp slowly as a precaution because of missed time during the offseason due to the lockout. Then, the bombshell hit. It was reported that first-round pick Jon Baldwin and veteran running Thomas Jones had a locker room fight. Baldwin hurt his hand as a result and he is expected to miss the rest of the preseason. The Chiefs aren’t talking about it, but it is a strike against Baldwin, who had character concerns at Pitt. The Chiefs took Baldwin to help them win right away. This event isn’t a devastating blow, but it has to raise concerns.

Keep an eye on: Of all of the Chiefs’ moves, the signing of Gaither may be the most intriguing -- and the most promising if he can stay healthy. Before he missed all of last season with a back injury, Gaither was considered one of the better young left tackles in the NFL. Assuming he can play, Gaither could play either left tackle or right tackle. If he plays left tackle, Branden Albert would move to right tackle. He could further solidify a good line.

Scouts Inc.'s Matt Williamson's view: “I think Kansas City is the second-best team in the division. Give the Chiefs credit. They have surrounded Matt Cassel with every possible weapon to help make him successful. They are also solid on defense. I just don’t think they are as good as the Chargers.”

Oakland

Key pickups: Tight end Kevin Boss, quarterback Trent Edwards, quarterback Terrelle Pryor

Key losses: Cornerback Nnamdi Asomugha, tight end Zach Miller, guard Robert Gallery

Story of camp: The Raiders lost some big names and they added some big names as they began the Hue Jackson era. However, a late-round pick from Tennessee stole the show in camp. It has been all about receiver Denarius Moore. He made headlines virtually every day in camp with one spectacular catch after another. Most importantly, he has played well in preseason games and he looks polished. Expect the Raiders to give this kid a chance to contribute right away once the regular season starts.

Keep an eye on: The Raiders’ health has been an issue all camp. Several players have missed serious time. Thus far, though, it doesn’t look like many key players will miss time in the regular season other than receiver Louis Murphy, who had surgery on an undisclosed injury, and young linebacker Travis Goethel is likely out for the year with a knee injury. The team said he won’t play at Denver on Sept. 12, but it hasn’t said how long he will be out. Other players such as Boss, receiver Chaz Schilens and cornerback Chris Johnson all could be back for the opener, which is part of an ESPN “Monday Night Football” doubleheader. Thus far, most of the injuries have been nagging and fairly minor. But sometimes the injury bug hits a team and doesn’t stop all season. For now, this is mostly a preseason nuisance.

Scouts Inc.'s Matt Williamson's view: "There are things I like. I love the front seven. I love Darren McFadden. But Jason Campbell is an average quarterback on a good day and the offensive line is in flux. Overall, inconsistencies make this the third best team in the division.”

San Diego

Key pickups: Linebacker Takeo Spikes, safety Bob Sanders, pass-rusher Travis LaBoy

Key losses: Running back Darren Sproles, linebacker Kevin Burnett, receiver Legedu Naanee.

Story of camp: I didn't sense this team scrambling to make up for lost time following the lockout. For the most part, the key components of this team are in place and several players worked out together locally during the length of the lockout. The Chargers had seemingly a zillion free agents and they kept the players they wanted. So, it has been a smooth camp in San Diego as continuity has been the key.

Keep an eye on: A lot has been made of the arrival of Spikes and Sanders to the No. 1-ranked defense in the NFL. But don’t discount impact of No. 18 overall pick Corey Liuget. The Illinois product has been outstanding. He has taken over the preseason games at times. He is an explosive defensive end who quickly gets into the backfield. The game doesn’t seem too big for Liuget. Expect him to be an instant starter and have a chance to be a premier player early in his career.

Scouts Inc.'s Matt Williamson's view: “I think San Diego is clearly the class of the division. I don’t think people are paying enough attention to this team. I love the offense. Philip Rivers is good as it gets. He has great weapons. Defensively, this team has added playmakers at every level. If the special teams can improve even marginally, they are going to win a lot more games. This could be the year. I think they are a sleeper team that could win it all.”

Terrelle Pryor likely will not help the Oakland Raiders in 2011.

He is getting a late start and he will serve a five-game suspension at the start of the season. For a player who is already considered a project, his rookie season will likely be lost.

The real question is will the former Ohio State quarterback be worth the risk Oakland took by using its 2012 third-round draft pick on him in Monday's supplemental draft?

Let’s get this out of the way right now: Taking Pryor with a third-round pick is too high. It just is. He is not a polished player. He needs a lot of work. There’s even a chance Oakland could eventually move him to receiver, so there is no clear path for him.

But the allure is that Pryor is supremely athletic. He ran a 4.41 40-yard dash at his pro day on Saturday. At 6-foot-6 and 240 pounds, that is stunningly fast. But Pryor (who’ll likely sign a four-year deal worth around $2.34 million with about $600,000 in bonus money, according to the rookie-pool scale) is raw. With his size, speed and arm strength, Pryor is certainly worth trying to develop, even though there are major concerns about his game.

In the end, the Raiders’ decision to take him was predictable. The Raiders always take speed players. That’s why Darrius Heyward-Bey was taken with the No. 7 overall pick in 2009 despite questions about his hands and readiness. That’s why cornerback DeMarcus Van Dyke was taken in the third round in April despite the fact he wasn’t a full-time starter in college. That’s why running back Taiwan Jones was taken in the fourth round this year despite the fact he came from a small school and he has durability concerns. I'm not saying all of these choices were bad, but they fit the Raiders' profile just like Monday's choice of Pryor does.

Speed rules owner Al Davis’ world. Now he has another speed demon with legitimate football questions in Pryor.

I think what sealed Oakland’s decision to take Pryor was the fact that it will get some compensatory draft picks in 2012 because of the departures of Nnamdi Asomugha, Zach Miller and Robert Gallery in free agency. The comp-pick process is complicated, and Oakland may get just two picks. But I could see it getting two picks at the end of the third round. The comp picks will not be awarded until next offseason.

Oakland will need those choices. It doesn’t have as second-, third- or fourth-round pick now. This is not a team without needs. Taking Pryor could compromise future movements.

But, in the best-case scenario, the Raiders get a solid, young quarterback they can develop. Starter Jason Campbell is not under contract after this season. It’s smart that the Raiders have a youngster to develop.

It will be interesting to see how Oakland addresses its quarterback situation once Pryor’s suspension is over. Trent Edwards and Kyle Boller back up Campbell. Will Oakland carry four quarterbacks on the 53-man roster for much of the season?

We’ll see. That is the only short-term concern about this selection. Taking Pryor is all about the future.
Now that receiver Malcom Floyd has re-signed with the San Diego Chargers, there is one remaining player unsigned on our list of top 10 unrestricted free agents that we posted July 20. Let’s review all the moving and shaking:

1. Nnamdi Asomugha, cornerback, Oakland

Status: Signed. Team: Philadelphia.

Comment: Asomugha was the big prize on the market and he waited three days before joining the “Dream Team” after shunning several other offers.

2. Zach Miller, tight end, Oakland

Status: Signed. Team: Seattle.

Comment: Miller shocked the Raiders by going to Seattle for a big deal. The Raiders were all but certain Miller would return.

3. Eric Weddle, safety, San Diego

Status: Signed. Team: San Diego.

Comment: The Chargers gave the play-making Weddle a whopping $40 million deal to keep him home.

4. Malcom Floyd, receiver, San Diego

Status: Signed. Team: San Diego.

Comment: There was a soft market and the Chargers were surprised and thrilled to keep Floyd.

5. Darren Sproles, running back/returner, San Diego

Status: Signed. Team: New Orleans.

Comment: Sproles will replace Reggie Bush in New Orleans. San Diego was resigned to lose him.

6. Michael Huff, safety, Oakland.

Status: Signed. Team: Oakland.

Comment: The Raiders paid handsomely to keep the safety.

7. Kevin Burnett, linebacker, San Diego

Status: Signed. Team: Miami.

Comment: The Dolphins gave Burnett much more than the Chargers were willing to give.

8. Stephen Cooper, linebacker, San Diego

Status: Unsigned.

Comment: There hasn’t been much interest in him. The Chargers haven’t shown much interest in bringing him back.

9. Jeromey Clary, tackle, San Diego

Status: Signed. Team: San Diego.

Comment: Clary is another key player who the Chargers managed to keep.

10. Robert Gallery, guard, Oakland

Status: Signed. Team: Seattle.

Comment: Gallery reunites with former Oakland head coach Tom Cable.

Camp Confidential: Raiders

August, 5, 2011
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NAPA, Calif. -- Hue Jackson doesn’t do anything slow.

He talks fast. He walks fast, and he coaches fast.

The Tom Cable put-your-toe-in-the-water-start-of-training-camp days are over.

There was no warm-up period to Camp Jackson. In his first camp as a head coach on any level, Jackson has not wasted any time. His team has been flying around the field and playing to the whistle on every play since the moment it stepped onto the pristine practice field in Wine Country last week.

Cable believed in getting into the groove of training camp slowly by holding glorified walk-through practices for the first few days while stressing the importance of the classroom. Jackson believes in teaching on the go.

Jackson sees a talented team in front of him, but he also sees a team that needs to block better on offense and tackle better on defense. It’s all about finishing plays on both sides the ball. If you don’t start, you can’t finish.

“It’s a fast game,” Jackson said. “We have to move fast. At all times.”

When they can catch their breath, Jackson's players can see the difference.

"This is totally different, totally different from last year," defensive tackle Tommy Kelly told reporters early in camp. "I mean, he made that plain and clear in the meetings when he was talking about what we had to do. … [Cable] wanted us to learn the stuff. But Hue ain't worrying about that. He just wants to go hard as you can. If you fall out, we'll put somebody else in there."

There is urgency in Oakland. The Raiders teased their fans with an 8-8 record in 2010 -- highlighted by an AFC West 6-0 sweep -- ending an NFL record of seven straight seasons of 11 losses of more. This young team has a chance to continue to improve. Jackson isn’t going to sit around and wait for it to happen.

“We got to go now,” Jackson said. “I talk to them every night about that.”

[+] EnlargeNnamdi Asomugha
Mark J. Rebilas/US PresswireThe Raiders will look to Chris Johnson and a host of young players to replace Nnamdi Asomugha.
THREE HOT ISSUES

1. How to replace Asomugha and Miller? The Raiders have to spend training camp trying to figure out how to replace two of their best players. Not many teams are dealing with that this summer. But the departures of star cornerback Nnamdi Asomugha to Philadelphia and tight end Zach Miller to Seattle create holes for the Raiders.

The Raiders gave Stanford Routt, formerly a part-time starter, No. 1 cornerback money in the offseason and expect him to take over for Asomugha. Oakland has reportedly toyed with signing another cornerback. But for now, veteran Chris Johnson and a host of young players, including draft picks DeMarcus Van Dyke and Chimdi Chekwa (who is currently injured), will be in charge of replacing Asomugha, who is arguably the best cornerback in the NFL. Safety Michael Huff, who just re-signed with the team, could also play cornerback in some situations.

The Raiders probably need to bring in a veteran receiver or a tight end. Right now, their starting tight end is Brandon Myers, who has 16 career catches. Miller was quarterback Jason Campbell’s favorite target, and he led the Raiders in receiving in 2010. He made the passing game go. A replacement must be established in camp. (Update: The Raiders added former Giants tight end Kevin Boss Friday.)

2. Is the offensive line ready? This has long been Oakland’s weakest spot, and Jackson vowed earlier this year to improve it. Finding a suitable unit will be a top goal in training camp. The team drafted Stefen Wisniewski in the second round, and he will start at center. Joe Barksdale was drafted in the third round, and he could battle Khalif Barnes at right tackle if he has a good camp. If second-year guy Bruce Campbell gets healthy quickly, he could make a push at guard, where the Raiders lost longtime starter Robert Gallery in free agency. The team wanted to sign left tackle Jared Gaither, but he is still dealing with back issues. This unit remains a work in progress.

3. Is Campbell ready to be consistent? This is Jason Campbell’s second season in Jackson’s system, and he is expected to make strides. He must show consistency in camp, and he must continue to grasp Jackson’s offense. He started slowly last season and was replaced. But he finished strong. Jackson is a believer in Campbell. Campbell needs to continue to build chemistry with his receivers and entrench himself as the leader of this offense.

CLEAN UP THE MESS

The Raiders have long been one of the most penalized teams in the NFL. It goes back to their golden era. Whether it is a cheap hit or a false start, the yellow flag is a familiar sight for the Silver and Black.

Jackson wants to end that part of Raiders lore.

The Raiders were ranked first in the NFL last season in accepted penalties with 604. It seems penalties have been overlooked in Oakland because it’s long been an issue. Jackson said he thinks that is nonsense. Playing clean football is an emphasis of this camp.

[+] EnlargeRaiders coach Hue Jackson
Kirby Lee/US PRESSWIREWhat does coach Hue Jackson think of the Raiders' penalty problems? "It's embarrassing. ... You can't win if you keep going backward," he says. "I've told the team it's got to stop. It's not cool at all."
“It’s over,” Jackson said. “It’s embarrassing. ... You can’t win if you keep going backward. I’ve told the team it’s got to stop. It’s not cool at all.”

DEFENSE STARTS UP FRONT

While the offensive line is still in flux, the Raiders are set on the defensive line. This camp is about establishing dominance for the group. If the Oakland defense improves despite Asomugha’s departure, the front four will be responsible.

There are several excellent pieces on the unit. It all starts with defensive tackle Richard Seymour. A likely future member of the Hall of Fame, Seymour is the best player on the team and the leader of his unit. Add Kelly, polished second-year player Lamarr Houston and run-stuffer John Henderson, and the Raiders are primed to dominate teams up front. Pass-rushers Matt Shaughnessy and Trevor Scott (if healthy) give this unit an important dimension.

OBSERVATION DECK

  • Jackson has often lauded second-year linebacker Rolando McClain during camp. He said he thinks McClain has developed in the offseason, and McClain is expected to be a stalwart.
  • Running back Darren McFadden was spectacular during camp before he suffered a broken orbital bone. He is expected to miss two weeks. The Raiders expect him to make a serious Pro Bowl push. He and restricted free agent Michael Bush should be a good tandem again.
  • Second-year linebacker Travis Goethel could potentially push Quentin Groves at weakside, or Oakland could look for an upgrade elsewhere.
  • The team is excited about fifth-round receiver Denarius Moore. He is polished and very fast and has a chance to contribute. It will be interesting to see him in the preseason.
  • Seventh-round pick David Ausberry looks good as he makes the transition from receiver. He’s a project, but he has excellent size and speed.
  • Fourth-year receiver Chaz Schilens is finally healthy, and the Raiders think he can live up to his potential. But his health is the key.
  • Kelly looks tremendous. He is in great shape and looks primed to build upon his strong season.
  • Trent Edwards will be given every opportunity to beat out Kyle Boller as Jason Campbell’s backup.
  • Jackson said he thinks the Raiders fourth-round pick, speedster running back Taiwan Jones, could make his mark this season. It will be fun to watch him in the preseason.
Zach MillerMark J. Rebilas/US PresswireThe Raiders said goodbye to another star on Tuesday, losing tight end Zach Miller to Seattle.
The 2011 Oakland Raiders season is not over before it started, but there is no denying the team’s outlook is a lot less hopeful than it was the day the lockout ended.

Arguably no other team has suffered as many high-profile hits in free agency as the Raiders, who raised expectations with an encouraging 8-8 record in 2010. On Tuesday, four days after superstar cornerback Nnamdi Asomugha departed to Philadelphia in unrestricted free agency, Pro Bowl (and potential top-five) tight end Zach Miller has bailed. He agreed to terms with Seattle on Tuesday. In my opinion, the Raiders lost their best and fourth-best players -- for nothing other than a couple of likely 2012 third-round compensatory picks.

That doesn’t help Hue Jackson’s first team in Oakland, though.

While Asomugha is a better player, the loss of Miller (who joins former Oakland coach Tom Cable and former Oakland guard Robert Gallery in Seattle) might sting Oakland more. The Raiders were essentially resigned all offseason to losing Asomugha because of his huge price tag. But Miller, who appeared to be Oakland’s next great tight end, was the team’s top free-agency target and the Raiders had been trying to lock him up since before the lockout. It had long been assumed that Miller would return to the Raiders, who picked him in the second round in 2007. On Sunday, Jackson indicated the deal was close to being done.

Miller received curiously little interest on the open market in the first few days of free agency. The way I understand it, after the dust of the initial free-agency period settled, the Seahawks looked at the market and couldn’t believe a player of Miller’s ability was still available and decided to take a hard run at him. The Raiders likely couldn’t keep up financially because of salary-cap issues. ESPN’s Adam Schefter is reporting Miller's agreement with Seattle is for five years and $34 million with $17 million in guaranteed money.

Zach Miller
Cary Edmondson/US PresswireZach Miller made 226 catches for 2,712 yards and 12 touchdowns in four seasons with the Raiders.
Oakland gave franchised player Kamerion Wimbley a five-year, $43 million deal with a reported $29 million in guarantees (I hear much of that money is actually tied into roster bonuses) on Monday in an attempt to clear cap room to sign Miller. According to a source, the Wimbley deal was expected to clear about $8 million. ESPN’s John Clayton reported Tuesday that the Raiders were $17.3 million over the cap before the Wimbley deal. So, the Raiders were likely limited and Miller jumped at Seattle’s offer.

The Raiders gambled and thought Miller would be a restricted free agent, but the new CBA made players with four years of experience unrestricted free agents, not restricted. One has to wonder whether the Raiders would have been better off to secure Miller with the franchise tag in February and work out a deal with Wimbley later. I know pass-rushers are valued more than tight ends, but Miller is a special player.

He made the Raiders’ passing offense go. He might not be as talented as running back Darren McFadden, but he was as important to Oakland’s offense as McFadden.

“It’s brutal,” Matt Williamson of Scouts Inc. said of Miller’s departure to Seattle. “He was the only thing [receiver-wise] that Oakland could count on. ... He is exceptional in the passing game and is probably only getting better.”

Miller helped the No. 2 run offense in the NFL by being Oakland’s most reliable receiver and quarterback Jason Campbell’s favorite target. The sure-handed Miller had a team-high 60 catches for 685 yards last season. When Campbell was in trouble, often he would find Miller, who came down with one chain-moving catch after another.

When speaking to Campbell on Monday, I could tell how much he wanted Miller back. Miller’s departure puts immense pressure on Oakland’s young receivers. Someone has to emerge as Campbell’s bail-out receiver now that Miller has headed north.

The move has to taste especially sweet for Cable, who was kicked to the curb by Raiders owner Al Davis after last season despite improving the team. The Cable connection has to add to the pain in Oakland of losing Miller. The Raiders visit Seattle on Sept. 2 in the preseason finale.

This was a challenging offseason for the Raiders, who signed many players -- including Richard Seymour, Stanford Routt, John Henderson and Michael Huff. They did some good things. But there’s little doubt that they suffered a blow by losing Asomugha and Miller in a span of four days.

This will do nothing to relieve the sting of losing Miller, but the San Francisco Chronicle is reporting the Raiders signed former Washington offensive lineman Stephon Heyer. He gives them much-needed depth on the line and perhaps he could vie for a starting job.
Napa, Calif. -- I’m at the Oakland Raiders’ training site, but where is Pro Bowl tight end Zach Miller?

Oh, that’s right, he’s being wooed in Seattle by the deepest pockets in the NFL.

I was on my way to Napa when I received a phone call from a league source saying that Miller was visiting the Seattle Seahawks and they are bent on keeping him there.

It’s a stunning development. Miller was widely expected to soon re-sign with the Raiders. Oakland coach Hue Jackson hinted Sunday he expected Miller would be with the team soon and several of his teammates said the same thing.

It appeared that Miller was waiting for Oakland to clear enough cap room to give him a suitable deal after he unexpectedly wasn’t getting much interest on the open market.

New, he has the interest. And now he’s in Paul Allen’s house.

That may not be a good sign for the Raiders. All indications are that the Seahawks plan on signing Miller.

If he made the trip up North, it’s obvious Miller is willing to go elsewhere. Perhaps he made the trip to let the Raiders know he is losing patience.

But again, Allen’s money talks.

This would be great revenge inflicted by former Oakland coach Tom Cable after being fired by Al Davis in January. Cable has already brought guard Robert Gallery to the Pacific Northwest. Oakland expected Gallery to leave, but adding Miller would really hurt the Raiders.
Well, this is interesting.

ESPN’s Adam Schefter is reporting the Oakland Raiders are in a bidding war with their Bay Area rivals over San Francisco 49ers safety Dashon Goldson.

Goldson
Goldson
The 49ers want the talented Goldson back, but he will not be cheap. The Raiders’ pursuit of him means a few things.

First, it means the Raiders are not afraid of becoming a player in free agency despite a pre-lockout signing flurry of their own players, a tight salary-cap situation and several in-house priorities.

It also likely means they don’t want to pursue free-agent safety Michael Huff. Or, at least, they are looking at adding Goldson first. It could also be another indication that cornerback Nnamdi Asomugha will be going elsewhere.

Goldson would likely team with Tyvon Branch if he signs with Oakland. Goldson is a good athletic player. He had a solid, though not great season in 2010.

The Raiders’ salary-cap situation is not debilitating, but I’d be surprised if the Raiders have room to do a ton of work. I have no idea how Goldson’s pursuit affects the Raiders’ ability to keep tight end Zach Miller.

But whether or not the Raiders land Goldson, the pursuit means the Raiders are playing the free-agent game.

If the 49ers lose Goldson (they already lost linebacker Takeo Spikes to San Diego and are expected to lose defensive tackle Aubrayo Franklin), they could ramp up an effort to snare Asomugha.

Meanwhile, the Bengals and Seahawks are bidding for Oakland guard Robert Gallery. He has already said he won’t come back to Oakland. Former Oakland head coach Tom Cable is Seattle’s offensive line coach. Also, Oakland quarterback Bruce Gradkowski is talking to Cincinnati. He is not expected back in Oakland.

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