Training camp has terminated. The preseason has become a memory. Less than a week until the Oakland Raiders kick off for real in Tennessee against the Titans. As always, with the fresh start, iut is a new look team. The Purple Drank is gone and a revamped front seven is in town.Key departures:
QB JaMarcus Russell, RB Justin Fargas, DT Gerard Warren, DE Greg Ellis, LB Kirk Morrison
QB Jason Campbell, LB/DE Kamerion Wimbley, LB/DE Quentin Groves, DT John Henderson
1. Rolando McClain LB, 2. Lamarr Houston DE, 3. Jared Veldheer C, 4. Bruce Campbell OG, 4b Jacoby Ford WR 5. Walter McFadden CB 6. Travis Goethel LB 7. Jeremy Ware DB 7b Stevie Brown DB (PS)
With JaMarcus Russell gone, the Raiders offense has taken a dramatic turn for the better. Jason Campbell provides an instant upgrade at the qb position. He has already built up a chemistry with starting tight end Zach Miller, who had been the Raiders most reliable receiver in each of the past two years. Chaz Schilens was expected to take some of the pressure off of Miller, but he will miss the beginning of the season with an injury for the second consecutive year. Second year receivers Louis Murphy and Darrius Heyward-Bey are both expected to show continued development in new offensive coordinator Hue Jackson's offense.
The surprise of training camp was third round draft pick Jared Veldheer, who was an offensive tackle in Division II Hillsdale College winning the starting position at center over incumbent Samson Satele. The prodigal Raider Langston Walker will be starting at right tackle, with Robert Gallery, Cooper Carlisle, and Mario Henderson all keeping their jobs from the 2009 season.
The front seven underwent an extreme makeover during the offseason with only Tommy Kelly retaining the same starting position from a year ago. To round out the starting line, Richard Seymour slides inside to tackle from end, rookie Lamarr Houston will start at one end with Matt Shaughnessy starting on the other side. The linebacking positon has three new starters with the rookoie Rolando McClain taking over for the departer Kirk Morrison in the middle. He will be flanked by Quentin Groves and Kamerion Wimbley. After spending half a decade near the bottom of the league in run defense, improvement in that department was an obvious focus in the offseason.
In the secondary all-universe cornerback Nnamdi Asomugha will once again be keeping his man in lockdown. Stanford Routt will get another chance to have the most thankless job in the NFL--starting across from Asomugha-- after he beat out Chris Johnson. Safety Tyvon Branch hopes to build on his breakout 2009 and free safety Michael Huff is still looking to shed the 'disappointment' label that has haunted him since he was the seventh overall pick in 2006.
Zach Miller is going to be one of the top pass-catching tight ends in the league. Look for him to have 80 catches and at least 10 touchdowns. Jason Campbell loves his tight ends and Miller is a good one.
Louis Murphy is a sleeper pick. He was under the radar in the horrid offense last year, but as the season wore on he carved out his share of clutch catches. Look for him to be the reliable outside threat the Raiders have been looking for.
This is a team on the rise. Look for them to be in competition for the post season for the first time in years.
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