It was a season of transition for the Raiders. They were finally taken seriously after seven previous seasons of failure. It was also the season of the rookie. The 2010 rookie class shaped up to be the best class in years and possibly one of the best ever.
This team showed up in all phases this season. They may not have been able to show up in all phases all the time but they showed flashes of stellar play and the potential of dominating teams in the future.
Many of the contributions came from unexpected places which makes sense considering there wasn't a whole lot of great play to be had in previous seasons. But this season it appeared the consistently good players merged with some new playmakers. And the result was the best season in eight years.
Here are the players that helped to make the difference:
He finished the season with 1157 yards rushing to jump into the top five Raider single-season rushing performances all-time. He also became the first Raider since Marcus Allen in 1985 to have over 1000 yards rushing and 500 yards receiving. His efforts had him as a Baller 8 times during the season and was the top baller 3 times. After just one game in which he rushed for over 100 yards in his first two seasons, he surpassed the century mark 6 times in 2010. His best performances came in a week two win over the Rams in which he had 145 yards on the ground, his huge game in week 7 in which he rushed for 165 yards and had 3 touchdowns, and the game in Jacksonville in which he had 123 yards rushing and 2 touchdowns.
Overall, he ran with a renewed fire combined with a technique no one had seen from him before. While in his first two seasons he seemed like a one trick pony (and that trick rarely worked), he had a whole new bag of tricks this season. He would find a hole, shoot through it, bounce off tacklers, put on spin moves right out of Madden NFL 2010, stutter step to freeze would-be tacklers, and then just run away from them. And when a tackler had him wrapped up, he did something that had rarely been seen from him in the NFL -- he ran them over to finish the run. The result was a Pro Bowl calibre season in rushing yards as well as 10 total touchdowns. He did get injured twice during the season which caused him to miss 3 games. But he finally showed just what he is capable of when he is fully healthy. And that was tremendous good news for the Raiders.
He led the Raiders' now very formidable defensive line. He set a new season best in tackles (48) for his career and it earned him his first Pro Bowl nod since 2006. He was also named a Baller 7 times while getting to top Baller once. Even when he wasn't making tackles, he was bringing up the play of those around him. He helped the man to his left, Tommy Kelly, have his best season in years and the man to his right, Matt Shaughnessy, was freed up to make plays as well.
His best game of the season was indicative of his ability to make his teammates better. It was the week 8 win over the Seahawks in which he anchored the line to completely stuff the Seahawks at the line of scrimmage. He had just 3 tackles in that game, but two of those tackles were sacks. The other remarkable thing was that he helped his linemates each earn 3 tackles as well. His best statistical game was the week 9 win over the Chiefs in which he had 8 combined tackles. He missed the final two games of the season with an injury and will not be able to play in the Pro Bowl but he earned the first round pick that was given up for him. His fine play also helped the Raiders lower that first round pick given up for him.
He went down with an injury in week 8 after just one catch in that game. He would miss the next game and be hobbled by the injury for the following three weeks. In that five game stretch, he had just five catches and he STILL led the Raiders in catches (60) and receiving yards (685). He was named a Baller 7 times during the season and was top Baller once. He continues to be the Raiders' most reliable receiver. Some might point to the Raiders' pathetic receiving corps as to why Zach has such good numbers. That may be why he leads the team every season but even if the team had more reliable receiving threats, Zach would still be a Pro Bowl calibre tight end. Speaking of which, this season he was finally recognized for his contributions by being named a Pro Bowl alternate. It is not revealed yet what level of alternate he is but considering Antonio Gates was the only AFC tight end to have better numbers than Zach across the board, he deserves to be first alternate. His value to this team cannot be understated.
He led the Raiders in sacks (9.0) from the strongside linebacker position. He came over to the Raiders in a trade with the Cleveland Browns in the hopes that the Raiders would finally be able to find a guy who could be that strongside linebacker they have sorely lacked for so very long. Wimbley was that and more. He was named a Baller 5 times this season and topped the list twice. He saved his best for last when in the season finale he racked up 3.0 sacks and had an overall great game. The Raiders got him to help fix their run defense issues. Not only did he help in that area but he added a pass rushing threat and even played well when dropping back into coverage.
He was a Baller 5 times during the season but that in no way describes his value to this Raider defense. As if we needed a reminder of how valuable he is, he went down with an ankle injury midseason and we saw all the evidence that was needed. The Raiders struggled mightily trying to patch up the gushing leak that was created. Suddenly the opposition was able to pass seemingly at will on the Raiders and no matter who the Raiders put in Nnamdi's place, it led to terrible results.
Asomugha came back when he was still struggling with his injury and had his only bad game of the season. He gave up 4 catches for 69 yards in that game. The rest of the season he gave up just 9 catches for 136 yards and no touchdowns. Just as impressive is the total of 33 times his receiver was targeted. At midseason, I predicted that he would get more passes thrown his way and subsequently actually get a chance to put up some stats. But those passes didn't materialize and Nnamdi was named to the Pro Bowl just as he had been in the two previous seasons due to his lockdown abilities.
Let me just say this right off, being a rookie has nothing to do with Ford being on this list. Nor does being a rookie ever factor in my decision to name a player a Baller or a Buster. No, Ford earned his way as a Baller regardless of any outside influence. He started off this season not looking too good. He was a Buster twice before he made a single positive play. He didn't have his coming out party until week nine of the season. But when he came out, WOW.
His first play was a kick return for a touchdown to get the Raiders in the game against the Chiefs. And then he single-handedly won the game for the Raiders. He had catches to help tie the game and then another catch in overtime to put the game away. He would be a Baller a total of 5 times in the last half of the season and was top Baller twice. One was the Chiefs game and the other was two games later against the Dolphins in which he nearly duplicated his play in the win over the Chiefs.
In the Dolphin game he took the opening kickoff for a touchdown and later had a catch he took away from the defender just as he had at the end of the Chiefs game. Also, yet again, he led the team in catches, receiving yards, touchdowns, return yards. Despite his late start, he was second among receivers on this team in receiving yards (470) and he led the team in yards per catch by a long shot (18.8). He was also third on the team in touchdowns (7).
Tommy Kelly, Matt Shaughnessy, Lamarr Houston, Mike Waufle
These three joined with Richard Seymour to form a tag team of destruction this season, with their line coach as the orchestrator. It is hard to pinpoint which of these three linemen is more important. They all had their moments and they all equally solidified the Raider defensive line. Waufle came over this season from the Giants, where he had some pretty dominant defensive lines, to put it all together. Between Kelly, Shaughnessy, and Houston there were 12 Baller nods including the week 8 win over the Seahawks in which they all shared top Baller honors.
Kelly didn't get a lot of notariety from week to week but he was the most consistent of the group and was named a Pro Bowl alternate because of it.
Shaughnessy shot out of the gates this season to earn being named a three time top Baller. He cooled off a little to end the season but certainly didn't disappear. Offenses just stopped testing him as often. But when they tested other parts of the line, it yielded similar results.
Another member of the great rookie class this year who came on in the latter part of the season is Lamarr Houston. He started the year as the punching bag on the right side for opposing offenses. They knew that when they needed yards on the ground, his gap was where they would target. But in the second half of the season, that all changed. He was a Baller 4 times over the final 7 games of this season. In those games, he not only looked like he had finally figured things out technically, but there was no one who played with more passion and fire than he did. He looked angry on every play. And with his improved play, the Raiders defensive line was complete.
He was extremely valuable to this team in many ways. First off, he was the Raiders short yardage and redzone back. He was given the ball when the Raiders needed to grind out tough yardage. He was the guy they gave the ball to when they needed to pound it into the endzone. He was able to get 8 touchdowns on the season out of it. Just as important was his role in relief of Darren McFadden. DMac missed four games this season and when the team needed Bush to step up, he did, including the final game of the season in which he ran for 137 yards and a touchdown. He also played extensively in the week 5 win over the Chargers and had 104 yards and a touchdown in that game. The Raiders have two great backs in McFadden and Bush of whom either one could be the feature back on this team.
Click here to see the 2010 Season Busters. As always, to look back at all the B&B from the 2010 season and seasons prior, visit the Ballers & Busters Index.
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You know, number 2 passing D in the league, and Levi has 2 of the 4 starters as busters..............
This "busters and ballers" list is just "players that Levi likes and dislikes".
Zach Millers had his worst season with Oakland, and has just not shown up in numerous games. He's the number 1 target, and only gets 600 yards and 4 touchdowns?
Why's he in the list. Levi loves him.
You know, Oakland have the number 2 passing D in the league, and the guy has the number 1 cornerback as a baller, and 2 of the other 3 starters as busters!?
As if, Asomogha defends every single play...........................
sorry to burts people's bubble, but Id be 99% certain Bush wont be back. He will be VERY expensive and someone is going to offer him $$$ to be a starter ....( think Lamont Jordan episode when he joined us from the Jets)
It's a bit worrying that off this list 5 of our players of the season are now free agents: Seymour, Miller, Wimbley (?), Aso and Bush. Let's be honest here - they are not all coming back.
+1 for Marcel Reese.
And please god not Rob Ryan back with his terrible habit of switching to a prevent defence which always ended up leaking points.
@LFJeremy I love the dual back approach and in McFadden and Bush we have a great tandem. While I agree McFadden as earnt his stripes to be the feature back, you can't deny that Bush hasn't either. How many times has Bush come up big for us when McFadden has been injured, not just this year either. I do think we need two backs as well because McFadden has yet to be healthy for a full season and with us being a run first team we need a top second back. Hopefully Bush understands that by sharing the carries with McFadden he is also extending his career by taking a lot less punishment.
As for this Ballers list I agree Reece and McClain need to have at least have an Honorable mention. Reece has proven to be a mismatch nightmare for opposing defenses at times, and I for one can admit I didn't even want him at the start of the season and was hoping we would go with Tonga instead. I am glad I was wrong. As for McClain he really started to show his value to us at the end of the season. And when he was out as mentioned previously, the defense just seemed to be lost without him and took a major step backwards. That is the mark of a future Pro Bowler.
I would even put Kelly as Baller over Seymour. I think the work Kelly has done in the last couple years has been very under rated. He could have taken his money and given up like Haynesworth did with the Redskins especially when we have been down and out, but he never did. He has worked hard to get better every year and earn his contract and I have great respect for him for this.
One last thing, Waufle has been a great pickup for us. Look at how much our defense line has improved with him and how much the Giants seemed to struggle without him. I would actually like to see Waufle be given a chance as our Defense Coordinator before he is picked up by another team. I really think Marshall cannot produce much better than what he has this season.
@LFJeremy I also like the idea of having a pounder and finisher. While on the surface it looks like Bush would be a pounder and McFadden the finisher, I think we are fortunate though that we have two backs that can do both. For a man of Bush's size (6'1" and 240 + pounds), Bush has tremendous footwork and also has surprising speed. McFadden has plenty of speed to burn, but also has decent size and has shown (this year particularly) that he is capable of running people over just as well as running around them.
As for the Cowboys I think they didn't use their RBs how they should have. They have two great young RBs in Jones and Choice and could be a great run first pass second team but relied to much on their passing game from the games I saw of them.
I am not sure as to why you are such a pro cable guy. 8-8 does not deserve the loyalty and praise you are showering this guy with. I could understand if he lead us to a winning record and to the playoffs, but the fact remains, Cable was given an incredibally talented team to work with (and he even said himself at the start of the season that anything short of the playoffs is "unacceptable") who went (6-0) against their division, yet finished in (3rd) out of (4) teams in the AFC West, and was the only team in NFL history to win all the division games and not make the playoffs. That is not a record I am proud of papadoc, and neither should you be. Cable's failure to get this very good Raider team to the playoffs bears his responsibility, as a good coach is supposed to get his team ready for ALL teams they play, not just the division. Al Davis made the right choice in letting Cable go, and if he promotes Hue Jackson, which I think he will, the Raiders will be far better off for next year, and all these players who are upset with the loss of Cable, will fall back in line and support Jackson, as continuity will be served by his promotion...
Jacoby Ford is going to be a future probowler if he can stay healthy. He has that Deon Sanders type speed and playmaking ability, and if given the opportunity to start full time at receiver, will lead the team in catches, yards after catch, and touchdowns. He is dynamic, and I cannot believe how fortunate the Raiders were in being able to draft him so far down in the draft. Ford is the type of player that I had hoped DHB would turn out to be, but that is a comment I will save for the busters, which DHB will certainly be a part of...
I always like the Buster/Baller list too ! Id give an honourable mention to Marcel Reece and Rolando McClain too. I think that we lost the critical Jags game precisely because we were were missing Death Ro'. The D looked lost without him.
Looking forward to the Heyward Bey list.
Hey Levi. I liked your Baller list & I always enjoy your columns. That being said...Here's what I didn't like: I think Waufle should have gotten more than honorable mention and I also think you missed on Marcel Reese. The other thing I think you missed on was Cable. Oh I read the comment by Sparticus (I think it was he) that said I viewed Cable as the 2nd coming. No, Cable wasn't the 2nd coming or even close. But he was a players coach that inspired the players around him. Yes, he had a really good support staff, but that doesn't take away from the things he did in Oakland for this team. He made mistakes. The QB merry-go-round was perhaps his biggest. But he made this team relevant again & brought back our fan base. I feel he deserves to be on this list (and yes Sparticus...I still feel it was a damn shame he was fired). I also hear a lot of bad things from Raider fans about Marshall. I don't get it. Our defense was great this year. He at least deserves honorable mention as well.
Anyway, great post, Levi. Looking forward to the Buster list.
I could have predicted this list, weeks ago.
He always talks up asomogha and miller, and talks down Routt and Huff.