As fans, it’s hard to not get excited every year about your team. Every fan base is the same. Baseball has made it an art form.
For anyone that has followed and read me on my return the last year and a half, they know I’m obsessed with facts and being honest. Facts are always greater than opinions. I have the following I have because people trust me and I work hard for them; I want people to know the inside stuff, not the fluff. I don’t have an editor or corporation telling me what I can and can’t say so I’m unique; I’m straight up. So If I think a team did something good, I really believe it. The Raiders did something good; twice.
For Raider fans the last 13 years have been very difficult. Even with bad teams, the fan base has been very excited every year; but in reality they should be excited by all that is happening before this upcoming season.
With the start of free agency, the Raiders have signed their first two players. Let’s look at why these signings were extra special.
Kelechi Osemele (OL from Baltimore):
This signing solidifies the Raiders offensive line. The OL was good last year but it should really shine this year with the signing of Kelechi Osemele.
Osemele is an old school Raider type and he’s only 26. He’s huge at 6’ 5” 330 lbs. and he’s extremely physical. In the back end of the zone blocking era, he’s an old school power run blocker, and a very physical pass blocker. He also brings a great amount of versatility which will help. He’s played both tackle and guard equally well which helps with depth and flexibility which is important during the salary cap era. He earned a Super Bowl ring being a starter on a very good Baltimore Ravens offensive line his rookie year.
Derek Carr is a good quarterback but he is no where near the same quarterback when he’s under a pass rush. The better the protection, the more successful he is. It wasn’t a coincidence that he struggled at times during the second half of the season while the Raiders sacks against totals increased.
He was 31st in 4th quarter passer rating and last in interceptions in the 4th quarter. These stats can be helped with this signing. People liked to blame the OL totally but some of this wasn’t on them though; the Raiders didn’t adjust to teams playing two deep zone and taking away the long pass; but in reality the better you protect Derek Carr, the more offensive success the Raiders will have. This signing is a very big one and I’m sure Carr and the Raiders are very excited.
Bruce Irvin (LB from Seattle):
Bruce Irvin is one of those players whose importance is not seen in the stat sheets, but in the way he plays. This is an underrated signing but for much different reasons than people think. He’s played a key role in Seattle’s defense and they will have problems replacing him.
If you feel the Raiders are now going to rival the best pass rushes in the NFL then you really don’t get this signing. In Irvin’s rookie year, he got 8 sacks with 16 tackles and many thought he’d be a huge pass rusher. He has leveled out his pass rush stats the last 3 years getting 14 of them. Last year he had 5.5 sacks and 38 tackles. Not eye popping numbers but solid.
What Irvin DOES bring to the table for the Raiders is something that has been lacking in their defense for a long time. As I stated in my preview of last year, the Raiders signings were good but the problem was that many of the defensive players were one dimensional.
Curtis Lofton at LB was a good tackler and good against the run, but he struggles covering the pass. If teams passed on first down, Lofton was exposed. Malcolm Smith is a good cover guy at LB but not that great against the run. Dan Williams shored up the run defense but he’s not a pass rusher in any way.
What Irvin gives the Raiders is versatility and an ability to play all 4 downs. He can rush the passer or play the run at DE, and he can stop the run and cover at LB. He gives them a flexibility to move him around like he did at Seattle which helped their defense a lot. His ability to play all downs was very important to their success. The Seattle DL was very good and it helped to have a versatile player like Irvin that teams could not scheme against because they moved him around so much. I hope the Raiders do the same with Irvin because he is a good talent in the prime of his career at 28.
Free agency is always a crazy time. Fans forget that there are 31 other teams that want these players, and many times it’s the signing of lesser known players that makes the team much better. You can’t pick and choose who you want, and 90% of the rumors being thrown about are mostly wrong. It’s fun to talk about though but in reality many of the things bantered about don’t come true.
The game has changed; DB’s just can’t cover players for long periods of time with the new rules protecting WR so a stud DL and pass rush isn’t a need anymore, it’s a must have. In the early parts of free agency though, already the Raiders went far into shoring up their team for next year. There is still a lot of work to do, but this is a great start.