Kirby Lee-US PRESSWIRE
The Oakland Raiders made major changes in the off season that resulted in a disappointing 2012 campaign thus far, but it has put them on track to be a good team
The Oakland Raiders underwent one of the most dramatic overhauls of any team in NFL history this past off season. This was due, in large part, to the fact that Al Davis passed away mid season in 2011. Before his passing, Davis had run nearly every aspect of football operations for the Raiders since the 1960's. During the off season, the Raiders not only had to deal with contracts, cap issues and a lack of draft picks, they needed to rebuild the entire franchise. It started with the hiring of Reggie McKenzie, who then fired head coach Hue Jackson and replaced him with Dennis Allen.
Now that the season is half way through, a few things have become clear with regards to the job that the new heads of the Raiders organization are doing. First and foremost, it is important to note that the Raiders got it right with general manager Reggie McKenzie. The Reg was known for his ability to spot talent and find players capable of contributing where others saw nothing of value. After one off season and a draft with no picks until the third round, McKenzie has found a number of players who are contributing for the Raiders already. Fourth round pick, Miles Burris is easily the Raiders best linebacker and clearly has the ability to improve into one of the better backers in the league. The Reg also signed free agent Philip Wheeler, who has re-made himself into a very valuable player for the Raiders.
While the Burris and Wheeler pick ups were impressive, whats more impressive are the players who might not even be in the NFL if not for McKenzie. Undrafted free agent Rod Streater has seen a good amount of playing time already this year and looks like he could develop into a stud receiver in the NFL. And then there is 6th round pick, Christo Bilukidi, who most thought was a reach and who would be lucky to make a practice squad. However, Bilukidi has been a part of the Raiders defensive line rotation that has played well so far this season.
However, despite Reggie McKenzie's talent for spotting talent, the Raiders have found themselves with a 3-5 record at the halfway point to the season. This is due, in large part, to the poor play of the Raiders offense, and in particular, their run game. Many believe offensive coordinator Greg Knapp, is responsible for the poor play because of his desire to change blocking schemes. While this is probably true, it was head coach Dennis Allen who chose to go with Knapp despite the fact that he wished to fix something that wasn't broken in the first place.
So far this season, Allen has shown that his choice in offensive coordinators leaves something to be desired. However, he has also shown that he has what it takes to win as a coach in the NFL. The Raiders have had several games go down to the wire, with the Raiders either barely pulling out a win, or barely suffering a loss. This is a stark contrast to last season when the Raiders almost routinely forgot to play the second half. At the very least, you can say that Dennis Allen is able to get his players to play for him and to play for the full 60 minutes. Additionally, while the improvements have seen set backs, the Raiders are much more disciplined this season and their defense is much improved.
No one in the Raider Nation wants to admit it, but the 2012 season is a rebuilding season for the Raiders. The bad news is that this team is not ready to win this season. The good news is the Raiders are taking the right steps to ensure that the team will compete in the future.