Oakland Raiders Playing With Smoke and Mirrors


Aug. 17, 2012; Glendale, AZ, USA; Oakland Raiders head coach Dennis Allen (right) and running back (20) Darren McFadden against the Arizona Cardinals during a preseason game at University of Phoenix Stadium. The Cardinals defeated the Raiders 31-27. Mandatory Credit: Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports

The Oakland Raiders are now in the magic business, having the Raider Nation look at one thing, while something else takes place. Young kids eat this stuff up — the rabbit out of the hat, the half dollar from behind the ear, guessing what card you will pick before you pick it. It a great gig, and people are amazed at what can be done. Mostly smoke and mirrors, covering up something or making something else look good.

First let’s look at what has disappeared. Josh Cribbs has packed his bag and departed from Napa Valley. Sad to see him go; on paper he appeared to be a bright spot with his speed and kick return ability. Yet, what we saw was a knee injury that would not allow him to play to his ability. It may be the reason several other teams passed on signing him this offseason.

Darren McFadden is all about smoke and mirrors. He doesn’t want to sign a contract now with the Raiders, who would like him to sign now.  He would like to stay a Raider, so he says. Based on his stats, it would be in McFadden’s best interest to sign today, if not yesterday.

In the five years McFadden has been in Oakland, he has averaged 666.8 yards per year. His lone breakout season was in 2010 where he rumbled for 1,157 yards on the ground. He was also responsible for 507 yards receiving that season. Since then, it has been slim pickings. Due to injury, he has missed 23 games in five years. A smart GM might not sign him, but look to trade him after the season depending on what type of year he does have.

If the Oakland Raiders’ magic show would just wait for McFadden’s production for 2013, and sign him based on performance, he could be a great keeper or an interesting bit of trade material.

The next act in the Vaudeville magic show is Menelik Watson, a super pick at No. 42 overall in the draft for the Raiders. Watson is a young player that can be developed in time to be a powerful force for the Silver and Black at the right tackle position. The right tackle position, do you get it? The right tackle position. Nope, the Raiders are going to start him at the left tackle position.

It should be interesting to watch Wilsons progress, He suffered an injury in camp, was not in contact for a few weeks, and now his recovery is going to be under live fire. He has the tools to do well, yet he could be set up for failure, playing a different position while coming off an injury. His progress could be slowed. Smoke and Mirrors!

Terrelle Pryor is getting his chance to start tonight against the Seahawks. His magical feet have elevated him to the starting position. It is his opportunity to do well. He doesn’t have to pull off miracles, but play within himself, and do the things he is capable of.

He may be forced to run more than anticipated with McFadden hurt, and as the line at the training room grows longer each day for Raider receivers. You can overlook the dismantling of the offensive line by injury, starting with Jared Veldheer. Since his injury, several others have followed. Tight end David Ausberry (shoulder) likely won’t be back until the regular-season opener. Offensive lineman John Wetzel also hurt a knee.

This doesn’t sound like much, but when you start shifting, replacing, and moving players this early in the season, it gives you some concern. You’re going to have to adapt, overcome, and advance. Smoke and Mirrors!

The Seahawks are on deck, and the Raiders have had a positive camp. This will be another evaluation of players before they get to the final cut. Sometimes you have the Johnny, and Joes they always beat the X’s and O’s. Sometimes you have to play with a little magic, smoke, and mirrors, and some trickeration!