Impact Analysis: Oakland Raiders - offensive changes coming?

by Shawn McClurg on October 4, 2008 @ 18:43:52 PDT

 


The headlines Wednesday, Oct. 1, said it all - "Kiffin Out, Cable In." After months of speculation, Oakland Raiders owner Al Davis decided he'd had enough and fired the NFL's youngest head coach, Lane Kiffin. Davis then named offensive line coach Tom Cable as the interim head coach, leaving plenty of unanswered questions on everyone's mind, starting with just who is Tom Cable?

Cable's resume

Cable was hired by the Raiders as their offensive line coach in 2007 and is the protege of current Houston Texans assistant head coach Alex Gibbs. He is well regarded despite his short tenure in the NFL. He utilizes Gibbs' zone-blocking scheme, which helped make Oakland the sixth-best run offense in the league last year.

Prior to joining the Raiders, he spent one year as offensive line coach for the Atlanta Falcons. Before that, he was offensive coordinator for the UCLA Bruins from 2004 to 2005.

He does have head coaching experience, albeit on the collegiate level. From 2000 to 2003, he was the head coach at the University of Idaho, amassing an 11-35 record over three seasons.

How will the change affect the Raiders?

The Raiders have the dubious distinction of possessing the NFL's worst record since the start of the 2003 season, going 20-64 in that time. They've also lost at least 11 games in five straight seasons, tying the 1980s Tampa Bay Buccaneers for the worst such stretch in NFL history.

Oakland has started the season 1-3, blowing fourth quarter leads in their last two games. Their lone victory is against the Kansas City Chiefs, who are not only tied for being the NFL's youngest team but also played without their top two quarterbacks due to injury.

There aren't expected to be too many dramatic changes in Oakland, though with the firing of Kiffin, offensive coordinator Greg Knapp is set to assume the play-calling duties on game day. Cable will have the final say in how they game plan. Knapp has been coaching in the NFL for 13 years and has had three different quarterbacks reach the Pro Bowl. He utilizes the West Coast offense but should offer a more balanced approach than the run-heavy Kiffin.

Cable and Knapp taking over Oakland's sputtering offense shouldn't change the fact that, for the most part, you won't want to rely on the Raiders for fantasy purposes. They have averaged 19.5 points (23rd overall) and 308 yards (20th) - 153 passing yards (27th) and 155 rushing yards (fifth) - per game this season.

Fantasy football outlook

Below is a full breakdown of Oakland's existing fantasy options and how their value may be affected by the coaching change.

Quarterback

JaMarcus Russell hasn't been asked to do much this season, averaging 167 passing yards, one touchdown and 0.25 interceptions per game. Plus, of the four touchdowns, two came in the fourth quarter of their Week 1 blowout loss. Unless you're in a league that starts two quarterbacks it would be best to avoid picking up Russell until the passing game starts showing some signs of life.

Running back

When healthy, Justin Fargas (groin) is a potential No. 3 back or flex option. He had his best year last season, rushing for more than 1,000 yards for the first time in his career. He started strong this year but sustained a groin injury in Week 2 and hasn't played since. The Raiders are hopeful that he'll return in Week 6.

Rookie Darren McFadden (toe) is the team's leading rusher with 51 carries, 272 yards and a touchdown. He had a huge game in Week 2 (164 yards, one score) but injured his toe in the second half and has been limited ever since. The injury is definitely a cause for concern as turf toe can linger all season long. In addition, the prospect of a healthy Fargas splitting time with McFadden also creates some worry. Consider him a quality No. 3 option with upside.

The injuries to McFadden and Fargas have opened the door for Michael Bush, who has carried the ball 44 times over the past three weeks for 193 yards (4.4 yards per carry) and one touchdown. He also opened some eyes with his seven-catch, 80-yard performance in Week 4. It's difficult to say how much value he'll have when everyone is healthy, but for now he's a flex option.

Wide receiver

Javon Walker hasn't been able to get anything going this season, totaling just four grabs for 52 yards. There's some potential here, but he's nothing more than a bottom of the roster option for those that can afford to stash him in the hopes he comes around.

After scoring in Week 1, Ronald Curry has just one reception for 11 yards over the past three games. He has been targeted nine times in that stretch and is no better than a fifth or sixth receiver until the passing game comes around.

Johnnie Lee Higgins looks as though he may emerge as Russell's favorite target on the outside. He leads all Oakland receivers with 119 yards (most of which came on an 84-yard catch) on five receptions and a touchdown, but with their anemic passing game, he's a No. 6 wideout at best.

Ashley Lelie rounds out the group but, despite a 37-yard, one-touchdown showing in Week 1, has no value.

Tight end

Zach Miller is one of the few bright spots for the Oakland offense and is a low-end starter or strong reserve for your team. He leads the club in receptions (11) and yards (153) and has scored once this year. He's currently 13th among NFL tight ends with 38.2 yards per game.

Place kicker

Surprisingly, Sebastian Janikowski has been a good option at kicker. He has made nine of his 10 field goal attempts this year with his lone miss coming from an unheard of 76 yards out. He has also hit all seven extra points. He boasts great leg strength, and if he can keep his accuracy up he could be a quality No. 1 kicker.

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About Shawn McClurg

Shawn McClurg has been a KFFL contributor since 2005.

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