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Coming off a 4-12 season Raiders General Manager Reggie McKenzie continues that seem to serve a dual purpose--- revamping the roster while rebuilding the faith in Raider Nation by parting ways with many of the high draft choices and free agency signings made by the previous regime. With the release of Michael Huff, Darius Heyward-Bey, and Rolando McClain, the Raiders are once again making it clear to the current roster and their fan base that the old status quo in Oakland is no longer acceptable. Of course with such moves comes added pressure on McKenzie and Head Coach Dennis Allen.
McKenzie, who learned under the tutelage of Ted Thompson in Green Bay, is clearly attempting to build a Raider team with many of the characteristics of Thompson's team building in Green Bay. It starts with a team of solid citizens (witness the release of McClain) and building through the stockpiling of draft picks and the occasional trade (Matt Flynn). In deciding to part ways with Carson Palmer the Raider front office was essentially parting ways with the last vestige of the Hue Jackson coaching tenure. In Matt Flynn the Raiders have a young quarterback they can clearly build with, but who is not without risk. The Raiders will be Flynn's third team in three years although you can hardly blame him for what happened in Seattle. The amazing rookie year of Russell Wilson wasn't on anyone's radar and Flynn didn't really lose the job in Seattle because of his poor play, he lost it because of Wilson's exemplary play. Although not battle tested as an NFL starter, Flynn honed his skills under the tutelage of elite NFL offensive coach Mike McCarthy in Green Bay and behind arguably the best quarterback in football in Aaron Rodgers. For Raider fans who are questioning the move to get Flynn they simply need to look back at Flynn's two starts in Green Bay, an excellent performance in tough conditions versus New England and a six touchdown effort versus Detroit in the final game of the 2011 regular season. The best description of Flynn yet is via Greg Cosell of NFL films who has labeled Flynn as a "four quarter quarterback". What Cosell means is that Flynn is not a quarterback who will wow you by making every throw on the field but instead who is a player that will do all the little things right and whose body of work needs to be viewed in totality, over four quarters, not just over a handful of plays. If Flynn can effectively manage the game and Darren McFadden can regain his form of years past the Raiders should have an improved offense.
Defensively the Raiders will be without Tommy Kelly and Richard Seymour who join Huff and McClain as former Raiders who left this offseason. With four starters gone the defense is again in line for a major revamping. In looking at the draft objective number one may be to pick up a good 4-3 defensive end to provide the pressure that Kelly and Seymour were not able to bring last season. Jason Hunter was signed as a free agent from the rival Broncos. Hunter filled in capably when Elvis Dumervil was sidelined last season and McKenzie has a history with Hunter from his Green Bay days. He's far from a superstar, but should provide another solid body defensively. A successful 4-3 defense is predicated on solid pressure from the defensive end spots and that area was lacking for the Raiders last season. The cornerback position was also a nightmare last season and is another area that will need to be addressed in the draft. The Raiders did re-sign Joselio Hanson and signed Michael Jenkins in moves designed to shore up the corner position.
The importance of the draft for the Raiders cannot be exaggerated. With so many needs to fill Reggie McKenzie and Dennis Allen will need to maximize their draft picks. With the third pick in the draft the Raiders should be able to draft an impact defensive player or an offensive tackle that can start from day one. Another move that could make sense would be to trade down to stockpile draft picks. With so many holes to fill it may make sense for McKenzie to move down to pick up additional draft picks.
By: Chris Michaels