Oakland Raiders’ Path To the Playoffs, Part One

New Faces-New Season-New Oakland Raiders!

Raider Nation is rampant with excitement stemming from positive reports out of Oakland Raiders mini-camp. News of Jason Campbell picking up Hue Jackson's offense much faster than expected, much maligned wide receiver Darius Heyward-Bey catching everything that comes close to him, and Mario Henderson commenting on how it's nice to see his quarterback working as hard as everyone else are feeding the fans' fire.

A lot of experts are predicting a vast improvement in the play of the Silver and Black in 2010, but can the Raiders deliver? How much better can they be? Are we talking about a garden-variety improvement to respectable, or a full-on 180 degree jump to the playoffs? I think anything is possible, but a lot needs to happen for the Raiders to reach beyond average and into competitive.

A good start is going to be crucial, so let's look at the first four games and try to figure out what Oakland needs to do to set themselves up for a playoff run in 2010.

Week One: At the Tennessee Titans.

I'm pretty sure everyone reading this knows the first thing that needs to happen in order to beat the Titans: control running back Chris Johnson.

We will know right away if the new-look defensive front seven is for real or not. Assuming Lamarr Houston and Rolando McClain are as good as we think they are, stopping Johnson is very possible. They just have to be mindful of their gap responsibility and make solid tackles. If the cut-back lanes are open, it will be a long day for the defense.

Keeping Vince Young in the pocket will also be important. Young has great mobility and can make plays with his feet. Seymour and Houston can't allow the offensive tackles to push them beyond Young's drop. The Raiders can't allow him to escape or step up. Young runs well and throws well on the run. The more pinned in he is, the less he can hurt them.

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