This is part seven of an eight part series detailing players that have jumped out at me and made me say, "Man!! That guy would be a good Raider!"
The AFC South is a division based mainly on systems. Three of the four teams have been very stable in coaching and coaching staffs, while the fourth team, the Texans, have a relatively new coaching staff which is building the foundations for a strong system as well.
Along with the 'systems' these teams run, they are all relying on young talent in pivotal roles to enable them to be factors during the season.
Before I start, here's what I've done so far and where I'll be going in the next few days:
I'm going to try and not make big reaches, so I'll find at least one player per team, but no promises past that. If you have any suggestions, post them.
Like Chris Henry, Pacman Jones isn't on the list, and he may not even be on the team by the time the season starts. Kerry Collins won't make this list for obvious reasons, and Chris Carr will be off the list even though he WAS a good Oakland Raider. I like Finnegan too, but I'd like to see a little more history on him before jumping the gun.
DE - Kyle Vanden Bosch: What better place to start than the strength of the team, defense. This guy is a terror, and Raiders fans saw how much trouble he could cause last year as he was constantly in the Raiders backfield. He's got a high motor and a quick first move.
DT - Albert Haynesworth: Despite never finishing a complete season, either due to injury or suspension, when he's in the lineup the Titans defense is one to be feared. He stops the run and wreaks havoc in the pass, last year he had 6 sacks from the defensive tackle spot.
LB - Keith Bulluck: Last year wasn't his best season in tackles, but it was in interceptions. A true team player, this guy plays the game how it should be. Since becoming a starter, he's averaged more than 100 tackles per season and been the anchor of a defense during a transition of younger players over the past few years.
K - Rob Bironas: This guy can make all of the kicks. Ask him to make a game winner, he can make it, ask for a 50+ yarder, he can make it, and ask for him to win a game by kicking 5+ field goals, he can do that too.
This has been a consistently good team over the years, but it's the sum of their parts that makes them good. Jerry Porter isn't going to make this list, and some good players probably won't make this list either.
RB - Maurice Jones-Drew: I knew this guy was good in college, but I never imagined that he'd translate to the pros as well as he has. He's listed at 5'7", which probably means he's 5'5", and he's about 210 lbs. He's fast, has a quick first step, and strong. This guy is a stud, and I can't think of any team he wouldn't be a good fit on.
QB - David Garrard: He's a great role model of what hard work and determination sprinkled with talent can do for you. The Jag's never seem to change their approach, yet the results change when this guy is the QB. He's accurate, makes good decisions, and just wins baby.
DT - John Henderson: This guy is the key to the vaunted Jaguars defense. He's a tough guy, that will make you pay if you don't put two linemen on him. He eats space and makes the defensive assignments easier for his teammates by taking up much of the line upfront. He's another guy that is pretty intimidating looking.
This team is one of the class teams of the league. If you were going to build a team, you'd want to pay attention to what the Colts have done over the past 10 years.
QB - Peyton Manning: There's nothing I could say that hasn't already been said. In my opinion, he's the best quarterback in the game, and in a few years will undoubtedly be considered the best of all time.
WR - Reggie Wayne/Marvin Harrison/Anthony Gonzalez: I could've broken these guys up, but they all share the same attributes: They're fast, quick, smart, run great routes, and work hard. The thing you have to love about them, they can all make the clutch catch. None of them are T.O. or Randy Moss, but they are the best receiving corp in the game today.
TE/WR - Dallas Clark: He does it all and he does it well. Can play the slot receiver when needed, block for the run, and always seems to make the catch when needed. He's Manning's safety valve, and he's proven to be an excellent choice for that role.
OC - Jeff Saturday: No matter who comes and goes, the Colts' offensive line always works well. Saturday is as good a center as you can find. I'll admit, he's not the best run blocker, but Peyton stays clean more than not and that's really his main job.
S - Bob Sanders: Maybe it's because of the scheme they play, but I'm not really all that impressed with anyone on the Colts defense...except for Sanders. The Super Bowl run showed how important this guy is to this team. He's a great run stuffer, but also plays the pass well. What I like most is that he lays a great hit.
K - Adam Vinatieri: He can break your heart if you're rooting against him, he can kick in any condition, and he has a great leg. He's probably the second best clutch kicker of all time, right behind Blanda. In a few years he may surpass the Raider legend, but for right now he'd just be a good Raider.
This is an up and coming team built on defense. If they keep improving and stay away from costly injuries, they are going to be force in the league.
WR - Andre Johnson: This guy should be considered a super star right now in his career, but since his offensive teammates have never stepped up until recently he's overshadowed by the other star receivers in the league. What I love about him is that I never hear about him unless he's scoring another touchdown.
LB - DeMeco Ryans: A pro bowler, he's well worth the selection. He handles the middle for the Texans, he's only going to be in his third year, and he causes trouble for every offense he faces. He plays the run well, but can also drop back into protection. I don't think he's as good as Morrison, but not many linebackers are. He's still good and he's a great hitter.
DT - Amobi Okoye: As a rookie, he tallied 5.5 sacks from the defensive tackle spot. Better yet, he's only 20 years old! This guy is going to be great. He's a good kid that works hard and it would surprise me if he ever had any character issues. Started playing football as a sophomore in high school without knowing hardly anything about the sport.
DE - Mario Williams: Everyone, including myself, thought the Texans really messed up when they drafted this guy ahead of Reggie Bush. Ok, so we were all wrong and the Texans were right. He's already a sack leader and pro bowl material. I admire a guy that can come in with that much pressure and not implode, but to produce as he has gets all of my props.
Did I miss anyone? Did I reach too much? Agree or disagree?
Any feedback you have is greatly appreciated. I want to thank the guys that have given their feedback so far, including 'sure Bert' who gave a very thoughtful analysis of me. If you think I got it wrong, let the world know by posting it.
Remember the only criteria to make my list, is that the player has had to have made an impression on me so significant that I would say to myself, "He'd be a good Raider," or "I wish he was a Raider."
Who's done that for you?