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Awards for the Raiders’ 2011 offseason

Now that the Raiders have trimmed their roster down to 53 players and the season is less than a week away from kickoff, it’s time to give out some awards for the offseason. Granted, the roster is still not complete, but there will not likely be any drastic changes from here on out that will affect these offseason awards.

Best free agent move: WR Derek Hagan

Hagan was originally supposed to be a body for training camp, but Head Coach Hue Jackson later admitted that he had kept a close eye on Hagan since he was the quarterbacks coach for the Baltimore Ravens. Coach Jackson said that Hagan was one of his favorite players in the draft class that year and he had been scouting him from afar, waiting for the opportunity to work with the young wide receiver. Kudos to Coach Jackson for making that transaction at the beginning of camp.

Worst free agent move: Losing CB Nnamdi Asomugha

Perhaps the Raiders never made him an offer, but that is extremely hard to believe. One thing that is certain is they paid Stanford Routt like he was the number one guy way back in March. Now they find themselves hurting for depth at the cornerback position and hoping another team will do something boneheaded like drop an outstanding cornerback from their roster. Odds are they didn’t need to pay Routt that much to stay and with the loss of TE Zach Miller, they probably could paid Nnamdi $12 million per year anyway.

Best new coaching hire: Offensive line guru Bob Wylie

The players have praised Wylie for his simplification of the learning process on the offensive line. Really, it’s not that hard: Line up and hit that guy in the mouth. But not only has Wylie simplified the system for the players, his first string unit was highly effective in blocking for the ground game as well as protecting the quarterback on pass plays.

Best release: OG Robert Gallery

Gallery was riddled with injuries during his last two seasons with the Raiders. The Seattle Seahawks are already getting a small dose of that as Gallery underwent an MRI on his knee following the game Friday night against the Raiders. Seahawks coach Pete Carroll called the injury a sprain, but also said that it was “significant enough where we’ve got to be concerned.”

Worst release: CB Sterling Moore

Moore was one of the few highlights for the Raiders this preseason as an undrafted rookie from SMU. While the Raiders never showed what he could do against an opponent’s first string unit, he did manage to outplay drafted rookies Chimdi Chekwa and Demarcus Van Dyke when he got his time under the lights as well as on the practice field. Not only that, but he was healthy all camp and it outraged fans when he was released. Granted, he was signed to the practice squad, but it’s dangerous to dangle him out there for another team to sign, like the Carolina Pantheers, who just signed former Raider safety Stevie Brown to their active roster.

Most improved player from 2010: WR Darrius Heyward-Bey

It’s hard to sit here and say that DHB is going to carry over his preseason into the regular season, but it’s easy to say he looked much better this year than he did last year. Some suspect he is on the verge of a respectable season while others continue to think he is just going to keep being “Drops Hella Balls.” Time will tell, but he made himself look good by hauling in some tough catches in preseason games this year.

Biggest disappointment of preseason: CB Walter McFadden

Not only did he not improve at all from last season, but he ended up being cut from the team. McFadden was expected to show vast improvement over last season and compete for that third cornerback position in the nickel package. Instead he basically wasted a roster spot last year and was probably horrible enough to not even make the practice squad. This is a major disappointment considering his brother had been a longtime starter at the same position for the Arizona Cardinals and Pittsburgh Steelers.

Best rookie: WR Denarius Moore

Moore is going to get an opportunity to make plays for the team this year. From what he has shown in the preseason and training camp, he is definitely for real and really talented too. The least work he will get will be on punt returns and perhaps some kickoffs. The most work he could get is starting a few games because of injuries. In between that somewhere are some packages/plays designed with him in mind. Moore looks to be light-years ahead of where DHB was in his rookie season.

Worst rookie: OT Joseph Barksdale

Unimpressive, behind the curve, ineffective are just some of the terms we can use to describe this young man this preseason. While Stefen Wisniewski was busy trying to earn a starting gig at left guard after transitioning from center, Barksdale was busy trying to get out of his own way. Barksdale has the tools to do the job, it’s plain to see that, but if he winds up getting a starting gig this season it would be a huge surprise. He looks more like a sixth round pick than a third round pick at this point.

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