With all the progress the Raiders made this season, there was still plenty of room for improvement. For a team that has averaged around four wins a season the last seven seasons, getting to 8-8 is quite an accomplishment. But in the end, the Raiders were still left sitting at home during the playoffs.
Now the man that went from offensive line coach, to interim head coach part way through another failed season, to head coach of a .500 season two years later, has been fired and the team is left to wonder what is to become of it now. There are also 28 players on this roster who are set to become free agents, many of whom are valuable parts of the Raider resurgence.
I said in the Season Ballers that this is a team in transition. That means everything about this team is at a crossroads. At this moment this team can go in a number of directions. But, most importantly, up or down. Which direction they go will largely depend on whether the Busters on this list improve or are retained. The Raiders didn’t have such luxuries before. They do now.
For anyone unfamiliar, let me explain that the Buster list should not be taken as an indictment on a player’s potential or their talent as a whole (unless I specifically state it is). It is simply a look at the 2010 season with questions as to why the team failed and who caused the greater portion of their struggles.
DHB was actually only named a Buster three times this season. But when you look over his body of work, it becomes clear the disadvantage at which he put this team. It is like the Raiders are taking the field with one less player on offense. It makes you realize just how many times you say to yourself, “Oh yeah, Darrius Heyward-Bey was in this game.” It’s hard to believe, but he appeared in all but one game this season — and he started 14 of them. Of the 14 games he started, he was held to one catch or fewer eight times and four of those times, he was held without a single catch. Likewise, he surpassed 50 yards receiving just twice all season (80, 105). And he saved his worst for last.
He was named top Buster for the final game of the season. In that game he didn’t have a single catch despite two straight passes in which the coaches clearly told Campbell he MUST try to get the ball to DHB. The first pass, he couldn’t get open and the second pass he flat out dropped. The only time he touched the ball was the very first play of the game on an end around he took for two yards and fumbled the ball away. We have seen the Raiders give the ball to Jacoby Ford on an end around to start a game and the result was a touchdown. Yet another fourth round receiver to outplay the former high first round pick.
And speaking of being outplayed by fellow receivers, despite starting more games than any other wide receiver on the team, he finished the season fifth in receiving (366), just ahead of the fullback, Marcel Reece (333). DHB also had only one touchdown on the season, tied with offensive tackle Khalif Barnes and Chaz Schilens — who appeared in all of two games.
I suppose DHB deserves credit for improving upon his numbers from last season. He went from nine catches last season to 26 this season, though it is hard to say how much of that improvement was a product of simply not having JaMarcus Russell behind center. Last season DHB was injured right about the time Russell was benched.
So, for all the talk going into camp about DHB’s work ethic and improved play, all it resulted in was him sitting out some of the preseason with “fatigue.” Then come the season he was having the same issues as before: the inability to get open consistently or make the tough catches. Better luck next year?
Mario Henderson, Jared Veldheer
Also known as the Raiders left tackle position. The player formerly known as “Super Mario” started the first six games to begin the season. The first game of the season Tom Cable had a “cunning plan” to toss Veldheer in at the center position. That “cunning plan” ended after just one game. For the next five games, these two would share the duties at left tackle. But if either Henderson or Veldheer had been decent at left tackle, the decision as to who would start there would have been much easier. Instead what we were left with was five games with Henderson and Veldheer sharing the duties and both of them sucking at it fairly equally until Cable settled on the rookie.
They would both be named Busters for the first three games of the season. Then in week six, Mario was a Buster yet again after giving up several run stuffs and QB pressures. It was his final start and Veldheer was officially handed the keys. He took the left tackle job for a spin and ten games later he had given up ten sacks and many more pressures, hits, and penalties.
It is impossible to separate them from the blame at left tackle. If it weren’t for how poorly Henderson was playing, Veldheer would not have been forced into those duties so quickly. And while I won’t excuse Veldheer based solely on his rookie status, it is difficult to expect a guy who had hardly ever faced division one college opponents to suddenly line up against NFL speed rushers. But having six Buster labels and combining for ten will certainly earn you a spot on the season list.
Ah yes, quite possibly the most controversial player on this team and the spark of many entertaining debates in the TFDS comment box. When I think of Routt, I am often reminded of what Tim Brown once said in reference to former Raider corner Phillip Buchanon: “He giveth, and he taketh away.” Buchanon was a gambler. He would make some plays, but he would also give up a lot of plays. Routt isn’t quite as much of a gambler but he does often bite on fakes and comebackers, and lets receivers get behind him. There is no denying that he has improved from previous seasons. Nowadays his mistakes are frustrating because you see what he is capable of nearly every game, as evidenced by his 13 passes defended. But there are three downs every series. A pass defended doesn’t mean a whole lot when you give up a big catch on the next play.
He was named a Buster four times during the season and topped the list twice. His worst game of the season came in the week five win over the Chargers. It was a game in which, despite the Chargers putting up 27 points on the Raiders, I could only find one Buster on defense. That is mainly because when Philip Rivers wanted points, he looked for #26 and threw to his receiver. The result was Routt giving up 152 yards passing including the only two touchdown passes Rivers had on the day (41, 18). Later in the season he gave up a 52 yard touchdown in the loss to the Steelers. Then he was named top Buster in the game versus the Broncos when he gave 82 yards to Tim Tebow and the Bronco offense including a rainbow touchdown pass from Tebow he let go right through his hands. This is me trying to keep it short.
I have to admit, putting Huff on this list was a difficult decision. He had a couple of nice plays this season including the game ending forced fumble in the first win over the Chargers. However, he was a Buster three times this season and the top Buster in two losses. Every win this season was at a premium with the Raiders nipping at the heels of the Chiefs. But the one game most fans point to as the game that killed the Raiders was the loss to the Jaguars. Huff was not only the top Buster in that game, he was either partially or wholly responsible for every single point given up. He gave up huge pass plays on every drive and one touchdown pass. Then after the Raiders tied the game, he missed the tackle on the ensuing kick return that set up the Jaguars’ game winning score. The other time he topped the Buster list was the loss to the Texans in week three – another close game. In that game he missed tackles on three different touchdowns. The Raiders lost by seven points. All he had to do was make one of those tackles and it would have been a different story. No starting player should ever have games like those Huff had against the Texans and Jaguars this season.
Click here to see the 2010 Season Ballers. Yeah, the Buster list is much shorter this season but that is kinda what happens when you win more games.
As always, to view each B&B for the 2010 season as well as previous seasons, visit the Ballers & Busters Index.