Saturday, October 18, 2008

After two benchings, Cable's approach starting to come into clearer focus

When the Raiders fired Lane Kiffin and promoted Tom Cable to the job of interim coach, I wasn’t sure what, if anything, would truly change. Well, other than the fact that Cable wouldn’t snipe at Al Davis the way Kiffin did, and he’d probably let JaMarcus Russell throw a few more passes.

This week I started getting a clearer picture of Cable’s coaching approach.

First, Cable benched free safety Michael Huff and replaced him with Hiram Eugene. Then, he benched wide receiver Ronald Curry and replaced him with rookie Chaz Schilens.

In both cases, Cable sent two very clear messages approaching Sunday’s home game against the New York Jets.

1) Cable demands aggressiveness out of his players. He praised Eugene for throwing “his body around in there.” He said he likes the way Schilens fights for the ball in traffic.

2) Cable values production over pedigree. Huff was the seventh overall pick in the 2006 draft. Eugene was signed as an undrafted rookie in 2005 and spent most of his first two seasons on the practice squad. Curry is in his seventh season with the Raiders and started 13 games last year. Schilens is a seventh-round draft pick out of San Diego State.

Good for Cable. He needed to shake things up and let his starters know that their jobs weren’t guaranteed. Huff has been blowing coverages and missing tackles. He deserved to be benched. Curry had just six catches for 61 yards and on touchdown in five games. It was well past time to give someone else a shot.

As the Raiders’ offensive line coach, Cable set the bar extremely high for his players. Now, apparently, that bar applies to the entire team.

Will that change translate into more wins? Who knows? Cable’s a coach, not a miracle worker. But you can bet that Cable has his players’ attention. That can only help.

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