• 2008 RECORD: 5-11, third in AFC West

  • COACH: Tom Cable, second year (4-8)

  • THE DIFFERENCE MAKERS: Nnamdi Asomugha has a well-earned reputation as the league's top cornerback, forcing teams to throw away from the receiver he covers. "... Zach Miller quietly has developed into one of the league's best pass-catching tight ends in only two seasons. He also is quarterback JaMarcus Russell's safety blanket. "... Running back Darren McFadden has the all-around talent to change the complexion of a game every time he touches the ball.

  • KEY DEPARTURES: Two-time Pro Bowl defensive end Derrick Burgess forced a trade because he wanted to play elsewhere. "... Longtime starting center Jake Grove signed a free-agent contract with the Miami Dolphins. "... Defensive end Kalimba Edwards was released in a salary-cap move despite tying for the team lead in sacks with five.

  • KEEP AN EYE ON: Wide receiver Chaz Schilens replaced veteran Ronald Curry and looked good in training camp before suffering a broken left foot. He's aiming to return by the Raiders' second game. "... Second-year back McFadden is over the turf-toe and shoulder injuries that limited his playing time last season, and he is ready to assume the starting job. "... Mario Henderson replaced free-agent bust Kwame Harris at left offensive tackle and has been assigned to protect quarterback Russell's blind side.

  • FRESH FACE TO WATCH: Presuming Richard Seymour reports, he gives the Raiders the type of dominant force their defensive line has desperately needed for years.

  • LINGERING QUESTIONS: Is Russell finally ready for a breakout season? Can first-year defensive coordinator John Marshall succeed where predecessor Rob Ryan failed the past five seasons in getting his players to stop the run? Can Cable be the first coach since Bill Callahan in 2002 to guide the Raiders to more than five victories?

  • POTENTIAL PROBLEM: The Raiders are at risk of being without Cable for one game or longer if NFL commissioner Roger Goodell finds there's merit to former defensive assistant Randy Hanson's claim that Cable assaulted him one week into training camp.

  • BOTTOM LINE: The Raiders face a daunting schedule, as well as overcoming the specter of 72 losses the past six seasons. If McFadden, Miller and Asomugha remain healthy, Schilens returns to the lineup with no complications and Russell's development continues, the Raiders have a decent shot at eclipsing their victory total from any of the past six seasons.

    — STEVE CORKRAN