Lorenzo Neal Looked Best In Blue-And-Gold

While not worthy of much attention nationally, the Raiders recently made a move that raised a few eyebrows here in San Diego. Last week, the Raiders and their "Commitment To Geriatrics" signed fullback Lorenzo Neal. At first glance, it’s easy to write this one off as a bad team signing another over-the-hill player. In my opinion, I think this signing could actually be more ammunition for the "AJ Smith is out-of-touch" crowd.

Now don’t get me wrong. Are the Raiders going to shock the world and win the AFC West? Heck no. They’ll be competing with the Denver Broncos for last place in a weak division. But on a team with three strong running backs, Neal could be just what the Raiders need to start turning things around on offense. And facing him twice a year, watching him consistently hitting his blocks… Well, let’s just hope that the big guy really has lost a step or three.

In letting Neal walk after the 2007 season, it was assumed that any decent fullback could fill his aging Pro Bowl shoes. Jacob Hester, a RB/FB, was drafted soon after. And after an impressive camp, undrafted free agent Mike Tolbert was tagged as the starting fullback after injuries took Andrew Pinnock out of the running.

Tolbert’s hands were good enough to get him into games, but his blocking was another story. After too many missed blocks and too many lost opportunities for a struggling running game, it was obvious that the Bolts were missing Neal’s penchant for making the block that needed to be made. Due to injury, Hester replaced Tolbert and seemed to get better over time. But were either of those rookies as good as Neal? No, not even an over-the-hill version of him.

On a team that lost seven games by a TD or less and had a problem controlling the clock, it’s easy to see how a few extra sustained drives could have equaled a couple of extra wins. Would it have mattered in the playoffs? Who knows? But that Chargers team may have had a better chance with a better fullback making better blocks.

This is by no means a knock on Hester. I think the guy gets a bad rap because the Chargers spent too much to get him. There is a chance he could grow into an effective fullback, albeit not a Lorenzo Neal style of player. I don’t think that he’ll ever be a prototypical blocking fullback.

Last off-season, much was made about coach Norv’s preference to minimize the roll of the fullback in his offense. Now, after the dust has settled on a disappointing season, the lack of an effective fullback was one of the glaring weaknesses in an otherwise talented Chargers offense. For a position that isn’t that important it sure stands out as one position that could have made the difference offensively. As for the Raiders and their new fullback, I’m not predicting a Pro Bowl for Lo-Neal this season, but I’m not predicting one for Hester and Tolbert either. If you need a blocking fullback, who do you want in your backfield?

May 21, 2009

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Anonymous said... May 21, 2009, 8:18:00 AM

I thought you guys were dead

gobolts said... May 21, 2009, 9:43:00 AM

We all recognize that LT seems to have benefited from having Lorenzo Neal in the backfield. I'm glad to see LT back and hopefully he'll retire as a Charger. That said, LT, Hester, and the rest of the offense (o-line especially) have something to prove. There should be better balance with Lights Out returning this year(on the offensive-defensive sides of the ball) which should help. There is no reason to think that if we stay healthy, and prepare and work hard (as I'm sure the guys are), that we shouldn't contend for the AFC title. GO BOLTS

Boltz4Life619 said... May 21, 2009, 11:15:00 AM

Lo'Neal in a heartbeat! His blocking took the lowly Ravens to the playoffs with a Rookie QB and 3 different RB's. He made Willis McGahee score more TD's last year than all his career. It ain't luck, its Lo'Neal.

Like I told my Raider buddy the other day, Neal will make the Raiders a contender for the playoffs come December. I hate to say that but he brings a lot to a team... At the end of 2007, I said cutting Neal was the most foolish move AJ has ever done. Now we watch in our own backyard...

shawnd said... May 21, 2009, 12:10:00 PM

Listen guys. Everybody thinks they know better then guys like AJ who have spent their whole adult lives doing football. AJ is human and, yes he makes some mistakes, but I still remember the 8-9 years before he got here. I am having a hell of a lot more fun being a Charger fan now. Thanks AJ!

BTW, don't forget Lorenzo asked for his release. He knew he was not going to be on the field as much under Norv and he wanted to be on a team where he would get more snaps......

Anonymous said... May 21, 2009, 1:07:00 PM

WOW, it's about time we get to read a new post from you guys. Glad to see someone is still breathing. Lets get some more info please...but on the subjec, Lo Neal would make our running game a lot better if he was brought back. Best blocker in football period. Dude's a beast.


Rob Zepeda said... May 22, 2009, 9:07:00 AM

Not dead, just on vacation in Thailand for the month of May! I wanted to give everyone a heads up, but I didn't think it deserved it's own post :p

arnie said... May 26, 2009, 12:06:00 PM

yes AJ makes mistakes, he's human. we get that. which means just because he makes a living at it, is the only differnece. because as they say, the proof is on the field, that it was a mistake to let Lo'Neal walk. yes walk... he asked for his release, after they announced his diminished role, and he was looking for a good contract extension for "his" contributions to the team. which he justifiably earned. and when you're and "over the hill fulback" sitting on the sidelines was not a good carreer move.

so again, the smart guy in the front office of boltland has not made one bonehead decision, but rather small "key" bonehead moves. we can go all the way back to the Drew Brees fiasco. but in spite of all the winning, he hasn't delivered on the win he's pledged to help this team get. losing Lo'Neal was a set back to getting closer to that goal. one that could've been avoided. so with a history of these questionable moves, after a while it adds up...

Anonymous said... Jun 9, 2009, 1:39:00 PM

It was dissapointing to see Lo-Jack go to the Raiders...exspecially since i have a Lo-Jack Charger's Jersey!

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