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“From Coaches to Players; Why Are the Raiders 3-5 & How & When Can They Fix It”

jack del rio hc

With so many expectations, the Raiders are a disappointing 3-5 half way through the 2017-18 NFL Season. Let’s look at why this has happened, and how and when it can be fixed.

Reggie McKenzie:
You heard a whole lot of Raider fans using the expression, “In Reggie We Trust” this off season. Many are now looking for him to either be fired or put on the hot seat.

I’ve written about McKenzie in the past. He’s done some good things but he’s also had some really bad signings and drafts. For every Derek Carr & Khalil Mack, there are the DJ Hayden’s, Jihad Ward’s and Clive Walford’s. Reggie has missed on several high picks and it’s hurt the Raiders.

The Raiders philosophy of trying to fix the defense with DB’s is wrong. They’ve been doing it for years. The Raiders need to stop pouring money and high draft picks into DB’s, and start building a dominating front 7. If you can’t rush the passer, you can’t stop teams in today’s NFL.

Fix:
Khalil Mack’s contract is now up and Oakland must pay him. This will make things even harder for the Raiders and they can’t have so many misses in their signings and their draft picks.
The Raiders need a physical front 7 that can stop the run and get to the passer. They need to draft and sign players to fix this part of the defense. McKenzie has to dump many of the contracts that are coming off the books in the off season including Reggie Nelson, Sean Smith, and David Amerson. They need to get tougher as well.

I’d love to see the Rams disgruntled stud DT Aaron Donald on the Raiders. He may be the most dominating player in the NFL today. A pass rushing DT would be my first priority. If I’m GM the teams defensive identity would be a physical one that gets to the QB. On offense I’d run a power running game with an emphasis on throwing deep. With their financial belt tightened you better be right on who you sign and draft.

Jack Del Rio:
Another popular phrase this off-season was in “Jack we trust”. Now many are questioning whether he is a winner and if he’s a good enough leader.

When Jack was hired, I was of the few that really wasn’t into this signing. Del Rio is a very popular coach with the owners and players. He’s likeable, says the right things, and makes sure the guys writing his checks are happy. He also has limited success. In 12 years of coaching Oakland and the Jags he has only 4 winning seasons and one playoff win. At Jacksonville things got worse the longer he coached. In his last 4 years coaching the Jaguars he was 23-36 and was let go during his last season with them.

Del Rio is usually very loyal to his players and coaches and is not one to throw anyone under the bus. That is a good trait, but he’s also not good in press conferences during bad times. His “I don’t know what happened” comment in press conferences have a bad look to it and fans of the Raiders like it as much as Jacksonville’s fans did before.

Fix:
The Raiders have to get an identity and stick to it and that is Jack Del Rio’s job. Bill’s head coach Sean McDermott has built an image in Buffalo that is equal to his. He’s also gotten rid of players that didn’t buy into his philosophy. The Bills are now tough, physical on defense, and have a good running game. Buffalo does not have a good QB and they are last in the NFL in passing offense but are 5-2 and they straight up believe.

Are the Raiders a pass happy team that doesn’t care about the run? Do they want to be a power running team that can throw deep? Do they want to be a physical defense that gets to the QB? Choose an identity and follow it.

Del Rio also has to be more authoritative and take control. Saying it’s my fault or saying we have to work on a better scheme is a lot better than shrugging your shoulders and saying I don’t know what happened. Some in the media have said he’s played a big role in the defense and it hasn’t helped. If the Raiders struggle for the next season and a half, his job won’t be his anymore.

Offense:
Even some in the media are now saying Derek Carr might be overrated. That’s way too simple. The truth is Carr is a good but not great NFL QB. He’s also a QB that gets rattled under a pass rush. Carr’s interceptions have got to him mentally. He’s now throwing to the check down receiver much more than in the past, and he’s trying to pinpoint passes in between defenders instead of airing it out and throwing deep. Some have said the Raiders threw deep more than anyone last year and that’s not true. The Raiders were 11th in completed passes past 20 yards and 12th over 40 yards.

There were more than a few bad passes yesterday that were caused by the pressure Buffalo was putting on Carr. He looked like he did when he was a rookie at times. He anticipated the rush instead of feeling it and it showed. Last year he was the best protected QB in the NFL and he thrived. This year the OL has struggled and so has he. NOT a coincidence.

Raiders OC Todd Downing is also getting trashed by many and he deserves some of the heat. He’s made few changes to the offensive scheme and the rest of the league has changed a lot to defend the Raiders. For instance on the turnovers yesterday, each play Buffalo played in the face of the Raiders WR. Instead of airing it out, Carr nervously went for the check down passes or tried to pinpoint the ball in between defenders.

Marshawn Lynch struggled his last year with Seattle, and he’s still struggling. He looks like a 31 year old RB and RB’s usually don’t get better or faster with age. He’s taken a lot of punishment over the years.

The Raiders have solid RB’s that can run, block and catch the ball but the Raiders have to run more. Some fans tried to say after yesterdays game, “see; look how bad the Raiders RB’s are”. Well they ran only 14 times all game with DeAndre Washington leading the way with 6 carries for 26 yards. The Raiders are an amazing 26th in the NFL for the number of rushing attempts so far this year. Last year they ended the year with the 11th most rushing attempts.

Fix:
Unless Downing steps up, a new coordinator is needed. They also need to back to the power blocking scheme and run the ball down teams throats. Marshawn Lynch enjoys the zone blocking scheme for his OL but it hasn’t worked. The identity of the offense should be a power running game and then use the deep ball with the play action pass. You can’t blame Todd Downing with poor play calling and not get on Carr. Carr is the coach on the field and he’s got to audible more. He has the final say on what play will be called. Part of being a QB is calling a great game and he was fooled a couple of times when the Bills showed blitz but didn’t.

Defense:
Where do we start. At the start of the year some publications said that the Raiders had the worst LB’ s in the NFL. The Raiders still have 17.5 million guaranteed until next year with CB’s David Amerson and Sean Smith. Reggie Nelson’s 4.25 million will be off the books too. Amerson struggles guarding the deep ball and Smith has struggled with everything. Reggie Nelson is on his last legs and Karl Joseph still struggles defending the passing game. Gareon Conley’s rookie year is pretty much not going to amount to much and that’s another round 1 pick that didn’t help much their first year.

The Raiders defensive line still can’t create a pass rush or stop the run. Khalil Mack had only 2 tackles yesterday with no sacks and was kept out for a small part of the game without any injury. The team has only 12 sacks in 8 games and it’s the same old story, different day.

Fans posting that the Raiders have this amazing amount of talent on defense and all they need is good coaching are ridiculous. They need talent big time on defense. Ken Norton Jr. and Jack Del Rio may not be the answer to fix the defense, but until they improve the talent, NOTHING is going to change.

Fix:
Blow it up. Get an experienced, quality coordinator. The Raiders want to win now. Mario Edwards Jr. has his moments but he’s not the answer so far. Jihad Ward was a bad pick. Keep Navorro Bowman but they need more help at LB. Let Amerson, Nelson and Smith walk. They have to get a DT that can put pressure on the QB and stop the run adequately. The Raiders have been fooling themselves on the defensive side of the ball for years. What they’ve done for 15 years hasn’t worked. It needs to be fixed yesterday.

Jim’s Jamz:
Most feel it will take 10 wins to ensure a playoff spot this year. If that is true, Oakland will have to go 7-1 the rest of the way. The Raiders have games left at home with Dallas, Denver, and the Giants and have to play Kansas City, San Diego and Philadelphia on the road. In regards to the struggles the Raiders had with the weather in rainy Buffalo, that is a beach party compared to playing in Kansas City and Philadelphia in December. This doesn’t include a game in Mexico with the Patriots right after the bye week.

Next week the Raiders play at Miami which is always a tough game for them. Realistically they will have to play amazing football the rest of the season to get to the playoffs. The offense can be improved to a point this year with some adjustments but the defense needs a lot more help that must be addressed in the off-season.

The Raiders players have a good attitude saying that they are going to work hard and stay committed. They are sticking together and not throwing blame to each other. They also can’t think about playoffs but they do need to think about the next opponent.

The Raiders will have to play amazing football the last 2 months to make the playoffs. The off season darlings of the NFL are in trouble. The castle that looked so sturdy is now having it’s foundation checked for damage. Time will tell how much work will need to be done to fix the team and if they do it right.

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“Are the Raiders in Better Shape Than People Think? Key Stats on The Teams of the AFC West”

navorro bowman chiefs
Navorro Bowman makes a tackle against the Chiefs

 

While people were trying to figure out why the Raiders were 2-4 in the early season, I and others took a simple approach and looked at the x’s and o’s. Teams had adjusted to the short passes of the Raiders passing game and we’re forcing them to throw deep and they were failing. I’ve been screaming for three weeks for the Raiders do to two things; open up the offense and throw downfield; and blitz often. They did both and pulled out a win at home against Kansas City and looked like a different team.

Even with the trying season and the need to talk fans off the ledge due to week to week reaction, in reality the Raiders have more of a chance than people think to get into the playoffs and possibly even win the division.

In Reality:

Let’s stop kidding ourselves. No, the Raiders don’t have amazing talent on defense and no they are not going to be good on that side of the ball this year. They may have some moments but for the most part they are not able to get it done.  The offense is going to have to carry them and if they don’t play well, the Raiders are toast. Next year the Raiders HAVE to fix the defensive front 7 or they are going to turn into the Miami Dolphins of the 80’s and 90’s; all offense, little defense. Ask Dan Marino how many Super Bowl trophies he has.

No, Derek Carr isn’t the greatest QB in Raiders history and yes, he struggles big time if he’s rushed. Last year he was the best protected QB in the NFL and he thrived. This year he has had just ok protection and he’s struggled for the most part. In the KC game he was never sacked and had great protection and threw for over 400 yards. NOT a coincidence.

After admitting these facts, we can now look at the 4 teams and how they may fare for the rest of the season.

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L.A. Chargers Melvin Ingram

Los Angeles Chargers:

As wrestling star Big Poppa Pump Scott Steiner used to say, pass rushing star Melvin Ingram is “legit”.  While future star Joey Bosa gets most of the publicity, Ingram has turned into a one man wrecking crew with his fast and physical style.  The Chargers DL is the real deal.

I like what is happening on the defensive side of the ball in Los Angeles for both teams. The formula in the wins for this team is simple; keep it close or get a lead, and then let the pass rush and pass defense take over. In the last 3 weeks that formula has worked.

The Chargers have been on their biggest high in a very long time. They have won their last 3 games beating the Giants and the Raiders on the road in close games, and then last week they shut out the punch-less Denver Broncos 21-0 in Los Angeles.

Their defense has been a key to their wins, especially in the red zone, not allowing a red zone touchdown in 3 weeks. They are 5th against the pass but are 31st against the run.

We will find out just how good the Chargers are this weekend when they visit New England. At 3-4 they still have a long way to go to take the division and their offense hasn’t exactly been lighting up the scoreboard. They are still very one dimensional being 8th in the NFL in passing yardage per game, and even with Melvin Gordon they are 31st in the run game.

Can They Win The AFC West:

The Chargers have some brutal road games ahead at New England, Jacksonville, Dallas and at Kansas City. They also have home games with Washington and Oakland ahead.

They will go as far as their offense takes them which I don’t think is far enough. Even with all of the publicity Phillip Rivers gets, earlier this year they broke a 24 game streak of not scoring a TD in the last two minutes of the half or at the end of a game. Could you imagine Tom Brady, Joe Montana or Ken Stabler having that streak? I don’t trust Phillip Rivers who to me is more of a stat stuffer than a winning QB at the end of games. A good guy, good QB but not great. The new rules are making legends out of average to good Qb’s because their stats are extremely hyper-inflated due to the rule changes the past 6 years.  Look at the ridiculous illegal use of the hands call against KC on the play when Derek Carr fumbled.  He literally didn’t touch the WR after 5 yards and barely patted him within 5 yards.  In the 70’s-90’s that would have been considered a hand shake.  That changed the game and it was a call you don’t see in flag football.  The rules have gone overboard, but that is for another day.

The Chargers lack of a running game also continues to limit their offense. I don’t see them winning the division but a possible .500 record isn’t a crazy idea.

justin houston

Kansas City Chiefs:

I’ve never been a huge Andy Reid fan but I’m really not getting what is going on in KC.  I just read where Justin Houston; the Chiefs all star stud pass rusher; is now being asked to fall back into pass coverage 25% of the time.  That is the third highest % of any edge rusher in the NFL.  Here is a guy that can take over a game by himself and he’s in coverage 1/4th of the time?  Wow.

The Chiefs defense used to carry them, and now it hinders them and they continue to struggle on defense. They are 25th against the run and 28th against the pass. Their pass rush when only rushing 4 players, hasn’t been good at all. They have only 15 sacks in 7 games and that is not KC football. The offense continues to shine being a top 5 offense. They did fail on their last drive against Oakland though when they could have iced the game.

The Chiefs offense is still on a roll and they have a key game at home with Denver next. With Denver struggling so much on offense this looks like a Chiefs win right?   This is the NFL folks.

Can They Win the Division?:

Right now they are in the drivers seat, and if they beat Denver they are in great shape. With the easiest schedule ahead of all of the 4 teams, it will be hard to beat the Chiefs for the division.  KC is the odds on favorite right now but anything can happen.

CJ ANDERSON
Broncos CJ Anderson scores a TD in the snow in Denver.

Denver Broncos:

I don’t care about all the love that Tony Romo and all of the other announcers give to Bronco QB Trevor Siemian; I think it’s become illegal for announcers to tell the truth anymore about NFL QB’S; he is a bad NFL QB.

With a lack of accuracy and vision to make the right throw, the Denver offense is hamstrung at QB. In their 3 losses this year, Denver has scored a total of 26 points. And to be shut out on the road against the Chargers 31st ranked run defense, is a bad sign. Bill Musgrave is Denver’s QB coach and he seemed a lot better coach when he had Derek Carr didn’t he? For all of you that want coaches fired after every loss, isn’t that crazy how that works out? Better players make coaches look better?  Insane, I know. (highly sarcastic comment)

To be fair the Broncos left side of their offensive line has struggled all year and that hasn’t helped. Denver is 24th in scoring offense and is middle of the road in many offensive categories, but where they fail is in the red zone. They are 29th in scoring TD’s in the red zone and in their last 3 games they scored a TD in only 11% of their times in the red zone.   On the road for the year their % is an abysmal 25% TD rate in the red zone. I don’t think this trend ends any time soon either. Siemian is a very limited QB and they will struggle in the red zone all year. What is scarier is how come Paxton Lynch cant’ beat him out when he was healthy?

Defensively Denver is 6th against the pass and 2nd against the run but they are 13th in sacks with 18 for the year. Their defense is still really good, but just not as dominating as in the past.

Can They Win The Division:

Denver will always be in the hunt because of their defense, but their offense is a hindrance. It’s hard seeing Denver taking this division unless Siemian improves, especially in the red zone. Don’t be surprised if you have a Brock Osweiller sighting soon.  Osweiller was re-signed in the first week in September.  Looking at the QB situation in Denver, it’s like I’m a sick child and the doctor asks if I want castor oil or a shot. With Paxton Lynch’s constant injury issues, the QB situation is as bad as it gets in the mile high city.

In regards to their schedule, Denver also has to play away games in Kansas City, Oakland, Philadelphia and Washington, along with home games with New England and Kansas City.  With that schedule the odds of winning the division is shrinking. They are on the outside looking in if they lose to Kansas City in their next game.

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Raiders DeAndre Washington scores a TD against KC on a tough run

Oakland Raiders:

After 4 straight losses with some Raider fans getting ready to throw everyone off the plank including the cheerleaders and announcers, the Raiders saved the season from going under with a big win against Kansas City at home. Even with this win there is a lot to do.

With the signing of Navorro Bowman, the Raiders now have a quality LB that is better than anyone they presently have on the roster. He’s no where near the same player that was one of the best in the NFL, but he definitely can still produce. Even with Bowman the Chiefs were 8-15 on third down and had 425 totally yards of offense. I’ve talked at length about the defense in past articles, so let’s just say that Oakland’s defense is not good, and it’s not going to be good for the rest of the season.  He’s not going to help much in coverage but he does make the defense a little better.

For the Raiders to win, their offense will have to carry them like they did in the previous game. I was against the signing of Marshawn Lynch from the start and I really like the Raiders stable of RB’s.  It will be interesting to see how they do against the stout defense of the Buffalo Bills.  The Raiders have a nice match-up against a Buffalo team that has a solid defense but not much of an offense outside of LeSean McCoy. Tyrod Taylor is very limited at QB and a close Raiders win is probable but nothing is for sure.

The problem is down the road. After playing in Buffalo, they play a night game against Miami which I think they can do well in. Then it gets interesting. The Raiders go to Mexico to play New England, and have home games against Denver, Dallas & the NY Giants. Add road games in Kansas City, Philadelphia and against the Chargers and the Raiders second half schedule is as tough as anyone’s. The Chiefs and Eagles (on Christmas Day) games will be at least cold if not snowy. California teams don’t exactly thrive in the snow.  As a lifelong northern Californian, I personally don’t even like to open the freezer let alone be in the cold midwest or east.

Will The Raiders Win the Division?

There are two huge games that will help in determining if the Raiders can win the division. One will be the Denver game in Kansas City this weekend. If KC wins that game, they regain control. Another game is the Chiefs hosting the Raiders in December.   If the Raiders lose that game it’s hard to impossible to see them winning the division. As viewers it’s always fun to look ahead but in reality every week is like the playoffs and you can’t take anyone lightly anymore in the salary cap era.   Every team has issues and it all changes week to week, especially with injuries.

The Bills game should be a tough, grinding game for Oakland.  With temperatures in the 40’s with a 70% chance of rain expected, the road starts out as a tough one in upstate New York for the Silver and Black.  The road to the AFC West crown will be a wild one for each team.

“What the Oakland Raiders Must Do To Beat Kansas City Tonight; The Season is on the Line”

 

NFL: Kansas City Chiefs at Oakland Raiders
Raiders OC Todd Downing & QB Derek Carr

I’ve seen some of the craziest theories for some fans and even writers trying to explain the issues with the Raiders.  I’m just not that smart I guess; I break it down to what is and not to what might be so let’s look at the statistics.

Raiders Issues:

If you follow the NFL you know that owners and coaches have 2 flaws.  They hate change and when they do change they copy someone.  Right now the Raiders need to change their philosophy on both offense and defense to combat the changes other teams have done to stop them.  For 4 straight weeks they’ve refused to adjust and it’s cost them against teams with less talent.

What Needs To Change On Offense To Beat the Chiefs:

The Raiders have completed only 2 passes over 40 yards this year and 15 passes for over 20 yards.  That is on the same pace for last year.

The problem with that is for the last 4 games teams have begun to play press coverage on the Raiders.  Commentators have talked about how teams no longer give the Raiders the easy short throws and the Raiders have to stretch the field.  So far they haven’t adjusted to the defensive changes of other teams.

Bill Musgrave is not a genius and he was not a big loss even though some are getting way too carried away with his importance.  He’s now the QB coach at Denver and Trevor Siemian is borderline atrocious, and is a big reason their offense struggles.  What OC Todd Downing and Derek Carr are not getting is that they need to adjust their philosophy and they aren’t.  Teams are taking away the short game so now you have to throw deep.

The first thing I’d do tonight is run a play action pass on first down and throw the deep ball.  Even if it isn’t caught, it will give the threat of it.  Cordarrelle Patterson is lightning fast and so is Amari Cooper & Johnny Holton.  What good is that speed if you are not going to stretch the field?  The NFL is a game of adjustments and those that don’t adjust, fail to keep their jobs.

Marshawn Lynch & The Formula to Beat Kansas City:

I was in the 1% who did not like the Lynch signing.  He’s not the same player and he’s lost his burst.  I like youth at RB; always have.  Also the Raiders changed to a zone blocking scheme to accommodate his running style.  The zone blocking scheme is more for smaller and quicker OL.  The Raiders have a mammoth sized OL and they should be running the power scheme and NOT zone blocking.  The running game has suffered for it.

The Pittsburgh Steelers are 5-1 against the Chiefs in their last 6 games.  Why?  Because they stopped the nonsense of throwing 40-50 times and ran the ball down Kansas City’s throat each time.  They also took away the run and the short pass to the RB’s and TE’s and tried to force Alex Smith to throw deep which is not his strength.

The Raiders need to run and run often.  Jalen Richard & DeAndre Washington have to run the ball more.  He’s quick to the hole where Lynch isn’t.  If it were me Lynch would not even start, Richard would.  I would employ Lynch as a short yardage or goal line back.

What Needs To Change On Defense:

The Raiders are 27th in the NFL in sacks with only 11.  Sound Familiar?  If you can’t rush the passer your defense will not be good; end of story.  Especially in todays game with the rules protecting WR.

The Raiders also lack talent and you can’t fix that mid-season.  Navorro Bowman was a great signing for the LB’s but he’s nowhere near what he was in the past.  He’s had two terrible leg injuries and his speed has suffered a lot.  If he can get there he can make a tackle that is for sure.  On the Raiders though he immediately becomes their best LB.  Bowman is not a blitzer; he’s a straight up LB and in his prime was as good as anyone in the game.  All these ridiculous predictions of multiple sacks and 12-15 tackles and multiple fumble recoveries are fun stuff on Facebook groups I guess but it’s far from the real world.  Hopefully Bowman can get into a regular rotation and get his sea legs in the Raiders defense for his first game.

The philosophy for years for Oakland was to sign and draft great db’s to fix the defense.  That plan has failed miserably.  With the rules today making looking at a WR a penalty, the QB and WR stats are like pinball scores.  You have to have a pass rush or your DB’s are toast.  The Raiders have failed to emphasize the DL and the LB and focus on DB’s and it doesn’t work.  Right now they can’t cut Sean Smith who has around 9 million in cap room.  They have to wait until next year.  David Amerson who struggles with the deep ball, has 8.5 million on the books.  That’s a huge amount of wasted money on limited return.

The Raiders DL still can’t rush the passer and for another painstaking year it’s killing the team on defense.  Add that the last 2 weeks Mack has been quiet as well and wasn’t double teamed very much, and it’s a recipe for disaster.

It will take a miracle for the Raiders to win big with this defense but you have to make do.  If I’m Jack Del Rio I go crazy with my play calls.  The Raiders do not have the talent on defense to stop a lot of teams so I make sure on any third down with more than 5 yards to go I blitz someone.  In fact I would blitz a lot but I’d change it up.  If the Raiders do not get to the QB their DB’s and LB’s can’t cover.  Karl Joseph struggles a lot covering TE and the LB’s coverage skills are so bad, ex-Raider Rich Gannon said he’d throw to the RB’s almost every time.  The thought of Kareem Hunt and Travis Kelce running wild after catching passes tonight is a definite worry.

The Player The Raiders Need To Change Their Defense Immediately:

Rams DT Aaron Donald is extremely unhappy where he is.  This guy at times is unblockable.  He’s double teamed often but he still gets big numbers.  He is probably the best DT in the game.  He’s 26 and in the prime of his career and he want’s big money.  Well I make it work.  The Raiders overpaid for some free agents and their money is coming off of the books.  Sign him and Mack and now you have a special tandem.

I’d play Donald on the same side as Mack.  I’d then start moving Mack around when teams figured that out. This would give the Raiders a pretty much unblockable DL especially on obvious passing downs.  Now THIS tranforms your defense immediately.  Not a DB that you hope works out when you don’t have a pass rush.  Will the Raiders give that type of money to the DL along with Mack?  Probably not.  A man can dream can’t he?

What is Going To Happen Tonight?

If the Raiders do nothing to their schemes and keep throwing short and keep trying to play their defense straight up, then a close loss at home is probable and a 2-5 start will destroy their season.

If the Raiders wake up and start throwing deep and setting that up with a physical running game, then they can score some points.  Their defense also needs to become much more aggressive on blitzes to hide their deficiencies in coverage.  If they do these adjustments I think the Raiders win.  If not, a 2-5 start is assured and this is with the hardest part of their schedule waiting ahead.  And if I’m the GM and they don’t make these adjustments for the entire year, both coordinators will be looking for jobs elsewhere.  I’d also tell Jack Del Rio he will be next if they don’t adjust.  When teams adjust NFL coaches, change is good.  I guarantee it.

“The Two Reasons Why the Raiders Offense Is Struggling & How to Fix it; A Quick Evaluation of the Raiders & AFC West”

 

derek carr

After the Raiders 16-10 loss to the Denver Broncos, there were more questions than answers in Oakland.  The Raiders have fallen to 2-2 and this was supposed to be a part of the schedule that was easier than the daunting last 7 games of the season.  Let’s look at what has happened the last 2 weeks for the Raiders and how they can fix it.

 Offense:

Washington’s defense played a great game and Denver’s defense is getting back to being dominating, but both teams made adjustments that most teams are sure to do in the future.

Last year, teams were afraid of giving up the deep ball to the Raiders.  Almost all teams played off the WR; sometimes 10-15 yards; often giving up easy passes.  For all his annoying sayings and talking up each player like they are all headed to the hall of fame, Tony Romo gets what is going on.  “Teams are taking away the easy short passes the Raiders are used to getting”, he said in the 4th quarter.

First off, for fans complaining about play calling, remember that Derek Carr is the last coach on the field.  He can change the play anytime he wants so if the play is not a good one, he needs to change it.  That’s one thing that separates great QB’s from really good ones.

In regards to the passing game, Washington and Denver both played physical, press coverage.  For newer fans that means that the DB’s play on the line of scrimmage and are in the WR faces to not allow for easy passes.  The last two weeks NOTHING has been given to the Raiders passing game and they are struggling big time.

And no EJ Manuel didn’t all of a sudden play great when Carr struggled.  Carr is still really good.  What did Denver do when EJ Manuel came into the game?  They did what most NFL coaches do; they got conservative and almost blew it.  They stopped playing press coverage and it allowed the Raiders to get back into the game.  Yes the cover 2 defense helped seal the win with the last interception when the Safety came over to help, but it also allowed Manuel to hit wide open targets who weren’t open at the start of the game.  The Broncos kicker missed an easy kick and Denver got conservative which almost cost them the game.

How do you beat press coverage?  You throw deep.  The Raiders have a lot of speed with Johnny Holton, Cordarralle Patterson, Amari Cooper, and Jared Cook is also fast at TE and can get deep.  Wheel routes to the RB’s also would work.  Teams have adjusted to the Raiders offense and now they have to make changes.  The Raiders are pretty much running the same offense as last year and they need to get that most teams are going to risk getting beat with the deep ball, by stopping their short and medium passes.

Amari Cooper has to step up. He is a talented but passive person and the Raiders lose their mojo and aggressiveness when Michael Crabtree is not in the game.  Cooper has to establish himself as the deep threat that he was in his rookie year.  When the Raiders start stretching the field with the deep ball, now you pound the ball with 4 quality running backs.  A sweep once in a while with those two quality guards pulling isn’t the dumbest idea either.

Offensive Line:

The OL of the Raiders has basked in a little bit of glory due to their mild success, but they have to get back to work and be physical and play to their potential.  This is the engine of the Raiders.  If they play well, so do the Raiders.  They have to step up and just get back to playing like they are capable of.  No real changes other than quality play is needed. Many publications have pointed out that 25% of the Raiders salary cap was spent on the offensive line.  No team has spent more money on their OL.  This unit is not as good as last year for some reason.  Where teams often blitzed last year, that is no longer the case.  All night Denver and Washington got to Derek Carr rushing only 4 players.  If you get to Carr he struggles like he did with Washington and Denver.  Tom Brady, Aaron Rodgers and Ben Roethlisberger can handle big rushes, but Derek Carr doesn’t have that skill.

If  your passing game isn’t working, teams stop respecting the deep ball and the DB’s play up close to the line.  If they are afraid of the deep ball the DB’s play back worrying about getting beat deep.  With a bad passing game, the run game becomes predictable.

The play calling has been just that at times, but the run game has also not been the same due to the OL’s poor play and the lack of success in the passing game.  Where the Raiders wore teams down, they now struggle running the ball when they have to.  The Jets are awful and the Titans defense just gave up 57 points to a rookie QB, but Washington’s is pretty good and Denver’s is elite.  The Raiders should handle Baltimore next week but against the better defenses, they need to make adjustments.

Carr HAS to have time.  He was the best protected QB in the NFL last year and it wasn’t a coincidence he had an amazing year.

Defense:

Jack Del Rio said it several times in interviews this off season.  “We just haven’t put in the money into our defense. To our defense there isn’t enough money to go around”.  This is why teams of today always have some kind of weakness.  Khalil Mack is the only player getting to the QB for four quarters.  For whatever reason, Mario Edwards looks great in the first quarter of games and then he disappears.  If Khalil Mack ever got hurt, this DL would be scary to watch and that’s in a bad way.  Many teams do not double team Mack and I think that’s crazy.  He is Oakland’s only consistent pass rusher.

The LB’s are struggling big time in pass coverage and aren’t exactly dominating against the run.  Trevor Siemian is not a good QB and at times the Broncos seem lost with their play calling.  When they tried to run the ball exclusively they struggled.  When they started to pass the ball they opened up the run game.  Overall Denver’s offense isn’t that good, but the Raiders have good offenses to play in their future.

The DB’s played better but Siemian missed several passes.  Emmanuel Sanders was wide open up the middle twice for long passes but Siemian wasn’t even looking at him.  The Raiders pass defense struggled again.  When teams start passing to their RB’s and TE’s the Raiders are toast because their back 7 can’t cover them.  They are going to have to continue to mix up their schemes with blitzes and zones and just hope for the best.

Denver Broncos vs. against the Oakland Raiders, NFL Week 17

The State of the AFC West:

It’s obvious for right now that the KC Chiefs are the best team in this division.  Their offense is better and they can beat you with their quick passing game or their run game.  With Justin Houston playing well, their pass rush is back to form.  With a deep throwing new hot shot QB breathing down his neck, Alex Smith has finally started to throw deeper passes which has opened up their offense.  KC plays Washington tonight, which was the same team that dominated the Raiders so it will be interesting how they do.

Phillip Rivers is a media darling but he’s overrated.  He is the poster boy for today’s NFL.  The rules have allowed even average QB’s to get pinball passing numbers which makes them look better than they are.  The Chargers now have gone 24 straight games without a 2 minute drill touchdown and no team has struggled in the second half and the fourth quarter more than the Chargers over the years.  I was ripped on by those that tried to tell me in week one that San Diego was a sleeper team and is a dark horse to get to the Super Bowl and I just kind of laughed.  They are now 0-4 and 0-3 at home.  Hmmm

Siemian isn’t a good QB and the Broncos are limited offensively.  Their formula is to get ahead early, and then rely on their defense to close out the game.  Denver is not the type of team to make big come backs and I don’t see Siemian winning many games late.

The Raiders have to adjust on offense.  Teams are no longer willing to give them the easy throws.  The smart ones are going to try and force them to throw deep which Oakland has to do successfully.  Watch the DB’s.  If you see them playing up, look to see if the Raiders throw deep to gain their respect.

If the Raiders don’t score, they are going to struggle.  This defense is no where near a championship defense and if they don’t score, they don’t win.  With quality offenses on the horizon, they need to make sure that they make changes on how to attack the press coverage that teams are likely to use in the future.

Players on the defense have to step up, but you wonder if they have the talent to do that.  Even Jack Del Rio has said at times the Raiders D is like the Khalil Mack show.  Unless they get a consistent pass rusher not named Mack, the back 7 are going to be exposed week by week.  Will the offense adjust to the changes on how defenses attack them?  And will Amari Cooper and Carr rise to the occasion behind the offensive line that finally plays up to their talent level.

The talk from fans before the season was all about the Super Bowl.  Now they have more questions than answers about the poor start of the Raiders.  Unless they make the proper changes, this dream season will be just that; a dream.  This winning the Super Bowl thing is not as easy as you think kids.

“How Far Will The Oakland Raiders Go This Year? Answering the Detractors & Predictions”

NFL: Oakland Raiders-OTA
Marshawn Lynch & Derek Carr sharing a laugh during practice

What a fun year it will be for the fans in Oakland.  With a fun team and great personalities, there will be many smiling faces all around.  Some have said 12-4; some say 9-7 due to the defense.  Let’s quickly look at each position and get a better understanding of the 2017-18 Oakland Raiders.

Oakland Raiders v New Orleans Saints
Derek Carr

Quarterback: (Derek Carr, EJ Manuel, Connor Cook)

It’s nice for the Raiders to be set at QB.  Derek Carr was the best protected QB in the NFL last year and he sliced and diced his way to a great season.  Carr struggles at times if he’s rushed, but as long as their OL protects him the way they have, he should have another stellar year and will wow the NFL.

Even with today’s rules making passing so easy, the QB position has never been worse in the NFL.  That means an excellent QB like Carr’s value is huge. EJ Manuel and Connor Cook are not waving around a Super Bowl trophy any time soon so Carr’s health is obviously imperative.  No team can win without their starting QB.

Grade:  A

deandre washingto
DeAndre Washington breaking a run against the Titans

Running Backs: Marshawn Lynch, Jamize Olawale, DeAndre Washington, Jalen Richard)

I think the Raiders have the best set of running backs in the NFL.  If Marshawn Lynch can find some life left in a body that has taken a lot of punishment, the Raiders running game should be excellent.  Jalen Richard and DeAndre Washington can do it all at a smaller level.  They can run, catch, and are the best pass blockers against the blitz in the NFL.  Add an underrated fullback like Jamize Olawale and this crew is as good as it gets for 2017.

Grade:  A

Panthers Raiders Football
Raiders LT Donald Penn

Offensive Line: (LT Donald Penn, LG Kelechi Osemele, C Rodney Hudson, RG Gabe Jackson, RT Marshall Lawson; T Jylan Ware, G Denver Kirkland, T Vadal Alexander, G-C Jon Feliciano, T David Sharpe)

Donald Penn did what many players used to do in the NFL.  He took training camp off with a hold out.  With him back the Raiders OL is intact.  I’ve seen some on Sports Illustrated and Fox Sports say the Raiders OL is overrated and that’s laughable.  This is a top 3 line in today’s football.  Carr was the best protected QB in the NFL and the Raiders were solid on the ground and they will again be a top 10 offense; maybe even top 5.  This group is the engine and driving force of the Raiders.  This group HAS to stay healthy.

Grade:  A+

Crabtree-extension-12-09-15
Michael Crabtree warming up before a home game in Oakland

Wide Receivers: (Amari Cooper, Michael Crabtree, Cordarrelle Patterson, Johnny Holton)

The Raiders have an excellent core of WR (maybe the best) with the addition of speedster Cordarelle Patterson.  This is a huge upgrade to Seth Roberts who the Raiders are infatuated with.  Johnnie Holton is solid and plays a key role in special teams.

Grade:  A

jared cook
New Tight End Jared Cook

Tight Ends: (Jared Cook, Lee Smith, Clive Walford)

Bill Musgrave gave me a headache.  His WR heavy and at times conservative offense has been replaced with new offensive coordinator Todd Downing.  So far I like what I’ve seen.  The Raiders tight ends were near the bottom in attempts thrown to them last year.  Can’t have good TE if you don’t throw to them.  Lee Smith is the best blocking TE in the NFL and can catch the ball when needed.  The Raiders are excited about the addition of Jared Cook from Green Bay.  Clive Walford is set at #3 but should see more time in obvious passing downs.  Walford has been a bust so far and he needs to show he belongs.

Grade:  B+

khalil mack
Khalil Mack rushing the QB

Defensive Line: (DE Khalil Mack, DT Eddie Vanderdoes, DT Justin Ellis, DE Mario Edwards Jr.; DE/LB James Cowser, DT Darius Latham, DT Treyvon Hester, DL Denico Autry, DL Jihad Ward)

The Raiders were last in sacks in the NFL last year and 26th in overall defense.  Khalil Mack and Bruce Irvin are fine but then what?  Justin Ellis looks good at times but he hasn’t had a sack in 3 years and is inconsistent.  Jihad Ward started 13 games last year and played in all 16.  In those games he only had 16 tackles, 14 assists and no sacks and was invisible at times.  If he can’t step it up this year, it may be another draft bust.

To bolster the DT position the Raiders drafted Eddie Vanderdoes out of UCLA.  He was hard working and tough against the run, but not a good pass rusher. He had 4 sacks in 4 years.  Mario Edwards Jr. comes back for a key year but it remains to be seen if he’s the answer.  A bright spot this pre-season has been Treyvon Hester out of Toledo.  He has been a quality pass rusher with a big motor.  He had 5 sacks and 8.5 tackles for loss his senior year at Toledo and was a great pick at #7 this year.

Grade:  C+

corey james
LB Corey James

Linebackers: (SLB Bruce Irvin, MLB Marquel Lee, WLB Cory James, Tyrell Adams, Nicholas Morrow, DL/LB James Cowser)

Jack Del Rio has told the media several times that the Raiders haven’t put as much into LB’s than they were able to.  “When you have only so much money, you can’t fix everything”.  Many times Irvin rushes the passer so he’s kind of a hybrid LB/DL.  A couple of publications have said the Raiders linebackers are the worst in football.  The biggest knock on this group is that they play passively and are more finesse than physical.  To be fair, these guys give huge effort, but it’s obvious there needs to be improvement.  Cory James has had his moments and the hopes are that he’ll keep improving.  Free agent Jelani Jenkins is now out for the year on injured reserve.  Rookie Marquel Lee has good mechanics and he may start but he lacks speed and coverage skills.  Shalique Calhoun; the 75th player taken in last years draft;  was recently cut and signed to the practice squad.  A wasted pick.

Grades:  D 

david amerson jjj
CB David Amerson

Defensive Backs: (LCB Davis Amerson, RCB Sean Smith. Backups–Gareon Conley, TJ Carrie, Antonio Hamilton, Dexter McDonald)

For several years the Raiders have tried to fix their pass defense by constantly drafting and signing DB’s.  It hasn’t worked & it’s a bad philosophy.  I think if they spent the same money and drafts on pass rushing DT’s and tough LB’s, things would be a lot better on defense.  I’ll take a great front 7 over stud DB’s any and every day.  With today’s rules making it so easy to pass, DB’s have no chance if there isn’t a pass rush in front of them.

It took teams a year to realize David Amerson struggles against the deep ball.  It took teams a week to find out high priced CB Sean Smith was a lot better with Chiefs safety Eric Berry and the Kansas City Pass rush in front of him.  TJ Carrie has really struggled.  Gareon Conley was drafted out of Ohio St. but missed all of training camp and pre-season.  To get a rookie corner to jump in with out much preparation and expect him to excel is a bit much.  He’s a straight cover guy and isn’t a good run tackler but people are excited about his potential in coverage. With all of the money and picks the Raiders have spent on this group, it’s been a big disappointment.  The hopes are Conley will be a mainstay.  Raider fans on social media have also pointed out that it’s hard watching 49er’s rookie LB Reuben Foster look like a one man wrecking crew as well.

Grade D:

joseph-raiders
Safety Karl Joseph

Safety: (FS Reggie Nelson, SS Karl Joseph, S Erik Harris, S Shalom Luani, S Keith McGill)

Obi Melifonwu has been placed on IR today and the Raiders have signed veteran Erik Harris.  Karl Joseph is a tough player and has looked good against the run, but he’s struggled in coverage.  He seems more passive and has to improve his positioning on tight ends.  Reggie Nelson is good for interceptions every year but he’s far from great.  Draft pick Obi Melifonwu is a physical specimen and a great athlete.  He’s a good tackler but lacks instinct in coverage and is a project.  I like Shalom Luani a lot.  He has good size but also has amazing instinct and a nose for the ball, something that seems to be getting rare in the NFL.  With the NFL so obsessed with size and athleticism, the Raiders think that they got a huge steal getting Luani who was a great player at Washington St. Look for Luani to get more playing time as the season progresses & maybe even take over for Nelson.  I’d like to see him and Joseph play together.

Grade:  C

marquette king
Raiders punter Marquette King

Special Teams:

The Raiders are set with Marquette King but the Raiders want Sebastian Janikowski to rework his contract & he said no. The Raiders are worried about his bad back and age (he already looks to be out for week 1) and they have been working kickers out. He’s getting 4 million in this, his final year of his contract.  I give you permission to slap all of the Monday morning quarterbacks in the back of the head who say that players should honor their contracts when 90% of the contracts in the NFL are NOT honored by the teams.

Grade:  A (for now)

Jack Del Rio
Raiders Head Coach Jack Del Rio

Coaching/Front Office:

The Raiders have a solid coaching staff lead by Jack Del Rio.  With the defense lacking talent in areas, look for Ken Norton Jr. to be on the hot seat all year with fans.  They say change the scheme.  WHAT SCHEME? If the Raiders blitz, now their DB’s who struggle in coverage are playing man to man and they will be exposed.  If they play zone, the Raiders have a poor pass rush so the QB has too much time to throw and will pick them apart.

And with DB’s getting penalties for being anywhere near WR in today’s NFL, no DB is going to be able to cover for that long of a time.  If you take out the 2014 draft, the Raiders have had a ton of busts with signings and draft picks.  Hayden, Calhoun, Ward, Woodley, Schaub, Walford, Smith, Amerson, Lofton, Allen and many other names are adding to the list of busts.  I defended Reggie when few would and here is part of his history.  Some good, some bad.

https://jimjax4.wordpress.com/2016/03/22/how-reggie-mckenzie-turned-around-the-oakland-raiders-what-lies-ahead/

Grade:  A-

AFCwest

The State of the AFC West:

While Philip Rivers is being lauded by many in the press, they forget how bad he was in the 4th quarter last year and that he lead the NFL in interceptions with 21.  The Broncos still don’t have a QB & have questions at OL.  On defense they have to rely on the health of often unhealthy Shane Ray and Derek Wolfe for their defense to thrive.  The Chiefs have an aging defense (pass rusher Tamba Hali literally has no cartilage in his knees) and a conservative offense that is built, “not to lose”.  It took them this long to see Alex Smith will never win anything?  They also lost their starting RB to a season ending injury.  What this means is that the Raiders are prime to take over the AFC West.  If they don’t, this will be a disappointing season.

raiders win

Detractors to Defenders:

I think it’s ridiculous for some writers to say the Raiders are overrated.  Larry Kreuger of KNBR had them going 9-7 and missing the playoffs and some have them 10-6.  Not a chance.  With teams struggling to score at times, and with the QB position so bad in the NFL, (Matthew Stafford gets 27 million and he’s 5-46 in his career against teams with winning records) the Raiders offense will shine and be the key to their quality season.  They will flat out beat teams with their offense.  That style though doesn’t work in the post season.

Now I get the detractors.  The Raiders will have some good moments, but overall this looks like a really bad defense. I get that the Raiders won close games against some bad teams last year and that their schedule is much tougher (4th hardest) but their offense is better and they are more balanced.

They start off the year with 3 very winnable games that could get them on a roll.  The first 9 games are a lot easier than the second half and they should go 7-2 or 8-1 (again, no win is for sure).  In the last 7 games though they play New England in Mexico and host Denver, Dallas and the NY Giants.  They have to play 2 cold December games, at Kansas City and then on Christmas at Philadelphia before ending the season in San Diego. Christmas in Philly? That’s a rough second half.

My Prediction:  11-5; AFC West Champs; losing in AFC Championship game

Calm down non-Raider fans; I’m not saying Derek Carr is as good as Dan Marino, but the Raiders remind me somewhat of the 80’s-90’s Miami Dolphin’s.  This defense is no where close to being a championship defense.  Offense excites the fans and puts butts in the seats, but defense wins championships.  If the Patriots defense doesn’t completely shut down Atlanta in the second half, Tom Brady doesn’t get the chance for a come back. And as Matt Millen said several times, the Raiders defenses dominated in all 3 Super Bowl wins.  In the future they have to get a pass rushing DT, a physical LB and to a lesser extent another CB before they can get to the next level.  If somehow a DT comes out of the ashes this year to have an amazing year putting pressure on the QB, then something magical can happen.  I don’t see it but crazier things have happened.

With the Raiders ability to score, even with the tougher schedule I don’t see them losing anything more than 5 games.  If the AFC West tanks, then a 12-4 season is possible. Getting home field advantage is vital because winning in New England or Pittsburgh in the Winter is near impossible.

With the Raiders in full lame duck mode before their move to Las Vegas, this will be a wild ride, so hang on.  And loyal Raider fans of all ages, keep your wits about you.  If you thought Bay Area millennials jumped on the Warriors bandwagon, you ain’t seen nothing yet.  So move over and let people on because NOTHING about this NFL season will be boring in the city of Oakland.

“GRADES: The Raiders Make it Official by Beating Denver; They Are Back”

raiders-broncos-1
Oakland Raiders’ Latavius Murray (28) leaps to score a touchdown against the Denver Broncos in the fourth quarter of their NFL game at the Coliseum in Oakland, Calif., on Sunday, Nov. 6, 2016. The Raiders defeated the Broncos 30-20. (Jose Carlos Fajardo/Bay Area News Group)

 

Final Oakland Raider Grades v.s. Denver Broncos; Week 9:

Denver Broncos  20 (6-3)

Oakland Raiders  30 (7-2)

The Raiders came through in a near must win situation, beating the Denver Broncos at home. It was a physical pounding of the Super Bowl champs that was loved by all in attendance.   Oakland had only played 2 teams with winning records all year and both ended up in losses at home. To go 0-3 against teams with winning records; all at home; would have been a hard pill to swallow.

Overview:

The offensive line flat out dominated this game.

Quarterback:

Statistically this was one of Carr’s worst games of the season but this is against the Broncos and it was no where near as bad as the numbers suggest. The success of the running game also limited him.  Carr was steady and accurate and didn’t make the mistakes that have plagued him against the Broncos in the past. Against good offensive teams though, the Raiders can’t settle for field goals in the red zone.

GRADE: B

Carr was 20 for 31 for 184 yards with no TD’s or interceptions. He missed on some passes but there were only a few issues that he had. Raider fans cringed when they shockingly called a pass with less than 8 minutes to go in the game and Carr made a horrible throw that was intercepted. The referees looked at it and reversed their decision because it hit the ground. Carr has to throw that away or throw to a place where only his guy can catch it. Better yet just run the ball.

Running Backs:

SO SICK of NFL ex jocks who are now sportscasters saying the Raiders can’t run the ball. The Raiders are now #4 in the NFL in rushing yards and #3 in rushing touchdowns. The Raiders running game is just fine thanks.

Latavius Murray had his best game of the year and everyone contributed. Jalen Richards looked like a rocket when hitting the hole. The Raiders offensive line is an excellent one playing at a high level and the running game is doing well.

Grade A

A thing people don’t talk about is the excellent pass blocking by the running backs when picking up the blitz. Good all around game by everyone.

Offensive Line:

Derek Carr is going to have to come up with more than big screen tv’s for presents for his OL this Christmas. The Raiders have only allowed 11 sacks all year and he’s the best protected QB in the NFL.

Round 1 against Denver goes to the Raiders OL. Dallas and Oakland have the best OL’s in the game right now and both of their QB’s are playing great. Not a coincidence. The Raiders are #3 in passing and #4 in rushing offense. A dominating performance with over 200 yards on the ground. Denver got 2 sacks but they didn’t affect the game much.

Grade A+

The OL is the key to the Raiders. Carr and the other offensive weapons get all the credit but this is the engine of the team. This OL is the “HEMI” of the NFL.

andre-holmes-broncos-raiders

Wide Receivers:

Nothing really special from this group but a solid game. Andre Holmes made an amazing one handed catch of a ball thrown behind him.   Even with Denver’s injuries at DB, the Raiders were held under 200 yards passing. They did their job and it helped win the game.

GRADE: B

A solid game.

Defensive Line:

Kahlil Mack had a great game and his slow start is a thing of the past. The pass rush overall was good all game as the DL put pressure on Broncos QB Trevor Siemian. Siemian struggles a ton when he’s rushed and it showed all game. Denver showed the same arrogance as last year, for the most part not trying to double team Mack and they paid for it.

The Broncos only ran 12 times and the Raiders did well to stop the run. They miss CJ Anderson. Siemian at times is a train wreck and no one has stepped up at RB.   Denver’s offensive line is very inconsistent and the Raiders took advantage of it.

Grade: A

Is the Raiders DL great; not a chance. But for this game they played great and was a breath of fresh air for a group that has struggled this year.

Linebackers:

The LB’s were very active.   Other than the long catch and run by RB Kapri Bibbs (wow was that an ugly play for the Raiders), this group played well.

Grade B+

Overall solid game.

Defensive Backs:

The pass rush definitely helped this group and they had a solid game.   Karl Joseph was fooled on 2 play action passes; one he was beaten for a TD; which shows he’s still learning the game.   Overall a solid game though. Siemian’s pathetic accuracy didn’t hurt either.

Grade B+  

This was one of their better games.

Coaching:

The Broncos had a bizarre game plan, concentrating on the passing game when it’s obvious QB Siemian is limited. Another coaching staff outthinking themselves. The Raiders took advantage of this by really going after the QB.

It was a bad decision to allow Carr to throw the ball late in the game which almost lead to an interception when it was obvious Denver could not stop the run. The Raiders need to be smarter. Just run the clock out.

They greatly improved their sloppy play from the previous 8 weeks where they lead the NFL in penalties and set a record against Tampa Bay. On a side note the game has definitely changed and there are so many pass interference penalties in the NFL that it can be hard to watch sometimes.   There is a reason passing records are falling like stars in the sky in the NFL and college game.  With the NFL rules, Mama don’t let your babies grow up to be DB’s.

Grade B+

Solid game plan against a bad run defense and limited offense.

Special Teams:

Janikowski is showing that it’s a lot different hitting 50 yard field goals in the first half of games on a losing team, than it is on a winning team trying to make the playoffs. He missed again this week. King had a solid game; could do without the Cam Newton dance party after his punts, but overall a solid game by King. Field position played a key role in the first half. The coverage team did a good job and the return game was nothing special.

Grade B+

A solid game other than the blip from Janikowski.

Conclusion:

I’ve been saying it all week. This is not a great team in Denver. They have an inconsistent OL, a QB that can throw long but not much else; and a defense that was 25th against the run coming into the game and is now 30th in the NFL after the Raiders game. Denver has had a lot of injuries and other than Marshall, their LB play isn’t the same.   The injury to CJ Anderson really hurt this team. The Raiders match up great against them. Last year the Raiders didn’t allow a bad Denver offense a TD in both games.

The game plan was good and the Raiders showed they can beat a good team. They are now on a bye week. They haven’t won anything yet though and the season is a long one so there is still work to do. They are now 1-2 against teams that presently have winning records, and those two teams had something Denver hasn’t got; good offenses. The Raiders still have holes on defense.

This was a game I thought they had to get and they did. The OL completely dominated and showed why the Raiders are doing so well this year. It was a fun night for all.

Outlook:

Tomorrow I will break down the AFC West and look at each team. The Raiders are in great shape but they still have to play each AFC west team on the road. They will next go to Mexico against Houston and even though Carolina isn’t that good this year, it will still be a tough game. Kansas City has dominated Oakland and San Diego with a pass rush is now much improved.  No one is talking about the Chiefs but they aren’t going away.   Denver is still Denver especially at home.  It should be a fun second half of the season, but for now, take 2 weeks off Raider fans to celebrate; you’ve earned it.

“Raiders Grades; Positives On Defense; How Do The Raiders Match-Up With Baltimore”

Michael Crabtree, Da Norris Searcy
Oakland Raiders wide receiver Michael Crabtree (15) loses his helmet after catching a pass as he was defended by Tennessee Titans strong safety Da’Norris Searcy, left, in the second half of an NFL football game Sunday, Sept. 25, 2016, in Nashville, Tenn. (AP Photo/James Kenney)

Final Oakland Raider Grades @ Tennessee Titans; Week 3:

Tennessee Titans  10 (1-2)

Oakland Raiders 17 (2-1)

On Sunday the Raiders outlasted the Titans 17-10. It was a nice game for the defense which played well.  The Raiders dominated in the first half but did not score in the second half.

Quarterback:

Derek Carr definitely didn’t have his best day. He made some good throws but he missed two long passes and was late on more than a few passes. Twice Amari Cooper had his man beaten deep and Carr missed him. Carr was frustrated with himself after the game. He got rattled a little bit when the Titans began blitzing but overall he had a pretty good game. Overall though he had an ok game.

GRADE: B-

You can’t be really good every game but Carr will have a much stiffer defense to go against next week.   Plus Pro Football Focus in their evaluation kept calling him David. Better days ahead.

Running Backs:

The Raiders multiple headed monster at RB is working well. The Raiders ran for 123 yards. After Latavius Murray’s 22 yard TD run though, he ran 9 times for only 15 yards. He seems to glide through holes while DeAndre Washington (6 carries for 28 yards) and Jalen Richard (6 carries for 37 yards) hit the holes like rockets. Washington and Richard have been in during important parts of games this year, and it’s worked wonders. I like the 3 of them sharing carries.

Grade A-

Murray struggled after his TD run but Washington and Richard picked up the slack. In the first half especially the Raiders were dominating the Titans defense.

Offensive Line:

In the first half it was like a college team playing against a high school team. The Raiders OL flat out dominated. Carr was sacked only once, and for the most part they played really well. The Raiders running game had another 100+ yard game. The problem today was penalties, which lead to a sloppy game.

Grade B

Maybe I’m being hard on them but there were a lot of penalties that hurt drives. Overall though, another good performance.

Wide Receivers:

Michael Crabtree is one of the best WR in the NFL right now. With another 100+ yard game with 8 catches, he’s the best possession WR in the NFL. He’s the glue in the passing game. Cooper had 4 catches for 62 yards but Carr missed him on a couple of long throws. Cooper has avoided the drops for the most part but he dropped a key 3rd down pass that was right in his hands. Clive Walford caught only 2 passes and against good teams, the Raiders have to make him a bigger part of the offense. Seth Roberts caught a TD pass on a nice catch and run, but he also dropped a key pass that was right in his hands.

GRADE: B

Carr wasn’t himself and that hurt them but they had a few drops. A pretty good day but it could have been better. The Titans don’t exactly have speed with their cornerbacks so a long connect to Cooper would have been nice.

Defensive Line:

Khalil Mack had another bad game; only 1 solo tackle, one assisted tackle and no sacks with a penalty.   I’ve never seen a guy start off so slow every year. The pass rush for the most part was absent again; the Raiders had one sack; and now they have only 3 on the season. By himself Von Miller has 5 sacks and 1 forced fumble that lead to a TD and sealed the game against the Colts.

Against the run it got ugly. The Raiders gave up 181 rushing yards at 6.2 yards a rush. Ouch.

Grade: D

You can’t just blame the DL. The LB’s struggled as well and even though S Karl Joseph made some tackles, he made them more downfield than he’d like. Right now the Raiders DL is lucky they are playing lesser competition.

Linebackers:

DeMarco Murray and TE Delanie Walker are pretty much all the weapons Tennessee have. Walker didn’t play. This helped the Raiders greatly because the Safeties and LB’s didn’t have to cover the tight ends much. The Titans lack talent and team speed and the LB’s could play aggressively.   They still were bad against the run, struggling to shed blocks. The Raiders gave up scoring drives of 59, 93 and the last drive the Titans went 71 yards in a minute and looked like they should have got a penalty on TJ Carrie in the end zone.

Grade C+

They had a hit or miss day. Against the run they were awful; against the pass they were better but the level of competition was pretty bad.

Defensive Backs:

With all of these high draft picks the Titans have used on Wide Receivers, you’d think they’d have a great group. They may be the worst in the NFL. Their only deep threat Kendall Wright didn’t play but even he has had only 1 good year in his short career. Without any speed at WR the Raiders DB’s were not in fear of getting beaten deep and as I said before the game, this is a great matchup for them.

David Amerson played an excellent game and is turning into a solid corner; a great pickup by Reggie McKenzie. Safety Karl Joseph made some tackles but you could tell he’s getting his sea legs. He made a lot of tackles 5-10 yards downfield; in time those hopefully will be at the line of scrimmage or even behind the line. It’s a lot more fun not going up against Julio Jones & Brandin Cooks. The DB’s had a couple of good hits on tackles as well.

The Raiders caught a break on the final play for the Titans which was an obvious pass interference; the second year in a row a controversial call cost the Titans against the Raiders; but the Raiders will not complain. TJ Carrie was smiling in a local interview and joked with the reporter, ”It was a good play right?” The Titans drove down in the last drive 71 yards in 1 minute which was the worst sequence of the game for the DB’s.

Grade B+  

With the Titans pretty much having no deep threat, the DB’s played aggressive and physical. They are not the soul patrol and hopefully they can at least become a pretty good group. I like Joseph.

Coaching:

It got a little confusing in the second half. On 2 third down plays (5 yard and 3 yard), the Raiders ran the ball and then punted.   It was somewhat conservative especially since the Titans DB’s were giving 5-7 yard cushions to the Raiders WR all game.

The Raiders had a chance to put away the Titans in the first drive of the second half and didn’t.   On 3 first down plays the Raiders ran Murray up the middle for 5 yards on 3 rushes. After 7 plays they punted. Very conservative. They should have come out swinging.

Funny how when the Raiders defense does good you don’t hear anything about the coaches. You can’t give coaches the blame when the team struggles and then give them no credit when they do well. Aw fans.

Grade C+

The first half the Raiders looked pretty good. You thought they’d come out blazing in the second half, but again they were predictable and conservative on offense.

Special Teams:

Sebastian Janikowski now has the record for most 50 yard plus field goals. Marquette King gets better each week and had 2 booming punts.   Richard had a pretty good day running back punts. Jones only ran back one kickoff for 16 yards.

Grade A-

The return game was better for the punting team and King and Janikowski are solid.

Conclusion:

The Titans right now are the second worst team in the NFL behind the Bears. The Titans are 2-18 in their last 20 home games and 6-29 in their last 35 games overall.   With all their failed drafts, the Titans are now where the Raiders used to be. As I said on draft day, Mariota has moxy, is athletic, but he’s just not accurate enough for my taste.  Any win on the road is good but the Raiders in reality should have torched them.   Oakland still doesn’t have a dominating signature win yet. If the PI is called and the 2 point conversion fails in New Orleans, this could be a different season. They have to play better.

Baltimore Ravens:

The Raiders are 2-7 lifetime against Baltimore, and 0-5 playing the Ravens on the road. This is a place that has given them nightmares. It’s loud and the Ravens play very physical at home.

While this isn’t the great Baltimore defenses of the past they are still solid so far. They rank #3 against the pass and #8 against the run. They have 9 sacks on the year which is 7th overall in the NFL. They’ve beaten the Bills at home, and the Jaguars and Browns on the road. Not exactly the NFL elite for this year so being 3-0 isn’t as impressive against these teams.

On offense they have Joe Flacco but not a whole lot else.   Backup Terrance West and Justin Forsett share carries, and ageless Steve Smith is still their go to man at WR.   Journeyman WR Mike Wallace is their deep threat. Their TE Dennis Pitta is having a great year and is a big part of their offense. He has 18 catches in 3 games. They are the 19th rated passing team and the 25th rated running team.

Outlook:

The Raiders on defense should have another good game. The Ravens don’t have a lot of speed and are not a team to score a lot of points but they will play a physical style on defense and rush the passer. Running yards may be difficult for the Raiders offense and the OL will be tested.

Look for a physical game in Baltimore next week with not a lot of scoring. The Raiders travel a lot but their schedule is not hard so this game would be a nice win for them.  Look for the Raiders to make a statement.