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.
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.
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.
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.
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.