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“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.

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“GRADES: Raiders Are Humbled In DC; Why Fans Should Look For a Good Raider Bounce Back Game In Denver”

Josh Norman, Marshawn Lynch

Final Oakland Raider Grades @ Washington; Week 3:

Washington  27 (2-1)

Oakland Raiders  10 (2-1)

“They gave us a big slice of humble pie”, said Khalil Mack. Was that an understatement or what.

In one of the worst performances in recent memory, the Raiders were physically dominated by Washington losing 27-10 on national television. What is scary is that if you take away the two turnovers deep in Washington territory, this game should have been a shutout. The Raiders now have to go into Denver needing a win big time or they could go 2-2 in the best division in the NFL.

There was no Marshawn Lynch Dance Parties. There was no Super Bowl Talk. There was no commitment to excellence.  Below, let’s first look at the poor grades, and then at why the sky isn’t falling.

Quarterback:

Derek Carr was awful.   He had a deer in the headlights look that I haven’t seen in a while. His first bad throw was a deep ball into 2 deep coverage that was intercepted and lead to a touchdown. He also threw another careless interception later in the game and another was dropped. If you can put a pass rush on Carr, he’s just not the same QB. He was uncomfortable in the pocket all night and he was humbled big time. Maybe his worst game as a Raider.

GRADE: F

Derek was in a fog at times, and it was strange to watch. He also wasn’t ready for the snap 3 times. He was rattled by the early sacks and never recovered.

Running Backs:

It didn’t matter who was in there. Washington neutralized the running game and Marshawn Lynch especially wasn’t a factor.

Grade D-

There were few holes, and few opportunities and the running game just wasn’t working.

Offensive Line:

Washington defensive coordinator Greg Manusky was sick of all of the questions about how good the Raiders were and was offended that teams felt his team wasn’t physical enough for the Raiders offensive line. They didn’t blitz and just mostly bull rushed 4 DL and it worked.   They dominated the Raiders offensive line in a way few have. Carr had little time and the holes were not there in the running game.

Grade F

Washington didn’t even blitz. The pass rushers were straight up bull rushes that overwhelmed the Raiders and Carr. The OL’s worst game in years.

Wide Receivers:

Even playing against a team with lots of nagging injuries in the defensive backfield, the Raiders WR were no factor in the game. Carr was off, and the pass rush overwhelmed the passing game. Amari Cooper continued dropping passes as did Michael Crabtree. They both combined for 2 catches for 13 yards. The WR had few plays where they managed to get open.

GRADE: F

Absolutely awful.   Cooper is a talented but passive player but you can’t justify so many drops. Crabtree had a chest injury and the hopes are that he will be ok for next weeks game at Denver.

Defensive Line:

They started the game fairly well. Mario Edwards Jr. had 2 plays getting pressure on the QB and Khalil Mack was his usual self. After the first quarter though the Washington OL began to take over and wore down the Raiders DL. The DL struggled getting pressure on the QB and it showed with Kirk Cousins throwing for 365 yards, and their RB’s ran for 116 yards on the ground.

Grade: D

Khalil Mack played well but that was about it after the first quarter.

Linebackers:

The LB’s were exposed big time. Washington used a short passing game and the LB’s had no chance in covering their RB’s. The Raiders then put a DB on RB Chris Thompson but no one could cover him and he caught 6 passes for 150 yards. Like I’ve said, the LB’s at times are going to look awful.

Grade F

The hopes are that someone steps up out of this group but who will it be if anyone?

Defensive Backs:

David Amerson got burned deep, which was the norm last year. Outside of Karl Joseph, the DB’s really struggled tackling. Gareon Conley was never a good tackler at Ohio St. and the hopes are that his cover skills will overcome those issues. He was close on two passes but he did give up some short to medium receptions. Sean Smith struggled guarding TE Vernon Davis which was a bad look.   If your starting CB is getting beaten deep by their #2 TE, then he sure isn’t going to keep up with a WR.   Washington RB Chris Thompson overwhelmed this group when he got the ball in the passing game. Poor angles and poor tackling by the entire defense especially the DB’s.

Grade F

Just an awful game by this group.

Coaching:

Jack Del Rio needs to be called out and he agreed. It’s up to him to get the team prepared and they were in a fog. The Raiders need to stop reading the papers when they win and not get big headed. You are only as good as your last game. The Raiders know their defense isn’t good enough and they continued to blitz often which is all they can do because they still don’t have a good pass rush. It worked against the Jets, but the Jets are really bad.

Grade F

The Raiders laid a big fat egg on national tv. The coaches are doing the right thing.  Own the bad game and work hard to fix it and to be focused.

Special Teams:

Marquette King and Giorgio Tavecchio are turning out to be a good special teams combo. It’s hard to see Sebastian Janikowski in a Raiders uniform next year. King is really punting well.

Grade A

Not much action other than King’s punts.

Conclusion:

This was the worst game the Raiders have played in years. All of the overreaction to the Jet’s win is now gone. The game in Denver will lay a foundation to the 2017-18 season. The Raiders do not want to end up 2-2 with the difficult part of their schedule in their future. With Denver also not wanting to start 2-2, this is the most important game in the NFL for the first quarter of the season.

Can the Raiders Bounce Back?:

I just read where some of the Sportsbooks in Nevada had their greatest weekend in HISTORY due to all of the upsets in the NFL this last weekend.   The days of the super teams are long gone, and a team can look like world beaters one minute, and then like egg beaters the next.  The Raiders are a good team and they have a good head coach.  No good team with a good head coach is going to not come back strong after such a terrible outing.

I think this loss in the long run will help the Raiders. They have won nothing and needed to calm down a bit.   They needed to be humbled so they could refocus. The Raiders have holes on defense big time and it’s not going to change any time soon.

Against Denver, look for a much disciplined and deliberate passing game with short passes being the norm. With Denvers pass rush, a quick passing game with 3 and 5 step drops are what you need to use against them. Denver is much better against the run this year, but the Raiders are going to have to try to run on the Broncos using smash mouth football. The Raiders OL will try to reestablish themselves like they did in the Denver game in Oakland. I’m sure they are up for the challenge considering how good they’ve been the last 1 ½ yrs.

On defense I am so not a Trevor Siemian fan. He can look great one game and then look like he’s overwhelmed the next. Look for Oakland to crowd the line with Joseph and dare the Broncos to throw. Their running game is a good one and I’d rather put the game in the hands of Siemian than CJ Anderson and Jamaal Charles.

I like the Raiders to come back strong next week after licking their wounds.   Good teams with good coaches bounce back from these types of games and I think both the Raiders and Broncos will be ready big time.  You can’t lose your mind if you lose badly, and you can’t let it get to your head when you win big.  This is a long, long season and you can’t get too high or too low. However, if the Raiders lay another egg, then this team is going to struggle this year.  I really do expect them to come out swinging in another hard fought game at Mile High that will make the Washington game a bad memory.  Welcome to today’s NFL.

 

 

 

“GRADES: Raiders Tweek Defensive Approach; Both Sides of the Ball Shine in Week 1 Win Against The Titans”

 

marshawn lynch

Final Oakland Raider Grades @ Tennessee Titans; Week 1:

Tennessee Titans: 16 (0-1)

Oakland Raiders: 26 (1-0)

The Raiders started the season well with a solid win against the Titans on the road.

The Raiders did a couple of small defensive changes in their approach to the Titans that seem to be lost in the media.  Let’s face it, these types of changes aren’t very exciting or dramatic, but they are noteworthy in this opening win for the Raiders.

derek carr

I’m still scratching my head how most sportsbooks had the Titans winning by 1-2 points.  The lack of respect in the early part of the season for the Raiders is puzzling.  Many have the Raiders going 10-6 or 9-7.

As far as Tennessee goes, I think they are an overrated team with an average to slightly above average QB.  They are in the worst division in the NFL and they just don’t have the DB’s, WR’s, or the identity that winning teams have.

girgio tavecchio week 1
Giorgio Tavecchio is all smiles after hitting a 52 yard field goal

Quarterback:

Derek Carr had a good game to start the season.  He was sacked a couple of times and his timing was off a bit with Amari Cooper, but he was solid.  In one play where the Titans forgot to cover Marshawn Lynch when he was put wide left, Carr over threw him by 5 yards and Marshawn did a flip to show his disappointment.  They had first and goal on the Titans 2 yard line and they threw 3 straight incomplete passes to Amari Cooper.  Both blamed each other for the 3 failed passes.  Why have Lynch if you are going to do that?  Even if the plays were called, Carr should have audibled at least once to run Lynch.

GRADE:  B+

Solid outing by Derek who must be licking his chops looking at the Jets next week.

Running Backs:

The Titans tried to stop the run and the Raiders gained 109 yards on 29 tough carries.  When the Raiders needed to, they grinded out yards and iced the game purely on the ground.  I think Oakland has the best set of RB’s in the NFL and they and the OL wore out the Tennessee defense.

Grade: B+

There was no spectacular numbers, but this was a good, solid game for them.  Their ability to pick up the blitz is so overlooked but they pass block better than any set of RB’s in the league.

Offensive Line:

Same stuff different day.  They did give up a couple of sacks but overall another good game.  They were dominant at times in the 4th quarter and wore down Tennessee.

Grade: B+

A nice start for a group that is the key to the Raiders success this year.

Wide Receivers:

Michael Crabtree looked in mid season form and was a man among boys at times.  He’s as physical a WR as there is in the NFL.  Cooper had a TD but he was out of synch with Carr catching only 5 of 13 targets.  Their new tight end Jared Cook caught 5 passes for 56 yards with two catches being in heavy traffic.

GRADE:  B+

The WR’s exploited the weak Titans secondary and at times they did what they wanted to.

Defensive Line:

Their numbers weren’t eye popping but they had a solid game. The DL did a pretty good job of controlling the run game (21 rushes for 95 yards) and they did get a sack even though the pass rush wasn’t consistently good.  Mario Edwards Jr. had 3 tackles and a 0.5 sack but overall the DL played fairly well, but not great.

khalil mack

Grade: B

The Titans offense doesn’t scare anyone but overall this was a good start for a group that has struggled big time in the past.

Linebackers:

Realizing the Titans were a basic run between the tackles offense, the Raiders pinched in their LB’s to stop the between the tackle runs and it worked.  Tennessee did little to adjust and the LB’s had a solid game.  Cory James was nursing a bad knee and was taken off the field once.  They played Marquel Lee on running downs and brought in Tyrell Adams (7 tackles) on passing downs and that also helped this group.  Not a bad day.

Grade:  B

Tennessee was successful in their few outside the tackle runs and when Mariota kept the ball in the read option, but overall they did little to mix things up to adjust to the Raiders changes.  The LB’s took advantage of that and played well and stopped the runs up the middle.

Defensive Backs:

The Raiders other wrinkle was to play Joseph up 5-10 yards off the line of scrimmage near the LB’s.  This helped with the between the tackle runs and Joseph ended up leading the team in tackles with 9.  The Titans still haven’t figured out their WR issues, and the Raiders played very physical against them.  Mariota threw for 256 yards but overall it wasn’t a bad showing by the DB’s.  Covering the tight end is still an issue though.  Delanie Walker had 7 catches for 76 yards and was missed twice by Mariota on longer passes or his numbers would have been even better.  Joseph is still much better in the running game and is still learning.

Grade: B  

A solid day with no major issues.

Coaching:

The Raiders two defensive wrinkles to try and take away the inside running game of the Titans worked and without much of an adjustment by Tennessee, they just kept the same philosophy all game.  I liked that they seem to want to give Lynch 15-20 carries per game.  Running him 25-35 times a game would be crazy.  The three passes on 1st and 2 at the Titans goal line were silly.  Run the ball to Lynch 3 times and move on.  Carr should have audibled as well.

Grade: B

This was a solid game by the coaches against a lesser opponent.  These are the games you have to win.

Special Teams:

It’s pretty obvious that Sebastian Janikowski’s days are numbered in Oakland.  This should be his last year.  In walks Italian-born Giorgio Tavecchio who had never kicked in a regular season game.  While quoting Aristotle pre and post game, all he did was go 4-4 for field goals including 2 kicks from 52 yards out.  The Raiders really liked his leg in pre-season and if he can be consistent, they may have found their new kicker.  Marquette King had a solid day, including having one punt downed at the 1 yard line. Coverage wasn’t needed to be a big factor.

Grade:  A

Excellent day for the special teams unit.

Conclusion:

The Titans are probably a 7-9 or 8-8 team in the worst division in football.  This obviously isn’t an elite team but these are the games you have to win.  Jack Del Rio finally gets this defense doesn’t cut it and they are going to have to do things differently this year.  They put in 2 wrinkles to stop the inside running game of Tennessee’s and it worked.  This is a nice win for the start of the season.  Now the Raiders get a bye; I mean they play the Jet’s next week for the home opener.

NFL: Buffalo Bills at Oakland Raiders

Next Up; hosting the NY Jets:

If you are a hardcore sports fan, you know nothing is more entertaining than the NY media when one of their teams suck.  Well the Jet’s suck.  They are probably the worst team in the NFL.  In fact some in the media say the slogan for this years Jet’s is “Suck for Sam”, pertaining to tanking the season so they could draft USC QB Sam Darnold.

Lachlan Edwards was named the team MVP for NY in week 1; he’s their punter.   They have Josh McCown at QB and 31 year old Matt Forte at RB.  Matt looks like age has caught up to him, but Bilal Powell has fallen out of favor.  Their offense is really bad and their defense looks uninspired.  The Buffalo Bills are also rebuilding but they still handled New York 21-12 in Orchard Park in week 1.

No win is for sure, but it’s hard to see the Raiders not wiping the floor with New York.  Look for a big game from the RB’s and Carr and the defense could pile up some sacks in this one.

Outlook:

The second half of the Raiders season is brutal so they need to win the games they should.  I’m still stunned that some people see the Raiders losing 7 games, because that isn’t happening with the offense they have.  The Raiders will play the Jets at home and Washington on the road before a key game in Denver.

https://jimjax4.wordpress.com/2017/09/05/how-far-will-the-oakland-raiders-go-this-year-answering-the-detractors-predictions/

“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: Raiders Brought Back Down to Earth v.s. Chiefs. Looking Ahead To Jacksonville”

 

Oakland Raiders vs. Kansas City Chiefs

Final Oakland Raider Grades v.s. Kansas City Chiefs; Week 6:

Kansas City Chiefs  26 (3-2)

Oakland Raiders  10 (4-2)

In a game where the Raiders could have taken sole possession of first place in the AFC West, the Raiders were brought back down to earth by the Kansas City Chiefs. For old school Raider fans the Chiefs are the big rival and this one hurts. The Raiders are now the only AFC West team that has scored less points than they’ve given up. Andy Reid is now 16-2 after a bye and Alex Smith is now 8-1 in his games with the Raiders. The Raiders had 286 total offensive yards. Ugly numbers for sure.

Overview:

There are some in the local media that said the Raiders were beginning to read their own press clippings and they may have been right. After the Denver loss to San Diego, social media was filled with Raider fans saying their time was now. Then the Chiefs happened.

Quarterback:

After the first drive, the Raiders could do nothing on offense. They had all the momentum and Carr tried to throw a deep pass off his back foot for an easy interception which changed the game early. Coach Jack Del Rio said it was an ill-advised throw. Carr got away with two other very poor throws that should have been easy interceptions but were dropped by Kansas City. In the fourth quarter Carr’s fumble sealed the game. He fumbled earlier but recovered it. He was off all game and it was a really bad day.

GRADE: D-

I do look for him next week to bounce back and there should be no worries but wow did Carr stink.  The Chiefs had the 31st ranked pass rush and blitzed to get to Carr but even then only put occasional pressure on him. When he is struggling he has to look to tight ends but he seems to rely very heavily on WR.

Running Backs:

The Chiefs were doing their best to stop the Raiders running game and they did for the most part.   The Raiders ran the ball 14 times all game for 57 yards. DeAndre Washington had some nice runs but overall it was nothing special.

Grade D

The Chiefs LB’s did a nice job in coverage and it’s obvious they did a lot over the bye week to help their run defense. The Raiders RB were not much of a factor but they also didn’t get much of a chance with so few runs.  And please stop with the Latavius Murray would have made a huge difference stuff.

Offensive Line:

The Chiefs were doing their best to stop the run and they blitzed a lot as well. The OL didn’t have a bad game but it wasn’t their normal dominating game. Carr was rushed on occasion and it definitely bothered him. Kansas City filled the box to stop the run and the Raiders never seemed to get going. The Raiders will not go as far as Carr takes them; they will go as far as the OL takes them.  Last year in the 4th quarter, KC blitzed on EVERY play and they blitzed often in this game as well.

Grade D+

They still played fairly well but Carr did get hit more than they’d like and the run game never got going.  The OL has been stellar this year so they should bounce back.

Wide Receivers:

Kansas City had a game plan to stop the run and take away the medium passes to Crabtree. No problem; the Raiders then wen’t to Cooper and he was on fire. His first half was a top 10 performance so far for the NFL year. In the second half, the adjustments included safety help against Cooper and playing more physical press coverage. The Raiders in the second half were awful and the wide receivers struggled. Cooper caught one pass after half time.  In game adjustments continue to be an issue for the Raiders offense at times.

GRADE: D+

Cooper had an epic half and Andre Holmes great catch in the red zone in the pouring rain lit up the crowd early. With the adjustments at half and Carr struggling the Raiders did little after half time.  Lack of in game adjustments are not a new thing to this offense.

Defensive Line:

The Raiders are now ranked 32nd against the pass and 30th against the run (yds/game) and as I said after week one, this is NOT a good defense. The Raiders are 28th in the NFL with only 8 sacks in 6 games. This pass rush and defense scares no one.

Other than a few occasions, the Raiders could not get to Alex Smith. The Raiders also struggled against the run. The DL just isn’t cutting it right now which was a huge fear of mine at the start of the year. Kahlil Mack did get a sack.

Grade: D-

The Raiders DL just isn’t getting it done.

Linebackers:

Another long day for this group. They struggled against the run and were atrocious covering the pass when they had to. Mack was in pass coverage for a few passes and he was beaten twice. The Chiefs ran for 5 yards a carry for 184 yards if you take out Alex Smith’s numbers. Ouch.  Bruce Irvin’s tackling was awful today as he whiffed on two long runs including the 30 yard run by Ware.

Grade D-

The Raiders need a physical middle LB thumper that can play on 1st and 2nd downs and stop the run.   They don’t have one. Ben Heeney isn’t playing so he can’t get any of the blame from fans so I’m sure Norton will get it all.  While he may not be a great DC, this defense stinks.  It’s not like the Raiders are playing the Patriots, Steelers or Cowboys either.

They have a group of finesse speed players and they can’t stop the run. Cory James was a late round draft choice and isn’t the answer right now.

Defensive Backs:

Alex Smith would rather eat dirty glass than throw to a WR so there really wasn’t much long passing.  Amerson did get burned again for a long pass.  Teams seem to realize on outs and medium patterns, Amerson is pretty good.  But on the deep ball he struggles.

Smith was an amazing 19 for 22 in the passing game and the defense couldn’t keep them off the field. Safety Karl Joseph is more a run stopper right now than a coverage guy but I like him a lot and his coverage will hopefully improve with experience.  Reggie Nelson seems to take some awful strange angles when he helps CB’s on long pass plays.

Grade C  

The Chiefs don’t throw much to WR so it wasn’t a busy day for this group.

Coaching:

KNBR Radio host and Warriors announcer Bob Fitzgerald went on a 5 minute rant about how ridiculous it is for fans to blame coaches when their teams lose.  With so many ex jocks now announcing, it’s near impossible for analysts to be critical about players; especially popular stars. The players on the defense aren’t getting the job done and they aren’t good enough.   You can only blame the coaches so much.

The Patriots coaching staff didn’t all of a sudden stink when they were shut out at home by Buffalo.  Playing a 3rd string QB instead of Tom Brady was the cause of that.  Carolina coaches weren’t geniuses last year and now are they the 3 stooges?  No; they’ve had departures and injuries in the secondary and their DL is playing terribly.

I’m sorry but I get bored sometimes with the Raiders offense. They should be putting up 30 and 40 points a game. The TE should get 5-10 throws a game.  The Raiders TE had 4 targets with 3 being caught for 41 yards.

Grade D

The defense isn’t good.   As a coach what can you do. The Raiders blitzed more, and put Joseph up in the box to help with the run; and it didn’t help.  The DL and the LB’s have been awful.  As I’ve said a million times if I’m starting a team I get a QB first, and then a DL, OL and LB’s in that order.

Even with Andy Reid’s ridiculous red zone play calling, Kansas City beat Oakland in every facet of the game.

Special Teams:

Janikowski missed another FG but again, how do you get mad at a long FG miss. Marquette King was ok but didn’t have one of his better games.   He had a bad punt that rolled about 20 yards that helped. Jalen Richard has shored up the return game and looks great and TJ Carrie hasn’t been bad in the punt return game. The coverage team gave up two long returns; one for 50 yards on a punt and one for 30 yards on a kick off.

Grade C

The special teams have been good this year but today wasn’t one of those games.

Conclusion:

The Raiders laid a big fat egg. This was by far the worst game of the year for Oakland. There are few really good teams in the NFL this year so redemption can be a week away.   This was a great disappointment to fans and the team and to do it at home was humbling.

On to Jacksonville:

Jacksonville comes off a 17-16 loss against a bad Chicago team in the windy city. They fall to 2-3. The Jaguars aren’t a bad team on defense but their offense is rough.   They are 14th against the run and 8th against the pass. On offense they are one dimensional and are 15th in passing but have no running game and are ranked 31st. They are 21st in points per game on offense.  QB Blake Bortles already has 7 interceptions on the year and has struggled off and on after playing fairly well against Green Bay in the opener.  With the Raiders probably being able to stop the run and the Jags usually being behind in game, look for a better pass rush in this game.

Outlook:

The Raiders travel is tough but the teams they are playing aren’t the elite by any means. Jacksonville is just what the doctor ordered and it’s hard seeing the Raiders lose to the Jags but this is the NFL; nothing is for sure. The Raiders offense is going to have to carry this team so there will be lots of ups and downs all season. Some fans overreact to every game; bad or good; but seasoned fans and the Raiders know this is a marathon and they can’t get caught up in hype or expectations or the extreme negativity social media brings when they lose.  Even with their limitations, with this schedule I think the Raiders can go 10-6, but as we all know nothing can be taken for granted in the salary cap era of the NFL.

 

“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.

 

“Raiders v.s. Titans; What to Look For Today & Why Khalil Mack Will Be Just Fine”

Raiders Titans Football

Week 3 Preview; Oakland Raiders (1-1) @ Tennessee Titans (1-1):

The Raiders venture to music city to play the rebuilding Tennessee Titans in an important early season contest.

What to look for on Offense:

The Titans defense has improved a lot from last season. In the first two games they played well. They’ve only given up 1 offensive td on the year.   They are ranked 13th in both passing and rushing defense but their pass rush has been inconsistent.   They do have 4 sacks on the year with all of them coming in game 2 against the Lions. The Vikings offensive line seemed to control the game for the most part against Tennessee’s pass rush.

Look for the Titans LB Brian Orakpo to be the key pass rusher against the Raiders. He already has 2 sacks on the year and he was very disruptive against the Lions.

The Titans have said that they are wanting to stop the Raiders running game.   If that is true the Raiders should be able to throw deep when their safeties are playing up to stop the run.   I question if that is their main game plan though and look for them to mix it up at times & play their safeties back to protect for Cooper and the long ball.

Cooper is averaging an amazing 18.9 yards a catch with a long of 43.   Even with teams trying to stop the long ball, he has had a great start to the season. With the Raiders balanced attack, they should be able to handle the Titans defense. Carr will definitely have his chances to audible today.

The Raiders running game is #2 in the NFL. As I said before the season started, if the Raiders use ALL of their running backs, they will thrive. They have done that and the running game looks fine. Clive Walford saw some targets last week and was effective.   With Melenik Watson back, the Raiders offensive line should do very well.

A key matchup will be Titans CB Perrish Cox v.s. Amari Cooper. The great Dick Lebaeu is the Titans Defensive coordinator and he loves zone blitzes. This should free up Cooper so look for Amari to have a big day.   Perrish Cox is also one of the slower CB’s in the NFL so if the safeties give help on Cooper, this should open up the run game. Carr rarely calls audibles but he needs to do it today if the Raiders are going to continue their high powered offense.

What to look for on Defense:

The Raiders are averaging giving up an unheard of 8 yards a play on defense.   Some have tried to pin this on Ken Norton Jr. and Ben Heeney but to be honest there is a WHOLE lot of blame to go around. Sean Smith has played passively and is really struggling; the safeties have also struggled in their help defense. The pass rush is non existent at times and Bruce Irvin and Khalil Mack have a combined 1 sack in 2 games.

Rookie LB Cory James will play for Ben Heeney. At Colorado St. Cory James was a consistent player and quality playmaker but he also has the same 40 times and same speed as Ben Heeney.   James is athletic but not fast.

Look for the Raiders to make QB Marcus Mariota beat them. I see the safeties playing much more aggressively to stop RB DeMarco Murray and his backup Derrick Henry. What makes Murray such a threat is that he’s a great pass catcher as well. Murray has 131 yards rushing on the year but he’s also caught 12 passes for 91 yards and 2 TD’s. Murray will be a handful for the LB’s to cover today.

The Raiders will crowd the box on early downs to stop the run, and try to force obvious passing downs. This will help the pass rush and also make possible blitzes more effective.

Stacy McGee and Jihad Ward played most of the game against Atlanta and that should continue. McGee did get a sack but their effectiveness was definitely in doubt. Justin Ellis and Dan Williams continue to struggle for playing time. It will be interesting to see if that continues.

Bruce Irvin was invisible for most of the game and even though Khalil Mack has been absent on the pass rush, he’s been excellent against the run.   Look for Mack to come out swinging to get his first sack of the year.

The Raiders blitzed on several of the big plays for Atlanta last week and it was not very effective. So far the DL hasn’t played well so look for a CB or safety blitz on occasion. The fearful thing obviously is that if the blitz is picked up, this defensive backfield is in trouble.

Titans WR Kendall Wright is their deep threat and he is not going to play.   The Raiders should be able to handle the Titans passing game.

Delanie Walker is a top tight end but he’s hurting and will be a game time decision. That definitely helps the Raiders.

Look for some turnovers today. Mariota already has 2 INT’s and 1 lost fumble (he had 8 fumbles last year).   Mariota’s accuracy is hit or miss at times. He did play well last week in Detroit in the 4th quarter to help them win. Murray will fumble on occasion as well so look for the Raiders to get their first turnover of the season.

Will Khalil Mack be Back?:

In today’s social media environment, people live and die with each game. Seasoned fans know this is a marathon and not a race. What people also aren’t getting is that some players take time to get going, and Khalil Mack is definitely one of the them.   In his rookie year he didn’t get his first sack until week 10.

In the first 8 games last year, Mack had 27 tackles and 4 sacks. In the last 8 games he had 50 tackles and 11 sacks.   In last years game at Tennessee he had 6 tackles and 2 sacks. Look for a good day from Khalil in Nashville.

Interesting Facts:

-Tennessee did not win a home game last year and they are 2-15 in their last 17 games at home; worst in the NFL.

-Titans kicker Ryan Succop has made his last 19 field goals inside the 50 yard line.

-Raiders are averaging 7.0 yards a play on offense, and give up 8.0 yards a play on defense. They are allowing 4.5 yards per rush on D.

-Oakland is one of 3 teams that has yet to get a defensive turnover.

-Raiders return teams are near last in most categories. They are averaging 15.7 yards per kickoff return, and 5.3 yards per punt return.

-Oakland Coach Jack Del Rio is 76-81 in 11 years as a head coach and is 8-10 as Raiders head coach.

-Titans haven’t won a game at home against a non AFC South team since 9/29/2013. They have not won 2 games in a row since 12/22 & 29/2013.

Outlook:

The Tennessee Titans have arguably been the worst team the NFL the last 3 years. Playoff teams do not lose to the Tennessee Titans. In the Titans last 34 games, they are an abysmal 6-28.  If the Raiders can’t win today, this greatly hurts them.  No excuse can make it acceptable.

All the stars are aligned for a big Raider win and that can spell trouble.  In the NFL anything can and does happen. The offense played well last week but you would have hoped for more than 28 points against a bad pass rush which was last in the NFL in 2015.  Especially in a home opener.

The Raiders have come out sluggish in both their games and have not played well in the first half. They need to come out fast and even think of going no huddle. The Titans do not have the offense to score a lot of points so if the Raiders can get out to a big lead, their pass rush can tee off against Mariota.

Amazingly the Raiders are only a 1 ½ point favorite. It’s hard to see the Raiders losing this game but crazier things have happened. This is an early must win game and the hopes in Raider nation is that they will come out aggressive in the first half and take control of the game early. If not, the talk shows in the bay area will be must listen to radio on Monday.