If you had to give the team and season any sort of overall grade, it would have to be Incomplete. There were still just too many holes to fill, that were not taken care of by free agency or the draft. So there are some common themes running through this analysis of all the positions.
The funny thing about a(nother) lost season is that the off-season becomes the most interesting part of it all, with all the speculation about coaching, roster, free agency, and the draft.
As the coaching search (supposedly) gets underway in Oakland, we’ll have a few things coming up this week, including season analysis, mock roster projection, and more.
In the meantime, let’s focus on the positive and check out this video montage of the best plays of the past season, by way of Raiders.com.
Pass Offense: Aside from the sole touchdown drive in their first possession of the second half, the Raiders’ offense was a wretched mess, punting six times and amassing 45 yards of total offense in the first half. Derek Carr in particular had a bad day, with three fumbles (one returned for a touchdown). Stefen Wisniewski is apparently playing his way out of town, somehow managing to get a false start, which is a pretty neat trick when you consider that he’s the one who snaps the ball. Grade: D
Instead of the usual recap after the game, I thought it would be fun to try live blogging it as it goes along (except, of course, when I go to grab another beer). Updated as the game progresses….
15:00 Raiders receive the kickoff, begin from the 20 with a Murray run for a yard.
14:15 Well, that didn’t take long. Carr sack and fumble, lucky to recover it. Carr got smacked in the head by the DL, no call.
13:32 Three and out, King booms it from the goal line to the Donks’ 30, returned almost to midfield.
11:02 Nothing like watching Peyton Manning get sacked after his usual stream of fake audibles and a fake handoff.
9:45 Nice play by Charles Woodson, but looks like he’s hurt on the play. I was skeptical of C-Wood coming back, since he left to Green Bay on a sour note. But he’s been nothing but awesome in his return to Oakland, looks like he can play into his forties practically, and I hope the team gives the man his money to stay as long as he wants. Continue reading Season Finale Live Blog
Looks like Harbaugh is heading to Michigan after all, unless Mark Davis digs way deep into his wallet. A dream scenario (if they could all coexist for a few seasons) would be Harbaugh as HC, Marc Trestman as OC, Rex Ryan as DC, maybe Mike Holmgren as GM, bump McKenzie over to head the scouting unit (since he gets paid whether or not he gets fired as GM, might as well have him do something, and the drafts have been improving).
Also, just for the fun of it, we’re going to live-blog the season finale this afternoon.
This one could and probably will get ugly — the Broncos are undefeated at home (by an average of 12 points, though their last two home games were somewhat closer); Peyton Manning just came off his worst game as a Bronco (4 INT, including a pick-6) in a 37-28 loss in Cincinnati last week; and the Raiders will probably be without key defensive starters Khalil Mack and T.J. Carrie.
It would be nice to see the Raiders finally get a piece of Manning, who has abused Oakland since moving to Denver, but it’s hard to see how that happens. Maybe the weather will be bad and keep the score low. Maybe Manning is hurt. Maybe the Raiders look at what the Bengals did defensively last week and throw their own twist on it. Mack has shown himself to be a real difference-maker, getting double- and even triple-teamed at times, and it’s going to be a lot tougher if he’s unable to play.
It’s been yet another bad season — downright terrible at times, in fact — but there are some positive signs, regardless of any potential changes in coaching or management:
- After starting 0-10, Oakland won 3 of their last 5 games, all against opponents with winning records, who were still playing for potential playoff berths.
- Those wins have come at a price — they no longer have a shot at the #1 draft pick, which would at least have had considerable trade value. But they will still land in the top 5 (probably #3 or #4), so they can still either trade down for more picks, or grab someone like Amari Cooper or Leonard Williams.
- Rookies Derek Carr and Khalil Mack appear to be future key players the team can rebuild around.
- There are several other core players on both sides of the ball (Murray, Reece, Rivera, and maybe James Jones, Andre Holmes on offense; Sio Moore, T.J. Carrie, Justin Ellis, Shelby Harris on defense) that also show serious potential.
- The team will have around $65-70M to spend in the offseason. They may need to retool their free agent approach a bit, maybe even drop a lot of money on game-changing players in their prime, such as Ndamukong Suh or Dez Bryant, but contracts loaded with incentives will get some returns.
Probably half the roster will be turned over — again — and there are a lot of holes yet to fill. But the Raiders seem to have found their quarterback, and with a complementary running back to build a solid tandem with Latavius Murray, and a play-making receiver to top their WR corps, they’ll be on their way back up the ladder.
Pass Offense: Derek Carr’s numbers (17-34-214-2TD) weren’t quite as strong as they were in the wins against the Chiefs and 49ers, but they were enough to get the job done. More importantly, where much of Carr’s numbers came with receptions by TE Mychal Rivera or Marcel Reece, rather than the wide receivers, this time the bulk of Carr’s passing yards went to WRs Kenbrell Thompkins and Andre Holmes, each of whom had fantastic 50-yard receptions in the game. When Carr has an off day, it’s way off, but when he’s on, he shows a poise and control well beyond his rookie year. In giving up just one sack, the offensive line continues to protect Carr well. Grade: B+
Rush Offense: Latavius Murray had yet another solid outing (23 carries for 86 yards), and Darren McFadden had his best day yet this season, posting 54 yards on 9 carries. Both Murray and McFadden had long carries of 25 yards, and in fact McFadden had perhaps his best run of the year, where he clearly hit the goal-line pylon but the ball was spotted at the 2-yard line. Still, a very solid and balanced complement to the passing attack. Grade: B+
Pass Defense: Kyle Orton ended up with 329 yards and 3 TDs for the day, but much of that occurred in garbage time at the end of the game. The score did get perilously close toward the end, due in part to the conservative offense after Brandian Ross’ game-sealing interception, but also due to Ross conservatively running out of bounds well before he needed to. Still, Charles Woodson also had an INT, Justin Tuck and Khalil Mack each had a sack, and third-down conversions were just 4/15 (26%). Grade: B+
Rush Defense: Buffalo was held to 13 total yards on 13 carries. That is not a typo. Mack was a major part of that effort, tackling ball carriers in the backfield and generally disrupting plays despite being routinely double-teamed. Star running back C.J. Spiller was held to -4 yards on 4 carries. Grade: A
Special Teams: Returns and coverage continue to be average at best. Kicking game is consistent at least; Janikowski went 4 for 5 on field goals, missing a 48-yard attempt in the fourth quarter, which given the field conditions is no surprise. Marquette King set the team record for most punts in a season. Grade: B
Coaching: As always, the watchword is balance, and having a 34-36 pass-run play ratio makes all the difference in the world. Sticking with the run game is starting to show results. Coming after yet another disappointing loss, at the end of yet another lost season, the coaching staff deserves credit for keeping the players in the game. The Raiders have won their last three home games, spoiled playoff aspirations in the process, and kept focus in the wake of a lost season. Grade: B+
One thing to salvage from a tough season like this one is that, when the Raiders have won, it’s been against teams with winning records, and it’s been pretty decisively. Although Kyle Orton managed to lead Buffalo on a comeback drive and make it close(r), the fact is that the Raiders beat up the Bills on both sides of the ball throughout the game. Assuming that the team is finally beginning an upswing to carry into 2015, this is one of those games they can point to as the start of the turnaround.
Khalil Mack is proving to be a beast already. Teams are already double- and even triple-teaming him, and the Bills were no exception. Mack recorded one sack and two tackles and three assists, but he is a much more disruptive force than the numbers reflect. All day, Buffalo had to account for him, and Mack played a huge part in holding them Bills to 13 yards on 13 carries total.
The season ends on December 28 in Denver, always a tough but memorable game. In the meantime, despite some serious bumps in between (which the coaching staff will likely pay for), the team has managed to put together three impressive wins, against teams with winning records and were in fact vying for playoff spots. It may be too-little-too-late for 2014, but it’s definitely something to build on.
This is one of those games that looked a lot easier at the beginning of the season. After a rough start, Buffalo has won 3 of their last 4 games, the lone loss in Denver by a touchdown. Their defense is top 5 in points allowed, and total and pass yards allowed, and leads the league in sacks. In their two most recent games, they held Aaron Rodgers and Peyton Manning without touchdown passes.
So on paper this looks like the Raiders might be running into a buzzsaw, but I don’t think that’s necessarily the case. For one, the offense is struggling; the only team they’ve been able to score over 30 points on is the Jets (both times). Only one other game have they scored over 26 points (29 points, week 2 against Miami).
The Bills are 3-3 on the road, and Oakland is their only trip to the West Coast — their only trip further than Denver, in fact. Kyle Orton has managed the quarterbacking duties respectably enough, but it’s the defense that is keeping Buffalo in (slim) contention for a playoff berth. The last time Orton faced Oakland was as a Bronco in 2010, when the Raiders stormed Denver and thrashed them 59-14. Obviously these are two entirely different teams now, but clearly Orton can be gotten to, and pushed into epically bad games.
The Raiders regressed last week in Kansas City, but they have won their last two home games, and the recent storms in California have left their below-sea level field soaked. This is anyone’s game; if the Raiders can play tight, focused ball like they did against the Niners, instead of the mistake-prone mess they had last week, they might just pull this one out.
Pass Offense: As effective as Derek Carr and the Raiders’ offensive line was against San Francisco’s stout defense, they were completely flat in Kansas City, and got pushed around all day. Carr ended up with 27 completions in 56 attempts for 222 yards, with one touchdown at the very end of the game. Carr was sacked four times, and the Raiders ended up with an abysmal 3.4 average yards per pass play (versus 9.2 for Kansas City). Grade: D
Rush Offense: It’s a shame Greg Olson gave up on the running game, because Latavius Murray averaged a hair under 5 yards per carry, gaining 59 yards on just 12 carries, including a 25-yard rumble. Darren McFadden and Maurice Jones-Drew each had two carries totaling 13 and 6 yards respectively. Grade: D+
Pass Defense: Despite still not having completed a touchdown pass to a wide receiver all season, Alex Smith still managed to do what he needed to do without much argument from the Raiders defense. Smith posted 297 yards on 18 completions (out of 30 attempts), with two touchdown passes. The lone bright stat is the 3 for 13 (23%) third-down conversion rate the Raiders held the Chiefs to, which makes the end result just that much more perplexing. Grade: D+
Rush Defense: The run defense actually posted fair numbers, just 93 yards allowed on 27 carries, and just 3 rushing first downs allowed. The 3-yard TD run by Knile Davis was the most glaring miscue. Grade: C
Special Teams: Sebastian Janikowski continues to quietly but effectively come back from a terrible season last year, making both his field goals (including a 53-yarder). Matt Schaub has been holding for kicks, so he’s at least doing something to earn his keep. But Schaub obviously will be gone at the end of the season, and Seabass supposedly had issues with Marquette King’s holds last year. Speaking of King, he had to punt 11 times in the game, and is well on his way to setting a record for number of punts, for the team and the entire league. De’Anthony Thomas’ punt return for a touchdown strangely did not dissuade King from kicking to him again. Kickoff and punt returns continue to be average at best, while coverage has clearly suffered with the absence of Pro Bowl gunner Taiwan Jones. As the team rebuilds in the coming off-season, hopefully this unit gets some attention with everything else going on. Grade: D
Coaching: On the one hand, as we saw last week, it says something about the coaching staff that they can keep a team that started 0-10 able to even show up and finish out the season respectably, which they proved with last week’s thumping of the 49ers, as well as their first victory over Kansas City. This is a team that’s still learning how to jell and play together, and so it’s frustrating to see them follow up an impressive win with a mistake-laden dud. But the Chiefs are a solid team, on their home turf, playing to retain a slim hope at a playoff berth.
The main complaints as far as coaching goes are: giving up on the running game far too soon; and leaving Derek Carr in the game after the score is out of reach, as Carr came up limping after being sacked with just a few minutes left in the game, when Schaub should have been in for mop-up time. It’s admirable that Carr is a competitor and wants to play out the string, but the smart move when the game is out of reach is to keep your QB healthy for the next game. Grade: D