Category Archives: jack del rio

Game Preview: Raiders at Broncos

With Peyton Manning on his last legs (so to speak), Denver has turned to Brock Osweiler and a top-rated defense to maintain their playoff chances. Osweiler is huge (6’8″, 250#) and has a strong arm, and has been carrying a clipboard behind Peyton Manning for a couple years now. With receivers like Demaryious Thomas and Emmanuel Sanders, and a solid running game in CJ Anderson and Ronnie Hillman, you’d think Denver would pose a more serious offensive threat. Yet they seem content so far to let Osweiler be a standard-issue “game manager” type of QB, while their buzzsaw defense keeps opposing offenses in check.

The Raiders are all but mathematically eliminated from playoff contention, but still have some opportunities to show that the rebuild under Jack Del Rio has made them competitive again. While their performance in the last month’s worth of games has been underwhelming, it’s been more a case of a failure in one phase or another, good offense and bad defense or vice versa, rather than being completely overmatched. If the Raiders can hold Von Miller and give Derek Carr enough time to find Cooper and Crabtree, they might be able to regain their mojo.

Game Grades: Raiders at Titans

Full game stats here.

Pass Offense: Statistically a stronger game than the final score might indicate. Derek Carr had 24 completions on 37 attempts for 330 yards, 3 TD and no interceptions. The offensive line continues to provide superb protection for Carr, allowing only one sack this game, and just 14 total on the season so far. (Carr’s quick release and ability to read blitzes doesn’t hurt in that department either.) Amari Cooper bounced back from a mini-slump (for him) with 7 receptions for 115 yards. Seth Roberts had a career day with 6 receptions for 113 yards and 2 touchdowns. Michael Crabtree didn’t post many yards (4-19), but made them count, with a nifty 7-yard touchdown grab in the front corner of the end zone. Mike Rivera only had two catches, but both of them were clutch.

Considering Tennessee’s formidable pass rush and the heavy rains throughout the game, the Raiders’ ability to make their pass package work is all the more impressive. The only blemish on the day was Derek Carr’s lost fumble of a snap late in the fourth quarter, but again the weather accounts for 99% of that.
Grade: A-

Rush Offense: The running game still needs some work, though the Raiders at least committed to it more than they have been lately. Latavius Murray gained 59 yards on 22 carries. Jamize Olawale had just 2 carries for 17 yards, but they were both impressive carries, and helped boost the meager YPC average to just over 3.0 yards. As good as the Titans’ pass defense may be, their run defense is in the middle of the league, and between that and the weather, it’s a bit of a surprise that the Raiders weren’t able to make more out of their running game. Backup center Tony Bergstrom has done well while starter Rodney Hudson nurses his injured ankle, but Hudson is a better run blocker, and should improve the rushing attack when he returns.
Grade: C

Pass Defense: For the most part, the defense did pretty well in containing Marcus Mariota, who ended up going 17-37-218-3-2. Khalil Mack registered two sacks on Mariota, and the rest of the team harassed him throughout the day, pressuring him into making bad throws and capitalizing on it. Tight end coverage continues to be an issue, as Delanie Walker had 6 receptions for 91 yards, and backup TE Craig Stevens burned the Raiders for a 20-yard TD catch, his only catch of the day. David Amerson had a nice interception to offset a special teams turnover a few plays earlier, and Nate Allen sealed the game with his interception. Amerson looks like he’s replacing DJ Hayden as starting corner.
Grade: B+

Rush Defense: This has been the biggest area of concern the last few weeks, and they showed up today, allowing just 44 yards on 18 running plays total. It helps that the Titans have no legitimate running back threat on the roster, though Mariota is as good a scrambler as you’ll find among NFL quarterbacks right now. A very solid effort, and hopefully a sign that the defense will be able to figure out how to deal with the suspension of Aldon Smith, which left a considerable hole in the run defense.
Grade: A

Special Teams: They had a nice block of Ryan Succop’s first extra point attempt, which nearly turned into a return as well, but was brought back because of a forward pass on the return. The kickoff and punt return game continues to be dismal; new returner Jeremy Ross lost a fumble at one point (fortunately David Amerson picked off an errant throw by Mariota a few plays later), and when Ross did have a decent return, it was because of blocking or holding, and thus got penalized. This has been the story with special teams all year — defensively, they are solid and aggressive; offensively, they’re usually better off just fair catching or taking the touchback. Janikowski looked ready to attempt a 65-yarder toward the end of the first half, but head coach Jack Del Rio wisely decided that given the weather conditions and the close score, it was a risk not worth taking.
Grade: C+

Coaching: A very solid game plan, in which coach Del Rio and OC Bill Musgrave crafted a more balanced attack designed to chew up clock time and exploit the Titans’ defensive secondary as opportunities arose. After two games in which the Raiders’ time of possession ended up substantially under 30 minutes, this game found them nearly at the 35-minute mark by game’s end. About the only quibble — but it’s a fairly serious one — came near the end, on the Raiders’ comeback drive. At the Titans’ 32-yard line with just under two minutes to go, on 4th-and-8 they attempt a high-risk bomb to Andre Holmes, who is generally third or fourth on the depth chart. It was just sheer luck that the refs decided to flag B.W. Webb for holding on Amari Cooper (but then, it’s entirely likely that Cooper was Carr’s first option, but was forced to check down to Holmes).

Still, a win is a win, and when the team needed it the most, they got it. The Chiefs, who started the season 1-5 and looked destined for a top 5 draft pick, have won their last five games and suddenly look like the biggest threat to the Raiders in the final five games. Hopefully the Titans game will serve as the slumpbuster Oakland needed to get back to their winning ways and move forward.
Grade: B+

Game Grades: Raiders at Bears

Full game stats here, play-by-play here.

Pass Offense: Derek Carr had a rather average outing, going 20-33 for 196 yards, 2 TDs and an interception. Amari Cooper was held to four catches for 49 yards, but his touchdown catch in the back of the end zone was a thing of beauty and field awareness (as well as a fantastic throw by Carr. Michael Crabtree continues to be the free-agent steal of the year, notching five catches for 80 yards. The tight ends continue to be an afterthought, as Lee Smith and Mychal Rivera combined for four catches for 26 yards. Spreading the ball around to the backs (Murray, Helu, and Reece) helped but not enough.
Grade: B-

Rush Offense: It’s strange how, in such a close game, Oakland only had 22 total carries by running backs. The talk had been of how the Raiders had always won when Latavius Murray had at least 15 catches, but that was clearly too small of a sample size, as his 16 carries for just 49 yards did very little to keep Oakland in contention. It didn’t help that Murray clearly had an off day, between turning the ball over and getting stuffed on a critical 3rd-and-2 near the end of the game. A final time of possession of just 26:38 may have been the deciding factor.
Grade: D+

Pass Defense: It’s hard to argue with three sacks, two forced fumbles, and an interception, yet the results don’t lie. Cutler went 28-43-281-2-1, not exactly superstar numbers but not bad for someone who played hurt. Tight ends continue to burn this unit at will; Bears TE Martellus Bennett tuned them up all day, with 11 catches for 83 yards, including a TD catch where he was embarrassingly wide open, and a crucial 4th-and-5 catch right before the two-minute warning to keep Chicago’s final drive alive. That last play is ultimately what made the difference between a win and a loss, there’s no way to sugarcoat it. This is exactly why the offense needs to not settle for field goals.
Grade: C-

Rush Defense: They actually did a respectable job here, as Matt Forte had 25 carries for 91 yards (3.64 ypc) and no touchdowns. Jeremy Langford and Jacquizz Rodgers added just three carries for seven yards total. Aldon Smith in particular had a solid game, making critical tackles and stops.
Grade: B

Special Teams: Sebastian Janikowski made both of his field goals and both of his extra points. Marquette King finished with a 45.0 average on his five punts, including two beauties that forced Chicago to start drives within their own 10-yard line. The decision to use valuable players such as TJ Carrie and Amari Cooper as punt returners finally bit the team in the rear, as Carrie was injured on one of his two returns and left the game. As Carrie seems to be the most consistent playmaker among the Raiders’ cornerbacks, it likely made Cutler’s job that much easier.
Grade: B+

Coaching: Head coach Jack Del Rio and offensive coordinator Bill Musgrave found out the hard way about playing not to lose, as the Raiders’ final offensive drive, which ended conservatively in a go-ahead field goal, left the Bears way too much time to respond with their own game-winning field goal. It makes sense that with a young, rebuilding team, the coaches would want to stay conservative and try to hold leads to the end. But as the secondary is the team’s biggest vulnerability, that has to be factored into fourth-quarter offensive strategy. It didn’t even necessarily need to be a touchdown drive, just one more first down would have made a huge difference, and two more first downs would have sealed the game. And they need to figure out another solution to the return game, as they cannot afford to lose players like Carrie or Cooper. But as always, all is forgiven if they can pull it together and knock off Denver this Sunday, before heading into the bye week.
Grade: C-

Week 4 Final: Bears 22, Raiders 20

Look, we can’t say we weren’t warned. Everything that’s been an issue for the Raiders so far — the inability to cover tight ends; settling for field goals instead of driving for touchdowns; getting points from turnovers — came to the forefront against what is (was) arguably the NFL’s worst team.

Full stats here, play-by-play here.

Going into this game, it was basically understood that no one should make too big of a deal out of it either way, especially if the Raiders had won. It’s interconference, against a mediocre team, there were a few bright spots, yada yada. But since they not only lost, but found a way to lose, you can at least say that this was a game that will dog them at the end of the season, just for rankings’ sake, that it was a game that they could and should have won, that it emphasized several glaring weaknesses that they are really going to have to work on if they’re going to take things to the proverbial next level.

This was always going to be a tougher game than it looked on paper, partly because it was in Chicago, partly because Jay Cutler, despite his flaws, was going to be tougher to beat than Jimmy Clausen. But again, these are the kinds of games that sort out average teams from truly good teams.

Onward and upward. Surely Jack Del Rio has the Raiders primed for an epic matchup against his former team, ready to tear Peyton Manning a new one, and head into the bye week on a really strong note. Keep your fingers crossed.

Game Preview: Raiders at Bears

The Raiders are (for them) riding pretty high on two exciting wins, including one on the road, and in the Eastern time zone at that. The win in Cleveland removed the whammy of at least five significant losing streaks for the team. It would be understandable, especially heading into a matchup with the team most rankers regard as the league’s worst right now, if the Raiders got ahead of themselves a bit, and looked past this game to next week’s home stand against the Broncos.

But head coach Jack Del Rio, with his rather hokey but effective “keep chopping wood” approach, seems unlikely to let the team do that. Even a bad Bears team is always tough at home, and Del Rio is going up against his former boss in Denver, John Fox. Chicago DC Vic Fangio built a mighty D in San Francisco, and while he doesn’t have nearly the talent to work with that he did with the Niners, he’s still a wily strategist who will do his best to stuff Latavius Murray and confuse Derek Carr with disguised blitzes and stunts.

In the end, this should be a game for the Raiders to tighten things up as they head home for what would be a chance to tie for the division lead in the AFC West. As we’ve seen in the two victories, where Oakland jumped to early leads and had to fight to hang on for wins, they have trouble putting opponents away. That’s something you expect from a young team trying to gel and learn how to win. It’s something they’ll continue to refine as the season progresses, because good teams aren’t going to let them get away with it.

But let’s face it — the Bears are bad, really bad. They’re bad with Jay Cutler, and even worse without him. The Bears have a chance because parity and any given Sunday, but as long as the Raiders keep playing the way they have been, there’s no reason Oakland shouldn’t win this one convincingly.

Keys to Victory

Run like hell: The numbers don’t lie — the Raiders have won every time Latavius Murray has had at least 15 carries. Give the man his touches, mix in Marcel Reece, Taiwan Jones, and Roy Helu, Jr.
Use the tight ends: So far this position has been pretty quiet, with the three TEs (Rivera, Smith, and Walford) having just 8 catches for 36 yards between them. Offensive coordinator Bill Musgrave has been pretty good at being creative and adaptable in his game plans, no doubt Carr will be using them more as the season progresses.
Cover their TEs: Conversely, opposing tight ends have dogged the Raiders’ linebackers and secondary. Cleveland tight end Gary Barnidge, who in seven full seasons had 48 catches total, had a career day last Sunday, with six catches for 105 yards and a touchdown. Chicago’s Martellus Bennett is the Bears’ leading rusher, and is easily the best TE the Raiders have faced yet this season. It will be a challenge to keep Bennett contained, while not leaving talented WRs Alshon Jeffery and Eddie Royal wide open.

Game Grades: Raiders at Browns

Full game stats here.

Pass Offense: Derek Carr turned in another strong performance, notching 20 completions in 32 attempts (62.5%) for 314 yards, two touchdowns and no interceptions. Amari Cooper had an impressive first half, but a lackluster second half, with a midfield fumble in the fourth quarter that gave the Browns an opportunity to close the sizable lead the Raiders had built up. Still, it’s a small blemish on an otherwise good day for Cooper, who finished with eight catches for 134 yards and no touchdowns. Seth Roberts was second in receiving, with 3 receptions for 36 yards and one touchdown. Marcel Reece had a 55-yard reception. Andre Holmes had a single 3-yard catch for a touchdown.
Grade: A-

Rush Offense: It took a while for the running game to get going, but once it did, it helped the Raiders chew up the clock and move the ball downfield. Latavius Murray had a career day with 26 carries for 139 yards, including a 54-yard rumble, and one touchdown. Taiwan Jones had 2 carries for 16 yards, and Marcel Reece had one carry for one yard. The more balanced offensive approach made a difference in the Browns defense looking winded late in the game.
Grade: B+

Pass Defense: On the one hand, after not having any sacks the first two weeks, the Raiders had five sacks (among four players) of Josh McCown, including two for Khalil Mack, who is emerging as a force to be reckoned with. On the other hand, McCown finished up 28-49-341-2-1, and tight end coverage continues to be an issue, as Browns TE Gary Barnidge led the team with 6 receptions for 105 yards and an easy touchdown. DJ Hayden continues to struggle with coverage and tackling, letting Travis Benjamin twist him around for an end-zone lunge late in the game. It’s a good thing the offense is clicking, because the cornerbacks are going to let opponents hang around and come back. Charles Woodson’s game-ending interception was a relief, as the Browns’ final drive, which started at their own 1-yard line, had marched up the field at will up that point.
Grade: C+

Rush Defense: As Cleveland found themselves in an early hole, they only ran 14 times total between Isaiah Crowell and Duke Johnson, for just 39 yards. Still, that 2.8 YPC average is significant, and shows that DT Dan Williams in particular has added to the defensive line’s run-stopping ability.
Grade: B

Special Teams: Sebastian Janikowski continues his streak, going 2/2 on field goals and 3/3 on extra points. Marquette King had a bit of an off day (for him), with 4 punts for a 37.0 average. King’s final punt, thanks to an acrobatic play by Taiwan Jones and a break from the refs (the replay showed Jones’ foot hitting the end zone just as the ball rolled off his fingers), was critical in pinning the Browns at their own 1-yard line to start their final drive. Amari Cooper showed that punt returning may not be his strong suit, gaining 9 yards on one and losing the same number on his other return.
Grade: B-

Coaching: Head coach Jack Del Rio and offensive coordinator Bill Musgrave crafted another strong, aggressive game plan for today’s matchup, mixing passing and running plays almost equally (32-30 pass-run ratio). Defensive coordinator Ken Norton, Jr. makes the most of what he has with the roster talent, using the front seven creatively at times to force Josh McCown to scramble or throw off his back foot. On the Raiders’ final offensive possession, after the midfield recovery of Travis Benjamin’s muffed punt return, the play calls were somewhat perplexing, in that the Raiders seemed content to run down the clock with running plays, but then tried a pass play on third down, instead of running down the clock to the two-minute warning, and possibly giving Sebastian Janikowski a better chance at a field goal to put the Browns away. These are the sorts of things that will be a problem against better teams down the schedule, such as the Packers and Chiefs. But the key to their two victories so far have been in building early leads and hanging on enough to win in the end. If they can pull it off against Denver in a couple of weeks, the team may be turning a corner after all.
Grade: A-

Game Grades: Raiders vs. Ravens

Pass Offense:  The numbers don’t lie — Carr had 30 completions in 46 attempts for 351 yards, 3 TD and 1 INT. That interception, coming near the end of the game and allowing Baltimore to take its first lead of the game, could have been a back-breaker. But it turned out to be a good test for Carr and his receiver corps, who all showed great poise and confidence in roaring back down the field for the final go-ahead touchdown. Cooper and Crabtree each had over 100 receiving yards, something that has not happened since Carson Palmer was quarterback. Crabtree in particular had several difficult catches in crucial moments, keeping drives alive. Pass protection was strong as well; while Carr took several hits, he was only sacked once all afternoon. Grade:  A-

Rush Offense:  What we did see of the running game was good, there just wasn’t enough of it. Latavius Murray ran for 65 yards on 15 carries, while Taiwan Jones’ two carries netted him 9 yards. Carr had the best run of the day, a 24-yard rumble down the sideline on a designed bootleg keeper. Grade:  B

Pass Defense:  After two games, the Raiders still have zero sacks, and are still getting torched in the passing game. Joe Flacco passed for 384 yards through the day, 150 of those yards going to Steve Smith. Tight end coverage is still a problem, as Crockett Gillmore had 5 receptions for 88 yards and 2 TDs, though almost all of that was in the first half. TJ Carrie’s forced fumble on Baltimore’s first offensive play helped the Raiders jump out to a ten-point lead within the first five minutes of game time. DJ Hayden had some moments of nice coverage and tackling. Neiko Thorpe made up for a poor showing throughout the day with the game-sealing interception, brought on in part by Khalil Mack getting good pressure on the left tackle and forcing Flacco to throw in desperation. There is something to be said for being good at the right time. Grade: C+

Rush Defense:  Justin Forsett’s numbers were almost exactly the same as Latavius Murray’s, 15 carries for 68 yards, with a long of 16. Lorenzo Taliaferro’s 7-yard end-zone rumble for a late touchdown was way too easy. The line needs to improve against both the pass and the run, of course, but really even one of those would be a good start. Grade: C

Special Teams: Sebastian Janikowski was a perfect 3-for-3 on field goals, and hit all four extra points. Marquette King only had to punt twice, the second one a booming 70-yarder that forced the Ravens to start from inside their own 10-yard line. Balitmore’s Sam Koch boomed all of his kickoffs through the end zone, which may have been for the best, since the return game is still very much a question mark. TJ Carrie returned two punts, for a total of 4 yards, with a long of 5 yards, which tells you how the other punt return went. Grade:  B-

Coaching:   Head coach Jack Del Rio and his staff deserve a lot of credit for getting the team to rebound from a nasty opening-day loss. As the defense weathers key injuries and continues to gel, it is crucial that the offense pulls its weight and then some. Offensive coordinator Bill Musgrave crafted a nice game plan that suits Derek Carr’s strengths, and lets him utilize his new offensive tools efficiently. There still needs to be more of a running game, but Musgrave seemed to be adapting his game plan to what the Ravens defense gave the Raiders offense.

Third-down efficiency on both sides of the ball is always a telling stat, and this game was no exception — the offense converted nearly two-thirds (9/14) of their third-down plays, while Baltimore converted barely one-third (4/11). Perhaps most importantly, the mostly young team faced and passed some critical tests, including staying in the game after losing an early lead, getting into (and surviving) a classic “shootout” game, and bouncing back quickly and strongly from an interception late in the game, to pull out an exciting victory in the final seconds of the game.

As the Raiders prepare for their first road game (three of the next four games are on the road), before coming back to start facing tough division opponents, it’s hard-fought games like this that the team can build on. Grade:  A-

Game Grades: Bengals at Raiders

Full box score here.

Pass Offense: Don’t be fooled by the almost respectable stats. Derek Carr went 7-for-12 for 61 yards before hurting his hand trying to stiff-arm Pacman Jones (who should have been ejected several plays earlier for his assault on Amari Cooper, but that’s another story). Matt McGloin was 23-31-142, with 2 TDs and 1 INT, but all well after the game was out of reach. (The total between both QBs is just under five yards per attempt on average.) The Raiders did not start an offensive play beyond the 50-yard line until the fourth quarter. Amari Cooper looked very good in his rookie outing, showing the poise and great hands that got him picked 4th overall this spring. Michael Crabtree had a couple of clutch catches. Marcel Reece caught both of McGloin’s TD passes. Grade: D+

Rush Offense: Latavius Murray averaged 4.0 yards per carry, which sounds decent, until you see that that means 44 yards on 11 carries. The Raiders could not generate sustained drives until garbage time, and by then they had to abandon the run. There simply wasn’t enough to get a decent assessment on line push and run blocking, not to mention rushing. Grade: C-

Pass Defense: What pass defense? Oakland’s pass rush generated no sacks, allowing Andy Dalton to carve up the Raiders secondary at will, going 25-34-269, with 2 TDs and no interceptions. Tight end Tyler Eifert, who missed almost the entire season last year, had 9 receptions for 104 yards and 2 TDs, frequently on basic seam routes that kept confounding the Raiders’ secondary. DJ Hayden continues to be a liability, alternating between getting burned in coverage and blatantly molesting AJ Green to prevent a touchdown (which of course gave the Bengals a fresh set of downs inside the Raiders’ 5-yard line). Either a true pass rush is going to have to develop to take pressure off the secondary, or one or more of the DBs is going to have to step up. Otherwise this team is going nowhere. The offense is simply not built to get into shootout-type games.Grade: D-

Rush Defense: Running backs Jeremy Hill and Giovanni Bernard gashed the Raiders defensive line early and often. A key early play was on the Bengals first scoring drive, when the went for it on 4th-and-goal from the 1, and Hill ran around the left side, leaving linebacker Ray-Ray Armstrong grasping at air. I don’t know what Sio Moore did to get in the doghouse of the current coaching staff, but it’s not like the LB corps is any better without him. Hill and Bernard totaled 126 yards on 27 carries (4.67 yds/carry), not catastrophic but not exactly much of an improvement either. Grade: D

Special Teams: Kicking and punt returns were serviceable enough, which given the other facets of the game almost qualifies as a bright spot. Marquette King set a league record for number of punts last season, and it would probably be a good idea to keep his leg in shape this time around as well. Most of his six punts were fine, though he shanked the first one. Sebastian Janikowski had no field goal attempts. Grade: C

Coaching: During the course of the game, Derek Carr, Nate Allen, and Charles Woodson left with injuries. Until the extent of those injuries is known, it’s tough to say what head coach Jack Del Rio and his crew have signed up for. But this was a thoroughly underwhelming inaugural outing in all phases. The offense had trouble gaining first downs, and never even crossed the 50-yard line until the end of the 3rd quarter. The infield dirt of Oakland Coliseum, the last such intrusion of a baseball diamond on an NFL field, serves as a middle finger throughout. It would be one thing if the Raiders could use the dirt as a tactical advantage over other teams, but they’re as prone to it as anyone else. It is an obstacle to be dealt with, and this is not a team built to handle obstacles.

The condition of the field is bullshit, but it’s not the fault of the coaching staff. What is the coaching staff’s problem is that they fielded a team that was clearly underprepared and overmatched. The Bengals, no doubt exhorted by their offensive coordinator (and former Oakland head coach) Hue Jackson, came out strong right from the start on both offense and defense. The Raiders did not seem to have that sense of urgency on either side of the ball, and failed to execute at critical moments.

The next time a cheap-shot asshole like Pacman Jones takes the Raiders’ star #1 draft pick receiver, rips his helmet off after he’s been tackled to the ground, and slams his head into the helmet, one of the special teams players needs to take Jones on his next punt/kickoff return, and snap him over his knee. Don’t worry, Mark Davis will pay your fine. But the Raiders’ failure to respond at all to that was all the Bengals needed to know. Del Rio may feel that he’s instilled a stronger team culture of discipline and execution, but the results did not show on the field. The team needs to play with aggression and purpose, and Jones’ conduct alone — mauling Cooper and knocking Carr out of the game — should have been something to rally around. The old Raiders would have sent a backup DE in to late-hit Dalton and knock his ass out of the game in retaliation. Instead they derped their way around their own side of the field until it was 33-0 in the 4th quarter.

With most teams, you can spot “easier” parts of the schedule where they don’t have to worry as much about a blowout or an automatic loss. Part of that is parity, part of that is just the general level of competence in teams, coaches, and players. Every team should be able to point at a few games and say to themselves, “Yeah, we got that one.”

But looking at how the team performed today, there are no such games on the Raiders’ schedule. The Ravens next week, even though Steve Smith is their only real offensive weapon, are a threat. The trip to Cleveland in two weeks is no joke. And so on. Even the lowly Titans — you saw Marcus Mariota beat down the Buccaneers today, but did you also know that the Raiders have only won in Tennessee once, and that was in 2005? Did you know that in 11 visits to Oakland, today was the first time the Bengals won? The Raiders are clearly going to have to fight and claw for just a chance at victory this season, whether the opponent is “good” or “bad”.

As such, the coaches need to install a game plan that emphasizes the run game, ball control, low-risk passing, keeping the opponent off the field. They didn’t do that, and they failed to adapt long after the score got out of hand. As a general observation, the best thing that the coaches can do for this team is to get them to play so that other teams will fear and respect them. They need to know that if Pacman Jones takes their star receiver, sits on his chest and beats his head against his own helmet, Pacman Jones is going to leave the game with some broken bones, preferably a sternum or collarbone or fibula. The Raiders’ meek response instead showed that they were to be neither feared nor even respected, but merely pitied or laughed at.

And the sooner the A’s season is done and that goddamned dirt infield is gone, the better. Grade: D

Free Agency Update

Here’s a list of the players the Raiders have signed so far (as of 3/14):

    C Rodney Hudson
    LB Malcolm Smith
    TE Lee Smith
    RB Roy Helu, Jr.
    LB Curtis Lofton
    DL Dan Williams
    DB Nate Allen
    QB Christian Ponder
    DB James Dockery

While there might some disappointment and annoyance around The Nation that we didn’t get Suh or Cobb, or any perceived “big name” free agent on the market with all that cap money to spend, I don’t think we did poorly either.  Hudson was the 3rd-highest-rated center in the league last season, and while the Raiders had to make him the highest paid at his position, it’s rare for elite linemen to make it to free agency at all, especially at just 25 years of age.

Continue reading Free Agency Update

Initial Roster Cuts

The first two big-name roster casualties in the Raiders offseason appear to be safety Tyvon Branch and defensive end LaMarr Woodley.

Branch showed himself to be a tough tackler during his first four seasons, and was rewarded after the 2012 season with a fat $26.6M/$10M guaranteed contract. Since that time he had only managed to play five games, with recurring injuries hampering his ability to get on the field. Branch also had a large ($9.657M) cap number.

Woodley came to the Raiders as a free agent last offseason, afte being cut by Pittsburgh. He has was given a 2-year/$12M contract, and started six games, racking up five total tackles (three solo) before getting injured. It should be noted that Woodley’s best years with the Steelers were in more of a linebacker role, but for some reason former Raiders DC Jason Tarver decided to deploy Woodley as a down lineman.

Naturally, many fans have asked about Maurice Jones-Drew’s continued status with the Raiders, and new head coach Jack Del Rio(who coached MJD in his most productive years with the Jaguars) has mentioned it at press conferences.

While it is important to determine whether Jones-Drew is still able to contribute significantly, it’s also important (and Del Rio is already addressing it) to recognize that the offensive line was horrible at creating running lanes for MJD and Darren McFadden. And while former OC Greg Olson probably did what he could with what he had, a real problem is that MJD and DMac are both one-cut-and-go type runners, and Olson for some reason insisted on plowing them up the middle as power runners, behind a line that could not reliably function as a true power line.

All that is to say that while Jones-Drew may be done, he might also be rejuvenated after an off year (he had only 43 carries for 96 yards), if given a competent run-blocking line. It would not cost the Raiders very much to find out, and use MJD (and possibly even McFadden as well) to complement Latavius Murray as he develops.

Unless Marshawn Lynch suddenly becomes available at a reasonable price, it wouldn’t be at all surprising to see the Raiders’ running back corps remain largely intact. They might let DMac test the free agency waters again, and someone (probably Dallas or Indy) might snap him up, and Oakland can grab one with a mid-round draft pick.

But unless the wheels have visibly fallen off, I see MJD staying at least into camp or preseason. He just doesn’t cost them enough to worry about, and could have some real upside behind a better line and better play-calling.