Category Archives: Oakland Raiders

Quarterback Dilemma?

Interesting conversation over at Raider Take on the rapidly brewing Schaub vs. McGloin controversy among the fan base. Plenty of good points to be made on either side, but there are a few worth considering before we lose too much perspective:

  • McGloin performed as the starting QB for six of the final seven games last season, winning his first one at Houston (ironically), but dropping the next five, including the 56-31 blowout at home against the Chefs, where McGloin turned the ball over 5 times (4 INT, 1 fumble). The Raiders’ O-line appears to be an upgrade from last season, but the fact is that McGloin has started a few games already. He’s looked great the last couple weeks against second- and third-string defenders, but may just as easily revert to last year’s form against starters.
  • While Schaub’s performance after three preseason games has been underwhelming, there has been no real chance to get in much of a rhythm with the full offensive team and playbook. Jones-Drew and McFadden play only the first few series, as has Schaub himself until last night in Green Bay. He’s had some bad and questionable throws, but multiple receivers, including Jones, Holmes, Little, and Reece have had multiple drops of catchable balls. There’s enough blame to spread around.

One of the biggest concerns with the McKenzie/Allen management/coaching regime is the handling of the quarterback position overall, right from the very start. They let Carson Palmer go, rather than pay him more money, and then brought in Matt Flynn, for way too much money, based on Flynn’s record. They failed to bring in a true #1 wide receiver to complement their choice at quarterback. When Flynn couldn’t get healthy in camp, and couldn’t get it done in preseason, they started Pryor. When Pryor got hurt, they finally started Flynn, and gave up on him — and the $6.5M and draft pick he cost — after a single game, against a Washington team that ultimately went 3-13 and fired their coach.

So they go back to Pryor for the next five games, winning just one game — and that one only because the Steelers somehow managed to miss two easy field goals — before giving McGloin his shot. Then, only after the season is long-lost and they feel the need to see if they have anything in Pryor, they start him for the final game against Denver, which of course wasn’t nearly as close as the 34-14 score indicated.

We’ve all heard the old saw about how when you have two (or more) quarterbacks, you have no quarterbacks. Nowhere has this been more true than the last couple seasons for the Raiders. They could have found out whether they wanted to keep Pryor by letting him start the final three games of the lost 2012 campaign, instead of waiting until just the very last game. They could have done a better scouting job on Flynn before throwing money at him, then cutting bait after just one game.

Panic and chaos seem to be the prime factors in identifying, developing, and managing QB talent in Oakland these days, and it’s hard to understand exactly how this keeps happening. But one sure way is to insist on switching from one QB to another after a couple of preseason games, which by definition are not very useful in analyzing the entire team picture. Schaub has to push the ball downfield with more decisiveness and fire, yes, but his receivers also have to run their routes and hang on to the ball. And if they can’t, then the management team needs to have more to show for its $65M of cap money in the receiving corps.

It’s not time to panic yet. It won’t even be time to panic if they lose to the Jets in Week 1, unless it’s a blowout and Schaub has a case of the pick-sixes again. In fact, Schaub — or any quarterback — needs to know that he has more than one chance to do the job. The bye week (Week 5) is early this season, probably too early for a team with some key veteran players that need to stay healthy later in the season, but in this case it’s an opportunity to get an honest look at their 17th QB to start since Rich Gannon.

This season’s schedule is notoriously tough, and particularly the first four games — at the Jets, home against Houston, at the Patriots, and against Miami in London (considered a “home” game). If Schaub can’t beat his former team for the home opener, and at least the Jets or the Dolphins, then you have an argument for changing horses and using that early bye week to give either McGloin or Carr a chance. Pushing the panic button right now would just continue the ongoing problem.

No matter who is starting at QB, the regrouped linemen are learning to work together, and the receivers need to do their part as well and seriously improve their end of the game. This falls as much on the coaching and management as it does on who’s actually throwing the ball.

Preseason Week 3: Packers 31, Raiders 21

There were some glimmers of hope on Lambeau Field, but also the promise of yet another long season if some fundamental issues aren’t addressed, and quickly. Will this be the season of Matty Iced (Schaub) or Matty Nice (McGloin)? As if the saga of yet another Matt (Flynn) wasn’t enough last season, this season seems primed to become the Tale of Two Matts.

To be fair, the Packers are a solid team and a sure playoff contender, always tough at home, Aaron Rodgers is still at the top of his game, and the Packers’ D has been rejuvenated with the addition of Julius Peppers. Green Bay will compete at an elite level this season, and so the game was sure to be a good barometer of where the Raiders had actually improved.

And they at least have not regressed, but the actual improvements are scarce so far. The speculation has been on whether Matt Schaub would return to 2012 form, or revert to last year’s abysmal performance — and after three games, it’s been somewhere in between. Nothing terrible, but nothing particularly good, either. For every catch there’s a drop, which falls mostly on the receiver (case in point — Marcel Reece in the end zone), but also suggests that Schaub and his receiving corps are not entirely in sync.

There is no true #1 WR on this team, true, but James Jones has been solid in his career with the Packers, and Rod Streater and Denarius Moore each have valuable skill sets that that make this team a contender. McGloin showed the potential to be that field general the Raiders need, and managed to make a 31-7 rout more respectable at the end. But one of the Matts — or Derek Carr — needs to prove capable of that against defensive starters.

Some positives:

  • Khalil Mack had a nice heads-up INT of Matt Flynn, and earlier applied some nice pressure that LaMarr Woodley capitalized on to sack Rodgers.
  • TJ Carrie continues to show promise, with a nice breakup of a 3rd-down pass to Jordy Nelson in the end zone. Unfortunately, Rodgers went right back at Carrie on 4th down and got it to Nelson for the TD.
  • James Jones’ overturned TD catch — I’m telling you right now, if Jones makes that catch last season in a Packers uniform, it stands. Packers WR Alex Gillett made almost the same catch, in the same spot, with the same amount (very little) of “bobbling” and the play stood. Funny how that happens.
  • Maurice Jones-Drew continues to grind yards, and make the most of every carry. Latavius Murray had several decent runs.
  • Gabe Jackson looks like a potential beast at left guard.

On the other hand, there is zero depth at left tackle beyond Donald Penn (though if need be, Khalif Barnes could start at LT and Jackson could start at LG), Menelik Watson continues to struggle at times at starting right tackle, and again, receivers need to get open quickly for Schaub to find them. This o-line is clearly stronger at run blocking, but teams will quickly stack eight or nine in the box if they don’t respect the passing game. Too many stupid penalties, personal fouls and unsportsmanlike conduct calls. Too many missed opportunities — the starting offense had excellent field position several times after their first touchdown, and failed to capitalize on any of them.

The final preseason game next week against Seattle won’t mean much, aside from Terrelle Pryor coming back to Oakland to start, but the Raiders have some time to address these issues. The team that shows up against the Jets for the first regular season game will set the tone for the season. They need to set the tempo, be fast and aggressive, and push people around on both sides of the ball. It can be done.

Again, the Packers are a good team, playing at home, so it’s important to keep things in perspective. The areas of concern can realistically be addressed, but there’s not much room for error at this point. Fans are frustrated after over a decade of losing and false promise, and the prospect of having to change coaching and management regimes yet again is too frustrating to contemplate. The team has the tools to win at least 7-8 games, maybe more, which would be something to build on, but execution is critical.

Preseason Week 2: Raiders 27, Lions 26

An ugly win is still a win, even in preseason, even against the backups. Expectations have to be kept in check, the playbooks are toned way down, preseason doesn’t really mean anything, and all that.

But the team is still not looking all that sharp in some critical areas. First-team D is still porous, getting picked apart even without Megatron or Reggie Bush on the field. Greg Little and Andre Holmes still keep dropping catchable passes. One of them will miss the cut at this rate.

Hopefully they keep Schaub and the first-team offense in a little longer than normal for the final two preseason matchups, in Green Bay next Friday and then home against the Seahawks on the 28th, just to see what they really have. Derek Carr and especially Matt McGloin have stepped up really nicely, playing with a sense of urgency. Not that Schaub isn’t doing those things necessarily, but maybe a little more time for the offensive starters to get in sync with each other would pay off.

And the defensive secondary needs to tighten up as well. Some of the creative blitzes that they got burned on looked somewhat experimental, and this is definitely the time to try those things out, when they don’t really count. But Tarell Brown keeps getting burned in coverage, and DJ Hayden seems to be in PUP limbo.

These preseason games are going to be a good test of whether the team is really rebuilt and cohesive, as they get progressively more challenging. First the resurgent Vikings, and last night against a Detroit team loaded with talent (though again Johnson and Bush didn’t play). The Raiders’ D will have to pull it together to face Aaron Rodgers in Lambeau, and the Seahawks’ killer D will test the rebuilt offense in a major way.

Preseason: Vikings 10, Raiders 6

Disappointing performance by the Raiders in Minnesota, between the Vikings marching straight down the field for a touchdown on their first possession, and the Raiders unable to get on the board until deep into garbage time. Too many dropped passes, blown coverages, and dumb penalties.

Some fans are already on the ledge, and they shouldn’t be — it is, after all, preseason. Vanilla playbooks, rookies trying to make the team and veterans trying not to get hurt in a meaningless game, etc. We all know the drill. Yes, the team came out flat and lifeless where they should have been tight and ready to play. Fans have a right to be nervous after a dozen seasons of futility.

But there were some nice surprises, and some glimmers of hope. Shelby Harris and T.J. Carrie made some nice plays (including Harris getting around Pro Bowl LT Mat Kalil to sack Matt Cassel), Chimdi Chekwa is improving, and Lamarr Woodley still looks like a baller. The running game, as sparingly as it was used, was solid all the way around, with McFadden cranking out a 23-yard carry, and Jones-Drew and Murray both putting up good averages per carry.

Derek Carr shows plenty of promise and potential, and even though Schaub had some questionable throws, he also didn’t have a whole lot of help from his receivers. A greater emphasis on the running game this season will help take some of the heat off the QB/receiving corps.

There’s definitely room for improvement on several fronts, but that’s what preseason is for, and there’s also plenty of reason to be at least cautiously optimistic. Next preseason matchup is home against the Lions on Friday the 15th.