Oakland Raiders Bye Week Final: Offensive Coaching Grades
John Doublin – Nov 3, 2011In this final installment of Raider Nation Times' Bye Week Reviews, it's becoming apparent that head coach Hue Jackson is firmly in control of the day-to-day activities of the Oakland Raiders. The signing of veterans like wide receiver T.J. Houshmandzadeh and cornerback Lito Sheppard have put his proverbial stamp on the team.
That said, how have coach Jackson and the other offensive coaches done in 2011? Is the offense improved? Is it on the right track? Are the roster moves helping or hurting the team?
Let's have a look.
Adam Henryâ€”Tight Ends: C
Coach Henry is a solid coach, but for some unknown reason, the Raiders' tight ends have been virtually non-existent on the stat sheet. This doesn't mean they aren't contributing, just not getting targets or catches. Kevin Boss is a beast when blocking for the running game, but he isn't getting the ball.
It's not clear if this is due to the nature of the Jackson/Al Saunders offense. Either way, Henry needs to bring back the legacy of great Raider tight ends like my all-time hero, Dave Casper.
This "C" becomes a "B" or better once the tight ends start getting open more and producing first downs and points with more regularity.
Sanjay Lalâ€”Wide receivers: D-
Honestly, the only thing that is keeping this grade from being an "F" is the presence of coaches Jackson and Saunders. The truth is, the wide receivers didn't start producing until those two men got to Oakland. Coincidence? Not hardly!
I've been very critical of Lal in recent years, and I stick to my stance on that. He has done virtually nothing to improve the young wide outs since being hired in 2007. If not for Jackson and Saunders being former wide receiver coaches, I'm confident the wide receivers would still be regressing, under-achieving and hurting the team.
This is not personal, I'm sure he's a great person and a hard worker, but in football all that counts are results. The resurgence we see in this squad is more Jackson and Saunders than it is Lal.
Bob Wiley/Steve Wisniewskiâ€”Offensive line: B+
Since the unceremonious departure of Tom Cable, the Raiders have returned from a 'zone blocking scheme' to a power scheme as required by coach Jackson. Facilitating this move are long-time veteran coach Wiley and Raider legend Wisniewski.
The front five are vastly improved over last season in pass protection, and have made that step forward without sacrificing their dominance in the running game. The affect of this cannot be over-stated.
The only thing keeping this grade from being an "A" is consistency. Sometimes, the linemen look ill-prepared for bigger, more powerful interior defensive linemen. Once that is fixed, the sky is the limit for this squad.
Kelly Skipperâ€”Running backs: A
Seriously, having talent like Darren McFadden and Michael Bush, mixed with youth like Taiwan Jones and the experience of Rock Cartwright makes coaching running backs a lot easier, but the job Skipper has done over the last few seasons is remarkable.
I honestly can't find anything to criticize about this squad. The vision, route recognition and blitz pick-up get better each week. All I can say is, keep up the great work!
Al Saundersâ€”Offensive Coordinator: B+
The offense is scoring more points, moving the ball more consistently and controlling the clock better than it has in many years. However, the creativity in the redzone and on third down leave me a little wanting. I don't know if this is due to Jackson's play-calling or Saunders' offense. Either way, fix that and this becomes and "A."
Something else that needs attention is, to quote the late-great Al Davis, is "the vertical game." A lot of times, we see more short and intermediate routes and there is no real threat down field. Sure, there have been shots, but the whole point of "stretching the defense" is to make going deep a legitimate threat on any and all downs. Saunders hasn't done that with any regularity.
John Fasselâ€”Special Teams: B-
Much like running back coach Kelly Skipper, coach Fassel has been given fantastic talent with which to work. The best kicker in the league, the best punter since Ray Guy, gunners like Cartwright and returners like Jacoby Ford make Fassel's job easier.
Obviously the kicking and punting are nearly perfect and the return game has been great, but to make this grade an "A" the punt and kick coverage needs to be more consistent. On one play a stop is made immediately, on the next, the opponent gets a huge return.
Fix this, and that grade sky-rockets!
Strength and Conditioningâ€”Brad Roll: B-
This would be an "A" if not for some of the injuries suffered by players on both sides of the ballâ€”especially the secondary and running backs.
Hue Jacksonâ€”Head Coach: B-
I know what you're thinking, "B-? How can that be?Â This team looks better than it has in years!" You're right, but that doesn't mean coach Jackson deserves an "A." There are still areas that need improvement.
As we all know, Jackson calls the plays on game day. I attribute a lot of the stagnation of the offense inside the redzone and on third down to Jackson. Sometimes, it seems like he get's too predictable. For example, against the Chiefs, he called four basic half back dives from inside the five-yard-line. Everyone in the stands and watching on television could tell after the second attempt that this was not going to work, but Jackson failed to adjust. It cost the Raiders points, and more importantly, gave the Chiefs a morale boost that changed the game. Play action or misdirection on third down could have changed that.
Sometimes Jackson gets "too cute." He called two flea-flickers from the 50 yard-line, but wouldn't call anything other than a straight dive inside the five? It makes no sense.
Now that Mr. Davis is no longer with us, Jackson is clearly in charge of all personnel decisions as well. Some of his decisions have fans scratching their heads. Signing Houshmandzadeh was great, but releasing a guy like Derek Hagan instead of the forever-injured Chaz Shilens makes no sense to mostâ€”including this writer. Also, why sign Jerome Boyd over a play-maker like Stevie Brown only to release him, then sign him to the practice squad?
Another part of being a head coach is handling the media. Jackson's "performance" in this area has many in Raider Nation concerned. The talk around the blogs and fan sites was that Jackson seemed to be spending more time toying with the media over the Kyle Boller/Carson Palmer issue than he was game-planning for the Chiefs. The result was an air of arrogance and an embarrassing loss to a hated rivalâ€”in our house!
With all that said, the team is headed in the right direction and making strides to be the "bully" Jackson promised, but there's a lot of work to do yet. To improve on this grade, Jackson needs to be more like Mr. Davis when handling the mediaâ€”give them what is required, but no more. He should extend some of his mid-field creativity and "trickeration" to the redzone and third down as well. As for personnel, that's something we'll all just have to trust him with.
Offense/Special Teamsâ€”Overall Grade: B-
In the end, the offense and special teams are improved over the last few seasons. Only a few minor changes and consistency stand between the Raiders' offense/special teams and an "A" grade.
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