Oakland Raiders Week 1: Ifs, Buts, Candy and Nuts
Dr. Nick Chicoine – Sep 11, 2012
If ifs and buts were candy and nuts than we’d all be Superbowl Champions… or something like that.
The Oakland Raiders suffered a soul crushing loss to the San Diego Chargers on Monday night, and although there were plenty of things to be happy about, there was a lot to be unhappy about. The knee jerk reaction is to make excuses for the loss, and somehow justify this train wreck to our fragile subconscious minds. Rather than make excuses for the Raiders, let’s debunk them.
1) If Jacoby Ford, and Denarius Moore were healthy Oakland would have won:
This excuse may be true, but then again it probably isn’t. Moore and Ford are debatably the best two receivers on the Raiders roster and their presence would have most definitely given Palmer more weapons, however when the defense is letting Darren McFadden Catch the ball 5 yards down field, it’s hard not to dump the ball off to your best player for an easy gain. With that
said, Oakland’s receivers weren’t unproductive, but they were far from threatening. Darrius Heyward-Bey showed signs of “getting it” by out jumping Quinton Jammer for a first down on a toe touching out pattern. DHB followed this spectacular catch up by running the wrong route on an audible, and dropping any pass that was even moderately challenged. Regardless of DHB’s mitten like hands, Rod Streater played well enough despite an early fumble, and Derek Hagan seemed to pick up where he left off before being cut last season. San Diego’s defense took away all deep threats for the majority of the game. Yes Moore, and Ford would have improved the offense somewhat, but the majority of Palmer’s check down’s to McFadden were simply because he’s the best player on the field and he was the most open.
2) If Jon Condo wouldn’t have gotten hurt Oakland would have won:
Ok so maybe this one is true. Never in my history of watching football, on a professional level, a collegiate level, or even a high school level have I experienced a long snapper being injured. This injury was particularly painful to experience because it virtually took away the ability to punt. Not from a lack of trying of course, but can you really justify going for it on 4th and 10 on your own 35 yard line?
This game could have gone either way, but without a sufficient special teams unit the Raiders didn’t even give their squad a chance. Oakland’s special teams were a problem in pre-season, and are a liability in the regular season. If Oakland wants to compete with Peyton Manning’s Broncos, Matt Ryan’s Falcons, or Big Ben’s Steelers, they cannot afford negative plays on
special teams. Sure the punt team was the biggest eye sore of the night, but the kick return team, and the kick off team weren’t exactly top notch either. Jon Condo can't be responsible for all of the punt teams problems. At this rate, it won’t be long before the Raider Nation is calling for Special Teams Coordinator, Steve Hoffman’s head.
1) But Darren McFadden had a good game:
Darren McFadden didn’t have a bad game by any means, but he was held to under 4 yards per carry, and most of his production came from the passing game. McFadden is undeniably the best player on the field, however even Lebron James can’t win a championship by himself, and his sport only requires 4 other teammates. It is becoming evident that Greg Knapp’s zone blocking scheme does not fit Darren McFadden’s skill set. McFadden is too fast to have to wait for the blocks to set up, and he’s too big to hide behind his linemen like most zone blocking
running backs (see Taiwan Jones). McFadden doesn’t beat teams because he’s smarter than his opponent; he beats them because he’s a physical freak and simply outplays his opponent. If Greg Knapp truly wants to maximize his talent he will drop the notion that McFadden is best fit for a zone blocking scheme, because as we all saw last season he was unstoppable in a power scheme. The zone “one cut and go” philosophy sounds nice, but why not just “go?" If the defense is accountable for multiple looks, the offense should be no different. Greg Knapp needs to get over himself and realize that Arian Foster, and Darren McFadden are two totally different types of elite running backs. If Oakland wants the same kind of production out of Darren McFadden they had last year they will have to add more power running plays to the offense.
2) But the passing game was one dimensional:
I agree the play calling was at best “predictable,” but it did not stop Oakland from moving the chains. Palmer did an excellent job of taking what the defense gave him. What looked like the same dump play to McFadden, was simply the best and safest option most of the time. There were plenty of plays that raised my eye brows too, but that isn’t what lost the game for Oakland.
Even though I think Knapp’s zone blocking scheme is garbage, he has no control over a Taiwan Jones fumble for a 25 yard loss, a Rod Streater fumble, and a plethora of dropped balls. Jason Tarver often says “The defense doesn’t control where they start on the field.” The same can be said for the offense. Palmer started almost every drive from his own 20, or inside the 20 yard line not getting even an inch of help from the special teams, and still played well.
3) But the defense played really well:
Yes, the defense played spectacular. My biggest, and really only complaint on the defense was Tyvon Branch. Branch no doubt earned his pay day this season, however it was evident early on that he was no match for Antonio Gates. I would have liked to see Mike Mitchell guard Gates in man coverage simply because Mike Mitchell has a knack for shutting down elite tight ends. Branch is undisputedly the best overall strong safety on the roster, but when it comes to guarding tight ends, Mike Mitchell is one of the best in the league. Mike Mitchell played a lot of special teams on Monday night, but was rarely seen on defense, if at all.
Other than that, Oakland held Philip Rivers to just one touchdown, which was aided by two Tommy Kelly false starts on consecutive third downs. The penalties were disheartening sure, but it was evident Tommy Kelly felt like he had let his team down. It was nice to see someone actually feel remorse for committing a bone head penalty.
Candy and Nuts: (The good stuff)
1) Jason “The Mad Chemist” Tarver: Philip Rivers played a good clean game,
but was still held to just one touchdown all night. Rivers started 3
drives in field goal range, but was still stopped short by Tarver’s
defense. One thing’s for sure, Tarver is legit.
2) Rolando “Not Guilty” McClain: McClain blew up multiple run plays,
was able to put pressure on Rivers, and defended the pass well.
Finally McClain played like the player we all hoped he could become.
McClain’s biggest stand was on a third down pass to Antonio Gates,
where Gates made a miraculous one handed scoop and was on the brink of
getting past Philip Wheeler. Wheeler was able to hold Gates long
enough for McClain to find the first down marker, plant his feet, and
drive Gates to the ground. It was a sense of passion that has been
lacking in previous games that really made me enjoy seeing McClain
have success on Monday night.
3) Michael Huff: I’m not sure if any of you have heard, but Michael
Huff can tackle now… and he does it well. Huff disappeared in the
passing game, but in the way that Nnamdi Asomugha often
disappeared. Rivers rarely threw it in Huff’s direction. Huff has
always been a good pass defender, but struggled in open field
tackling. It was assuring to see how well he was able wrap up, and
get his job done, and get it done well.
4) Miles Burris: What more can you ask out of a rookie 4th round
draft pick? Burris has shown he has a knack for sniffing out plays,
and can tackle as good as anyone on the team. I don’t know if Burris
is better than Aaron Curry, but for now the job is Burris’ to lose.
5) Carson Palmer: Palmer threw for nearly 300 yards, 1 td, and no
interceptions…. AND NO INTERCEPTIONS. Palmer took care of the ball
well, and did the best he possibly could with the lack of weapons
available to him. If anything, this game reassured my confidence in
Palmer, and I look forward to seeing what else he is capable of.
6) Rod Streater: Streater had his first regular season catch, his first regular season drop, his first regular season fumble, his first regular season 3rd down conversion, AND his first NFL Touchdown. Because he’s a rookie undrafted free agent, essentially being thrown into the fire, I am thrilled with his performance. He didn’t let his fumble rattle his cage, and has shown to be a steal for Oakland.
Despite all the “ifs and buts” the Raiders still only lost by 8, and showed a lot of good things. Oakland’s young receivers will need to step up, and their special teams will have to show up in week 2 if Dennis Allen is going planning on getting his first win as a Head Coach.
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