Oakland Raiders Week 6: Pressures, Hurries & Knockdowns
Justin Smith – Oct 12, 2012
The Oakland Raiders have a few factors working against them as they travel to the Georgia Dome to take on the Atlanta Falcons on Sunday. There's the Falcons undefeate record, Matt Ryan’s breakthrough season and having to travel to the Eastern time zone, where the Raiders notoriously struggle. Take those away, and you are still left with a franchise that has lost nine consecutive games following their bye week.
Granted, of those nine games, only two or three Raider teams were of any vintage to win a game, and the franchise struggles in the 2000’s largely contribute to that statistic.
But still, nine. For a team that has faded very badly in the second half more than once this season that apparent lack of ability to adjust and refocus doesn’t bode well.
The words coming from Raider camp right now tell a different story. Coach Dennis Allen, offensive coordinator Greg Knapp, running backs coach Kelly Skipper and quarterback Carson Palmer are all convinced that the running game is ready to explode based on the pace and execution in recent practices. They’ve also stated the team is committed to running the ball more, something that is imperative as they are currently passing about 70% of the time.
They should run against the Falcons, who are 28th in the NFL in rush defense and give up a staggering 5.4 yards per carry. Only to the Bills are haemorrhaging more with 5.7 ypc.
The Falcons record, tough offense and defense, and Eastern time zone coupled with the Raiders after bye-week woes conjure up little chance for the Silver & Black; that’s reflected in the -9.5 Vegas line and 99% of expert picks out there.
The Raiders are under a lot of pressure to show they have made positive changes during the bye, and this new regime has recognized issues and provided solutions. They didn’t sign any new players; not even Chimdi Chekwa from the practice squad. So they better have fixed things with this current roster.
Dennis Allen, Head Coach
The Raiders didn’t sign any new players during the bye despite obvious depth issues at numerous positions and a 1-3 record. That lack of depth was exposed in both Miami and Denver, where they were outscored a combined 55-3 in the second halves. In four games thus far they have been outscored 81-31 in the second half, outscoring only Pittsburgh.
Obviously some of this must fall on the shoulders of head coach Dennis Allen and his lack of ability to have the team ready to play in the second half. In the San Diego game he should’ve addressed the long snapping issue at halftime instead of perpetuating Goethel-gate. I’m sure he’d say there was no other choice, but one would think the plethora of offensive lineman on the roster had to be at least as good of a choice as a backup linebacker who last snapped in high school.
In the Miami game the Raiders were bound to fade; they always do. The NFL simply must stop sending the Raiders to Miami, at least for a few years, to balance the tables a little.
In the Pittsburgh game Carson Palmer willed the team to a win in the second half, but the defense couldn’t get off the field on third down and thus tired by the second half and the Raiders offensive explosion almost went for naught.
And in Denver let’s just say the team was outplayed and Allen outcoached on every level from jump. It was ugly.
Couple those second half slides with the inability of their defense to stop anyone despite Allen being a defensive-minded coach and it leads one to wonder if Allen is in over his head a little.
His demeanour and attitude suggest otherwise, as do his references and respect from other coaches. Allen is dealing with a difficult situation; a roster that has some talent but has no depth and could build none due to financial and draft pick restraints. He’s trying to implement new schemes on both sides of the ball with some ill fitting personnel; in short he’s trying to overhaul the team with minimal resources and some of the wrong pieces in a sport with less than minimal patience for a turnaround.
Allen has stated repeatedly that the team made vast strides over the bye week in the running game, that they’ve identified their strengths on defense and will work to those, and that he expects a different team going forward.
He’s under pressure to show that he has some awareness of what it takes to right a ship, because the Raiders were floundering before the bye and the season was quickly sinking into the mire. He’s under pressure to show he’s coached this team up in areas of weakness – he’s already shown that when it comes to penalties – and that their second half fades weren’t a harbinger of poor adjustments made when the time comes.
He’s under pressure to put a better team on the field, because this team is better than what they showed in Denver and has to be for there to be any hope.
Raiders Pass Defense
Yes, again. And they stay here until they earn their way out.
The Raiders pass defense is atrocious on every level. They cannot cover people on the outside or in the middle of the field, sit at 27th in passing defense and allow a digusting 71.5% of passes thrown at them to be completed. All of this wouldn’t be as bad as it seems if they were able to sniff the opposing QB; but alas their opponents have been able to stay clean in the pocket while amassing a boggling – and embarrassing - 113.4 rating.
A team routinely in the top half of the league in sacks since 2008 currently sits tied for last place with the Jacksonville Jaguars with a putrid three. Three. That’s an average of 0.75 per game, whereas from 2008-2011 they averaged 2.4 per game.
Injuries to starting CB’s Ron Bartell and Shawntae Spencer have forced the Raiders to try and protect backups Pat Lee, Joselio Hanson and converted safety Michael Huff with base defenses, zero blitzing and no aggressiveness.
Or, playing the exact same defense that Huff stated he was excited to be rid of in the offseason, and that Tarver preached was a thing of the past.
As the Raiders have given up seven TD’s with no INT’s and allowed Ben Roethlisberger and Peyton Manning to combine for over 700 yards and 126.0 passer rating their last two games it’s apparent this overprotective philosophy isn’t working.
Andre Carter, signed earlier this year as a free agent, has been practicing and looks as if he’ll be ready to play on Sunday to bolster the pass rush. Carter had 10 sacks for the Patriots last season before tearing his quad muscle, and he adds much needed speed and finesse to the rush. By all accounts he’s almost 100%, and should play in obvious passing situations on Sunday.
Matt Ryan is currently second in the NFL with a 106.1 rating, and is completing close to 70% of his passes. He also has 13 TD passes, second only to Drew Brees, all while throwing the ball nearly 40 times a game. The Raiders pass defense is under pressure to muster some kind of rush, because Ryan is deadly when he has time and he has weapons all over the field in Roddy White, Tony Gonzalez and Julio Jones.
The Raiders rush defense has been respectable with the exception of Reggie Bush’s USC-like performance in Week 2, and coupled with their inability to stop Philip Rivers, Big Ben or Manning, you can bet Ryan will be throwing at least 40 times.
If the Raiders pass defense doesn't show up for a third straight game this one's over early.
Darrius Heyward-Bey is one tough cookie. That shot Ryan Mundy delivered to his chin knocked him out and forced him onto a stretcher. He’s been back at practice since last Monday and people say he’s more aggressive than ever
With DHB and Denarius Moore on the field together for the first time it should open up a passing attack that has been one of the pleasant surprises of the early season
Aaron Curry will be activated from PUP and practice next week. If healthy, he should give a boost to the Raiders linebacking and defensive corps. With the struggles on pass defense it's been rough seeing cast-offs Stevie Brown of the Giants playing so well in relief of Kenny Phillips at safety. A talented kid, the Raiders let him go two seasons ago.
Oakland could use him now.
Tony Gonzalez comes into this game leading all NFL tight ends in catches, yardage and touchdowns, and faces a Raider team who he’s owned in his career and who have given up four TD’s to TE’s in the last three games.
Richard Gordon is still hurt, which means Brandon Myers and David Ausberry will see the snaps at TE for the Raiders. Gordon is their best blocker, but Myers and Ausberry have both shown ability to do damage in the pass game and the Falcons are susceptible to throws over the middle
If Darren McFadden can’t do anything in the run game this weekend, against a Falcons team surrendering over five yards per carry and after having two weeks to fine-tune the zone blocking scheme over the bye, then it’s hard to see him or the team doing it at all this season
Al Davis has now been gone for over a year, and the Raiders resemble little of what they were when he passed. Numerous of his draft picks and signees have been replaced by former Packers and players new GM Reggie McKenzie is familiar with. It makes sense, but the Raiders struggles have caused wondering whether McKenzie is making the right decisions for the right reasons and not simply making the team his own for the sake of doing so
The Raiders Will Sign Help During the Bye
This belief was widely held by everyone. The team has been struggling to run the ball after giving up Michael Bush to free agency and switching to the ZBS. They cannot defend the pass, or rush the passer. They have little depth along either interior line.
Yet they stood pat during the bye week, not even signing former draft pick and spot starter from last year CB Chimdi Chekwa to the active roster as a player with experience and at a position of need. He never blew your socks off but showed potential when he did play; it’s strange he’s been marginalized so. Perhaps it’s due to his being an Al Davis draft choice as I previously speculated.
Denarius Moore and DHB have already missed time. Rod Streater and Juron Criner are rookies. And Jacoby Ford is out for the season. I’m not saying sign TO or Plaxico necessarily; but the team needs depth. I guess Derek Hagan will do for now.
Starting CB’s Spencer and Bartell are out, Bartell until at least early November and Spencer with no current timetable. There are some free agent CB’s available with experience – albeit not a lot of young ones with talent. The free agent pool is a little thin; but still, this team needs an infusion of something.
Coach Allen and McKenzie both stated they think their problems are more schematic and that the players on the current roster can get the job done, they just need to execute better. That belief coupled with tight purse strings and little other resources to offer made the roster stay static.
It remains to be seen whether Allen and McKenzie are right, or if they should’ve done something to shake things up during the week.
It’s a tall order to go into Atlanta and beat the Falcons under the best of circumstances but when you consider the Raiders’ struggles in the Eastern time zone and after the bye, Matty Ice’s cool efficiency, Michael Turner’s steady presence and a Raider defense that would have difficulty stopping me from passing for 400 yards and a couple of scores, it all adds up to a Falcons blowout.
I don’t think that happens. Call me a homer or delusional fool, but I believe the snake oil the staff is selling. I believe they have improved in the run game; the lineman all say they feel more comfortable than at any time this year and McFadden is still saying all the right things.
I believe they have made efforts to right the time of possession discrepancy and give their defenders some rest. I believe they may lose this game, but give an effort and make some plays that show they aren’t done quite yet this season against a fine Falcons squad.
Because they have to, or it will be difficult to believe in them again this season.
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