The Baltimore Ravens are a formidable opponent at home, and the Oakland Raiders haven’t traveled well to the East Coast. For that reason the Raiders weren’t expected to beat the Baltimore Ravens on the road; fans in Oakland would have settled for a competitive showing from a rebuilding team.
Expectations were low and the Raiders still managed to disappoint. The Raiders were blown out 55-20 and dropped to 3-7 on the season. Obviously the goal is to win the game, but until the Raiders start winning both individual matchups and the mental part of the game things aren’t going to improve.
The Raiders committed 10 penalties for 105 yards, blew several coverage assignments, lost two fumbles and had countless missed tackles. Mental errors are obviously a big part of Oakland’s problem. Getting beat physically is excusable with an obviously flawed roster, but the mental errors are never excusable.
Head coach Dennis Allen wants a smart, tough and disciplined football team. If the last two weeks are any indication, the Raiders are a stupid, weak and undisciplined mess of a football team. The coaching staff is doing everything they can to get the team in the right direction, but it’s not always about effort. Sometimes the coaches have to know which buttons to press to get their team to perform.
The reality of the situation is that the players on the roster might not have buttons to press. This defense didn’t perform for Hue Jackson, and it hasn’t been any better with the defensive-minded Allen running the show. Maybe these players have lost their edge playing for a franchise that hasn’t had a winning season in over a decade. If the coaches need to push different buttons, or the players need to find their "pride and poise" then now is the time.
Leading 41-17, the Ravens executed a fake field goal for a touchdown. There’s little doubt in my mind that the Ravens wanted to finish off that drive with a TD because the Raiders, especially Joselio Hanson, were jawing at the Ravens throughout the game. Anquan Boldin handled it well when he simply pointed to the scoreboard; the fake field goal touchdown further punctuated his message and was a well-deserved punch to the gut for the Raiders.
The players are playing for their jobs, and it’s hard to imagine a many teams calling offering jobs to Raiders cut this upcoming the offseason. Maybe it’s time to get young players like Jack Crawford, Cristo Bilukidi and Tony Bergstrom more playing time. If the rookies aren’t ready to steal a few snaps now, then they probably have no business being on the roster.
Of course, the roster is full of players the coaching staff doesn’t trust. With Darren McFadden and Mike Goodson out, the running attack was expected to be a mix of Marcel Reece and Taiwan Jones. That never materialized. Jones touched the ball just three times against Baltimore, meanwhile Jeremy Stewart got seven carries, and he was just elevated from the practice squad. If the coaching staff doesn’t trust Jones enough to use him when two running backs are injured, they are probably never going to trust him. Jones can’t prove himself over again if he doesn’t get opportunities.
If the coaching staff isn’t turning a blind eye to what’s going on then there’s little reason that Willie Smith, Matt Giordano or Rolando McClain should continue to see significant playing time. There are several players that continue to play poorly and yet continue to see the field.
The coaching staff has been slow to take away playing time for poor performance, but they have eventually made those moves. David Tollefson lost playing time to Andre Carter and Rolando McClain lost his job in the nickel package to Miles Burris. More changes should be coming.
When a player is blowing the coverage, whiffing on blocks or missing tackles they need to find a spot on the bench. The Raiders have some alternatives who are young and hungry and should give them a chance. With four of the next five games at home, it’s a prime opportunity to give younger players an expanded opportunity.
Carson Palmer and the passing game is about all the Raiders have going for them, but an above-average passing game can’t carry a bad running game and an all-around horrendous defense. Performances like that against the Ravens make fans question the direction of the Oakland franchise and whether the team has the right men in the right places to turn things around.
Considering this is still a team largely constructed by Al Davis, it’s far too early to be formulating those types of opinions. The coaching staff will get adequate time to develop their schemes, but that’s only part of being a good coach.
Otherwise Norv Turner would be mentioned among the best coaches in the league.