Oakland's linebackers have been disappointing over the last five weeks.
The Oakland Raiders were 1-4 after five games, but the lone victory was a 34-21 win over the Pittsburgh Steelers and the most recent loss was by three points to the then-undefeated Atlanta Falcons on the road.
The Raiders started slow, but appeared to be showing progress. It was progress that fans and coaches alike would have liked to see build to the point that the Raiders were competitive in every game, but after 10 games, the Raiders have failed to show any progress and have actually regressed.
Instead of pounding the Jacksonville Jaguars and Kansas City Chiefs, the Raiders slogged through two victories to get to 3-4. Unfortunately, those victories proved to be fool’s gold and the Raiders have lost the last three games by a combined score of 135-62 with the most recent being a 38-17 loss to the visiting New Orleans Saints.
The only teams with a worse margin of victory (points scored-points allowed/games played) than the Raiders are the Jaguars and Chiefs. The Raiders have allowed 30 or more points in six out of 10 games this season with an average of 45 points allowed over the past three games.
The Raiders are allowing 32.2 points per game this season, which is just 1.1 points per game off of the record for most points allowed in a season (33.3).
What has been Oakland's biggest issue this season?
The autumn wind was no match for Drew Brees on Sunday as he tossed three touchdowns on 20-of-27 passing. Oakland’s secondary continued the disturbing trend of blowing coverage assignments and the result was Brees’ first touchdown pass of the game to tight end Jimmy Graham.
The Saints built a 14-0 lead after Carson Palmer threw a pick-six on the Raiders’ third possession and a second interception went off tight end Brandon Myers' hands in the end zone and cost the Raiders at least three more points.
Oakland’s offense would battle back and score a touchdown with a little over four minutes remaining in the first half, but the defense allowed Brees and the Saints to drive 90 yards in 3:22 to go up 21-7, and that’s all the Saints would really need.
The Saints took the opening kick of the third quarter 75 yards and Mark Ingram took the first play of the third quarter 27 yards for a touchdown to make it 28-7. The Raiders added a field goal, but Brees added another touchdown and field goal before the Raiders scored again with about four minutes left in the game.
The Raiders are depleted of talent and both starting safeties didn’t start in Week 1, but blown coverage assignments are inexcusable. It surely doesn’t help the secondary when the Raiders can’t muster a single sack to bail them out.
Amidst yet another defensive meltdown by the Raiders was a solid performance by Marcel Reece, who was starting in place of injured running backs Darren McFadden and Mike Goodson. Reece carried the ball 19 times for 103 yards and added four catches for 90 yards through the air. Reece averaged an impressive 8.4 yards per offensive touch.
Reece’s production was against a relaxed defense, but it’s still worth noting when one guy generates 48 percent of the offensive yards. To put the accomplishment in perspective: McFadden has just two career games with more offensive output than Reece had on Sunday.
What’s also worth noting is that the Raiders averaged 4.6 yards per carry as a team and the running backs collectively averaged 5.1 yards per carry. Who knew Khalif Barnes meant that much to Oakland’s running game?
Whatever adjustment Greg Knapp made to the running game appears to be working with Reece heavily involved. Reece has earned more touches even with McFadden potentially back in Week 12.
There are few bright spots on the team here and there, but poor defense is overshadowing any good that could come from being able to move the ball. The reality is settling in: the Raiders are not a very good football team.
This was always a possible outcome and from here, the coaching staff will be evaluating the talent more strictly over the final six games to determine which players they want to keep in 2013.