This is obviously not how Reggie McKenzie and Dennis Allen hoped their first seasons would go. The Oakland Raiders are 3-7 and in third place in the AFC West. The offense is inconsistent, and the defense is a disaster.
Neither McKenzie nor Allen will use the salary cap, lack of draft picks or injuries as an excuse. It’s good for them to have that mentality during the season before turning a critical eye on the roster in the offseason. They might not want to use it as an excuse, but this is a team undergoing a major rebuild.
About half of the 2011 roster has already been purged for salary, performance or attitude. More changes should be expected after the 2012 season. There are also new schemes to learn, and not every player kept is a scheme fit (as we’ve come to find out over the course of the 2012 season).
Primary Talking Point for Week 11
Linebacker Aaron Curry was released after just two weeks on the active roster. Curry missed all of training camp with sore knees and was on the physically unable to perform list for the first eight games of the season.
The Raiders traded for Curry in the middle of last season to help a bad run defense. Miles Burris and Philip Wheeler have performed well enough at outside linebacker to make Curry an afterthought. It’s odd the Raiders would keep Curry around so long only to get rid of him so quickly, but two personal foul penalties certainly didn’t help his case.
If Curry’s knees were still an issue, it would make sense that they wanted to get rid of him while he was still healthy enough to play. If the coaches could tell that Curry wasn’t a part of the future, and all he was going to do was make mental mistakes in limited snaps, then the Raiders are better off without him.
Darren McFadden and Mike Goodson continue to be sidelined with ankle sprains. Richard Seymour has also missed time and didn’t practice on Wednesday, according to the official injury report on NFL.com. Brandon Myers, Darrius Heyward-Bey, Denarius Moore and Tyvon Branch all practiced on a limited basis.
McFadden has a chance to be back next week, but we’ve heard this refrain before. Until he practices on at least a limited basis, it’s safe to assume he will be out. Branch missed his first game as a starter last week, and it’s a good sign he’s at least practicing on a limited basis. That’s two key players that could be back in the next two weeks.
Seymour is still a key part of the defense, and without him the Raiders have struggled even more than normal. Seymour’s injury has kept him out for two weeks, and it’s anyone’s guess as to when he’ll be able to make it back on the practice field.
Bad injury luck has contributed to the 3-7 record, and getting some of these guys back for the final six games could lead to more wins.
Player on the Rise
Marcel Reece had 193 total yards from scrimmage in Week 11, more than any other player in Oakland this season. Reece is a versatile back that can run routes, rush and block. Basically, Reece can do it all, and at a high level.
Linebackers can’t stick with Reece in the passing game, and he’s a big guy for defensive backs to handle. Good things tend to happen when the Raiders put the ball in Reece’s hands. Even when the Raiders get McFadden or Goodson back from injury, the Raiders should continue to give Reece the ball 10 times per game to see what he can do with it.
Reece is finally getting the opportunity he deserves, and he’s running with it. He’ll likely have one more week as the starting running back, but he’ll have to produce against a defense far superior to the Saints to continue to rise.
Stat Trends: Offense
The Raiders are getting yards, but they aren’t getting the points to show for it. Many of the yards are coming once the Raiders are already way behind and the defense has relaxed the coverage.
The rushing offense still ranks toward the very bottom of the league in yards per carry, rushing touchdowns and yards per game. Those struggles mean the Raiders have had to rely more heavily on the pass.
The passing game is doing relatively well considering the circumstances, and it ranks near the top in yards and touchdowns. Carson Palmer and the offensive line are also doing a good job avoiding sacks. It’s a one-dimensional offense that most opposing teams can slow down enough early to get a lead.
Stat Trends: Defense
There are not many positive things to say about Oakland’s defense in 2012. It’s a mess. Drew Brees sliced through Oakland’s defense with ease and almost single-handedly sent the Raiders to the bottom in just about every major statistic.
The Raiders are now 22nd or worse in every major defensive category and 27th or worse in seven categories. The only thing the Raiders have done well is recover fumbles. The Raiders are not stopping teams on third down, forcing turnovers, limiting yardage or limiting scoring.
It’s a terrible defense that will likely undergo major changes at the end of the season. To put things in perspective, the Chiefs offensive chart doesn’t have as much red as the Raiders defensive chart. It’s that bad.
The Raiders seem to be getting worse instead of better. Three straight losses by a score of 135-69 have the Raiders searching for answers. The team is playing bad football, and there’s plenty of blame to pass around.
If the Raiders continue to play like they have the last three weeks over the final six weeks, they may not win another game even though they have games against the Chiefs, Browns and Panthers. Of course, those three games are very winnable if the Raiders turn things around.
Turning things around starts with a competitive game against the Bengals on Sunday and goes from there. It only takes a little momentum for things to start breaking the opposite way. The Raiders might not have all the right pieces, but there’s no excuse for blown coverage and other mental errors.
If the team doesn’t show a little progress soon, the fans that criticize the new regime will have real evidence to support mismanagement.