To say this Oakland Raiders' season is a disappointment is an understatement. The Raiders put up two back-to-back 8-8 seasons. Once an explosive team on offense, this edition of the Raiders has failed to put up points and has caused many fans to start calling for heads.
I'll stop you all right there. I am not one of those fans. I understand that this is a rebuilding year, even though most don't want to hear it. Let us not forget what kind of dysfunction was already going on before the season started.
Remember when Reggie McKenzie had to trim $22 million off the salary cap? Remember when his first pick in the 2012 NFL Draft wasn't until after the third round? McKenzie wasn't exactly handed a championship caliber team. Instead, he took a team with a good offense and an awful defense and did what he could.
Expanding on that point, the offense has been very disappointing. I have no problem putting the blame for this onto offensive coordinator Greg Knapp. In my opinion, this is Dennis Allen's only mistake so far.
But I cannot blame him all that much either. The zone-blocking scheme is a scheme that works. Look at the Houston Texans and their ability to run it with guys like Arian Foster and Ben Tate. It's not hard to see why Allen wanted Knapp as the offensive coordinator. If Foster, who was not even drafted, could do that, why can't the fourth overall pick McFadden do the same, or even better?
The problem I have with Knapp is that his play-calling is very predictable. Usually, the play-calling will look like this; run, run, pass. After a while, defenses know what to expect and can key on stopping the play. Look at the San Francisco 49ers. They line up in jumbo packages and run passing plays.
The Raiders need that kind of creativity and Knapp has not shown that ability. That is the reason why I have a problem with Knapp.
Who is to blame for this season?
I have no problem with the zone-blocking scheme. The Raiders just don't have players who fit the system, mainly the offensive line and Darren McFadden. McFadden, for whatever reason, cannot find the holes. It's not to say that there are no holes. Marcel Reece, a fullback, has run more successfully than McFadden.
As for the offensive line, Khalif Barnes, Cooper Carlisle and Mike Brisiel are bad signings by McKenzie. It's not hard to wonder why Houston didn't do a better job at attempting to re-sign Brisiel.
As for Barnes, I've had enough with the guy. There was one play where I saw Carson Palmer receive instant pressure from his right. Why? Because when the ball was snapped and the defensive player was rushing, Barnes was still in his three-point stance. Unbelievable.
There was another point where I saw a hole in the blocking. The play-call was play-action where Palmer was sacked by three Bengal defenders. Veldheer had actually done a good job blocking, but the play was already broken because of the other two rushers, leading to the man against Veldheer to eventually get to Palmer.
On the other side of that play, it was Brisiel, Barnes and Myers. Brisiel and Barnes tried to double-team someone, but someone fell and the defender got through, leaving Brandon Myers to have to block two guys. That instant pressure killed the play right there.
Skill players were not helping either. I've been a huge supporter of Heyward-Bey, but he looked like a bust yesterday. With only four targets, he dropped one without coverage and dropped another due to contact by Adam Jones. Denarius Moore has been non-existent with only two catches in the last two games.
As for the defense, I have no other words to describe it other than pathetic. Most, if not all, of the defensive players are bad. While I defended some of these guys in the beginning, it's hard to at this point. Tommy Kelly has been a non-factor and continues to cause headaches with his disciplinary actions. Richard Seymour's knees have given up on him.
Matt Shaughnessy and Lamarr Houston are players I like, but I have to wonder if we are even playing them right. These two guys are big and slow run-stuffers, something you want in 3-4 defensive ends, not 4-3.
Most of you should know how I feel about McClain. He shows potential every now and then, but not enough times for him to be on the team next season. Miles Burris is full of potential and is a bright player, but also makes mistakes. If he can clean that up, he will be a star. Philip Wheeler was a great pick-up by McKenzie, but is not a three-down linebacker. However, until the team finds some depth, he will be thrown into the fire on passing plays, where he's a liability.
The entire defensive backfield is a place that McKenzie will have to address this off-season. Tyvon Branch is a player that I want to like, but he does not do enough. He is not a great player against the pass and in recent games, I have seen him out of position in the run game more often then not.
With that said, I have to say that the defense is mainly the one at fault for the season going the way it is. Yes, Dennis Allen is a defensive minded coach, but with incapable players, how far can he really go? How can he stop the run when the team's two defensive tackles are not doing anything? How is he supposed to have his players rush the passer when his defensive ends do not fit the system? Dennis Allen is not the one on the field, so why is that he is the one getting the constant blame?
A few weeks ago, while listening to 95.7 The Game, I heard someone who made an amazing point.
He said "No one on the Raiders defense would be starting for the 49ers defense." Not only was that comment heart-breaking, it's true. The Raiders do not have enough talent on defense right now to be relevant in the NFL and this is a problem that will exist until McKenzie has the salary cap under control.
Listen, I hate losing as much as the next guy, but we have to be realist. Even if Hue Jackson was still the coach, this team would be losing. Offense is great, but as the old saying goes, "Defense wins championships." Without a good defense, we're not going to win anything and that's why Jackson's team crumbled at the end of last season.
The Raider faithful have a lot to look forward to. We are entering the off-season without last year's mess. McKenzie will finally be able to do what he does best, and that's drafting with actual draft picks and scouting. He has found Juron Criner and Rod Streater, both who could shine if developed correctly. He found Jeremy Stewart, who actually looks better than McFadden in recent games.
Overall, what I'm trying to say is that we cannot jump ship just because of this season. This is the first time in my 13 years of being a Raiders fan that I've seen Raider fans attacking their own team. We need to open our eyes and realize that the goal of this season was not exactly to win the championship, but to stabilize a very unstable team.