The Oakland Raiders are 3-8 and are a totally disaster at this point in the season. The offense can’t generate points until the team is behind by two or more touchdowns, and the defense can’t stop even the most pedestrian of offenses from scoring.
About the only bright spot is that the three-win Cleveland Browns are coming to Oakland on Sunday. The Raiders have a chance to get their fourth win if they can take care of business against a below-average Browns team.
The Raiders haven’t demonstrated the ability to put together a complete game in weeks, and it’s gut-check time for the players and coaches in Oakland. Either the team pulls together and starts playing better football, or they completely fall apart, and the team is further dismantled by general manager Reggie McKenzie in the offseason.
Primary Talking Point for Week 13
It was always assumed that 2012 was Rolando McClain’s final season in Oakland if he didn’t significantly improve from his first two seasons. After only a few games, McClain lost his spot in the nickel defense to rookie Miles Burris and, in the process, his play-calling duties to Philip Wheeler. Once that happened, McClain was as good as gone, but the Raiders needed the body.
McClain missed practice on Wednesday with what the team called “team-related issues,” and the speculation was that he could be released by the team. McClain turned to his Facebook page to announce his release and deride the team according to NFL.com, even though no official move could be made until Thursday.
According to Jason La Canfora of CBS Sports, McClain got into a heated discussion with head coach Dennis Allen and was booted from practice and sent home. John Clayton of ESPN reports that the Raiders have informed McClain that he will be released on Thursday.
McClain was already as good as gone, and it’s unfortunate it had to end bitterly. It’s not like losing McClain will make much of a difference for Oakland’s poor defense.
McClain was always regarded as a leader and smart player, but he really demonstrated his lack of maturity on Wednesday. McClain’s clean image had already taken a hit after being convicted in Alabama last year on a gun charge only for it to be reversed on appeal.
Darren McFadden and Mike Goodson returned to practice on Wednesday in a limited fashion. The two running backs have missed the last three games with high-ankle sprains. In their place, Marcel Reece performed well and might continue to see carries even with their return.
Richard Seymour, Miles Burris and Jack Crawford did not participate in practice. Seymour has missed the last three games with an injured knee. Seymour may still be able to return before the game Sunday, as it’s not uncommon for him to miss practices early in the week.
Burris missing practice could be a concern with McClain no longer with the team. Omar Gaither would conceivably start at middle linebacker, with rookie Kaelin Burnett getting some action at outside linebacker.
Player on the Rise
Reece was the player on the rise last week, and he continues to play well as the team’s starting running back, but his impact will be impacted by the return of McFadden and Goodson. Reece is likely to remain involved on offense, but he’s going to lose at least a few carries to the other backs.
You could make a case that Reece is Oakland’s best player, but also in the conversation is left tackle Jared Veldheer. Left tackle is the blindside and where the best offensive linemen play, and Veldheer has put together not only a strong season, but he has put together several good weeks in a row.
Veldheer has missed one play this season and performed especially well in pass-blocking. In fact, ProFootballFocus has Veldheer as the fifth-ranked left tackle in pass-blocking efficiency among players that have played at least 75 percent of their team’s offensive snaps.
Veldheer drops down a bit when you include players that have missed time with injury, but there’s something to be said for durability so the team doesn’t have to use an inferior tackle. After years of searching, the Raiders may have finally found their franchise left tackle, and he’s starting to play like one.
Stat Trends: Offense
The Raiders have been racking up the yardage once they get down a few scores, but that didn’t happen last week, which really did a number on their yardage rankings.
The running game has improved with Reece starting at running back, but that incremental improvement isn’t enough to move the needle significantly in a positive direction. The passing game continues to be better, but the offense isn’t nearly good enough to carry a defense with so many problems.
The offense has been a major source of disappointment for fans that were hoping the offense could carry a defense in transition. There’s no end in sight, and things aren’t exactly trending in the right direction.
Stat Trends: Defense
If you have eye protection, you might want to use it when reading this section. The only good news is the defense can’t get much worse. The bad news is it still has a little room to get worse.
Excluding fumble recoveries, the Raiders are 24th or worst in every defensive category used for this weekly progress report. There is no silver lining here, just a sea of red and pink boxes that indicate how horrible the Oakland defense has been.
This is embarrassing for the players, coaches and fans. No one expected a miracle, but it’s hard to believe the defense could actually get worse than it was in 2011. It’s hard to point out one particular area that is performing so poorly, which usually means that everyone is actually performing poorly.
There’s really nothing more to say. The defense is horrible, and there’s no way to spin it to look good, and the level of bad has infiltrated just about every statistic.
The Raiders are ranked 16th in the NFL in fumble recoveries. Yay?
It’s pretty clear that Oakland’s season is in the toilet and it’s only waiting to be flushed down. When the best news of the year is McClain getting released for his poor play, you know the season has gone south.
McKenzie and Allen are going to get an opportunity to build the Raiders the right way, and that ultimately might be the only positive revelation to come out of the 2012 season for the Raiders.
With five games left, it’s not too late for the Raiders to start playing quality football. The final games are not insignificant for the future of the franchise even if they are irrelevant in 2012. The play of the team over the final five games could change how McKenzie and Allen re-build the roster and which players find their way back on the team in 2013.