The Oakland Raiders dropped their fifth straight game on Sunday to move to 3-9. The sleepy Raiders scored one meaningful touchdown and the Cleveland Browns walked over the Oakland defense en route to a 20-17 win. With every embarrassing loss the Raiders march closer to big changes in the offseason.
It’s not that owner Mark Davis and general manager Reggie McKenzie expected a miracle, but they did expect the tough, smart and disciplined football team that head coach Dennis Allen promised in the preseason.
Allen has been successful at reducing penalties, but that’s about the only progress the team has made toward being smart and disciplined. Oakland’s offense also seems to have lost the toughness that made them a good rushing team in 2011.
The fans are hitting the snooze button on the season; the Raiders need a wake-up call. The team has four games left and if they don’t show signs of life then McKenzie is going to be forced to take drastic measures to get the team back on track.
Over half the roster is on notice because they’re about to be free agents or their pay doesn’t match their production. The coaching staff is starting to feel the heat too because of their inability to get the players to play.
It’s not just one thing that is killing the Raiders, it’s everything.
Carson Palmer threw another horrible interception—an underthrown deep pass to rookie Juron Criner—that cost his team a chance at a comeback. The Raiders’ so-called best wide receiver—Denarius Moore—was benched for lack of production against the Browns.
The running game was once the strength of the team, but in 2012 it has become an afterthought. On Sunday it was abandoned and often it’s been ineffective too. The Raiders rushed the ball just 17 times, which is hardly enough to make Cleveland’s defensive line break a sweat.
At least on Sunday the Raiders were effective, rushing the ball for 5.0 yards per carry. That makes you wonder: Why did the Raiders abandon the run? That decision as well as many others was no doubt made by offensive coordinator Greg Knapp. Knapp has turned an above-average offense into one of the worst in the league.
It shouldn’t be that way, either, because Oakland’s offense had exactly one new offensive starter in 2012. The players know each other and were producing; with Knapp running the show, they've struggled just to score a single offensive touchdown.
The pass defense has also been horribly bad, both the pass rush and the coverage. Blown coverage is common and even a little pressure on the quarterback is rare. On Sunday the Raiders battered Brandon Weeden, but to no avail. Weeden stood tall and carved up the secondary.
It’s not just young players like Moore getting complacent, either. Veteran cornerback Ron Bartell was also benched for his poor play. Bartell was burned by rookie receiver Josh Gordon repeatedly, and the rookie finished with 116 yards and a touchdown.
Run defense and special teams have also cost the Raiders games in 2012. There’s really only one area that is thriving, and that’s the tight ends with Al Saunders driving. Saunders one of the few holdovers from the previous regime, and he’s coached the tight end position almost exclusively in 2012. Brandon Myers has responded with 69 receptions for 721 yards and four touchdowns.
Myers had 14 against the Browns for 130 yards and leads the team in both categories on the season. It’s certainly interesting that the one guy doing well is being coached by the one coach who was with the previous regime.
The Raiders have gone from bad to worse over the past five weeks, and losing to a bad team like the Browns is a new season low. The Raiders were abysmal in just about every facet of the game; the score was deceiving only because Palmer added a last-second touchdown.
The only life the team showed was after rookie receiver Rod Streater took a deep pass from Palmer 64 yards for the touchdown. The defense responded, but only until Palmer’s interception sucked the life away once again. The Browns marched 94 yards for a touchdown after the interception and basically put the game away.
If the players and coaches don’t show signs of life then McKenzie will have to cut the dead weight in the offseason. The only question is how much McKenzie will have to cut.