Analyzing the Oakland Raiders' Passing Game

Howard HopperCorrespondent IApril 17, 2009

OAKLAND, CA - SEPTEMBER 09:  Zach Miller #80 of the Oakland Raiders carries the ball against the Detroit Lions during the NFL game on September 9, 2007 at McAfee Coliseum in Oakland, California. The Lions won 36-21. (Photo by Jed Jacobsohn/Getty Images)

In 2008 the Raiders rushed effectively, finishing 10th in overall rushing yardage in the league. This is to be commended. 


However, their passing game was abysmal, finishing last in the league in total first downs, first downs passing, and total passing yards. Together, the silver and black rushing and passing attacks ranked 29th in total offensive yards.


What do last season’s statistics tell us about the Raiders' passing game?


Did the offensive play selection contribute to its lack of success? 


Did the blockers provide adequate protection so JaMarcus Russell could set up and deliver the ball?


What effect did JaMarcus’ performance have on the overall passing success?


Did the receivers do their jobs effectively?



Play selection


The most significant factor that attributed to the Raiders’ substandard passing statistics was the offensive play selection.


On the plus side, the heavy emphasis on the running game resulted in the Raiders having a highly ranked rushing offense.


However, the play calling also significantly undermined their passing attack. Last year the Raiders only attempted 421 passes, which ranks 29th in the league.


Compare this to the four NFL teams that attempted over 600 passes during the season, including the Denver Broncos. Each of these teams attempted over 43 percent more passes than the Raiders. The Raiders can’t expect to have good passing statistics if they don’t put the ball in the air.



Blocking effectiveness


Last year the Raiders only gave up 39 sacks, the 24th-lowest figure in the league.


This was not too bad, correct? Not really, considering the Raiders only attempted 421 passes. This is an average of one Raider quarterback being sacked every 11 pass attempts.


Compare this to the Broncos, whose quarterbacks were only sacked 12 times during the season, or once every 52 pass attempts.



Quarterback effectiveness


JaMarcus’ statistics were not that good last season either. He ranked 31st in completion percentage (53.8 percent) and 23rd in yards per attempt (6.58 yards), and his 77.1 quarterback rating was 26th-best in the league.


It is not fair to factor in his total passing yards, since this is a function of the play calling and number of attempts. 



Receiver statistics


It is difficult to assess the receivers' performance due to the limited number of passes attempted.


Certainly Zach Miller’s 56 receptions for 778 yards are outstanding statistics for a tight end; they accounted for over one-quarter of the Raiders' total receptions.


Eighty-two Raider receptions were by wide receivers, led by Johnny Lee Higgins with 22. The running backs contributed 73 receptions, lead by Darren McFadden with 29 catches.


Low individual numbers to be sure, but not unexpected considering the number of passes attempted.



Looking forward


I look for the Raiders' passing production to improve next season for the following reasons.

* Tom Cable and passing game coordinator Ted Tollner will balance the offense better by increasing the number of passing plays called.

* With a full year's experience under his belt, JaMarcus should perform better.

* The upgraded offensive line will provide better protection for the passer.

* A more experienced Chaz Schilens and Johnnie Lee Higgins should continue to improve their route running and receiving games this year.

* A healthier Darren McFadden, catching swing passes out of the backfield, will give defenses fits.

* All signs suggest that Javon Walker will be healthier this year, and if he returns anywhere close to his 2004 Pro Bowl production, this will help out significantly.

* Throwing more passes should also help the rushing game by forcing the safeties to stay farther from the line of scrimmage to assist with pass protection.

Finally, if we draft a top tier wide receiver, this will help encourage the offensive coordinator to call more pass plays, which should set the stage for a more balanced and successful offensive attack.


However, given the NFL rookie wide receiver jinx, the new wide receiver’s production his first season in the league may be limited.