Still smarting from the 49-20 loss to the Philadelphia Eagles in Week 9, the Oakland Raiders don’t have much time to sort through the mess. With a cross-country trip to New York on the horizon, Dennis Allen’s team needs to fix what went wrong in a hurry.
At least the news regarding quarterback Terrelle Pryor seemed encouraging. Pryor suffered a knee sprain and underwent tests immediately after the game and again on Monday. None showed any significant damage, and the hope is that Pryor will be cleared to play.
Correcting the breakdowns on defense has to be a main priority and shouldn’t be that difficult to do. Yes, Nick Foles did torch Oakland for an NFL record-tying seven touchdown passes. And yes, the Eagles had nearly 550 yards of offense.
However, for the seven games prior to that, the Raiders had played pretty well on that side of the ball. It’s unlikely one game, albeit a rough one, will send the defense into any type of extended tailspin.
What might not be an easy fix is the psyche of the players. The talk much of the last week was on how much the Raiders had improved and how well they had been playing for the most part, particularly on defense. Then they went out and got punched in the mouth by Nick Foles.
Getting the defense back on track and figuring out some of the issues on offense will be prime topics as Oakland prepares to play the New York Giants. Here are a few other things to consider heading into Week 10.
The Kansas City Chiefs got another huge day out of their defense, which scored a pair of touchdowns in a 23-13 win over the Buffalo Bills. They might not be the prettiest 9-0 team you’ve ever seen, but whatever it is they’re doing, it’s working.
Oakland had a chance to keep pace with Kansas City and pull even with San Diego. Instead, the loss to the Eagles kept the Raiders in the cellar in the AFC West.
Pryor is officially listed as day-to-day with a knee sprain but it doesn’t appear to be serious, and Pryor sounded determined to play against New York. McFadden’s status, on the other hand, is a bit more uncertain.
Once again, it’s a hamstring injury that has sidelined the starting running back. McFadden already missed one game this season with a hamstring injury, and Allen didn’t sound too optimistic when talking about it during his Monday press conference.
Wide receiver Rod Streater (hip) was limping noticeably after the game, and his status is unknown. Same thing goes for wide receiver Juron Criner (shoulder), right tackle Matt McCants (toe), kicker Sebastian Janikowski (ribs) and linebacker Kaluka Maiava (ribs).
|Kansas City Chiefs||9-0||--|
|Denver Broncos||7-1||1 1/2|
|San Diego Chargers||4-4||4 1/2|
|Oakland Raiders||3-5||5 1/2|
What Needs to Improve
Pryor was too quick to bail out of the pocket and try to run, but who could blame him? Oakland’s offensive line simply has to do a better job in pass protection, regardless of who is in or out of the lineup.
For weeks, Pryor has had to scramble out of the pocket to avoid oncoming pass-rushers who had no problem getting through the Raiders’ front five. Getting Menelik Watson back and in the game Sunday was important because now they can use him wherever and whenever they see fit. Although he’s practiced almost exclusively at left tackle, Watson held his own and did well at right tackle.
Special Teams Return Units
The special teams return units haven’t done much of anything at all, and it’s been costly in terms of field position. The Raiders have tried different people on the punt-return unit and had two people back to field kicks against the Eagles, but neither was able to do much.
The same goes for the kickoff-return squad, where Taiwan Jones has made some questionable decisions at times after fielding kicks deep in the end zone.
Commitment to the Ground Game
McFadden’s uncertainty opens the door for the Raiders to turn more to Rashad Jennings, who has excelled in a multipurpose role for the team. His power running is much more effective in this offense than McFadden has been, and Jennings has also proved to be very solid in the passing game.
No matter who runs the ball, the Raiders have to stay committed to the ground game instead of wavering like they have in the past. Pryor and the passing game simply cannot survive if Oakland’s ground game sputters like it has most of the season.
As bad as the secondary looked, much of the problem against Philadelphia was the lack of a pass rush. The Raiders rarely, if ever, got a hand on Foles which is why he had all the time he did to find an open receiver.
Part of the issue was Oakland’s hesitancy to blitz. Even when it was clear the four-man rush wasn’t effective, defensive coordinator Jason Tarver played it fairly conservative and didn’t blitz much.
Whether it’s going back to the blitz-happy packages they used in previous weeks or trying to get more out of the defensive line, something has to give in order for the Raiders to have a chance.
* Any and all information and quotes in this or any report by Michael Wagaman were obtained firsthand, unless otherwise noted.