At 2-6 and halfway through 2009-10 season, the Oakland Raiders haven’t disappointed the haters or the skeptics.
Throw in the pathetic performance by starting quarterback JaMarcus Russell and ESPN’s Outside the Lines history of violence hit job on Raiders coach Tom Cable and you’ve got another bizarre, train-wreck of a season.
The only thing that would be even more absurd is the prospects of the Raiders actually turning this season around.
Putting aside youth and a limited offense to win a lot of games could erase the face plant the Raiders took through the first eight games.
Yes, it would be a complete shocker and exactly what’s needed to save Tom Cable’s job.
Ridiculous you say?
Yeah, probably, but things can’t get much worse right? In the big picture, there are some good signs for the Silver and Black.
For starters, the team should finally get Chaz Schilens on the field, giving JaMarcus a big athletic target to throw to. The non-existent passing game will get jump start with Schilens in the line-up.
Up front, Oakland offensive line has sorely missed left guard Robert Gallery. He’ll return after suffering a broken fibula in week 2 at Kansas City.
In addition to Gallery, right tackle Cornel Green is expected back. Cable says the Raiders starting tackle will play against the Chiefs.
With the offensive line at full strength, the Raiders run game should see a boost in production.
Star running back Darren McFadden will be back on the field for the first time since early October.
The second year back is certain to get plenty of work in the offense, as durability issues continue to mount against McFadden.
Cable has not named a starter at running back, but Justin Fargas has earned the spot. The ex-Trojan has clearly been Oakland’s best rusher this season, leading the team with 236 yards and a touchdown in six games.
McFadden on the other hand has done little to impress, rushing for 146 yards and a touchdown.
And once again, frustrated fans are still waiting for McFadden’s game-changing explosiveness.
The second-year back has coughed up the ball three times this season and has yet to live up to his draft status or produce that bust out game. But right on cue here come the Kansas City Chiefs.
KC’s defense is giving up 131 yards rushing per game and they’ll be without their leading rusher Larry Johnson.
Sounds like the perfect remedy for the Raiders.
But then again, Oakland has delivered so little this season, it wouldn’t be surprising to see another failure to launch against the ultra soft Chiefs.
Second half goals?
The Raiders need to absolutely find ways to keep pressure off Russell.
Oakland can accomplish this by playing smash-mouth football. Run the ball effectively but mix the offense up with screens and reverses.
Keep defenses guessing and limit Russell's impact on the game. That means turning him into a “game manager” in the mold of a Trent Dilfer type. This is certainly easier said than done.
Posting a 100-yard rusher should be a goal of the offensive line.
Thus far, none of Oakland’s running backs have cracked the century-mark this season. Fargas came close with an 87-yard rushing performance against Philadelphia.
Finally the defense needs to keep improving. Younger players like Matt Shaughnessy, Desmond Bryant and Tyvon Branch are starting to see the light and the Raiders defense is playing teams straight up.
If the defense continues to play hard, then the offense will have a chance to win games at the end. Sounds like “winning ugly” but this team has to start somewhere.
Here are some off the cuff predictions for the remainder of the Raiders season:
Nov.15th vs. Kansas City 27-13 W
Nov. 22nd vs. Cincinnati 21-20 W
Nov. 26th @ Dallas 34-19 L
Dec. 6th @ Pittsburgh 27-13 L
Dec.13th vs. Washington 23-16 W
Dec.20th @ Denver 30- 9 L
Dec.27th @ Cleveland 17-14 W
Jan. 3rd vs. Baltimore 20-19 W