The Raider Nation had one last bastion of optimism heading into yesterday's game against the Kansas City Chiefs. Coming off a bye in which they apparently practiced hard and rejuvenated themselves, the team was also getting back four starters on a beleaguered offense. Russell was coming in early, working harder.
Chaz Schilens would be back and open up the passing game and give Russell a reliable wide receiver he so desperately needs. McFadden was rested, healthy, and ready to rip the Chiefs apart as he did last season.
Players were ready to stomp the Chiefs, talking running the table, and enthused about their prospects in the second half. The Raider Nation, desperate for anything positive, bought into it hook, line & sinker.
And here we sit, 2-7, blowing a great early start against a mediocre team and left wondering what positive there is left to say about this team. I haven't been writing much the last couple of weeks because I'm tired of having nothing good to say, and being given no material to work with by this "team."
Here are some quick thoughts from yesterday and how they apply to the big picture:
- Chaz Schilens' return was not the savior of the Raiders offense, and it was honestly unrealistic and a little unfair to Chaz to expect him to fix everything by showing up. He made his presence felt early, catching a quick five yarder from Russell in the first quarter, but didn't show up again until Russell had been benched and Gradkowski was in.
He finished with two catches and didn't open the field up like we thought he would. He's a great player and finding his legs, and he'll continue to impress as the season goes on, but it was too much to expect so much from him.
- However, Heyward-Bey getting twice the amount of offensive reps as Chaz is simply ludicrous. Heyward-Bey had the potential to have his best game as a Raider, but dropped two key passes, including the last play of the game which nullified a chance for a Raider victory.
On two different occasions I saw Bey jump for balls he didn't need to jump for, and both were drops. That last play, he could've reached up and caught it with his hands, and instead he jumped unnecessarily and tried to body-catch the ball.
The result was a perfectly thrown pass ricocheting off his chest and into the hands of the Chiefs' Mike Brown, who fell to the ground and ended the game. The fact that Bey immediately crumpled to the ground and was inconsolable was little comfort to Raider fans.
- Louis Murphy has drop issues as well. The fact that these guys don't fight for the ball, body catch everything, and can't get open despite lightning speed has me seriously, seriously questioning why we'd get rid of James Lofton, and just what the hell Sanjay Lal is doing as receivers coach.
For these guys to show absolutely no improvement in fundamentals more than halfway through a season is inexcusable.
- Tom Cable, when the run game is working, why, oh WHY force the pass? I understand you can't run all the time, you need versatility. I get that. But mix it up. Don't always run, or always pass. Run sometimes, pass sometimes. Honestly, if the passing game isn't working, run it more often.
I just do not get why Cable continually goes away from the run even when it's working. And why he doesn't get McFadden to the outside. And why Michael Bush was taken out of the game. And why we don't use our speed on more reverses and trick plays. The latter I understand to a degree: this team cannot execute a normal offensive play properly, so throwing trickery into the mix probably isn't feasible.
- I'm now out of the "start him until he gets it" Russell camp. He's not getting it, and he doesn't care. The commentators in the game yesterday, Gus Johnson in particular, made the point about Russell's body language and how he simply didn't seem to care about anything.
There's one thing in being cool and collected, and one thing in being aloof. This guy is so far beyond aloof that if his teammates all walked off the field in protest of his play, he'd just shrug his shoulders and put his fur coat on and go spend some money. Because it's obviously someone else's fault, so why should he worry?
- I'm not usually one to get on the referees, and the Raiders were somewhat undisciplined yesterday, but the discrepancy in penalties called was huge.
There were a couple of occasions in which Raider receivers were interfered with an it wasn't called, Raider linemen were held all day with no calls (Seymour and Shaughnessy in particular) and every time a Raider sneezed a flag was thrown. We beat ourselves yesterday, of that there is no doubt, but we got a hefty push from Mike Carey and his crew.
- I'm very sad today. The season now means nothing but a draft choice, and we just lost to the Chiefs at home. I'm having a very hard time finding anything positive to say about the offense of this team.
- The defense, however, played a great game and deserved a hell of a lot better than what they got from the offense. The Chiefs were handed short fields, and the Raiders twice held them to field goals. Despite the offensive ineptitude, the defense had this team with a chance to win at the final possession. You cannot ask for anything more, other than some pressure.
- Seriously, the Chiefs O-line is horrid, and yet we couldn't generate any pressure? What up with that? When we blitzed on occasion, it worked. What happened to the D-Line wreaking havoc on QB's? That's gotta come back in a big way.
- Shane Lechler is the best punter I've ever personally seen, and a lot of people seem to think he's the best all-time. His performance, coupled with the defense, kept us in the game yesterday.
- After dropping a game we should've won yesterday, I realistically see only two more wins on the horizon, meaning another 4-12 season. At this point there is little to get excited about.
Perhaps if I saw some promise or potential with our young players, I would be excited to see them progress. But honestly, McFadden is approaching bust status (and isn't now, nor has he ever been, used properly by the coaching staff), Russell doesn't have a clue, DHB can't catch a cold, Louis Murphy thinks he's better than he is, and this offense is in shambles.
A great core of players and talent if they can ever figure out how to play in the NFL. Perhaps it's years of disappointment, but I'm just not that optimistic anymore.
- However, if they CAN get their heads to match their talent, it'll be a core for years to come
- How a team with Michael Bush, Justin Fargas, Darren McFadden, and Zach Miller can fail to score week in and week out is baffling: until you look behind center. Russell is probably upset about being benched, and probably doesn't feel it was deserved. Wake up call, big guy: you aren't getting it done, and you never have. You've earned nothing. If Gradkowski played the entire game, I have no doubt we would've won.
- Cable needs to go and needs to go now. I already made the point in my last article that we get blown out by embarrassing margins more often than we win under Cable, and now this disgusting statistic from Jerry McDonalds blog: in 21 games coached by Cable, the Raiders have scored one or less touchdowns in 16 of them.
That means we have failed to score more than one TD in 75 percent of Cable's games as HC. Wow. Allegations of abuse and whatever other off-field garbage aside, Cable is a terrible head coach that obviously knows nothing about play-calling or offense.
- While were at it, the personnel decisions continue to baffle. Why de-activate Khalif Barnes, who started the last two games at RT, yet activate Langston Walker?
- Why even have Javon Walker on the roster at all? There is NO way that he's a worse WR than Heyward-Bey or Murphy, or Watkins, yet the guy gets no love. Cut him loose already, money be damned.
- This team is going to pack it in now. Seen it too many times, and if they don't, at 2-7 with nothing left to play for, I will be extremely pleasantly surprised. I hope I'm extremely pleasantly surprised and we win our last seven games. But with the Bengals, Ravens, Broncos, and Cowboys on the schedule that's not bloody likely.
Author's Note: I have edited the zero touchdown rant to the more accurate one or zero touchdowns. I apologize for the misinformation; I was quite upset yesterday.