Despite the one-sided score line, the Thanksgiving game in Dallas was not all bad news for Oakland. Yes, the Raiders were out-gained; yes, it wasn’t close; yes, it was another big loss following a victory, but there were certainly some plus points for this young Silver and Black team.
On offense, Bruce Gradkowski looked after the ball, with no turnovers. Darren McFadden had 10 touches for 66 yards and is beginning to show flashes of the play-making ability the Raiders so badly need. Even Darrius Heyward-Bey got in on the act, scoring his first NFL touchdown.
On Defense, Oakland showed some invention with Trevor Scott operating in the “Elephant” position, registering five solo tackles including two sacks. However, the only “Elephant in the room” as far as this defense is concerned is big plays. On 82 percent of plays (46 out of 56) the Raiders were excellent, giving up just 22 percent of the yardage (110 out of 494 yards). This means that for 82 percent of plays (against an excellent Cowboys team) went for an average of just 2.39 yards per play.
The problem is that the other 18 percent of plays (10 out of 56) went for 78 percent of the yardage (384 out of 494 yards). A team cannot be competitive whilst giving up this number of big plays.
The 82 percent of plays gives the Raiders hope they can emerge from their slump. The addition of some power in the middle of this defense (nose tackle and middle linebacker) during free-agency could turn this from a patchy defense into a dominant one.
Looking again at the roster, the Raiders now have 28 players who can form the backbone of a winning team:
Offense: Bruce Gradkowski, Darren McFadden, Michael Bush, Justin Fargas, Chaz Schilens, Louis Murphy, Zach Miller, Mario Henderson, Robert Gallery, Cooper Carlisle, Samson Satele, and Cornell Green.
Defense: Richard Seymour, Greg Ellis, Matt Shaughnessy, Gerard Warren, Tommy Kelly, Jay Richardson, Trevor Scott, Thomas Howard, Kirk Morrison, Nnamdi Asomugha, Chris Johnson, Tyvon Branch, and Michael Huff.
Special Teams: Shane Lechler, Sebastian Janikowski and Jon Condo.
The essential thing for Oakland is to not waste the last five games. The Raiders still need another 10 players, including Heyward-Bey, Mitchell, Russell and Myers to come to the party to enable them to finish the season with 38 “keepers” on the roster, which would be an excellent launch pad for 2010. Add five veterans through free agency, five rookies and five "projects" and there is no reason to believe the Raiders cannot be a winner next season.