Welcome to another exciting edition of pressures, hurries, and knockdowns for our beloved Raiders. Let's take a look at what's going on this weekend:
It's finally happened. Taking a queue from the fanbase in Buffalo, the Raider Nation has purchased a billboard in Oakland that emphatically requests owner Al Davis to "do the right thing" and hire a General Manager. The billboard, made possible by the wonderful guys over at MessageToAl.com, states that over 25,000 fans have signed on, and implies that Mr. Davis owes it to the fans to take his impressive resume as the architect of the Oakland Raiders and fade gently into the sunset. Much like the team has done by week six each of the last seven years.
It was bound to happen. So many folks have weighed in with various ideas such as boycotting team merchandise and ticket sales, flooding the Raider front office with scores of letters from angry fans, imploring Mark Davis to talk some sense into his father, and finally a giant billboard right on I-880 to make the point he's so obviously missed.
I personally would've liked the billboard to implore Coach Tom Cable to hire an offensive coordinator as well, but alas, it was Al Davis specific.
The pressure is on Al to respond. How he responds should, as always, be interesting and potentially entertaining. But one thing is for sure : a fanbase that loves this man has reached it's nadir, and change must come soon lest a revolution take place.
After being called out recently by Probowl corner Nnamdi Asomugha, the Raiders defense needs to step it up big time. A schizophrenic unit, this is a team that can hold the Bengals to 17 points, the Eagles to 9, and yet give up 40+ to the Giants.
Last week was terrible. Run fits were off again. Tackling was off again. It was all fundamentals that killed us, and John Marshall needs to get these guys to remember playing football in Pop Warner and High School, when they were being taught the fundamentals and the fundamentals were paramount to success.
Now, they're a group of fast, athletic, talented guys who seem to think that those physical attributes trump fundamentals. You can be the fastest guy on the field with a 45 inch vertical but if you can't wrap a ball carrier up, you're useless on the field.
One thing that has dogged the Raiders for years, and it ties directly to those physical attributes, is over pursuing the football. Many of these guys are so fast that they run right by the play while trying to make a play. Ironic, I know, but true.
Witness Thomas Howard's potential sack of Tony Romo last week. He had him dead to rights, and simply ran right past him, flipping an arm out halfheartedly when he knew he was beat. This is another fundamental issue that needs to be addressed.
The general feeling around the NFL is that the Raiders have far more talent than their record shows. I believe that to be the case as well. But talent will not win you football games if fundamentals are sacrificed. It's time to get back to basics, or this unit will continue to be embarrassed every other week and play stellar every other week.
- Not much yet from Chaz Schilens, although I think he's working himself back into game shape and we should see him haul in around 4-5 catches this weekend
- I'm actually glad Roethlisberger is starting. The last time he played the Raiders he was picked 3 times, and he holds the ball so long that I think our lineman and backers can get to him multiple times. I want his life to be hell on Sunday
- Dennis Dixon needs to improve his accuracy, but his ability to scramble worried me. We don't handle mobile QB's well, which is why I'm not upset to see Big Ben in the fold
- Rashard Mendenhall goes to the spin move far too often, and if the Raider backers time it right, they can crush him and force fumbles. He's a good back with some decent moves, but he definitely favours the spin, and I'd like to see it cost him
- I have to mention Tyvon Branch because I love the guy so much. How different is that Dallas game if he gets the pick-six that was there for the taking?
Bruce Gradkowski is the Saviour
I, and many other fans, were guilty of backup "quarterbackitis" last week. After Bruce led us to a comeback victory against the Bengals, many of us were deluded in thinking that the season was going to magically turn around.
Then, in Dallas, we realized that Bruce is a backup QB for a reason. He was scattering throws all over the field in the first half, and looked jittery and uncomfortable, a huge deviation from the poise he showed against Cincinnati.
Granted, he led us on a methodical and impressive TD drive to open the second half, and seemed more comfortable, but it was too little, too late. I do believe he gives us a better chance to win than JaMarcus Russell, but I now realize he isn't Peyton Manning or Drew Brees back there. Time to come back down to Earth for many of us.
Our Wide Receivers are Still the Problem
While I agree that they have been a huge issue most of the season, they were getting open and running great routes against the Cowboys. Darrius Heyward-Bey and Louis Murphy seem to be starting to get it a little bit, and Zach Miller is solid as always. With Chaz back in the fold, there's no real reason why our passing game shouldn't improve over the next couple of weeks.
We saw Gradkowski pull a Russell last weekend and miss open receivers multiple times. DHB still needs to work on his hands a little, but I think that the TD catch will bolster his confidence and we'll see improvement from him in leaps and bounds from here on out.
Our offensive line play has declined in regards to pass protection, but Gradkowski is mobile and can throw on the run. I actually expect our receivers to catch more than 10 balls combined this weekend, which would be a first this season. How pathetic is that?