Oakland Raiders Week 1 : The Day After
Well, that was unexpected. With all the roster turnover, good vibes, and good football players brought into Oakland, not only was a decent showing expected but many felt the Raiders were good enough to win this game.
Not this time they weren't.
Sloppiness pervaded the offense, and concentration lapses once again victimized the defense. The 2010 Raiders unfortunately didn't look much different than the 2009 version.
It's one game, and I'm not ready to panic yet. With so many new pieces it'll take time to gel, and Tennessee is a better team than I think we all gave them credit for; plus, Tennessee is one of the toughest places to play in the NFL and was not a good place to break in a new rookie center who's never played the position.
There were some positives to take from the game, but unfortunately all too many negatives and all too many of the same old song.
Game MVP : Darren McFadden
A lot of pressure was on Darren McFadden heading into this game, with Michael Bush out and McFadden having disappointed much of his first two seasons in the NFL.
Well, toting the rock as much as was situationally possible, McFadden ran for 95 yards, and added five catches for 55 more yards for a total of 150 yards and a touchdown. It was a great performance and one that seemed to come easy for McFadden, who ran hard all day, never seemed to get tired, and kept his pad level lower than I've seen from him ever.
It wasn't easy because of big plays; McFadden only broke one play more than 15 yards, but it seemed easy for him because he was always moving forward. This was a very encouraging performance from a player that the Raiders need to break out in a big way.
It certainly looks like the Raiders will have a formidable running back tandem when Bush is healthy. McFadden answered a lot of questions in a difficult situation yesterday; if he can do that consistently, this team will improve for sure.
The Invisibles: Darrius Heyward-Bey and Louis Murphy
Granted, Jason Campbell had reaction time of a batter to a Chapman fastball when dropping back to make his reads due to a porous offensive line, but it boggles me that for the second year in a row you can completely forget Darrius Heyward-Bey is on this team.
Campbell played conservatively early, necessitated by non-existent blocking and a lack of ability by the wide receivers to get open. Murphy dropped a difficult but makeable catch on a seam route that would have been a big play, and I only remember DHB being targeted once before making his only catch of the day.
These two simply have to be better, and I don't know how many more times we can say that. Cortland Finnegan is a Pro Bowl corner, but Tennessee's secondary got repeatedly torched last year and it's hard to believe these guys could find NO running room out there.
Hopefully this weekend against a weaker Rams defense the offensive line can protect Campbell, he'll actually look downfield, and the guys will actually be open. After all the strides we heard DHB made in the offseason, it's getting to be big time "show me" territory for him.
The Walk Of Shame : The Offensive Line
There isn't much to say. They stunk. They couldn't protect Campbell, they couldn't open any running lanes, they couldn't stop getting penalties, and they couldn't stop killing momentum with any or all of the above.
Tom Cable is supposed to be an offensive line guru. And therein lies the problem. His ego and conceit in his ability to mould offensive lineman is what has us in this mess. That's my theory. Cable believes he can coach anyone with a modicum of talent into a Pro Bowl lineman.
Because of his success with Gallery when he converted him to guard, he tries it all over the place. I still think Jared Veldheer can be a good center, but with his size is that the best place for him?
Cable has taken this line and moulded it in his own image; nondescript guys that have little fanfare and are little known. Well, the problem is that some of them just aren't very good, and no amount of coaching is going to make them good.
Without addressing the line in the offseason, all the good lineman save Kevin Mawae (now retired) and Logan Mankins are no longer available.
The Raiders would do well to concentrate on picking up some actual starting talent on OL in next year's draft, or else Cable will continue to try to cobble together a line from rejects and square pegs in round holes, and this team will continue to be stuck in neutral.
Much like Al Davis had to let go a little to get better players in here, Cable needs to put his OL ego aside and admit we need better players; not that the already not good enough players that are here need to play better. Guys can only play as well as they can play; and Carlisle, Henderson, and Walker look to have peaked.
Jason Campbell : Where Was Your Heart?
I've already outlined the OL struggles, which heavily contributed to Campbell being unable to get anything going in the first half.
It was proof that JaMarcus Russell, though not good, was not the whole problem in Oakland last year.
Campbell bounced back to play a decent second half, although the game was already out of reach and the Titans stopped coming at him as hard. Three sacks in the first quarter coupled with botched exchanges and Campbell looking lost and confused was too close to home for me. I almost puked.
But what really bothered me? The lack of heart; and that was surprising.
Campbell took off in the second quarter on a nice scramble, eyeing a first down. But seeing the Titans secondary bearing down on him, he made the prudent move and decided to slide.
Only the slide left him a yard short of the first down; a dive would've easily got the first down. In my eyes, a player that gives his all to win would've dove. The Jason Campbell I've watched would've dove.
This one slid; and looked scared doing it.
That, coupled with is inability to look downfield and always check down, even when he had protection, were disappointing to me and showed a lack of leadership and heart rather than the strong leadership and heart we've all known and come to expect from Campbell, who played through multiple injuries and always played hard in Washington.
Maybe his spirit was broken at that point; regardless, that made me upset and question whether Campbell is the guy we thought he was. I think he is, but I can't explain his lack of toughness or heart on that scramble.
Tom Cable : Relentless Positivity and Optimism Get Old
Tom Cable is a good players coach. He gets his guys to buy into his system, say the right things, and want to go to war for him.
Or does he?
It sounds good in theory and soundbites, but hasn't manifested itself much in his tenure. The Raiders don't just lose under Cable; they get whooped. Yesterday was no exception.
It's time for Cable to look in the mirror and ask: Am I doing everything I can to be the best football coach I can be?
One thing he could do is stop thinking he can throw anyone on the OL and they'll succeed because he's there to coach them. Hasn't proven to be true yet, and continues to be the weakest link on the team.
He's relentlessly positive and optimistic, even clapping during yesterday's debacle. Which begs the question: when is it time to light a fire under these guys instead of glad-handing them all?
Once again, I like Cable in the media and the way he deals with players. But his lack of scheming and in-game adjustments, offensive line prowess, and anything resembling a team that's ready and prepared to play are starting to have me question his abilities to lead this team.
I'd like to see him pissed off; see him get angry, yell, curse at someone, ream them for not playing well.
Guess we'll have to settle for clapping during a blowout instead. It's getting old; fast.
Silver Lining : It's The First Week
This article was mostly negative because, well, the Raiders didn't really give us much positive to go on yesterday.
One thing that upset me was that when bad things were happening, the team once again seemed to get the "here we go again" vibe and pack it in for a while. They woke back up in the third quarter, but by then it was too late. That's on Cable and his staff, and they need to get that attitude shored up quickly.
The good news is all the problems, with the possible exception of the OL unless we get help, can be fixed. The defense played well save two big plays, and Darren McFadden gave us something to look forward to as long as he stays healthy.
I'm not going to go 180 degrees here and declare this team horrible or brutal, but they were exposed a little more than we all expected yesterday. Still, there is talent, the offseason moves were still excellent even if they didn't fully manifest yesterday, and I fully expect a 150 percent better effort against the Rams in Oakland next week.
If we lose to the Rams, and don't play well in that game either, after what I saw from them against the Cardinals yesterday, then it's time to get upset. Then it may be time for the "here we go again" feeling all over again.
As for me, upsetting though it was, I'm considering yesterday a mulligan, an aberration in what will otherwise be a great season.
Because I can't take much more of this; and neither can any of you.