Records Can Be Deceiving: Raiders Have Plenty to Be Excited About
I am sure that every Raiders fan can relate to how my Sunday afternoon ended. There was porch furniture flung into the pool and neighbors that probably thought there was some kind of awful domestic dispute taking place at my house as Sebastian Janikowski's kick hooked just left of the upright.
Handing the Arizona Cardinals their second win of the season was a miserable way to end the weekend, and my voice is still trying to regain its normal tone. I try to find something positive to build on from every game and this week, it wasn't hard.
The Raiders defense is currently ranked second in the NFL in yards allowed per game. That's right, I said second. We are still giving up too many points, but this is partially attributed to poor special teams play. Bad kick and punt team coverage and missed field goals have given our opponents excellent starting field position.
The defense has improved from dead last against the run to 24th in yards per game allowed. Take away one big run by Chris Johnson and we have improved by leaps and bounds.
The Raiders rank second in the league in passing defense and have enjoyed solid play from sixth-year player and first-time starter Stanford Routt. Nnamdi Asomugha also made a strong statement to the quick-to-forget fans on Revis Island that he still is the best corner in the league.
If you don't want to take my word for it, try asking Larry Fitzgerald whose only highlight of the game came when he wasn't being covered by Asomugha and settled into a hole in the zone that conveniently wasn’t Nnamdi's responsibility.
Rolando McClain is showing steady improvement, making quicker reads and allowing his instincts to take over. He looks worthy of being a first-round pick, which is a breath of fresh air for Raiders fans,
Speaking of first-round picks, how about Darren McFadden making a push to lead the NFL in rushing? McFadden is currently ranked third in the league rushing yards with 345 and averaging 4.7 yards per carry.
If Hue Jackson can find a way to get him in the end zone more, the offense will continue to make its case for consideration as one of the leagues most improved units.
Right now the Raider offense is ranked 10th in yards per game at 351.3. Of course, the team needs to find ways to convert when they are in the red zone, but this is a vast improvement from last year’s unit.
Louis Murphy and Darrius Heyward-Bey have both emerged as reliable targets for fiery leader Bruce Gradkowski and the offense is moving the chains as a result.
Gradkowski has continued to show that he is more than capable of putting this team in a position to win football games.
Keep in mind, all of this progress has been made without the Raiders true No. 1 receiver, Chaz Schilens. Schilens should be set to return in the next couple weeks, but if Heyward-Bey continues to improve and impress, he might find himself as the teams third option after his recovery.
Zach Miller is quietly off to another stellar start, and should push to make his first Pro Bowl appearance.
The fact that the Raiders running game is ranked fourth in yards per game is particularly impressive, especially given the absence of Robert Gallery who is widely regarded as the team's best offensive lineman.
Michael Bush began to ease his way back into action last week and will only strengthen the already formidable rushing attack.
Overall, the team is playing more disciplined football and improving on both sides of the ball. I can live with Sebastian missing three field goals in a game because we all know he is way too good to ever do it again. We should be 2-1 and we are playing with an undeniable swagger that dare I say, reminds me of teams past.
There's plenty to be proud of if you bleed Silver and Black.
I can't wait for Sunday, and that's a good feeling. Most of you know exactly what I mean.
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