Raider fans in Phoenix
The Oakland Raiders 2010 NFL season is one quarter over and it's time to give first quarter grades.
Tom Cable, Al Davis, the Raiders front office, and coaching staff have some things to be proud of—and some things they should be ashamed of as well.
There are players that have performed well above expectations, some have given exactly what fans expected and some have fallen flat on their faces.
What follows will be my thoughts on how each squad has performed. I'll break it down by section. (Offensive line, defensive line, linebackers, etc...)
I will be brutally honest. If it sucks, I'll say it. If it's great, I'll say that too.
Here we go...
Richard Seymour and Tommy Kelly are holding down the middle for the Raiders better than in many years.
This may be the most improved squad on the Raiders this year.
The run defense is slightly improved, mostly due to Richard Seymour moving inside and John Henderson coming to Oakland to provide depth.
This has given Tommy Kelly the support he needs to earn his huge contract for the first time in his career. Desmond Bryant has shown moments of greatness but lacks consistency.
Defensive ends Matt Shaughnessy, Trevor Scott, and rookie Lamarr Houston have been solid, but not spectacular by any means.
For this squad to improve their grade, they have to apply pressure on the quarterback—without having to blitz a linebacker or safety.
Wimbley and McClain have been bright spots on the Raider defense.
Along with the defensive line, this is one of the most improved squads for the Raiders this year.
The additions of Kamerion Wimbley, Quentin Groves, and the emergence of Rolando McClain have combined to give the Raiders a very solid linebacking corps.
There are some issues however. This group of linebackers are somewhat suspect in coverage. Tight ends and running backs pose a real threat to the Raiders in the passing game.
To turn this "C" into an "A," the Raiders linebackers need to improve their coverage skills and become more consistent against the run.
Nnamdi Asomugha leads a great Raiders' squad of cornerbacks.
This squad is the unquestioned strength of the Raiders defense.
Nnamdi Asomugha is one of the best in the league, Stanford Routt seems to be finally living up to his potential, and Walter McFadden and Jeremy Ware are rookies who show some great potential.
The Raiders are ranked in the top five in pass defense because these players are living up to the expectations placed upon them.
All this squad needs to do to keep their "A," is continue to play like they have.
Tyvon Branch has shown some chinks in his armor this season.
Missed tackles and blown coverages have plagued the Raiders safeties in the first four games.
Tyvon Branch is proving that, although he's a great tackler, he struggles in coverage. Michael Huff, on the other hand, has proven he's good in coverage, but is a still a terrible tackler.
Hiram Eugene has proven to be pretty bad at both.
Mike Mitchell has yet to get any real chance to prove what he can do. If his preseason play is any indication, Huff and Branch should be worried about their job.
For this squad to improve upon their "C-" grade, Huff needs to improve his tackling, Branch needs to improve his coverage, Mitchell needs to play more, Eugene needs to be placed on the practice squad, and rookie Stevie Brown needs to be permanently on the 53 man active roster.
Overall, the Raiders' defense is much better in 2010 than in recent history.
There is a lot of improvement of the Raiders defensive unit—but still not enough.
The cornerbacks are the best squad. The safeties need to become more balanced and consistent. The linebackers need to improve their coverage skills, and the defensive line needs to be able to apply quarterback pressure more frequently.
If these things can happen, that "C+" could easily become an "A" or "B."
Now for the offense...
The injury to Robert Gallery has further hurt the Raiders' offensive line play.
What's worse than an "F"? This squad isn't good enough to get an "F."
The relative success of the running game, having to play without their best player, Robert Gallery, and the fact they have given up four fewer sacks than after four games last year wasn't enough to keep this miserable squad from getting a failing grade.
The offensive line is, in a word, pathetic, with Cooper Carlisle and Samson Satele being the worst of the bunch.
The pass protection, consistency, and discipline of this squad is without question the most glaring weakness on the Raiders as a whole.
It must improve if the Raiders wish to return to "Excellence."
Bruce Gradkowski seems to have the team and staff on his side.
The quarterbacks are not getting any help from the wide receivers or offensive line.
Whomever is behind center doesn't have much of a chance to excel. It is not the quarterbacks' fault that the the receivers aren't being coached very well, or that the offensive line can't block a Girl-Scout troop!
Jason Campbell was supposed to be the answer—he's not. Bruce Gradkowski was supposed to "provide a spark," and he has—but not much of one.
The fact is, we won't know who is the best quarterback for the Raiders is, or how well anyone can do, until the offensive line woes are cured.
McFadden has been very good so far in 2010.
The "top dog" in the running game has changed. Michael Bush is second fiddle, and Darren McFadden has taken his place at the top of the depth chart.
However, against the Texans, maybe their roles should have been reversed. McFadden averaged just 3.9 yards per carry, while Bush averaged 5.7 yards per carry—but only got seven carries.
The coaching staff let the team down by not riding the hot hand—in this case, Bush.
Whatever the case, the Raiders running backs have played better than last year. The emergence of McFadden has made the running game better but still not great.
If Bush and McFadden can remain healthy, and the staff commits to the running game more consistently, the Raiders backs could have an "A" by the end of the year.
Louis Murphy is showing some disturbing breaks in his fundamentals.
Once again, the inconsistency of the wide receivers bites the Raiders. At least one of Gradkowski's interceptions against the Texans went right off the hands of Louis Murphy.
This is becoming a reoccurring theme, but I don't blame the players for most of it.
I feel like this is a coaching issue. Sanjay Lal has been coaching the Raiders' receivers since 2007. In that time, the Raiders haven't had a wide receiver make any kind of an impact—at all.
True, Darius Heyward-Bey is much better than last year, but I attribute most of that to Heyward-Bey's own desire to succeed and work ethic—not good coaching.
I see the Raiders' wide receivers making the same mistakes over and over. Mistakes that should have been coached out of them.
It is unacceptable.
Thank God for Zach Miller! He was the lone bright spot for the Raiders' receiving corp against the Texans. Miller nor Brandon Myers are the problem. In fact, they are the only thing that kept this group from getting a "D" or worse.
The talent is there, but it is my belief that until Lal is no longer on the coaching staff, the wide receiver play will not improve, and the Raiders will not win with any consistency.
The offensive line and wide receivers are holding the Raiders back.
This boils down to terrible pass blocking, dropped passes, and penalties.
Until the wide receivers play more fundamentally sound, and offensive line is improved by 100 times, the Raiders will continue to disappoint their fans.
It's not rocket science Tom! The offensive line just sucks!
The Good: Nnamdi Asomugha, Kamerion Wimbley, Richard Seymour, Darren McFadden, and Zach Miller.
The Bad: Michael Huff and wide receiver coach Sanjay Lal.
The 'Ugh': Cooper Carlisle and Samson Satele.
In the end, the Raiders still have a lot of work to do, but it needs to start with the offensive line.
On offense, Robert Gallery needs to get healthy, Cooper Carlisle needs to be benched, Daniel Loper should get a shot, the wide receivers need to prove they can be consistent, and the coaching staff needs to be more committed to the run.
On defense, Michael Huff needs to prove he can tackle consistently or be benched, Tyvon Branch needs to improve his coverage, Mike Mitchell and Stevie Brown deserve a shot, and the defensive line needs to generate a pass rush.
Finally, winning starts up front. If the pass protection and pass rush can be improved, the Raiders have a shot to win. If not, it'll be another long year for Raider fans.
One more slide...
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