The Oakland Raiders have a lot riding on their first divisional confrontation with the San Diego Chargers. To begin with, the Raiders could have been 2-2 if Bruce Gradkowski and the Oakland Raider receivers would score when they get into the Red Zone.
The game against the Arizona Cardinals should have been won but the team relied on the nearly perfect kicking of Sebastian Janikowski, and this was a loss because of Oakland Raider WR drops.
Based on what we have seen from the production of the Oakland Raiders WRs, its obvious that Darrius Heyward Bey, Johnnie Lee Higgins and Chaz Schilens need to step up their game. In fact Chaz Schilens is not even a factor. I would bet that he will be released by next season.
As for DHB, his game has improved but once again Bruce Gradkowski needs players he can rely on to catch the ball. Gradkowski has put the ball on the numbers and his balls are being dropped. Very unacceptable in the NFL.
Johnnie Lee Higgins however should have been used as the replacement for Louis Murphy when the Raiders played the Houston Texans last week. Louis Murphy was injured and was playing with a hurt clavicle , this explains his drops. Andre Johnson however,was held from play because of his injury so why couldnt the Oakland Raiders do the same?
Another player that will emerge from this group of WR is Jacoby Ford. He is fast and has great hands and could have used the experience. Whether Darren McFadden or Michael Bush is at running back there should be ample time for the receivers to get the opportunity to catch balls.
Last season the Oakland Raiders were hurt by the presence of an underachieving QB in JaMarcus Russell. That is over and Bruce Gradkowski is moving the football. Problem now is the hand of the Oakland Raiders receivers in the Red Zone.
Sundays game against the San Diego Chargers will definitely be a game where the WRs have to hold on to the ball. Hopefully Louis Murphy will be there and play like he did last season on Monday night.
The deciding factor will be the WR hands and the defense of the Oakland Raiders. So far they have been able to shut down some damn good running backs i.e.Steven Jackson and Chris Johnson. As for Arian Foster, he simply played well.
The Oakland Raiders strategy needs to include keeping the SD Charger offense off the field. A balanced use of Darren McFadden, Michael Bush, Louis Murphy and Zach Miller can accomplish this but the Raiders should use Ford and DHB more often as the SD defense will not expect it.
For those who saw the rookie Marcel Reece score a TD last week, it was because the defense was waiting for McFadden and not Reece. The same should happen for the WR corp, by throwing the ball to the unexpected WR like Ford or Johnnie Lee Higgins. Above all the Oakland Raiders need to practice constantly with the WR's.
Penalties are also hurting the Oakland Raider . I am hopeful Tom Cable will work in this area.
The Oakland Raiders have played extremely well but they also need the wins. Only by practicing can they reach the winning plateau. Should the Raiders defeat SD this Sunday ( and they should) then the following game against SF should also add a win to the Raiders and make them AFC West contenders.
There is no blaming the QB anymore. Bruce is a motivator with an awesome arm. His passing is precise and he can take the Raiders to the playoffs. But he needs help from the offensive line and the WRs. If this happens, well then the AFC West will belong to Oakland Raiders.
On a small note, the Raiders RB duo of McFadden and Bush could hurt the SD defense. I say let mcFadden throw one down the field. Also , what happened to the Wildcat?