Oakland Raiders: Full 2010 First Quarter Report Card
One-fourth of the way through the 2010 NFL season, the Oakland Raiders find themselves in a familiar position: last place in the AFC West.
With a record of 1-3, Oakland has a long way to go to climb out of the division cellar. The San Diego Chargers will eventually start winning more often, the Kansas City Chiefs are the last unbeaten team in football, and the Broncos have won a couple of tough games.
Though the Raiders are in last, they still have played pretty well overall this year. They have lost tough games the past two weeks against Arizona and Houston, where they were competitive down to the final seconds of each game.
While they have certainly played better than their 1-3 record shows, the only thing that matters is that they only have one win.
Here's a report card style breakdown of the first quarter of the season for the Raiders, including areas where they have excelled and places they need to improve.
Passing Offense: C
It took all of six quarters for the newly acquired Jason Campbell to be benched.
His replacement, Bruce Gradkowski, plans to keep him on the bench for the rest of the year.
Gradkowski has played pretty well through his 10 quarters of work. He has thrown for 695 yards and four touchdowns in his time as starter.
He has also thrown four interceptions. He'll need to improve his touchdown to interception ratio in order to keep the Raiders competitive.
Rushing Offense: A-
The Raiders sport the sixth-best running game in the NFL, averaging 140 yards per game.
Darren McFadden has been a huge part of that, finally living up to the high expectations he had after being drafted in the first round of the 2008 NFL Draft out of Arkansas.
So far this year, McFadden has racked up 392 yards and a touchdown. He's also added 16 catches for 162 yards and another touchdown receiving.
There is some cause for concern though, as McFadden left last week's game against the Texans with a hamstring injury.
Punt/Kick Returns: C+
Jacoby Ford and Johnnie Lee Higgins form a very mediocre return team. They are right in the middle of the league in terms of average yards per return.
They each have a fumble though, something they'll need to not do, because the Raiders don't seem capable of overcoming too much adversity.
Higgins has proven to be a good returner in the past, so it's possible he'll step up his game for the rest of the season.
Pass Defense: A
Nnamdi Asomugha and the Oakland Raiders secondary are excellent. They are currently ranked third in the league, allowing only 143.8 yards per game through the air.
Asomugha shrinks the field, as quarterbacks are scared to throw in his direction. This makes life easier for the rest of the secondary. They don't have to worry about Asomugha's half of the field, allowing them to key on the other receivers and break on their routes.
The pass defense is the least of Oakland's worries, as they have a very solid unit.
Run Defense: F
Defending the run has been the biggest challenge for the Oakland Raiders this year. They are allowing 162 yards a game on the ground. Only the Buffalo Bills have a more porous front seven.
Richard Seymour, Tommy Kelly, and the rest of the defensive line need to step up their game to give Oakland a chance to win.
When an opponent is able to run the ball effectively, it really hinders the offense's ability to come from behind to win games.
The Raiders front seven needs to improve the run defense to give the offense more time to drive down the field in the fourth quarter.
I'm basing this on the fact that kicker Sebastian Janikowski missed three field goals, including the potential game winner, against Arizona.
Kickers aren't supposed to lose ball games, especially not when this particular kicker is one of the highest paid kickers in the game.
Kickers are supposed to be low profile, unless they make a kick to win a game. I'm not saying they have to make every kick, but missing a 32-yarder in the final seconds with your team down by one is inexcusable.
Overall, the Raiders have more talent than their 1-3 record suggests. But key mistakes late in games and a horrible run defense have been the daggers in the back of the team.
If they want to get out of the AFC West cellar, they'll need to improve those two areas. Gradkowski and the offense can carry this team as long as the defense and special teams stop making mistakes.