Oakland Raiders Week 7 : Pressures, Hurries, and Knockdowns
Hello again, Raider Nation, and welcome to this week's edition of Pressures, Hurries, and Knockdowns, Raider style.
After beating the Chargers, the team got a bit of a reprieve from me last week as there were less pressures and general negativity than usual. One thing I mentioned, though, was being worried about playing an 0-5 rival Niners squad that would be fired up and motivated to win.
Well I was half right; the Niners were 0-5 and I was worried, but they weren't fired up or inspired at all.
Unfortunately, after stagnating on two early drives, neither were we, and the malaise in that stadium was so thick you could taste it. Eventually, the Niners decided they should show up, and we still stayed back in the locker room and slept-walked through a 17-9 loss.
So, after squandering our first chance to be .500 or better at this point in the season since 2002; the chance to win back-to-back games for the first time since 2008; and the chance to beat the Chargers and the Niners in back to back weeks and claim ownership of California football, we travel to the hated rival Denver Broncos and Invesco (Mile-High) Stadium this coming Sunday.
The Raiders have one victory in the AFC West while the Broncos are winless in the division. They are heated rivals, and like each other about as much as fillings and tin foil.
The Raiders get the added bonus of going on the road to an underachieving and desperate rival for the second week in a row. Those games are always tough to win, and the Broncos are a better team than the Niners at this point.
After the offensive display by the offensive, some questionable play calling, the defense packing it in late (due to being tired as much as anything, to be fair), it is safe to say that this team is quite a bit further behind where we expected it to be at this point in the season.
Let's get to it.
Pressures : Tom Cable, Hue Jackson, and The Entire Coaching Staff
Tom Cable got a pass last week because we finally beat the Chargers. But he's back, and entrenched in here for the near future.
Hue Jackson is holding the chair for him, John Marshall is desperately trying to open a pickle jar in the kitchen, Sanjay Lal is putting too much butter on the popcorn and Mike Waufle is pining for New York.
This staff simply cannot seem to get this team to play smart, consistent, fundamental football. At all.
Cable, who is supposed to be a master motivator, cannot get this team inspired to beat a rival on the road with all kinds of implications on the line (.500 after 6 games, back-to-back wins, competitive in the division).
Jackson, who is supposed to be creative and dynamic as a play-caller and personality, called one of the most boring and baffling games I've ever seen last week. Granted, players have to execute, but if they aren't, don't keep calling the same damned plays!
Marshall simply cannot stick with what works, and speculation abounds that Al Davis has a lot to do with that, but whatever. Marshall doesn't always have to blitz to be effective; just change things up once in a while, and attack sometimes. That's all. It's good when it happens; it's devastatingly easy to beat when it doesn't.
Sanjay......our wide receivers have been the lowest producing and least professional looking on the field since you got here. It's time to go, and go now. Let's replace a HOF receiver in James Lofton with a guy with no experience; it'll work out. Well guess what? It hasn't. Time to move on.
Waufle I'll give the benefit of the doubt because he's had success with Oakland in the past and was big for the Giants during their Super Bowl run. But this line has looked easily blocked, has generated little pressure, and consistently gets beat in the running game. Not much improvement here, with the exception of Seymour and Shaughnessy.
Pressures : Tyvon Branch
After calling out Michael Huff a lot recently and giving Branch a pass, it's time to be fair.
Coming into this season there was one position and one player Raider Nation didn't worry about: strong safety Tyvon Branch.
He led the team in tackles last year, played fast and aggressive, and was around the ball quite a bit. He showed good acumen in both run support and pass coverage, and big things were expected from him this season. Pro Bowl was thrown around with frequency.
My, how things change.
Branch is routinely beaten in coverage by both receivers and tight ends; is rarely, if ever, in proper position before the snap; is always cheating up to support the run, yet fails to make tackles and doesn't really support the run very well; and is a lot more impressed with himself than he should be.
CBS analyst Rich Gannon pointed out this past Sunday that the Raider safeties, Branch and Huff, often cheated toward the line of scrimmage and could be had in the middle of the field.
Sure enough, despite this fact being obvious to anyone watching the game, they continued to cheat up and were out of position on Michael Crabtree's go-ahead touchdown that ultimately decided the game.
This season, the big runs by Chris Johnson and Arian Foster were right at Branch, who had attacked the line of scrimmage so hard that he overpersued the play and was left grasping at straws.
Mike Mitchell has proven to be better in coverage than originally though, and he's always around the ball and a solid, fundamental tackler. At this point, the once untouchable Branch is a mistake or two away from being replaced. Or he should be.
Mitchell has played well and should get a shot if Branch continues to be filleted by opposing QBs.
But don't tell Tom Cable that. He seems to think we've got Troy Polomalu and Ed Reed back there the way he talks about Huff and Branch.
And that's a huge part of the problem.
Pressures : Oakland Offense
JaMarcus Russell has left the building, but in watching the Raider offense last Sunday one had to do a double-take. It was so bad, so appalling, so hard to watch, that for a split second I thought #2 had come back to the fold.
Nope. That was Jason Campbell, a guy who I thought was a good QB coming into Oakland and whom I'm honestly at a loss to explain right now. Campbell posted a near impossibly bad 10.7 rating last weekend while throwing two picks, no touchdowns, and generally looking clueless and scared on the field.
To Russell's credit, he never posted a rating as low as 10.7. Campbell actually outstunk JaMarcus Russell, which has to hurt.
Perhaps an early game knee injury was the cause, as he did play fairly well early in the game, leading the Raiders to two field goals. However, that's a big part of the problem as well. Campbell seems to lead the offense....to field goals. Not touchdowns, despite gaining good yardage and getting goal-to-go situations.
Honestly, the offense so closely resembled the one with Russell under center that it was enough to make a man cry.
This offense has to move the ball against Denver. Kyle Orton is the #2 passer in the NFL, and although Denver hasn't had much of a running game this season, Knowshon Moreno is healthy and we've been very bad against the run again this year.
This offense is under pressure to get more creative, to make some plays, and to generally resemble an NFL offense. Regardless of who starts at quarterback, they must manage the game but also make plays.
With the return of Darren McFadden this weekend, the offense will get a boost. But it will mean nothing if there is no passing game. Hopefully Jason Campbell can't go and we'll get to see what Kyle Boller can do.
It can't get any worse than what we saw last week. Not even in the Russell days.
- I've always been a fan of Jason Campbell, and although he's never been a star, you have to wonder how he's THIS BAD in Oakland. By all rights he's always been smart, a hard worker, and a professional. Yet he didn't even have the formations memorized for Sunday? What is going on in Oakland?
- I've been wondering lately if this team is simply cursed. Randy Moss comes here and forgets he likes football and how to catch. Jason Campbell comes here and looks worse than Russell. I'm beginning to think that all the negative Karma Al Davis must've accrued through his ruthless ways in his earlier life are catching up with the team
- It's got to be something, because how do you continually bring in (supposedly) good, talented players, new coaches, changes every year, and the result is still the same?
- Rolando McClain is getting it, but slower than we'd hoped. He's been a big part of the big runs we've given up this season, and he must begin to earn his stripes soon. We've seen some good things, but I think the game is much tougher than he expected it to be and he's having a difficult time as a result
- After losing to the Niners, this fan base is on the precipice. We haven't had much good to hang our hats on in recent times, and this year felt so good, so different, that it stings far more than others have. We are now staring down the barrell of a potential decade worth of losing football if things don't change dramatically
- Someone in that locker room needs to call a players-only meeting and get after someone. Nnamdi would be the best, because he's lost his entire career. But someone needs to light a fire under these guys, because I'm starting to feel once again like they don't much care
- You can say you're not the same old Raiders all you like, but until you prove it on the field, people will not believe you. I did believe it earlier on; after last week, I'm not so sure
Knockdowns : This Isnt The Same Old Raider Team
While I believe this team is better than recent vintage, last week went a long way to deriding that theory.
Stagnant offense, undisciplined play, mistake-filled blunders and poor fundamental defense sure looked familiar. In fact, I had to check the newspaper a la Back to the Future to make sure I was in 2010 and not 2006-2009.
I have to give the defense credit for one thing only; they played very well until they were forced to be on the field most of the second half and began cracking. That was big, and it's hard to blame them for finally giving up some yardage in the second half. BUT......
The most disturbing thing about the game to me? After Gore's big run, the wind went out of the team so badly that even after a gift Intentional Grounding call on Smith (which, though it went in our favour was one of the worst calls I've seen all season), we conceded the touchdown. CONCEDED IT!!
It was as if after Gore's run the defense went, "well, we tried. Might as well pack it in." Which is pathetic, unprofessional, and all too familiar.
Same old Raider team if I've ever seen it. Uninspired. No sense of urgency. No accountability. And nobody really looking like they gave a flying fig. In fact, I thought all of the sudden I'd have no wife or daughter and still be sleeping on a mattress on the floor, we've regressed so far in the past week.
To have to write this almost halfway into the season is as depressing as the Raiders blowing two winnable games and being 2-4 instead of 4-2.
Anyone who didn't think things would be different this year is lying like Brett Favre. And anyone who says it doesn't hurt a little worse than even recent years is a bigger person than I.
Knockdowns : Hue Jackson Is The Man!!
Hue Jackson has a reputation for developing some of the better offensive players in the NFL, like Chad Ochocinco and Carson Palmer, and Steven Davis while he was a Pro Bowl running back with the Washington Redskins.
Jackson, as QB coach of the Ravens, was roundly praised and complimented for his rapid development of Joe Flacco into an NFL QB, and Jackson was on the short list for coordinator jobs all over the league. So when the Raiders snagged him, players and fans alike were ecstatic.
Now Coach Tom Cable could concentrate on head duties and not worry about playcalling, and the way that Jackson assisted OC Cam Cameron in Baltimore with the effective usage of a multi-back backfield and play-action passing was though to be a huge bonus.
Hue came in and immediately challenged players in practice, got in their faces, and demanded perfection.
That mentality is not being talked about any longer. Hue lacks passion on the sidelines. We haven't heard anyone speak about his verve or fire in some time. And the offense has been as vanilla as it comes the last little while.
This begs the question; did Hue Jackson come in with a plan and have the life slowly squeezed out of him? He's not the same guy he was when he arrived here. The way players and other coaches talk about him is no longer in the glowing terms of a passionate man trying to change a losing culture.
Nope. Hue seems to now be toeing the company line, and as a result, the team is suffering. However, that brings speculation that he will be the next head coach into definite possibility mode, as he's shown he's able to tone himself down and do what he's told.
Or at least, that's certainly what appears to be happening, as the vibe and attitude surrounding Jackson and from Jackson himself is considerably more subdued than it was at his arrival.
This one was short and decidedly not sweet, as I'm starting to get to a level of frustration with this team that others had reached weeks ago.
I'm still willing to bet we end up with a better team by the end of the year, but my earlier optimism is being drained faster than Jason Campbell's knee right now. Beating the Chargers was nice, but following that up with our worst performance, Tennessee included, of the season was so disheartening that I still haven't recovered.
We beat the Broncos this weekend, and I'll be all sweetness and lights again, I promise!!
Thank you for reading and remember, comments, good bad and ugly, always welcome.