Oakland Raiders: A Nutmeg of Consolation
The Monday night game against Denver was the worst possible start that the Oakland Raiders could have made to their season.
There was so much hope going into the game. The defense had been revamped, Darren McFadden was being lauded as the next Adrian Peterson, and expectations in the Raider Nation were high. An obscene amount of dollars had been thrown around in the free-agent market to get this team where Al Davis wants it to be.
As I watched the Raiders self-destruct on their own turf, I simply couldn’t believe the scale of the humiliation they were suffering at the hands of their bitterest foe. Make no mistake; this was a crushing blow to a Raider team that had looked like it was on the road back to respectability.
After a promising preseason, when the defense looked to using more blitzes and mixed up coverages, we saw a vanilla scheme that failed to adjust at all during a game. They were made to look as bad as a defense can look.
Probably most disappointing was DeAngelo Hall, who was taken to school all night by a rookie receiver. Hall looked truly dreadful and looked more like he was worth 70 cents than the $70 million Oakland paid him.
Tommy Kelly was a non-feature, and the Raiders failed to generate any pressure at all on a rampant Jay Cutler, who ripped them to pieces seemingly at will.
If nothing else, this game proved that you can have all the skill-position players you want, but if you can’t win the battle in the trenches, you won’t win games. Oakland got knocked about badly on both side of the line, where it showed both a lack of talent and depth.
Fred Wakefield was starting at left end by the fourth quarter, enough said there. That decision to start the season with only three defensive tackles (and two out of condition) was a truly dreadful one.
Adrian Peterson has Matt Birk, Steve Hutchinson, and a solid line blocking for him. Darren McFadden...doesn’t.
The only things worse than the players were the coaches. Kiffin and Ryan both called awful games, and both must know a quick turnaround is necessary to save their jobs.
But despite the total catastrophe that was the Raiders last night, there is a nutmeg of consolation.
His name is JaMarcus Russell.
Despite a mistake early on, he consistently made good decisions and threw accurate balls. The receivers were poor, the line couldn’t block, but the kid still put in a very positive performance. 17-of-26 for 190 yardds, two TD, and zero INT is a good day under the circumstances. A very good day.
There is a lot to like about Russell. He clearly always had the physical talents to play the game, now he looks like he has it mentally, too. Good decisions, poise under pressure, and never let his head drop. The mark of a winner.
There's some hope for the future at least.