Oakland Raiders Week 3: Pressures, Hurries and Knockdowns
Well, that one hurt. I know I'm a little late to the party, but the loss from last week stings no less.
We had it. We lost it. Gave it away, really. It wasn't pretty on defense, but the offense was lights out. I say the defense got tired after the brutal scheduling, and it was obvious. No excuse; just an explanation. Still, you have to be able to stop a team even once, and the Raiders couldn't do that.
After the first half of the Bills game, it looked like the Raiders would waltz into this game unfettered, with the East Coast monkey off their back and a fresh set of confidence to meet the Jets head on.
Now? Well, this team is still confident, which is encouraging. But they are also upset, embarrassed and pissed off. That's also encouraging.
The Raiders played a complete game for one half, and the defense fell asleep in the second. We've seen some good things through the first two weeks, and, unfortunately, some of the same old, same old.
The Jets come to town this weekend, and I hate the Jets. I have hated them always, and though I find Rex Ryan entertaining, the arrogance that drips from the franchise since he got there is just off-putting. The Raiders need to bounce back from a tough loss and stick it to the Jets in front of a rare sellout crowd in Oakland.
The Black Hole will be full of animals, and Raider Nation will be in full throat, of that you can be sure.
Who's under pressure going into the Jets game? What did we learn last week? Can the Raiders beat the Jets? Will they?
Let's find out.
Pressure: Rolando McClain
Rolando McClain's attitude has put me off since he joined the team. Last year, he frequently dismissed that the NFL was more difficult than college and that it would take him time to adapt and adjust to the speed of the game. In short, he showed no respect for the fact that success in college doesn't automatically provide you with success in the pros.
He was entitled, and it came across in his words, actions and play. He barely, if ever, spoke with the media, and when he did, he dictated the terms and gave them little to go on.
This offseason, he claimed he was more humble and would be more open with the media. He has yet to show those traits. He claims to only talk to the media on Mondays, yet no Raider reporter recalled seeing him in the locker room Monday.
That is not leadership from a guy we drafted to be a leader of our defense.
On the field, he appears to be regressing, and one thing disturbs me: he gives up on plays very easily. When Freddy Jackson burst through the line for his 44-yard TD run, McClain didn't try to run him down from behind, he jogged after him. He simply gave up; Marcell Dareus, on the other hand, made a tackle 20 yards downfield; and he's a 300+ pound DT. Disappointing to say the least.
McClain has flashed potential as an excellent coverage linebacker, but he was burned frequently against the Bills. Anyone can have a bad game, and I'm not saying Death-Ro can't still be the stalwart MLB we all thought he could be when he was drafted. He has the skill, but his fundamentals are lacking and he still seems to think he's the Man, when clearly he has not been the Man.
He misses tackles, he gets blocked too easily for a man his size and he's frequently out of position and confused pre-snap. Look at the Broncos game; on three separate occasions he was jawing with Groves pre-snap and obviously out of position; Orton completes a quick, easy pass over the middle.
He's under pressure to bounce back, square his shoulders and make a tackle. He missed numerous ones against the Bills that proved costly, and for someone whose sole purpose was to shore up the run defense, he's been as detrimental at times as he has been helpful.
He's under pressure to show he's not the slow, poor tackling, poor reading MLB he was last week. Because he was awful. He's usually been solid, if not good, but he appears to be regressing. And his attitude consistently shows that either he doesn't see it that way, or he doesn't care.
That needs to change, because Raider Nation wants and needs a leader in the middle of our defense, and thus far, he's not been it. He can be; but he has to want it more.
Pressure: Chris Johnson
Thus far, Stanford Routt is doing a wonderful Nnamdi impression. He isn't being targeted often, and when he is, they aren't being caught, or he picks them off. Thus far this season Routt is no. 1 in the NFL in burn percentage, allowing only 4 of 14 passes (28.5%) thrown his way to be completed.
Yes, Routt thus far is showing he deserved the big contract Al Davis gave him to the amusement of the rest of the NFL.
Chris Johnson, though, is doing a better Fabian Washington impression. He was routinely targeted and burned against the Bills, despite receiver Stevie Johnson being noticeably hampered by a groin injury. It didn't matter; Johnson allowed over 70% of the passes thrown his way to be completed, and when they weren't, he was committing penalties.
Johnson had three separate pass interference penalties to go with an illegal contact downfield. He couldn't cover Stevie at all, and it ultimately led to the demise of the Raiders in this game.
I almost threw up in my mouth when I heard C.J. was criticizing his teammates for blowing coverage on the Bills final TD that won the game. Um, really? After the way he played, he had no right to even comment on the game, let alone criticize teammates for blown coverage. Oh, and Chris? Yeah, you were right there too. Why are YOU taking C.J. Spiller out of the backfield and not the WR? Oh right. That's what I thought.
I propose that Chris Johnson is culprit no. 1 when looking to why the Raiders lost this game. He simply couldn't do anything right, and whenever he was beaten, instead of relying on help over the top, he tripped, grabbed or interfered with receivers. It was blatant, it was ugly and it was embarrassing. Of the 8 penalties, four were C.J.'s, and three of those cost the Raiders momentum, field position and ultimately Bills points.
C.J. is under pressure to show he belongs in the NFL still; that's how badly he played last week. If this guy is our no. 2 corner and doesn't get things back on track, all the good works the Raiders have done in other spots will be for naught as teams pick us apart time and again.
- Raider Nation knew it, and now everyone else does too: Denarius Moore is awesome. Flat out awesome.
- The Raiders, with the performances of Hagan and Moore, and DHB in the Denver game, now have a group of wide receivers that are talented, versatile and have actually produced results.
- Chaz Schilens looked really good in Buffalo; though he only caught one pass, it was a big one, and he blocked quite well for McFadden's runs, especially in the first half.
- Hue made some coaching errors, but for the most part I felt like his part of the team, the offense, was crisp, prepared and executed beautifully.
- Chuck Bresnahan is getting whipped pretty hard for the Raiders' defensive collapse, and I understand why. Before this game or this season started, Raider Nation quietly lamented Bresnahan's propensity for soft, prevent defenses when the team gets a lead. The lack of aggression in the second half wasn't the only reason the Raiders got carved up, but it didn't help.
- Neither did, certainly, the schedule the Raiders experienced last week. After finishing in Denver at 1:30 a.m. EST last Tuesday and getting back to Oakland at a reported 5 a.m. Tuesday, they had to be in Buffalo for a 1 p.m. game on Sunday. That's roughly four days and eight hours to practice, rest up, and get ready for the game.
- They played well in the early part, but because of their schedule last week, it's not surprising they couldn't keep up the energy for the entire game.
- The Raiders should bounce back against a Jets team that can't run the ball and has a QB who has a propensity to turn the ball over.
- The Jets also have a stellar run defense, and McFadden will need to establish his pounding early and often to set the tone for this one.
Knockdowns: Hue Jackson Will Improve the Discipline on This Team
Before the season began, Hue Jackson acknowledged penalties and the role they play in Raider lore.
It's an accepted fact that the Raiders have a winning record when they have more than 100 yards in penalties, and for the most part, penalties are chalked up as a cost of doing business when playing in Silver & Black.
I don't buy it. Some like it as a part of the Raider image. I don't when it keeps us on the field for another set of downs or makes it 1st & 20 and kills field position.
The occasional rough-and-tumble 15-yarder when things are out of hand or a player is making a point, I can handle. It's the consistent lack of discipline and understanding of situational football that are maddening.
Hue said before the season that he didn't believe in getting a lot of penalties to cultivate a tough image, and he believed he could build a big, physical bully that was also smart, disciplined and played good situational football.
To that effect, he had referees in practices during the preseason, and asked them to throw flags whenever they would in a real game. He wanted his players to get used to playing smart.
It didn't work.
The Raiders currently lead the NFL with 23 penalties. They had only two in the first half last week, and led 21-3 at halftime. They committed six in the second half, five of which either gave the Bills a first down or kept them on the field and a drive alive. They were outscored in the second half 35-14.
Some believe penalties are fine. To me, the above paragraph simply isn't a coincidence, and we don't have the mystique, success or talent of the Raiders of the 70's, who could smash and beat people and overcome any penalty thrown their way.
Hue has yet to instill any discipline in this team beyond what I've seen in recent years. They all talk a good game, but the execution simply hasn't been there yet.
This Raiders team is talented and good enough to play with anyone, and to beat anyone, including ourselves. I, for one, am absolutely sick and tired of watching us pound the other team into oblivion, yet wonder where it all went wrong as a result of stupid and ill-timed penalties.
Knockdowns: The Run Defense Has Improved
The Raiders run defense stifled Denver in the first week of the season, holding them to 38 yards on 13 carries for less than three yards per carry.
They also stifled Buffalo during the first half, keeping Freddy Jackson to 43 yards, the majority of those coming on a 33-yard burst.
The second half, though, was a different story. On Jackson's third carry of the second half, he blew through a hole up the middle that saw Rolando McClain nowhere in sight, juked Matt Giordano—who took the worst angle for a tackle I've ever seen—and breezed into the end zone.
From there, the Bills averaged over eight yards per carry, when to that point they were averaging about four. It didn't matter who, either. Both Jackson and Spiller ran at will; the Raiders seemed content to let it happen.
It's tough to describe, but what I saw was a team that gave up due to the fact that they made some mistakes, and were very exhausted.
By the fourth quarter, Jackson was falling forward for six yards whenever he wanted to. The team packed it in mid-third when it came to run defense. All the solid fundamentals and gap control of the first half were replaced by the same old Raider problems that always rear their heads: lack of discipline, playing out of position, missing tackles and hanging your head after a big play.
I was surprised, because in word and deed this IS a vastly different Raiders team. So you can imagine just how disappointing it was to see them not only beaten by the same old issues, but then curl up into the same attitude of despondence and resign themselves to the fact that they were going to lose.
I felt that vibe from the defense, and it scared me.
I know there was a lot of doom and gloom in this article, but I am still very optimistic about the rest of the season. I was just flat out disappointed and disgusted at the fact that the Raiders circa 2003-2008 showed up in the second half last week, and that the attitude matched the play.
For a team that has shown such growth in attitude and deed in the last two seasons, it was a scary regression, but one that I think is behind them. As a Raiders fan, you have to keep your guard up, because those negative plays and the subsequent attitude they lead to are poisonous, and this team is just starting to get healthy after years of sickness.
This offense is dangerous, and Jason Campbell is humming along right now. I didn't mention it earlier, but man did that guy play a lights-out game last weekend. He brought the Raiders back time and again despite no support from the defense, and put them in a position to win multiple times.
Jason Campbell still gets criticized. He's still questioned as the starter of the Raiders. It's still garbage.
I have a strong feeling that the Raiders O-line can impose their will this weekend on home turf and re-establish a running game for all four quarters. I also believe what I hear from the defense: that they are embarrassed, upset, annoyed and pissed off, and that they know that loss was all them. All them.
These are men with talent and pride, and hatred for their next opponent. When the Raiders play with genuine hatred, they play well. Add in the fact that the game is sold out and this team can get over .500 in September games for the first time since 2004, and I see the Jets getting grounded and pounded quite nicely this Sunday.
If they play like the new and improved Raiders of the first half last week, no problem. If they play like the same old garbage Raiders of the second half last week, big problem.
No late Monday game and quick turnaround to the East Coast make me believe it'll be no problem.
Thanks for reading as always. Hope you enjoyed the article. Like I always say, all comments are welcome and encouraged.