Has Hue Jackson Rebuilt the Oakland Raiders into His Old Bengals Gang?

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Has Hue Jackson Rebuilt the Oakland Raiders into His Old Bengals Gang?
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Is Hue Jackson refashioning the 2011 Oakland Raiders into the 2005 Cincinnati Bengals? Have the Raiders lost their identity?

Who is Hue Jackson, anyway?

A phenomenal first year coach who loves to take risks; who, since the passing of Al Davis, has taken the role of "self-appointed" general manager; who is refashioning the Oakland Raiders into his vision—a vision entirely opposed to that of the late Davis.

Over the past month, Jackson has transformed the Raiders from a run-first team into a high-powered passing team similar to the Green Bay Packers.

But Davis didn't intend the Raiders imitate the Packers—he intended them to feature two great running backs.

Over the past two games, the Raiders have abandoned their ground-and-pound attack despite the fact that Michael Bush has averaged over five yards per carry during that span. In their first matchup against the Broncos in Week 1, the Raiders handed the ball off to their running backs 32 times—they only ran 21 times this Sunday.

For a pass-first team, 21 attempts is plenty. However, for a smash-mouth, run-first team, that number is insufficient—unless you're playing from behind. On Sunday, the Raiders maintained a lead for the majority of the game—even in the second half.

Instead of using a bruising ground attack to wear down the clock and the lackluster Bronco defense, the Raiders extended the game, putting the ball in Palmer's hands with a 10-point lead in the second half.

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Has Jackson changed the offensive game plan to prove that the Palmer trade was worthwhile? Is Jackson rebuilding the Raiders in the mold of the 2004-2006 Bengals?

The past two weeks would suggest so.

The following quote is from an NFL coach, speaking on the condition of anonymity, as reported by Pro Football Weekly:

The Raiders better get (a GM) in place quick or Hue Jackson is going to (mess) that roster up. I don't like any move he has made yet...No one was willing to give up anything near what (Jackson) gave for Carson Palmer. He is trading the future (and) trying to do everything he can to win now. It’s such a short-sighted approach—that’s why very few head coaches can handle personnel. They are too emotionally-vested.

Palmer is a former first-round pick out of USC with a rocket arm whose last great season came in 2005. In his last 18 games Palmer has thrown 26 interceptions and his teams are only 4-14.

In the past two-and-a-half games alone, Palmer has thrown eight interceptions.

In an interview with Shannon Sharpe on CBS' The NFL Today, Sharpe told Palmer: “You quit on your teammates, you quit on the city of Cincinnati…”

"It was a selfish decision,” Palmer admitted. “I knew what I was doing. I knew the ramifications. I knew that it was what was best for me…”

Thomas B. Shea/Getty Images

 

"Let's not kid ourselves,” ex-Pittsburgh Steelers coach Bill Cowher added, “He did quit on them… It worked out fine for Cincinnati…”

But given Palmer's performance on Sunday, the trade has yet to work out for the Raiders—especially for Darrius Heyward-Bey, Oakland's leading receiver, who was targeted only once.

In the previous four games, Bey had averaged five catches and 96 yards. But on Sunday Heyward-Bey didn’t even start. Instead, Carson Palmer targeted TJ Houshmandzadeh four times.

Hue Jackson told Jerry McDonald of Bay Area Media Group that he wanted Houshmandzadeh in July but was overruled by owner Al Davis. In order to sign the 34-year-old Houshmandzadeh, Jackson waived Derek Hagan, who was arguably one of the most reliable receivers on the Raiders roster.

Right now, the Raiders have to look in the mirror and ask: Why aren't we running the ball more?

The Raiders started the 2011 season 4-2 by running the ball and avoiding turnovers. In the past two weeks, the Raiders have averaged 10 fewer rushing attempts per game—and have thrown nine interceptions against two of the NFL’s worse defenses.

Right now, the Raiders are flirting with the idea of being high-powered—but it isn't working.

They need to return to the ground-and-pound attack that Al Davis built.

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