Oakland Raiders: Week 2 Position-by-Position Breakdown

Jeff Spiegel@jeffspiegelContributor IISeptember 13, 2012

Oakland Raiders: Week 2 Position-by-Position Breakdown

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    Carson Palmer said it best in his postgame comments after Monday night's loss to San Diego when he said that Week 2 couldn't come soon enough.

    With the sour taste of a rivalry-game loss still fresh in their mouths, the Raiders made a quick turnaround for Week 2 with just five full days before facing the Dolphins. Oakland's game on Sunday kicks off at 10 a.m. pacific coast time.

    To add to the bitterness that they're feeling, Oakland also found out that receiver Jacoby Ford needed surgery on his foot early this week. While the timetable for his return remains unclear, he isn't expected back for at least a couple of months.

    One bright spot for Oakland is the return of Denarius Moore, arguably their most dynamic receiver and kick returner.

    With all that said, lets take a look at a position-by-position breakdown, as the Raiders look to right the ship and earn their first win of the season.


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    While a full summary of my thoughts on Carson Palmer can be found here, the summary is simple: I thought that Palmer played well.

    Analysts and critics did what they could to pick apart Palmer's "conservative" approach on Monday night, but if not for an early fumble and the team's special teams woes, I think that the rap on Palmer would have been different.

    This week Palmer is up against a Dolphins passing defense that was torched by Matt Schaub and Andre Johnson in Week 1, as Johnson racked up eight catches and 119 yards en route to their 30-10 victory.

    I think that Palmer will open up the offense a bit more this week with the addition of Denarius Moore, hopefully quieting any concerns that people may have about him. The key for Palmer is to continue making smart decisions without turning the ball over.

    If Palmer can protect the ball and get it into the hands of his playmakers, I think that he and the Oakland offense are in store for a big day on Sunday morning.

Running Back/Fullback

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    One hundred and eighteen total yards for Darren McFadden sounds like a great number on paper. That is, until you realize that just 32 of those yards came on the ground.

    McFadden reeled in a league-high 13 catches on Monday night for 86 receiving yards but was unable to find openings on the ground with an average of just 2.1 yards per carry.

    For all of jokes about Miami, one thing that has always been solid is its run defense, which held Arian Foster and the Texans to a YPC average of just 2.4 yards in Week 1.

    With the combination of McFadden's slow start and Miami's run defense, the Oakland run game could be pivotal in helping Carson Palmer and the offense to get things going this week.

    Another name to keep an eye on is fullback Marcel Reece, who had just two catches in Week 1. With defenses keying on McFadden, Reece could become a huge weapon for Oakland, especially in the passing game.

Wide Receiver/Tight End

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    Aside from an early fumble from rookie Rod Streater, it's hard to say that this unit had a bad game on Monday night. By the same token, however, it's equally tough to say that they had a good one either.      

    While the unit didn't drop too many passes on Monday night, it also failed to make any big plays or tough catches that would have helped Carson Palmer out.

    With Moore's return this week, some pressure should be taken off Darrius Heyward-Bey, who logged just three catches last week.

    Of all the units on Oakland's offense, I think that this is the one that is poised for the biggest breakout in Week 2.  

Offensive Line

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    Beware of Cameron Wake.

    As one of the most feared pass-rushers in the league, Wake tormented the Houston offensive line in Week 1 with three knockdowns of Matt Schaub and one tackle for a loss.

    Opposite Wake was defensive end Randy Starks, who was even more effective in Week 1 when he sacked Schaub twice and knocked him down two other times as well.

    On Oakland's side, this unit did a decent job of protecting Carson Palmer aside from a couple of late letdowns from right tackle Khalif Barnes.

    Run-blocking, however, was a whole other story.

    When a running back like Darren McFadden averages just 2.1 yards per carry, the story goes much deeper than a bad night for McFadden and typically leads to a bad night for the entire line.

    If the Oakland run game is going to get things together this week, this group needs to buckle down and open up some holes.

Defensive Line

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    For the longest time Oakland fans have been mocked when describing this unit as one of the best in the league, but after Monday night, a time could be coming when that is no longer the case.

    Led by Richard Seymour, the Oakland defensive line was outstanding against San Diego, allowing just 32 rushing yards on 20 attempts.

    Despite its success, however, Miami presents an entirely different challenge with a guy like Reggie Bush, who will focus much more on getting outside against Oakland.

    One thing this unit does need to work on is its ability to get to the passer. Heading into Monday night's game, much of the talk in San Diego was about its questionable offensive line play.

    Despite the criticism, however, it limited Oakland to just one sack all night. In fact, if you look at San Diego's lone touchdown, it was created as a result of Phillip Rivers having an inordinate amount of time in the pocket to find an open receiver.

    This unit is capable of being great and keeping the Raiders in games all season, but now it's just a matter of whether the unit is up to the challenge.


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    Among the biggest questions heading into Week 1 was how well Oakland's linebackers would play, especially without Aaron Curry.

    Question answered.

    Rolando McClain spent the night playing line a man possessed, Phillip Wheeler lived up to the preseason hype and rookie Miles Burris was absolutely sensational.

    In his first career game, the rookie from San Diego State led the team with nine tackles, including two from behind the line.

    While the defensive line played great, much of the credit for stopping the run probably belongs with this group, as it excelled at plugging holes and solidifying tackles all night.

    One challenge for this group on Sunday will be keeping up with Reggie Bush out of the backfield on passing plays, but after having to defend Antonio Gates last week, that probably sounds easy to these guys.

Defensive Backs

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    If the question at linebacker was answered on Monday night, the question at defensive back only got bigger.

    Already thin at corner, the Raiders lost starter Ron Bartell for an extended period of time, which leaves Pat Lee opposite Shawntae Spencer in Week 2.

    This unit played alright in Week 1, allowing just one big play all night, but like the receiving corps, it didn't do anything great either. At some point, this unit is going to need to force a turnover in order to help the team, and the way that things went Monday, I'm not sure that it  can be counted on for that.

    The good news for this group is that the level of competition will a bit of a dip this week with Brian Hartline and Davone Bess headlining the Miami receivers.

Special Teams

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    In many respects, this breakdown could have started with special teams being given the week that Oakland's typically reliable unit has had.

    To clarify, Oakland's problems began and ended with one position: long snapper, so it's not to say that the kicker and punter had a bad week.

    Ultimately, however, we learned just how important one player can be to a team.

    Another area that was often overlooked in postgame analysis was kick returns, a spot that provided a spark for Oakland last season but was a total dud in Week 1. The good news is that the explosive Moore returns this week and should help significantly in that area.

    While more pressure than ever will be on the newly signed long snapper Nick Guess if Jon Condo can't go, here's to hoping that this position isn't involved as heavily in this week's outcome.

    Aside from its own problems, Oakland will need to watch for Miami's Marcus Thigpen, who could be one of the league's top return men. In Week 1, Thigpen averaged 38 yards per punt return, including a touchdown and 27.4 yards per kick return.