Oakland Raiders: Analyzing the Team's Main Weaknesses Heading into Week 11
"Rough, rough, rough, rough game."
According to ESPN.com, these were the words from quarterback Carson Palmer after a brutal 55-20 loss to the Baltimore Ravens. Rough game is an understatement, as the Raiders defense got embarrassed for the second week in a row.
The 55 points given up by the Raiders tied a franchise record previously held by the San Diego Chargers in 1981. The 35-point loss is a tough one to get past, but the Raiders have no choice as they await perhaps a bigger test in Week 11.
The Raiders await the red-hot New Orleans Saints, who have won four of their last five games, including a 31-27 over their division rivals, the Atlanta Falcons. The victory over the Falcons handed them their first loss of the 2012 season.
To say the Raiders will have their hands full is another understatement. The Silver and Black defense will have to get it together because they are going against one of the best quarterbacks in the Nation Football League in Drew Brees.
Heading into Week 11, let's dissect the weakest links on the Oakland Raiders roster.
Despite going 8-18 on third down yesterday during their loss to the Ravens, the Raiders have converted just 32 percent of the time on third down. That is 27th in the National Football League.
The Raiders have converted on just 40 third downs, which is tied for 22nd in the league. This is unacceptable for an offense with the talent that the Raiders possess. With the speed on the outside and a skilled backfield, the Raider offense should be converting on third down more often, but that has not been the case this season.
At 3-6, the Raiders have multiple areas to improve on, but third-down efficiency is crucial. If Carson Palmer and the Raider offense want to keep up with the Saints in Week 11, it is an absolute must that they have success on third down, or they will fall behind quickly.
Giving Up the Big Play
The Raiders have struggled in all aspects of the game, but the defense has given far too many big plays this season. Just ask Tampa Bay rookie running back Doug Martin about the Raider defense and big plays.
Martin had touchdown runs of 45, 67 and 70 yards during their Week 10 win at Oakland. Like the third-down efficiency, the amount of big plays allowed by the Raiders is also unacceptable.
Whether it be on defense or special teams, the Raiders have gotten beat all season long. Ravens wide receivers Torrey Smith and Jacoby Jones took full advantage of that yesterday as Smith hauled in a 47-yard touchdown grab and Jones ran back a kickoff for 105 yards.
The Saints are coming to town this Sunday, and the Raiders know that quarterback Drew Brees can't wait to arrive in Oakland.
The Raiders have had issues giving up the big play on defense and also making the big play on defense. The Raiders have just six interceptions on the year, led by converted defensive back Michael Huff with two. The six interceptions are tied for 21st in the league.
The Raiders have forced and recovered just seven fumbles this season also amongst the league worst. The recoveries is not the problem, but it is the forced fumbles. The Raiders are just not attacking the ball enough to make game-changing plays on defense.
How bad has the takeaway factor been for the Raiders? Three of their six interceptions came in Week 6 against Matt Ryan and the Falcons.
Putting Pressure on the Opposing Quarterbacks
What happened to a defensive line that seemed to have so much potential back in the 2010 season? The Raiders were second in the NFL with 47 sacks and have dropped to a second-to-last 11 sacks this season.
Granted, the loss of Kamerion Wimbley hurt the Raiders, as he contributed 16 sacks in his two seasons with Oakland, but where is the line? This is a line that had a combined 29.5 sacks in 2010 and 22 in 2011.
This Raider defensive line has been almost non-existent this season, with Richard Seymour being the sack leader with just three.
Putting pressure on opposing quarterbacks changes the complexion of football games, and the Raiders just have not been able to get to the quarterback this season, with the exception of their wins against Jacksonville and Kansas City.
The line needs to step up this Sunday and put some pressure on the Saints offensive line and Drew Brees.
The Running Game
Finally, perhaps the biggest disappointment this season for the Raiders, the running game. Many will blame it on offensive coordinator Greg Knapp and his zone-blocking scheme, but the fact of the matter is, Darren McFadden has not been productive this season.
From a team that was second in rushing offense in 2010 and seventh in 2011, they have dropped to just over 76 total rushing yards per game just ahead of the Arizona Cardinals for the league worst.
McFadden has just two 100-yard rushing games this season, and we have not seen the same McFadden from 2010 and 2011 despite the injuries. When healthy, McFadden is perhaps the most explosive back in the league, but has become victim to another injury this season with a high-ankle sprain.
McFadden was the fourth pick in the 2008 draft, and the Raiders have had high hopes for him ever since. McFadden has shown what he can do under former head coach Hue Jackson's man-blocking scheme, but has suffered in adjusting to the new scheme this season.
McFadden has been held under 70 rushing yards this season five times, leaving the Raider running game non-existent.
With McFadden injured, backups Marcel Reece and Taiwan Jones must pick up the slack.