Biggest Takeaways from Oakland Raiders' Week 10 Loss
Once a front-runner for an AFC wild-card spot, the Raiders now find themselves muddled in a group of six teams fighting for two slots.
Looking ahead, Oakland will play consecutive road games—back-to-back division rivals—on two separate occasions and a playoff contender in the Green Bay Packers.
The challenges are in place for this young team, but they must learn from a humbling loss to the Vikings.
Minnesota boasts a top-10 defense and fields the NFL’s leading rusher, which provided a solid measuring stick for this year’s upstart Raiders team.
Unfortunately, it didn’t go over well for the Silver and Black. Furthermore, the following takeaways pose some truths and serious questions going forward.
Derek Carr Has Room to Grow
For a second-year quarterback this shouldn’t come as a news-breaker. However, Derek Carr came into this game with a hot hand from the pocket. He threw 11 touchdowns and one interception after the Raiders’ Week 6 bye.
On Sunday, the Vikings sixth-ranked defense challenged Carr with zone defense, and cornerback Terence Newman forced two interceptions.
The last time Carr threw two interceptions in game dates back to the St. Louis Rams’ 52-0 beatdown on a 1-10 Raiders team in 2014.
Carr’s struggles will help him as he continues to climb the quarterback tiers in the NFL. Future opponents will likely attempt to emulate the Vikings' blueprint in pass defense to slow down the Raiders offense, which keeps the young signal-caller working in the film room.
No Trust in Backup Running Backs
At one point in the season, Roy Helu Jr. projected as the primary backup running back. He’s been inactive for three consecutive weeks.
Taiwan Jones played a small role in the backfield, but he didn’t record a carry or catch in Week 10 against the Vikings.
In recent seasons, Marcel Reece flashed potential as an occasional ball-carrier, but now serves as an H-back in the passing attack. He’s recorded five carries through nine games.
On Sunday, Jamize Olawale took his turn as the backup running back with five carries for 24 yards.
The Raiders have spun a revolving door of ball-carriers behind Latavius Murray in an inconsistent peek-a-boo shell game. It’s good to see everyone earn a fair chance to fill in the gaps for the starter, but there’s no guarantee that player will see another carry in the upcoming weeks.
The Raiders aren’t settled on their committee. The lack of consistency could hurt production, especially when transitioning from active to inactive.
Raiders Pass Rush Shows Pulse
Rookie Mario Edwards continues to develop into a solid defensive end in both 3-4 and 4-3 alignments.
On Sunday, he recorded one of four team sacks against the Vikings. The drop-off between defensive end Justin Tuck and Edwards presents a smaller gap than expected.
Edge-rushers Khalil Mack and Aldon Smith scored takedowns on Vikings quarterback Teddy Bridgewater as well. The duo generated relentless pocket pressure, but the Vikings quarterback proved pressure isn’t enough at times.
Mobile quarterbacks must hit the ground to ensure late passes don't make it to receivers in the flat or streaking downfield.
As Mack and Smith draw double-teams, the linebackers should be able to find cracks in the opposing offensive line.
Rodney Hudson Is Most Valuable Signing
Center Rodney Hudson earns the highest-paid base salary on the roster at $5.7 million. Initially, that fact would seem absurd to the average football enthusiast. Now, it all makes sense.
In the offseason, offensive coordinator Bill Musgrave said Hudson was "worth every penny," per CSNBayArea.com reporter Scott Bair.
After watching Murray struggle against the Vikings mediocre run defense, Musgrave’s words hold truth.
General manager Reggie McKenzie signed an impact group of free agents. In terms of overall impact, Hudson tops the list.
Jack Del Rio Goes Conservative Again?
This proves that Del Rio has an input on the offense at the end of the half, and he’s less comfortable with pushing the ball downfield when the quarterback struggles a bit.
On Sunday, the Raiders went limp on their final drive in the first half with a minute and 39 seconds remaining.
Carr threw three short unimaginative passes to tight end Mychal Rivera for two total yards before punting to the Vikings. Fortunately, Minnesota’s kicker Blair Walsh pushed the 53-yard field-goal attempt wide right.
Del Rio’s input may explain why the play-calling drastically changes inside the two-minute mark.
Thus far, he hasn’t addressed the play-calling against the Vikings. He may not address the decision at all, but one must wonder about the trend of vanilla offensive drives going into halftime.
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Oakland Raiders' Week 10 play-by-play and game statistics provided by NFL.com.