Oakland Raiders' Midseason Report Card
The Oakland Raiders opened this season looking about as terrible as they have been over the past few seasons. Not since Rich Gannon’s Super Bowl run have the Raiders been a contender in any sense of the word. The seasons since Gannon’s retirement have seen a revolving door at the quarterback position which hit a new low with the failed JaMarcus Russell project.
The Raiders began the season 1-3 and they looked poised to reclaim their spot at the bottom of the AFC West standings. However, victories over the San Diego Chargers, Denver Broncos, and Seattle Seahawks have the Raiders back at .500 for the year.
While .500 is nothing to brag about, for the Raiders it is a huge step in the right direction and maybe a sign that all of their high draft picks may soon start living up to the hype.
The Raiders’ passing attack is currently ranked 20th in the league in terms of yards per game. While the results have been mediocre, it has been enough to keep the Raiders afloat thus far.
Remember that quarterback Jason Campbell is new this season and needs to be given time to adjust to his new offense. After starting slow with two abysmal games and missing two games, Campbell has taken off since being given a second chance by the injury to Gradkowski.
The Raiders live and die with Campbell’s ability to be efficient and protect the football. In the last four games the Raiders have three wins and one loss. In the loss Campbell sported a dismal passer rating of 10.7. In the three wins his lowest rating was a 117.6.
Campbell threw for five touchdown passes in those three victories and two interceptions in the loss. The Raiders are a running team but need efficiency out of Campbell if they hope to keep winning.
Grade: It’s been a down year for the quarterback position and Campbell appears to be turning the corner towards efficiency. C+
The Raiders’ running game has been one of the biggest surprises of the 2010 campaign. They are currently ranked second overall in yards per game.
The combination of Darren McFadden and Michael Bush is finally living up to all of the hype and putting up big numbers on Sundays. McFadden already has four 100 yard games in only six games played.
Against Denver in week seven McFadden averaged 10.3 yards per carry while accumulating 165 yards on the ground. These impressive statistics have garnered little national attention although the argument could be made that he is among the league’s elite at running back this season.
Grade: McFadden alone would garner a high score, but being able to switch in Bush to keep both backs healthy makes this one of the league’s most dangerous backfields. A+
The Raiders have essentially been living and dying with their ability to stop the run. Their rush defense is ranked 26th in yards allowed per contest.
In the two games this season in which they allowed over 30 points, their opponents gained over 200 yards on the ground. Giving up this many rushing yards handcuffs a team in a few ways.
One way is that it wears down the defense as they have to play bruising football at the line of scrimmage. Another issue is that obviously a lot of yards allowed leads to a greater likelihood of giving up points. Finally it allows the other team to control the clock and keeps the Raiders’ offense off the field.
Grade: The Raiders have time to improve here and with young Rolando McClain at the heart of the defense the adjustments should be coming. They are still a work in progress though so they’re getting a D+.
The Raiders pass defense has to this point in the season been one of the best in the league, coming in fourth in terms of yards surrendered per game.
Highly paid cornerback Nnamdi Asomugha has been living up to his contract and aside from a recent injury has taken an entire side of the field away from opposing quarterbacks. The rest of the pass defense has been solid too making it very difficult to throw against the Raiders.
Grade: The stats don’t lie, this is one of the league’s top units. A
Right now Oakland leads the league in field goals made with 19. Their percentage sits at 76% and could use some improvement but much of this is due to their willingness to give Janikowski’s big leg as many chances as possible.
Oakland is second in the league in average punting distance and tied for 12th with 13 punts downed inside the opponent’s 20 yard line.
However Oakland’s return game has been among the league’s worst and could be a serious weakness for them in the field position game moving forward.
Grade: Some good and some bad usually represents mediocrity. C
Tom Cable has been a fairly controversial figure during his tenure in Oakland. There were even rumors that another atrocious season would see the end of his reign.
So far Cable has committed his team to the running game and done a good job on the defensive side of the ball. Cable is a strong willed old school coach who believes in smash mouthed football.
Right now his philosophy has the Raiders sitting at .500 and a real contender in a diluted AFC West. Controlling the ball with the running game and using a dominant pass rush to exploit opposing offenses has proved to be a winning formula thus far and there are no indications this will change anytime soon.
Grade: He may not be a brilliant play caller or football guru but Cable knows how to win. B
Even with an appalling lack of fan support and very low expectations entering the season the Oakland Raiders are definitely a contender, at least in the AFC West. With the Chargers spiraling downward the division could come down to Oakland and Kansas City.
The running game and the pass defense have been superb and should be able to keep the Raiders in any game this season. The more time Jason Campbell has could see him develop into a viable game manager or if he struggles Bruce Gradkowski will be an option when healthy.
The Raiders have been up and down a little bit this season and are showing signs that they are no Super Bowl contender but for the Raiders this season has been a monstrous leap in the right direction.