Going into this season, many wondered how the offense and defense would be changed considering the shakeup with the coaching staff. Tom Cable's offensive duties were slimmed down, with Hue Jackson taking over some of the issues. Meanwhile John Marshall, the new defensive coordinator, was inheriting a team incapable of stopping the run.
Fast forward to now, and while some improvements have been made...there is still work to be done.
For one, the offense seems to have straightened out its mess, with a couple of glaring exceptions. Oakland has failed to reach double digits only twice, against the Steelers and the 49ers. They blew out the Broncos in Denver with 59 points, while averaging 25.4 points per game, an improvement over the previous season by 13.1 points per game.
I'd say that bodes well for Oakland's offensive strength.
The hard part, is the defense...or more importantly, stopping the run.
In previous years, it has been shown that the Raiders are lacking when it comes to allowing backs to run free. Sometimes it might be a player out of position, another time a key player might be hurt. Sunday, Richard Seymour (out with a hamstring injury) has sorely missed as the Colts ran up the middle at times and Peyton Manning's last scramble was hard to watch.
While we can point to the facts that our sack numbers are better (40 with one game to go compared to 36 last year), our defense against the run is still giving up 4.5 yards per carry, or 134.9 yards per game.
Granted, getting blown out by the Steelers, Dolphins, Jags and Colts in the latter parts of 2010 have dulled earlier successes, such as locking down the Chiefs, Broncos or Chargers, it does cause some worry.
In seasons past, the Raiders have seen the problems injuries can throw into a defense, when forced to replace a key player like Asomugha, Chris Johnson or, in a nickel, Michael Huff. One missed play, and the opposing team has seven points.
Given that he took over a joke for defense in Rob Ryan, what is the story on John Marshall?
This is his second season with the Raiders, 31st overall in the NFL...so he has the knowledge. Are the players he has to blame? Partially. Some are running out of time, so banged up after years in the league, like John Henderson. Others, trying to squeeze out every ounce of skill they can bring on Sunday, just don't have it.
While his first part of the season up to the bye was impressive, the second half needs work.
Just like Tom Cable, I wouldn't throw John Marshall under the bus just yet. But like last year, I would look at the draft for more solutions on defense. We gave New England our first round pick (thankfully not in the top 10), so the team should look for possible starters to either replace our aging defense or spare them out when they grow tired, so they can be fresh for the later games in the season.