Archive for October, 2008

It’s 2006 All Over Again

Sunday, October 26th, 2008

The Raiders looked like the historically bad 2006 Raider team today in Baltimore, losing 29-10 and dropping to 2-5 on the season.  I’m extra sad because my brother and two nephews made the trip all the way from St. Louis to witness it.

Bad defense, really bad special teams, and embarrassingly bad offense.

I could have written this post mortem around the middle of the second quarter because the game was essentially over by then.  It was 19-0 and the Raiders had something like 35 yards total offense.

If you could look at one stat, try third down conversions.  The Raiders have been horrible on third downs all year.  This game, the offense was only 2 for 13, while the defense allowed Baltimore to convert 10 of 18.

Could it have been any more obvious which Ryan brother is the smart one and which is the dumb one?  Rex’s defense was without three out of four starters in the secondary and started Raider bust Fabian Washington, yet they looked like they were in another league.  They attacked with blitzes and allowed no running room for the Raiders.  Raider runners averaged less than 2 yards per carry.  The Raiders defense, on the other hand, looked weak against the run again and could not stop the trickery and let a rookie quarterback get way too comfortable (again!) in the pocket.  Zero sacks.  Very few QB pressures.  One very noticeable zone defense mistake which resulted in a 70 yard TD pass.

Rob Ryan is not putting the players in a position to win and utilize their skills best.  He is just an absolutely terrible defensive coordinator this year and for the last five years and is proof that Al Davis is lost in what he’s doing with this once proud franchise.  Note that last week’s win versus the Jets could have easily been another loss if Brett Favre hadn’t over thrown a wide open receiver in overtime against a loose Raider zone.

That said, a lot of Raven third down conversions were accomplished due to Raider missed tackles and  some poor run defense.

The Raider Special Teams contributed  to this pathetic display of football as well.  They allowed a huge punt return by a back up returner that led to a field goal, made some untimely penalties, and featured the Bonehead Play of the Week:  With the Raiders struggling with bad field position all game, Johnnie Lee Higgins fields a kick off at the two yard line while he allows his momentum to carry him out of bounds.  Note to Johnnie – let those bounce into the end zone and down it there.

But all in all, the core of the Raider loss was due to the inept offense, just like back in 2006 when the Raiders went to Baltimore with Aaron Brooks as their quarterback.  They are painful to watch.  While the offensive line has greatly improved since then, the results are the same.  I think that in this game, they layed right to Baltimore’s strengths and insisted on running the ball up the middle on just about every first and second down….and, curiously, a lot of third downs.  Please be more inventive Greg Knapp! The other offensive coordinator schooled you today.  Remember, both teams had rookie quarterbacks….actually, JaMarcus is not a rookie, which should have put him a little ahead of Flacco.

JaMarcus looked better on a couple of his long throws, but his accuracy and decision making still bother me.  He just looks like he’s locking into one guy on a lot of plays.  This game showed that the Raiders’ unimaginative offense actually only puts one receiver out into a pattern, so I’m not so sure I should blame JaMarcus or the play calling.  I do like that he took off and ran it one time though.

This game was a step backwards.

Winning Hideously

Monday, October 20th, 2008

Jano_57yarderThe Raiders committed a whopping 14 penalties, mostly of the discipline-lacking, pre-snap variety.

And the Raiders won?

Typical Raider buffoonery -  a neutral zone infraction by the Raiders on a Jet punt gave New York a first down and led to their only touchdown.  Oh, and it negated a nice Higgins punt return to boot.

Don’t pull my leg and tell me the Raiders still won.

The Raiders extended their streak and once again could not punch it in from the red zone in the entire first half.

You say the Raiders won?

The Raiders were only 4 for 17 in third down conversions.

The Raiders couldn’t have won.

The Raiders were outscored again in the fourth quarter.

Their typical fourth quarter meltdown to lose in the end….wait….they won?

Janikowski missed an important 40 yard field goal in the second quarter that would have put the Raiders up and perhaps helped to win the game in regulation.

Ah yes, the inconsistent kicker that the Raiders wasted a first round pick on….once again costs them a game.  They surely must have lost by those three points, right?

A running back on the 27th ranked rushing offense gained 159 yards on the Raiders.  Justin Fargas, on the other hand, averaged a measly 2.6 yards per carry.

The Raiders surely couldn’t have won.

The Jets kicked a long, 52 yard field goal to tie the game with three seconds left in the game, barely eeking it over the crossbar.  And that was after a time out was called by the Raiders just moments before a miss.

Of course, the Raiders lost, right?  In their patented torture-the-loyal-fan way, where victory is dangled before them and then snatched away by bad coaching, tackling, penalties….whatever it takes.

Speaking of the kicking game… In my view, this calling time out to freeze the kicker strategy is self defeating.  I always thought that it just gives the kicker a free, practice kick to warm him up and adjust to the turf and wind conditions.  Jay Feely confirmed that after the game:

“I heard the whistle before I started, which is an advantage to the kicker,” Feely said. “If you’re going to do that, do that before he kicks. I can kick it down the middle, see what the wind does and adjust. It helps the kicker tremendously.”

Live and learn, Tom Cable.  Live and learn.

Now, back to my stream of disbelief….

The Raiders’ Michael Huff loses his starting job, yet is in there just enough to drop an interception that hits him in the gut and probably would have won the game earlier in overtime.

Just another event, call it Raider karma, that leads to a heartbreaking Raider loss?

The Raiders offensive play calling was overly conservative in the fourth quarter with only a three point lead, bringing out boos from the home crowd.

Surely, just conservative enough to keep the Raider defense on the field and tired, thus allowing Brett Favre to drive the Jets to victory, right?

And the Raiders gave the great Brett Favre three (three!) chances to beat them in overtime?

This has 1-5  and a last place tie with the lowly Chiefs in the AFC West written all over it.

Wait?  Regardless of all this, the Raiders came away with a 16-13 victory?  You don’t say?

I can’t take too much satisafaction from it because it was a totally maddening experience.  I must have thought to myself, “here we go again”, at least a half dozen times during the course of the game.

A win feels a heck of a lot better than a loss though.  Enjoy it guys and let’s fix the mistakes before the trip to Charm City.

Not Easy in the Big Easy

Sunday, October 12th, 2008

JamarcusWell, the Cable era didn’t exactly get off to a very good start.

The Raiders had two weeks to prepare for this?  Granted, there was the whole coach firing thing, but still.  The team looked flat and listless.

The Raiders went up 3-0, after once again failing to score a touchdown in the red zone.   Then, I kept waiting….and waiting….and waiting…for some sign of life from that offense.

It never came.  The Raiders never scored again and lost 34-3.

Funny thing is, they were just down 10-3 halfway through the third but the defense just couldn’t get off the field and the offense was impotent.

Here’s where I have to mention my concern about Jamarcus Russell.  Granted, he’s little more than a rookie, but look at other rookie QBs like Joe Flacco and Matt Ryan.  No one’s making excuses for them and they weren’t the number one overall pick in the entire draft.  I love the guy’s coolness and leadership and, of course, his raw physical ability, but one word sums up my biggest concern about him….

Accuracy.

To be a successful QB in the NFL, you gotta have accuracy.  Drew Brees has it and unfortunately it was on display today.  Who cares if you can throw the ball 70 yards from your knees if you can’t hit someone with the throw?  Russell missed Miller for a probable early touchdown.  Later, Russell missed a deep throw to a wide open Schilens.  He could have underthrown the ball by ten yards and still gotten the TD.  Instead, he overthrew it terribly.  These were not isolated instances.  His lack of accuracy was on display all day as he only completed about one of every three throws.   He could have, indeed should have, had at least five balls intercepted.  Yeah, everyone has bad days, but JaMarcus has been missing guys all season long.  The offensive line protection was pretty decent all day at New Orleans, so no excuses there.

I can already hear people saying, “but his wide receivers aren’t very good and his timing with them is off”.  I don’t buy that.  An open receiver is an open receiver.  He’s had a full camp and the timing with these guys should be there by now.  It’s week five.

I just hope that he improves, but I hate to say that accuracy is usually something you either have or you don’t.

Until he hopefully improves that critical part of his game, he needs to get better in a several more areas: ball protection, running when it’s there to run, and throwing into coverage.  He needs to wrap up the ball when he gets hit.  Most of his fumbles were just due to carelessness, not violent hits.  Today, against New Orleans, he had at least two chance to run for big yards and instead forced the ball downfield.  I just hope the coaches aren’t telling him not to run.  He’s a big, 265 pound man.  He can take a hit and probably deliver some to those small DBs.  One more thing, why is he sitting back on the bench when the defense is on the field?  At least the cameras always catch him there.  Shouldn’t he be watching a guy like Brees to see how he operates to learn something?  Just saying.

“You have to use him as a model if you are the Oakland Raiders,” said new Oakland coach Tom Cable, who took over last week for the fired Lane Kiffin. “That’s where we want (Russell) to get.”

I don’t mean to diss on JaMarcus so much, but these things really concern me.  I’m obviously going to root for him to succeed but I’m just a little worried.

My concerns about JaMarcus are mirrored on the defensive side of the ball by Michael Huff.  What’s with this guy?  Besides letting journeyman tight ends get behind him, he doesn’t even appear to have the speed he was touted to have coming out of college.  Could he be on the way to bustville like Fabian Washington, Derrick Gibson, Phillip Buchanon (now starting at Tampa, by the way), and Stuart Schweigert?

My favorite defensive coordinator, Rob Ryan, had another magnificent game today.  I lost count of how many three man rushes he called on passing downs.  I don’t think that worked very well (again!), Rob.  Brees was 26 of 30 for 320 yards.  He was without his best pass rusher, Derrick Burgess, and he still played soft.  Brees was comfortable in the pocket all game.  Brees reminds me so much of the last, great Raider quarterback, Rich Gannon, it’s maddening.

“I wasn’t feeling pressure all day,” Brees said. “We knew the type of pass rush this defense could bring. I felt like we held most of those guys at bay.”

Lastly, what about Al Davis’ brilliant waste of a first round pick – Sebastian Janikowski.  I don’t care if he owns all the Raider kicking records.  He was picked that high so he could make those 50+ yard field goals.  He missed two today.  And he’s lost many more games by missing chippies than he has won.  Look it up.

Hey Al, Tuesday is the trading deadline.  Can we order a wide receiver that can get open?