Exclusive by Michael Silver of Yahoo Sports.
You can find it here.
Exclusive by Michael Silver of Yahoo Sports.
You can find it here.
The Raiders are 1-3. A single win that came against a bad team in a game in which the offense played poorly except for on the final drive.
Embarrassed against the Broncos at home and on the road in Houston, the Raiders seek redemption.
Typically you would hope for a game against the Rams or Chiefs coming off two blowout losses.
Wouldn’t you know it, the Raiders play the terrible Giants. Whoops. The 4-0 Giants.
1-4 and the season is basically over for the Raiders. The Giants haven’t really played tough teams, but the Raiders don’t qualify either.
Sure no one expected the Raiders to contend, but I am sure the players feel like they should. Al Davis and Tom Cable feel like they should. If the players don’t give it everything tomorrow, the playoffs are no longer even an option and that puts Cable’s job on the line.
Keys to the game:
1) Offensive line play: They must win the battles at the line of scrimmage, execute the zone blocking scheme effectively, avoid penalties and protect JaMarcus Russell. If the line can do these things to give the offense a chance, the Raiders might have a chance as a team.
2) Front seven play: Brandon Jacobs is a power back that can hurt you. The Raiders have actually been able to contain the power back for the most part, but the Giants offensive line is also very very good. The defensive line needs to beat up on the Giants’ offensive line and not only make life hard for Jacobs, but either make Eli move around or rattle David Carr. The linebackers need to make solid tackles. Watch out for the speed backs the Giants also deploy. The Raiders have had problems with the speed backs this season.
3) JaMarcus Russell’s play: He actually did look better last week, but the receivers all forgot how to catch. It hasn’t all come together for Russell yet this season. He has taken the largest burden when it comes to the scorn of Raider Nation and deservedly so, but he is making the correct reads, he just needs to execute. The game hasn’t slowed down for him yet, you can tell he is thinking on the field and plays faster and better when he doesn’t have the time to think. Thinking too much could be effecting his timing and accuracy. When the game does slow down for him…maybe he will prove everyone wrong.
4) Rookie Wide-receivers: This is one of the hardest positions for a rookie to step in and do well at the NFL level. The Raiders have boldly put two rookies in that situation. Results: D+ The Raiders need to put these speedsters in the position to make a play. Keep things short, only go up top occasionally if the run is working. Reverses, quick slants, screens and screen and go routes could prove useful. They must make up for the drops last week and make plays.
5) Run the ball: The Raiders greatest strength has been a weakness through four weeks. The Raiders need to wear out the excellent Giants defense with the running game. The offensive line has a lot to do with the success, but Michael Bush and Justin Fargas need to punish tacklers. If they do this, late in the game, the defense may not want to tackle them anymore. These little things can help teams win big games.
Earlier today I posed the question via Twitter, “Mr. Russell: Are you or aren’t you doing the things it takes to be good and win?”
I asked the question amid a flood of information regarding Russell missing and/or being late to meetings. Raider Nation would quickly give up on him, if they haven’t already, if he wasn’t putting in the effort.
So what happens? I just so happen catch a clip on Fox Sports Radio where Petros and Money interviewed ex-teammate Dwayne Bowe.
Bowe said missing or being late to meetings wasn’t the JaMarcus he knew at LSU and that he hadn’t heard that to be the case and didn’t think it was true.
Then comes this excerpt from Mario Henderson’s Blog date October 8, 2009.
I’ve had reporters coming up to me all week asking about JaMarcus and why he isn’t playing better and all this stuff, but I tell them that the guy is doing everything right in order to try and get better. He gets there early, works hard, watches film and leaves later than everybody else. When a team struggles everybody looks at the quarterback, but at the same time we aren’t doing much to help him out right now.
This becomes one of the areas where I have a problem with some of the national media. They are quick to report rumors and comment on Russell’s struggles, but aren’t willing to put up any information that is contradictory to those reports.
So while Russell has struggled statistically and Raider Nation has grown frustrated, I believe a breakthrough could be around the corner.
There has been a lot of negativity in Raider Nation lately. Who can blame them? They feeling slighted after the first four games. After an offseason of hope and improvement and a first game that everyone considered a moral victory, the Raiders have had three straight terrible performances. Lucky to come away with a single win, the offense has been the target of most of the negativity.
Now that Raider Nation has had their expectations changed for them, what can the Raiders do to improve?
The biggest target of negative criticism is usually the quarterback and JaMarcus Russell is a big target in more than one way.
His terrible play has effected the entire offense. His regression and lack of improvement is cause for great concern and his status as a bust is already cemented in many minds.
I am not willing to give up so soon on Russell. In my mind, every quarterback drafted that high must be given 30 starts to prove or disprove themselves. By the end of the season, the Raiders and Raider Nation will know exactly what Russell is as a quarterback.
So how can Russell and the offense improve?
Russell has been good on fourth down and on game winning drives. How is this possible when he has been so bad the rest of the time? The biggest reason may be because he is forced to ad-lib and play with his hair on fire on fourth down and at the end of games. He thrives in do or die, he is an old-fashioned gunslinger. He was in high school and at LSU.
Perhaps the Raiders have tried to mold Russell into something he is not. Paul Hackett is a fundamentals teacher, preaching mechanics and footwork. Hackett is the only difference between Russell’s end of last season and poor start in 2009. Interesting, no? Russell isn’t Rich Gannon, Bruce Gradkowski, or Jeff Garcia.
Russell is much more like a young Brett Favre, Jay Cutler or Dan Marino. Disregard the fact that these guys are great quarterbacks for a second. Do you see the type of guys? They just let it rip. If they don’t lose it for you in the first three quarters, they win it for you at the end. That is Russell! Why are we trying to make him into Chad Pennington (Another Hackett disciple).
Think of it as something along the lines of trying to make a free-swinging hitter into a patient hitter in baseball, it just doesn’t work.
You have to break a horse, you can’t immediately throw the saddle on and try to get it to run around a track. The best way to do it is to introduce the horse to frightening situations.
What better way to introduce fear to Russell than throw him into the game without much semblance of a plan? Allow him to ad-lib and gunsling like college. See what happens.
It might seem insane. It may be. The way I look at: If he gets his tail-whipped doing it your way, he doesn’t trust you. If he gets his tail-whipped doing it his way, maybe he learns something.
Then there is that chance that doing it his way will actually be better. Like allowing the free-swinger to hack away with the chance that he could hit a homerun. As is the case with a number one overall pick, a single isn’t good enough. So why not swing for the fences?
That is Russell, what about everyone else?
Obviously, Heyward-Bey is a speed weapon, why bog him down running normal routes? Throw quick screens and take some deep shots occasionally. Run more reverses and quick slants. Those same plays were what made Higgins so dangerous at the end of last season. They are also easy to execute for Russell, even when he is in ad-lib mode.
Murphy can be used in the same way, so can McFadden. Use Michael Bush as you between the tackle runner.
When you do pass the ball, don’t script everything, don’t bog Russell down with too many reads. Let him use his natural instincts. At very least stop trying to put Russell in a box. It always looks like he is thinking too much out there. It makes his passes late and his throws off-target. What is so wrong with the shotgun?
What do we have to lose at this point? Nothing.
The offensive line is a major problem. Circa 2007, Tom Cable spent some time with the line today in practice. The zone blocking scheme is such that is doesn’t thrive on the physical overmatching of the defensive lineman, but a tactical advantage using cut blocks and movement. Execution is more important than anything.
That must be corrected for anything to work well. The best players are those that can execute, but they all must work together.
Changing three players on that line in two weeks is a major issue and the line looked significantly worse when Cornell Green was injured. What? Cornell Green was a pivotal cog? He was, because his backup had replaced Gallery (Pears). Now the line is basically starting three backups, instead of just one (Morris at LG, Satelle at C, Pears at RT).
Major challenge this week against one of, if not the best defensive line in football.
These ideas could be crazy. My definition of crazy: one touchdown in the last three games.
These ideas could be insane. My definition of insane: doing the same thing over and over and expecting different results.
What is happening to the Oakland Raiders? Six years is more than enough time to rebuild a team especially with a few top draft picks.
After drafting a quarterback. runningback and receiver high in the first-round the last three years, the offense actually looks worse.
Normally the easiest thing to point out would be a complete lack of draft picks used on offensive lineman. In this case, the team uses the zone blocking system which is one in which you don’t need to spend top picks on lineman.
It is possible to fault the team for failing to bring in players that do fit that scheme. Mario Henderson and Robert Gallery are the only two players on the line that have been consistently above average.
For as many problems as this team has, the defense doesn’t look like one of them. Has the defense been great? Not by a mile, but compared to the disease that is the Raiders offense, the defense is Penicillin. Too bad the disease is so bad the defense simply can’t overcome those deficiencies.
Raider Nation has been more than patient with the rebuild process. There is an expectation that it might take five years. Obviously, the fanbase grew impatient as the rebuild dragged into a sixth season, along with the usual (or unusual?) Raiders antics complete with overhead projector.
Many fans contested the rebuild had already taken too long and it was. Coaching was the problem, according to Al Davis and some loyal fans. I just don’t buy it.
Callahan destroyed the locker room and it may not have recovered since that time – When Tim Brown is upset with the coach something is up. The first sign was the complete butt whipping in the Super Bowl. The last was his "Stupidest Team in America" comments.
Norv Turner came in as the last self-respecting coach the Raiders had the opportunity to hire. He consistently looked like a dog had eaten his lunch. Al Davis had regained his total power over the franchise with the departure of Bruce Allen. He never got rolling and during his tenure the Raiders and the drafting was borderline horrific as the roster completed the aging process. Turner’s lack of head coaching abilities were on display and have never really improved having taken a talented roster down the toilet in San Diego.
In comes Art Shell, the rehired renegade. Restore the Raider way, old school. He brought with him the infamous bed & breakfast offense. The talent was depleted, the locker room in disarray. Shell didn’t have chance to succeed. Not that he necessarily would have, but there was nothing to work with and he was living in the past. Years of being the Rooney rule punching bag, Shell’s once friendly relationship with Al Davis was potentially ruined forever. One season of absolute chaos. If Norv turner was your mom, Art Shell was a drill sergeant. Al Davis may have finally realized his team lacked talent, believing before that he had a playoff team.
So what does Davis do? Now there isn’t a coordinator in the league that will take the job. He goes to USC, where he hopes to pluck a guy from the Pete Carroll USC coaching tree. Sarkisian being the primary target. Instead, Al Davis opts (or is forced) to go with the young Lane Kiffin. Kiffin was the next Gruden. He was a young gun, a phenom, a great football mind.
Wrong again. Kiffin used Davis and the team, never had much intention of staying past his contract. He was no phenom. He had a split locker room partly because Al Davis forced Rob Ryan to stick around as his defensive puppet master. The smarter fans were skeptical from the outset, Kiffin’s fraud won over some fans, but not others. The Kiffin way was anti-Davis. According the Kiffin, the talent level was horrible, Mario Henderson wasn’t ever close and the Raiders weren’t a playoff team. Unfortunately for the Raiders, he was probably right more than half the time.
Al Davis biggest mistake was sticking with Kiffin so he didn’t have to pay him. Not only was it a mistake for the football team, everyone knew Kiffin was on his way out. The action told the league that Davis is the head coach and anyone who takes the job must fall in line with the wishes of Al Davis. Now, the team would have to reach really deep for their next coach.
In comes offensive line guru Tom Cable. Cable, had single-handedly turned around the offensive line. Could he do the same with the team? Maybe, as the fans were given a glimmer of hope as the Raiders playing for nothing but pride and bounced back under Tom Cable, winning a few games down the stretch. JaMarcus Russell even looked good at times (although he also looked very bad at times).
Headed into the seventh year of the rebuild there was some hope. Rob Ryan was gone, the entire staff turned over. Asomugha and Lechler signed on.
Then came the draft. Oakland’s selections were scorned. Who could blame them? Sulak was dropped before camp. Mike Mitchell had a hamstring issue all offseason. Then Burgess was traded after a holdout and the important third preseason game was a disaster.
Seymour was brought in under strange circumstances and only decided to show up only after Al Davis dispatched loyal ex-raider Zack Crockett to his house.
Quickly the glimmer of hope had faded. It was now cautious optimism. That hope returned during a gutsy Monday Night Football debut. Moral victories be damned.
The Raiders headed to Kansas City and the Raiders were a trendy pick. The hope was back, the team was back and Russell’s debut was a fluke.
The Raiders escaped KC with a victory, but the hope again faded and cautious optimism returned. Questions started to pop-up. The fans thought Paul Hackett was supposed to do wonders with JaMarcus Russell. Is Russell a bust? What about the last drive?
Heading home for Denver was supposed to cure something. Russell would bounce back, right? Bad games happen, look forward. Denver whooped the Raiders. They came into the Raiders house and outplayed them in every way possible.
The glimmer of hope now long gone and the cautious optimism smashed into the gut of Raider Nation. The boos rained down on Russell. A symbol of the six plus years of frustration the fans have endured. If the boos didn’t say it, the quarter empty stadium did.
Houston on the road could have been redemption ground. Russell killed them last year. They couldn’t stop the run. The few fans that could still stand to watch witnessed another complete destruction of the Raiders team.
Symbolically, the biggest burden was placed on Russell. He is a bust and a terrible quarterback. We will never win with Russell they said. They may be right, if he can’t stop going to clubs the night before games and drinking himself into a stupor.
Blame Russell? The line is in shambles, the receivers are rookies and Todd Watkins is getting the snaps as the third receiver over Higgins and Walker. Chris Johnson doesn’t get why the Raiders don’t let the veterans in to help Russell.
The locker room could get out of hand quickly if the Raiders don’t start winning games and with the next four games against the Giants, Eagles, Jets and Chargers, the Raiders could go into the bye at 1-7.
If the players don’t show up this week in New Jersey, the fans shouldn’t show up next week in Oakland. I don’t believe an organized protest in necessary, if the Raiders don’t show up this week, a Raiders ticket will be as valuable as Enron stock and the employees that own it would be more than happy to walk out on their own.
As badly as the fans want to blame JaMarcus Russell for the things that are wrong with the Raiders, it just can’t be completely put on his shoulders.
I’ve been forced to defend Russell against unwarranted criticism. Obviously, some of the criticism is warranted, but lets not kid ourselves, the Raiders have plenty of problems.
By Tom Cable’s count, the Raiders dropped nine passes. Maybe more.
Does Russell’s 12 for 33 looks so bad if those nine passes are caught?
21 for 33 and approximately 224 yards? Not to mention what getting into a rhythm could do for the offense.
There is a lot of truth to Cable’s statement, “This is not on JaMarcus today…clearly his best game of the year.”
Those nine drops are a major concern. It wasn’t just Heyward-Bey today. Murphy, Lawton, Miller, Watkins all had at least one drop.
McFadden, Bush, Fargas three-headed monster that wasn’t. Hard to blame it on them. There was a complete lack of playcalling diversity and the line couldn’t block anyone.
The offensive line was embarassingly bad blocking. There were absolutely no holes.
The great Raiders teams had great lines. Offensive and defensive. The defensive line has been solid with the addition of Seymour and Ellis. The offensive line has been nothing short of terrible since the first game against San Diego. In fact, it wasn’t great in the second half against San Diego.
The loss of Gallery adds to the terrible play. Cable admits Barnes may have to step in. Why hasn’t he already?
The defense played…okay. It wasn’t a good first half and the Raiders were down big. That isn’t a good defensive performance, but it was a decent day. A few big plays and the failure to have Asomugha shadow Johnson may have had a significant impact.
I’ll post more observations later, but clearly the blocking and drops doomed the Raiders.
A huge early game for both teams. The Texans lost to the Jets, defeated the Titans Ina shootout and were in another shootout losing to the Jags in week 3.
One thing is absolutely true. The Titans run defense is terrible. The pass defense is just a tiny bit better. Overall, this team wins by outscoring the other team.
Huge weight on the Raider defense or offense?
The poor Raiders offense needs to get on track, but the defense must play better against a high powered offense.
This could mean a big impact day from the special teams units to close any gaps or cracks that aren’t filled defensively or offensively.
Nam vs. André Johnson – Probably the best individual matchup of the year. Huge challenge for both guys. Nam will want to prove he is better than Revis, but Johnson may want to prove he can best the elite CBs.
Chris “Gametime” Johnson vs. Kevin Walter – Just as big of a matchup impact wise as Nam vs. André. When Johnson is shut down Schaub will look to Walter. It is very challenging matchup for the Raiders corners. Maybe the best vs. best as a group.
Luigi (Henderson) vs. Mario Williams – Huge challenge for Luigi. We may finally find out which Nintendo titan is better. To the victory goes Princess Toadstool.
Defensive line vs. Schaub – The key to the Raiders defense is pressure. That pressure rarely comes from a blitz. So it will be up to Ellis, Seymour, Warren and Kelly to make Schaub uncomfortable and make sure he doesn’t have too much time to get his excellent receivers open. Kelly had a terrible game against Denver and the others were at best invisible.
Linebackers vs. Crossing Routes – Last week Denver exposed a major weakness in the Raider defense by sending receivers into a short middle zone that was frequently vacated by the linebackers. The linebackers need to adjust by not falling too far back into coverage and making receivers pay for coming into the box. Don’t be surprised if the Texans copy the plan until The linebackers prove they can stop it. Might be wise to have more defined man-to-man assignments this week.
JaMarcus Russell vs. JaMarcus Russell – He clearly has the physical tools. He has a great coach in Paul Hackett. His mechanics problems are mental lapses. The timing problems are partly Russell and partly rookie receivers. He needs to demand more from his receivers and make sure he isn’t causing the timing problems. Most of these things are mental from Russell’s perspective. If he fixes some of these things there isn’t a defense on the other side that csn stop him from having an excellent day passing.
I’m willing to give JaMarcus a full 30 starts to prove something. If he doesn’t look like he is getting it by then, he probably will never get it. I realize if he doesnt get it that the Raiders have lost the entire season, but we made the investment and we must give it a reasonable amount of time to mature.
Most teams can pretty much see what they have after 30 starts. Cable says he needs to see positive progressive improvement each week and that means by the end of the season JaMarcus simply must look like a good NFL starter.
From what we have seen so far, he has a long way to go. From what we saw the end of last season, he may not be as far off as it seems.
Hopefully Russell at very least looks like himself and not like Ryan Leaf.