Raiders Rising: Midseason Report

The Raiders are eight games into the 2010 season with a record of 4-4 and have been resurgent in recent weeks, outscoring the Broncos and Seahawks 92-17 after a disappointing loss to the 49ers.

Are the silver and black back? While it is probably too soon to say, there are some encouraging signs.

If it wasn’t for Sebastian Janikowski missing three field goals in Arizona, including the game winner, the Raiders would be 5-3. Realize this, the Raiders haven’t had more than five wins since 2002.

What was the Raiders record after eight games in 2002? It just so happens it was also 4-4. The Raiders won the first four games only to drop four in a row before finishing the season 7-1 that season.

Is this team capable of a run at the playoffs? If so, the Raiders will need to win this Sunday at home against the division leading Chiefs.

There have been two different quarterbacks, two starting left tackles, two of the top three receivers have been injured and the Raiders began the year playing a lot of zone on defense.

Is this the team that got the close win against San Diego, the team that blew out the Broncos and Seahawks, or the team that handily lost to the Titans and 49ers?

Tom Cable and Rolando McClain are using two blowout wins to sell this team hard to fans. Cable has pleaded with the fans to show up two weeks in a row and McClain has imposed a media blackout until the Raiders sellout a home game.

Will the Raiders fans be able to close the gap between a small season ticket holder base and a full stadium? The Raiders have had attendances of 48,396, 32,218, 48,279, and 35,721 this season. A far cry from the Oakland-Alameda Coliseum capacity of 63,026.

Will 22,000 additional fans come out to support a team rocketing up the NFL power rankings? Only the premium seats must be sold for it to be declared a sellout, but premium implies that the seat are more expensive, which means they are harder to sell to fans sitting on the fence.

The Raiders have a two for one ticket offer, two blowout wins in a row and the division-leading rival Chiefs coming to town and the head coach and rookie first-round pick are asking the fans to support. Not sure what else the team can do to get the fans to buy a ticket, some of the cheapest tickets in the NFL.

Maybe the midseason report card will make the fans believe?

Grading Principles:

F: Ranking is worse than 2009
D: Ranking gain of 0-5
C: Ranking gain of 6-10
B: Ranking gain of 11-15
A: Ranking gain of 16+

One grade bump if ranking is 6-10. Example: B becomes an A.
Top 5 ranking = Automatic A

Why use ranking? It compares the Raiders against the rest of the NFL in the given year, so it is the most fair evaluation of how the team is stacking up against the competition.

Offense: B+

Hue Jackson has to be considered as one of the best Al Davis hires since Jon Gruden. He’s taken an offense from the doldrums to near the top by riding Darren McFadden’s back and trusting his offensive line. He made the bold move to switch to Bruce Gradkowski as the starter, but also kept Jason Campbell’s head in the game and he’s come off the bench to produce.

The pass blocking of the offensive line is still shaky, but they can run block very well and have looked much better since rookie Jared Veldheer took over the starting job at left tackle.

The one area that has yet to really take flight is the passing game. Chaz Schilens has yet to play a game and Louis Murphy will be out until after the bye week. Darrius Heyward-Bey finally flashed some of his ability against a bad Seahawks secondary, but Zach Miller is banged up.

Rookie Jacoby Ford is getting his chance, but the Raiders are thin at receiver. It pains me to say it, but I wouldn’t be upset if the Raiders decided to claim Randy Moss today.

Hue Jackson developed TJ Houshmandzadeh and Chad Ochocinco, he may be able to do great things with Randy Moss. We already know Al Davis still likes Moss. I guess we find out this afternoon.

MVP: Darren McFadden
Honorable Mention: Marcel Reece
Trench Warrior: Robert Gallery
LVP: Darrius Heyward-Bey

Yards Per Game: A
2009: 31st
2010: 8th

Points Per Game: A
2009: 31st
2010: 4th

Passing: C
2009: 29th
2010: 20th

Rushing: A
2009: 21st
2010: 2nd

Sacks Allowed: D
2009: 30th
2010: 28th

QB Hits Allowed: B
2009: 28th
2010: 15th

Defense: C+

Zone or man? Obviously this team was built for man coverage. The Raiders tried to play zone and the players simply couldn’t execute the scheme. Mistakes were made that resulted in touchdowns on a weekly basis.

A few weeks ago the Raiders decided to scrap all the zone and focus on their physical coverage. Since that time the Raiders are getting huge pressure and locking down the run game as well.

The man coverage scheme is still vulnerable to the run and short passing game, but the Raiders simply must use what works for them.

However, a few good weeks against the run was not enough to erase the past. The Raiders run defense needs to continue the lockdown this week against the best rushing team in the league.

The Raiders pass rush is picking up and the pass defense is still ranked highly by yardage, but the secondary has few passes defended or interceptions.

It’s a mixed bag as evidenced by the points per game the Raiders have allowed. The defense still has a ton of room to improve, but the switch to man and playing with a lead late in the game has really helped this defense.

MVP: Richard Seymour
Honorable Mentions: Kamerion Wimbley, Matt Shaughnessy
Secondary Star: Nnamdi Asomugha
LVP: Trevor Scott

Yards Per Game Allowed: A
2009: 26th
2010: 9th

Passing Yards Allowed: A
2009: 7th
2010: 4th

Rushing Yards Allowed: D
2009: 29th
2010: 26th

Point Per Game Allowed: C
2009: 23rd
2010: 15th

Sacks: A
2009: 11th
2010: 3rd

Passes Defended: D
2009: 27th
2010: 25th

Interceptions: D
2009: 31st (T-Last)
2010: 30th

Forced Fumbles: A
2009: 22nd
2010: 7th

Special Teams: C+

Shane Lechler is as good as ever. Janikowski has been automatic since his three misses in Arizona. The return game and coverage units are incrementally better, but are still dragging the grade down for the special teams units.

If Jacoby Ford and Nick Miller get going, this grade could jump by the end of the season. The coverage units really need to step up when Janikowski fails to achieve a touchback, as he has done often this season.

MVP: Shane Lechler
Honorable Mention: Sebastian Janikowksi

Yards Per Kick Return: D
2009: 32nd
2010: 29th

Yards Per Punt Return: C
2009: 29th
2010: 22nd

Punting Gross: A
2009: 1st
2010: 1st

Punting Net: A
2009: 1st
2010: 1st

Field Goals Made: A
2009: 10th
2010: 1st

Field Goal Percentage: F
2009: 6th
2010: 24th

Yards Allowed Per Kick Return: C
2009: 32nd
2010: 25th

Touchbacks: A
2009: 9th
2010: 1st

Overall: C+

The team is 4-4. Average is about right and the stats back it up with a overall 2.7 GPA on the examined stats. This was graded on a pseudo-curve as the ranking was based on NFL rank improvement over 2009. A few weeks from now these could be drastically different, especially if the Raiders continue to play like they have the last two weeks.

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  • Darthtrader2008

    Reads about right. We should not get too carried away with the last two performances in isolation. As part of the process a giant stride forward and a stride that appears to have some foundation too it. Progress and optimism builds each week and that is great for the team and fans alike. I would be fearful that two emphatic victories has raised some fans expectations too high too quickly. We played poorly against the 49ers but you would still expect your coaches to make decisions and changes to grind that victory out against an increasingly lost Singletary and co, but they couldn't. Never has a team needed to live by the cliches of one game at a time or week by week more than the Raiders right now. The schedule is very tough here on out. Personally anything less than 8-8 should be considered a failure but 8-8 represents respectability, progress and optimism. Anything more is a bonus.

  • Rick

    Nicely done. Agree with most of it. Have to say that despite the scoring outburst in the past two weeks, the offense still has to show me something to make me believe that this team will do damage down the stretch.

    #1 Red zone.
    Just too many FG attempts. Only 45% of trips into redzone have resulted in TD's (20th in NFL) and they've attempted 15 FG's of <40 yards (tied most in NFL). At least Janikowski has hit on 14 of them. Need to get Miller more involved near the goal line.

    #2 Third downs.
    Converting on just 34.7% of 3rd downs (28th ranked) is not going to cut it. Gives Lechler a chance to show off, but he has nothing left to prove.

    #3 Penalties.
    I know, it's a tradition, but being at the wrong end of the penalty list (#32 in total penalties and yardage lost) is not the sign of a good team. Still too many self-inflicted wounds.

    #4 Passing game.
    We have yet to see the passing game be able to carry the team when needed. Luckily, the run game has been strong enough to hide it. No matter which QB has been in, things are still iffy when we have to rely on getting yards in a hurry and the O-line is exposed quickly when D's can tee off. Some balance here will be encouraging.

    Things have been looking up as of late, but there is still lots of room for improvement.

  • Chris

    Wow. Great comments and I totally agree with you guys. B+ for the offense is based upon improvement over last season, but as an offensive unit they have to improve the passing game.

    When the passing game comes around, so will the redzone scoring and converting on third down.

    The biggest deal with penalties are the ones that are mental (false starts, delay of game, etc) and those that come at inopportune times (3rd and 1, etc).

    Otherwise, the Raiders will always draw a ton of penalties, ingrained in many officials to do so.

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