Friday, September 29, 2006

On Sundays, Dress to Impress

I have been working at the corporate headquarters of a large computer company for the last 7 years. Our company’s dress code policy includes a “casual” Friday. Today was no different for me than most of the past Fridays. I proudly wore one of my Raiders polo shirts. What was different today was the reaction I received from some of my colleagues for my dress attire. The reaction was a mix of good-natured curiosity, playful bantering, astonishment, and support. It was amusing that some of my colleagues had a look on their face like I had been branded with a scarlet letter on my shirt.

The Raider Nation has been traveling over some bumpy, rough waters this past month. The offensive unit has struggled mightily in the first 2 games. The media has been frothing at the mouth to take some free swings at the Raider piñata. Davis, Shell, Walsh, the O-line, Brooks, Moss, Porter, the system, and the organization have been written about in less than flattering terms. The only feasible, logical, and important way to curtail this outbreak of negativity is to take care of business on the field. To get this ship off the rocks and into the open sea, the team needs to start playing passionate, sound football.

How has the majority of the Raider Nation reacted to the onslaught of venom spewed at their favorite team or in their personal direction for their allegiance? Standing Tall. Standing Proud. Busting out their finest Raiders gear. Flying the silver and black colors in the face of adversity. Some of the Raider-Haters must be scratching their heads in bewilderment at this reaction. I’ll let the haters in on a little secret. Despite the team’s recent struggles, the Raider Nation are a fiercely loyal, proud, and hopeful group. Deal with it because our allegiance won’t be swayed by your heckling or negative journalism.

For the Raider faithful, there is always some ray of Silver and Black hope waiting for you at the end of the tunnel. Hope comes from a defensive unit that is fast developing into a top 10 defense. Hope comes from a young gunslinger like Andrew Walter who is brimming with talent, poise, and leadership qualities. Hope comes from unleashing the freak in Moss. Hope comes from the impact that coaches like Defensive Coordinator Ryan and Special Teams Coach Daisher are having on their young charges. Hope comes from Head Coach Shell’s unwavering hand on the team’s pulse. Hope comes from Al Davis who is more committed than ever to return the team to glory. Hope comes from the Raider Nation banding together and continuing to support their team.

A win against the Brownies on Sunday will raise our collective spirits. It is time to march forward and put the past 2 games in our rear view mirror.

Calico Jack’s Prediction: Raiders 20 – Browns 13

Silver and Black Forever. Til Death Do Us Part.

Thursday, September 21, 2006

Chicken or Egg?

In the Raiders first 2 games of the season, the offensive unit has rolled snake eyes due to a combination of poor performance and bad coaching. This double whammy of ineptitude has led to much discussion and debate amongst the media and the Raider Nation.

Some camps believe that Walsh’s play calling is the chief reason for the poor performance. Other camps believe that the Raiders offensive unit doesn’t have enough talent on the field to be successful. While other camps blame the Raiders offensive system of power rushing and deep passing is an outdated, faulty set-up.

In my view, what ails the offensive unit is a whole series of factors, problems, and inadequacies. Let me touch on some of these areas of concern;

#1 – OFFENSIVE LINE. The success (or failure) of the offensive unit starts (or ends) with the offensive line. Simply put, the O-Line needs to be able to run block sufficiently and protect the QB on pass plays. The offensive line has given up 15 sacks.

The continued teaching by the coaches, the development & gained experience of the young O-linemen, better play calling, and possibly another reconfiguration of position assignments will help the cause. Is it possible for the Raiders to swing a trade for a veteran O-lineman in exchange for Jerry Porter?

#2 – POOR EXECUTION. Dropped balls, missed blocks, fumbled snaps, missed assignments.

Proper technique, better practice habits, film study preparation, and in the moment focus will solve these game day errors.

#3 – TURNOVERS. 7 turnovers in 2 games.

Poor reads (Walter), tipped balls (Whitted), fumbled snap exchanges (Grove-Brooks/Walter), and a bad hand off exchange (Walter to Jordan) has led to prime field position and easy scores for the opponents.

#4 – PLAY CALLING. Offensive Coordinator Tom Walsh needs to tailor the game plan and schemes to work effectively against a blitzing D.

Selecting plays that utilize more 3 step drops (crossing routes, slants, short stem routes), 5 step drops (screens, intermediate patterns) and a commitment to the running game are ways to slow down the opponent’s pass rush.

Walsh needs to select his plays with both a short and long term view. There needs to be plays called early in the game to help set up successful plays later on. Using reverses and screens helps slow down the end rushers. Using the tight end on seam routes helps clear the field for effective pass plays to the running back. Using short stop routes helps the receivers use double moves on later routes. Committing to the run helps set up play action pass. The play calling needs to dictate the tempo of the game, the match-ups, and how the defense will react.

#5 - THE SYSTEM. Until the offensive line gets their act together, the Raiders need to scrap the 7 step drop/deep pass patterns. Since the power rushing attack of running the ball between the tackles is struggling, more runs need to be bounced to the outside. Justin Fargas should be getting 8+ carries a game to stretch the D horizontally.


- A "talented" player is someone who executes his assignment, wins his one-on-one battle, and has a positive impact on the team's overall success. Technique, heart, football intelligence, and focus can be equally as important as sheer athletic ability. A perfect example of this would be Freddie B who was slow and small but he ran perfect patterns, had golden mitts, and a heart as big as a lion.

- Coaching adjustments are game plans, play calls, personnel grouping, substitutions etc. that puts the players in the best possible situation to succeed. In the Marine Corps we affectionately referred to this as the ability to improvise, adapt, and overcome. So far I haven't seen this from Shell/Walsh. Zero receptions for the running backs in 2 games. 13 plays with 7 step drops by Walter in the Ravens game with the offensive line leaking like a sieve.

Both the execution and the coaching adjustments need to work in harmony to maximize the results. Solid execution makes a play look better and a timely coaching adjustment gives the players a better chance to execute.

In other words...

If you have poor execution on poor play calling you get the results we suffered the 1st 2 games.

If you have good execution on poor play calling you at least have a fighting chance for a positive result.

If you have poor execution on good play calling you get bad results.

It isn't until you have good execution on good play calling that you really get things rolling. Let’s hope that the Raiders get things rolling against the Brownies on October 1.

Monday, September 18, 2006

Hut, Hut ... Fumble

The Raiders flew into the Crow's Nest with the deck stacked against them. With the offensive unit compiling the following atrocious numbers, it is remarkable that the deficit was only 28-6.
5 fumbles (3 lost); 3 interceptions, 6 sacks (45 yards lost); 1 safety; 2-12 on 3rd down coversion rate; 0-3 red zone efficiency; 39 net rushing yards.

The Raiders turned over the ball carelessly, were unable to protect the QB, and had an impotent rushing attack. Similar to the Chargers' slaughter, the offensive unit put their compadres on the other side of the ball in a very difficult predicament. The 1st 5 possessions tells the storyline: Fumble, Fumble, 3-out, 3-out, 3-out. That's zero 1st downs in your 1st 5 possessions. Pathetic. The Ravens started their 1st 3 possessions in Raiders' territory. Thanks to the spirited performance of the Raiders' defense, the Ravens came away with only 3 field goals.

Here's a quick list of observations.

Negatives (Despair):
- 4 fumbled snaps (2 from Brooks, 2 from Walter); this is totally inexcusable considering this is the most basic "play" in football.

- 6 turnovers; ball security/turnover ratio is one of the most telling indicators of wins and losses.

- 6 sacks; the Raiders pass protection is a glaring weakness that needs to be shored up very quickly for the offense to be able to sustain drives.

- Offensive tempo; Walter needs to get the offensive unit in and out of the huddle quickly and have enough time to survey the field, read the defense, change the play or protection scheme if necessary, and avoid burning needless time outs.

- Tippy-Toe Jordan; #34 seems very tentative hitting the hole. He needs to decisively pick a seam and blast through the line. (19 carries, 35 yards, 1.8 avg)

- Play calling; Moss is your #1 weapon. How is it possible that he ends up with only 2 receptions for 32 yards? The Raiders offense ran 61 plays. There wasn't 1 pass thrown to a RB the entire game.

- Capitalizing on your opportunities; Walter threw an uncatchable ball to Moss who was wide open in the end zone.

Positives (Hope):
- A round of beers for the D; The defensive unit can hold their heads up high. This unit played with a lot of heart and pride throughout the game no matter how many times the offensive unit shafted them. Besides being left on the field forever, having to take a short field to defend, bouncing off the bench after 6 turnovers and a safety, the D responded.

- Star performers; Sapp (2 sacks), Sands (2 batted balls), Morrison (1 int), Howard (7 tackles), Poole (3 passes defended) in particular played exceptionally well under adverse conditions.

- The future of our franchise QB is now; it is now time to usher in the Walter era and see whether or not he is the QB to build around. With Brooks getting injured chasing down one of his fumbles, Walter was thrown into the fire. Walter's statline was ugly (10-27, 162 yards, 3 ints, 1 fumble) but he demonstrated some of the intangibles (leadership, chemistry, pocket awareness) and passing abilities when protected that the organizations has been high on.

- We like A-Dub; The players seems to respond to Walter. There were a number of instances where teammates (Sapp, Moss) actively sought out Walter to show their support for him.

- Special Teams; Carr ran back the kick offs and punts with a reckless abandon. Shane Lechler (4 punts, 53.5 avg) and Sea-Bass (2-2 FG including a 51 yarder) were sharp.

- An extra week to re-group; The bye week couldn't come at a better time for the Raiders. The 2 weeks of practice, especially for Walter, and adjustments are critical to get on the right track.

Up Next: Oct. 1st at home vs. the Cleveland Browns

AFC WestRecordNext Opponent
San Diego(2-0)Bye Week
Denver(1-1)at New England
Kansas City(0-2)Bye Week


Bye Week

Friday, September 15, 2006

Improvise, Adapt, and Overcome

What frustrated and disturbed me the most about the offensive unit's performance against San Diego was that the game plan seemed too rigid to a fault. There is plenty of blame to go around for the poor performance but to take a page out of the Marine Corps training manual, it time for the coaching staff and players to "Improvise, Adapt, and Overcome".

The Raiders offense is based on a power rushing attack and a vertical passing attack. For the vertical passing attack to work, these 3 things must happen:

(1) rock solid pass protection where the O-line sustains their blocks an extra second or two.

(2) run the ball effectively to force the opponent to honor the run and put 8 men in the box. This in turn allows for play action passes.

(3) pass it effectively to the Tight End in the middle of the field to occupy one of the safeties.

Since the O-line was manhandled, Jordan couldn't run it effectively, and TE Anderson dropped 3 balls, we had no shot at completing any deep patterns let alone even attempting a deep pass.

What are some of the remedies to shore up the pass protection and allow Brooks time to complete some passes and move the chains?

(1) The O-line needs to step up their performance by being more physical, having better technique, and better overall execution.

(2) Max protection schemes: 2 TEs & RB staying in to block; better blitz pick-ups.

(3) Get FB John Paul Foschi on the field for more snaps. He is one of the Raiders best blockers.

(4) Quick counts and usage of the no-huddle offense.

(5) More 3 and 5 step drops by Brooks; short to intermediate pass routes.

(6) Screens, draws, reverses mixed in to keep the Ravens off guard and the Raiders less predictable.

(7) More manageable 2nd and 3rd downs by running the ball with consistency & conviction.

(8) Brooks needs to have a better sense of time and pocket awareness. He can’t hold on to the ball too long. Brooks needs to be decisive by either getting rid of the ball or pulling it down and running.

I have these questions leading up to the Baltimore Ravens game on Sunday:

(1) How will the players bounce back from the Chargers massacre and an adverse week?

(2) What adjustments will the coaching staff make in terms of the game plan, play calls, protection schemes, and personnel?

(3) How well will LT Chad Slaughter play as a replacement for the injured Robert Gallery? Can he wall off Brooks’ blindside?

(4) Shell has been preaching since February that the Raiders would be fully committed to a power rushing attack. How many carries will Lamont Jordan get in this game? I have set the over/under at 25 carries.

(5) Will Jerry Porter be inactive again? Will Curry start over Whitted?

(6) How creative will OC Walsh be with the play calls? Will screen passes, draws, roll-outs, and quick timing routes be utilized to take some of the pressure off of Brooks and the O-line? Will he get Moss involved early in the game with some short to medium range passes?

(7) Is Shell able to get his team focused on the task at hand and inspire the players to play with passion and commitment?

The character and heart of the Raiders players will be severely tested in their battle with the Ravens. I’m hoping for the best but I can deal with a loss as long as the team shows improvement, plays with passion, and goes down swinging.

Tuesday, September 12, 2006

Back to Basics

Everyone in the Raiders organization needs to be held accountable for the embarrassing display of jv level football against the Chargers on MNF.

The coaching staff is responsible for devising a game plan that puts the players in a position to succeed. This consists of effective play calling, in-game adjustments, and utilizing the right personnel groupings.

The players are responsible for implementing the game plan by playing with heart, passion, focus, effort, and overall execution. Dropped balls, stupid penalties, missed blocks, missed tackles, blown assignments isn't playing sound football.

It is back to the basics for the Oakland Raiders. Below are a few "Pop Warner Football 101" observations as they relate to the Charger massacre.

- The O-Line's pass protection was like a swinging door in a saloon.

Pop Warner 101: Go to maximum protection packages in obvious passing situations with 2 Tight Ends sealing the outside rushing lanes and the RB stepping up in the pocket to seal off any blitzers.

Pop Warner 102: If your O-line can't sustain their blocks long enough to go deep then have Brooks go to 3 or 5 step drops and throw short, 8-15 yard passes.

Pop Warner 103: When your opponent is blitzing, use the middle screen and delayed swing pass screen. This kills 2 birds with 1 stone. It slows down the pass rush and most importantly, picks up positive yards which leads to my next point...

- Put your offensive unit in manageable 2nd and 3rd down situations by running the football or throwing quick hitting short passes.

Pop Warner 104: If the DB is 10 yards off the line from the WR, take a 1 step drop and throw it to the WR on the line of scrimmage. This will pick up 5+ yards. The Raiders did this effectively on 2 consecutive plays to Moss. Why stop using a play until either the D can stop it or adjusts to it.

- The offense put themselves in 6 (or more) 3rd down and 15+ yards scenarios.

Pop Warner 105: Minimize your drive stalling plays; sacks, penalties, incomplete passes. I counted 3 dropped balls by TE Courtney Anderson.

- The Raiders D was gouged by LT in the 1st half playing a nickel package as their base D.

Pop Warner 106: To stop the run, you must be committed to stop the run. This means that you don't use the nickel package unless it is an obvious passing down (ie. 3rd and long). Stopping the run means 8 men in the box; 4 lineman, 3 Linebackers, and your SS. The Raiders went to a 4-3 base D in the 2nd half with SS Huff in the box. This led to 3 consecutive 3 and outs.

Football For Dummies should not be on the required reading list.

Monday, September 11, 2006

Chargers Mug Raiders 27-0

On a night paying tribute to the victims and heroes of 9-11, Art Shell's debut could not have gone any worse. This game was an old-fashioned beat down administered by the Chargers' men in the trenches. The Chargers defensive front 7 completely destroyed and man-handled the Raiders O-line throughout the game ringing up a whopping 9 sacks. On the other side of the ball, the Chargers O-Line sprung LT for 131 yards on 31 carries. To top it all off, the Raiders suffered their 2nd shutout in franchise history at home. The following statistical table summarize the Chargers total domination.

Key StatisticsSan DiegoOakland
3rd Down Conversions7-162-12
Rushing Yards (net)19487
Sacks/Yards Lost9/540/0
Time of Possession



How will the Raiders respond after tonight's shellacking? The first order of business is tightening up the execution of the O-Line. This week of practice and upcoming game will be a defining moment of truth for the players and Head Coach Shell. The players must respond with pride and dedication. No reason to hit the panic button BUT Shell will need be at his absolute best this week in leading his players, finding solutions, and getting the team back on track. The game plan, play calls, protection schemes all need to be reviewed and adjusted for next week's opponent (Baltimore).

AFC WestRecordNext Opponent
San Diego(1-0)Tennessee
Denver(0-1)Kansas City
Kansas City(0-1)at Denver


at Baltimore

Up Next: At Baltimore
It doesn't get any easier next week. Baltimore clobbered the Bucs 27-0 in a very impressive road win.

Sunday, September 10, 2006

KC KO'D and Donkeys Go Down

The Kansas City Condiments lost their home opener to the Cincinnati Bengals 23-10. QB Trent Green was KO'D by a vicious hit by Robert Geathers while sliding feet first. Green had to be carted off the field on a gurney. The severity of Green's injury is unknown at this time. Based on the initial reports, Green suffered a grade 3 concussion.

Grade II involves anterograde amnesia that lasts less than five minutes as well as confusion.
Grade III involves the symptoms above, as well as retrograde amnesia and unconsciousness for less than five minutes

It just goes to show you how the fortune of one team can change with a blink of an eye or in this case, a mauling cheap shot. The Chefs back-up QB is Damon Huard who won't have opposing teams quaking in their boots.

In the other AFC Divisional game today the Denver Donkeys lost 18-10 to the St. Louis Rams. Jake the Fake had 3 interceptions, 1 fumble, 0 TDs, and threw for a measly 138 yards.

Saturday, September 09, 2006

A Message From The Preacher

Today I received a very inspirational e-mail from "The Preacher" that is worth sharing with the loyal Raider Nation. Enjoy!

Calico Jack,

Is there any way that we can get the word out before Monday night?

(See Below)

The Preacher

Do the Job!

It is time my brothers and sisters. It is Time! The new season has begun and it is time for the nation to see our Silver and Black warriors take the field. Time to see our soldiers unleash the dogs of war.

However, it is not just their time, but our time as well. Now is the time for the Raider Nation to stand up and do our job.

I can hear you say it now… I don’t have job… I’m just a fan …What job could I have?

Well, let the Preacher break it down for ya…

If you are going to the game your job is to disrupt the opposing offense. You will do this by screaming, banging and stomping your feet when the opposing offense comes to the line to run their plays. You will make noise, lots and lots of noise! You will show our enemies the power of the Nation, by bringing the thunder down.

Because I will tell you the truth, if the Nation comes out in strength, and brings the noise, then we can cause problems for our enemies. Remember, every time the opposing offense has a false start, missed block, calls a time out or has a receiver who runs a wrong route, then you have done your job.

You have helped our team. You have made a difference by simply bringing the noise. What? Did you just think that you were there to eat hot dogs and drink soda? No I say, No! Our Silver and Black warriors are depending on us to help them defend our home. They are calling upon you to bring the thunder when the time is right. So spread the word and tell everyone who is sitting around you. Tell them how they can make a difference during our home games. Let’s show our team that we are willing to do everything that we can to help them win.

Like Art says, “This home, nobody can come in here and handle us!!!”

For those of you who can’t go to the Black Hole, remember, you have a job as well…

If you cannot go to the game then your job is to gather with other members of the nation, watch the game, and roar when our warriors score. It doesn’t matter if you’re in Cali, New York, Japan, Germany, or China, make some noise and wake up your neighborhood! Let everyone know that you are a member of the Nation, and you’re proud of it.

So that’s the job… Are you up to it? Will you help defend our home and the Nation? Will you stand up and do the job?

I can’t wait until Monday when power of the Nation unleashed and the Raiders smack marty and his girls upside their little heads… It’s going to be a lot of fun. Until then, GO Raiders!!!

Editor's Note: I was already pumped up for our opener against the Chargers. The Preacher's sermon just put me over the top! The true believers (like The Preacher) are one of the reasons that I'm proud to be a card carrying member of the Raider Nation.

Silver and Black Forever,
Calico Jack

Tuesday, September 05, 2006

Depth Chart Shenanigans

I have been keeping my watchful eye on the Raiders depth chart ever since the announcement of the 53 man roster. Lo and behold, there were a few very interesting and puzzling submissions today by the Raiders webmaster. As noted in my post on Saturday, the depth chart had the 2nd starting WR slate empty, Curry was not listed at all, and Gibson was starting over Huff. As of today, here is what the Raiders depth chart looks like (see link)

The 2nd starting WR slate is no longer empty. It is Alvis Whitted. Huh? Alvis Whitted is “penciled” in as the book end starting receiver with Randy Moss. Curry now appears on the depth chart with the 2nd unit. Huff, as expected, is running with the 1st unit.

When I viewed Whitted slated with the 1st unit, my first thought was “What the hell is goin’ on in Alameda?” I like Alvis Whitted and admire his world class speed but he is not exactly the ideal complimentary possession receiver to pair up with Moss. After my visions of dual fly patterns subsided and the initial shock wore off, my next thought was that the Raiders organization is playing some tactical mind games with the Chargers before the MNF opener. Hey Marty, Alvis has left the building. Be prepared to have both your safeties play deep!

First and foremost, the Raiders webmaster is a loyal, paid employee sworn to uphold the secrecy of the shield. In all seriousness, someone (read Al Davis) told Mr. Webmaster to place Whitted’s name in the 1st receiver group. I suspect that Curry and Porter are still in the process of dueling it out on the practice field in a heated competition to earn the starter’s role. I also surmise that the victor of this battle will be told on Saturday or Sunday but the general public will left in the dark all the way up to the opening kickoff.

Some Raider fans might be annoyed by the cloud of secrecy that hangs over the Alameda facility. I view it as part of the intrigue of being a Raider fan. What impact will the depth chart shenanigans have on the game? None but it sure is fun to speculate about some of the inner workings and moves made by the front office. Of course if Whitted ends up starting on Monday night, all bets are off. Bombs away!

Saturday, September 02, 2006

Curious George Released, Dougie G Traded

The Raiders announced their final 53 man roster today. Here are some of the more notable moves:

QB Curious George was released. As stated in my previous post, the media commotion caused by George being signed earlier in the week was much ado about nothing for a couple reasons. Number 1. George hadn’t made the final roster yet. Number 2. If he made the roster he was only going to fill the role of a #3 emergency back-up QB. Any team that has the misfortune of needing to utilize their #3 QB in the regular season isn’t going to be a factor anyways.

DE Bobby Hamilton was traded to the Jets for an undisclosed draft choice. Hamilton was a savvy veteran and solid locker room leader. This trade signals the Raiders intentions to give 2nd year player DE Kevin Huntley an opportunity to get some situational snaps. Huntley has the ability to be a disruptive pass rushing force with his speed and size.

WR Doug Gabriel was traded to the Patriots for an undisclosed draft choice. This trade came out of left field and caught me by total surprise. Gabriel had been playing with the 1st unit the entire pre-season. Does this mean Jerry Porter is back in his regular spot as a starter or will either Ronald Curry or Johnnie Morant be used as the slot receiver in the 2 WR sets? More importantly, has Porter bought into the Shell regime’s program and become a good soldier? From all media accounts, Porter has worked hard in practice and kept his mouth shut.

LB Danny Clark was released. Next to the Gabriel trade, this is the most noteworthy move in my opinion. Clark was the Raiders leading tackler last year. If new MLB Morrison gets hurt during the season, the Raiders will have a gaping hole to fill.

CB Duane Starks was released. The Raiders decide to keep CB Tyrone Poole as the nickel/dime corner. CB Poole and CB Routt will compete for the nickel back role.

RB He Hate Me Rod Smart was released. The Raiders choose RB RaShard Lee over Smart as the 3rd RB.

OG Kelvin Garmon was released. Hulsey and Badger will provide depth at the OG position behind both McQuistan and Sims.

LB Ryan Riddle was released. Riddle seemed to have a good chance to make the club as a back-up OLB and special teams performer.

LB Darnell Bing was placed on injured reserve. Bing, taken in the 4th round and converted from safety to LB was unable to get on the field enough during pre-season due to injury.

Here is the Raiders’ depth chart:

A few points worth noting about the currently assembled depth chart:
The starting units on both offense and defense are loaded primarily with young players. On the defensive side of the ball, the only veterans with more than 4 years of experience are Sapp and Burgess. On the offensive side of the ball, the only veterans with more than 4 years of experience are Brooks, Crockett, Jordan, Moss, Sims, and Porter (if he starts).

The starting 2nd WR section is blank as of tonight and Ronald Curry is not listed on the depth chart. Is this because Porter, Curry, and Morant are still in an active competition that is undecided? Is the Raiders webmaster asleep at his desk or is this an intentional error to keep the mediots guessing? Another puzzling "clerical" error is that Derrick Gibson is listed as the starting SS over Michael Huff. I am 99.9% certain that Huff will line up with the 1st unit starters come September 11th.

The DT depth chart is paper thin. With the release of DT Rashad Moore and DT Donnell Washington , the Raiders have only 4 DTs on the final roster (1st unit: Sapp and Kelly; 2nd unit: Sands and Hawthorne).

Up Next: Divisional rival San Diego Chargers at Oakland Raiders on MNF 9/11.