Tuesday, September 25, 2007

Raiders 3 Games Stats Summary

Offensive Stats throught 3 games:
Offensive CategoryOaklandRank
Yards per Game341.315
Rushing YPG159.33
Rushing YPA4.83
Passing YPG182.025
Passing YPC11.814
Passing Completion %62.7%18
Turnovers Allowed828
Sacks Allowed926
Time of Possession33:174
3rd Down Conversion44.4%13

Defensive Statistics Through 3 games:
Defensive CategoryOaklandRank
Yards per Game381.727
Rushing YPG125.722
Rushing YPA4.829
Passing YPG256.025
Passing YPC11.916
Passing Completion %64.2%23
Turnovers Created69
Sacks Created521
3rd Down Conversion45.5%23

Special Teams Statistical Summary:
Special Teams CategoryOaklandRank
Punting Net Yards46.02
Inside 20 %50%5
Punt Return Avg.1.331
Punt Return Coverage12.025
Field Goal %55.6%28
Kick Return Avg.21.127
Kick Retun Coverage41.132

Sunday, September 23, 2007

Poetic Justice

Game #3

1st quarter03
2nd quarter1013
3rd quarter77
4th quarter73
Poetic Justice. The script was completely flipped from last week. Call it Kiffin Karma.

Last week the Broncos raced out to a 17 to 3 lead over the Raiders. The Raiders charged back and held a brief 20 to 17 lead. With the game in the balance, SeaBass made a 52 yard FG that didn't count since ShanaRat called a timeout prior to the play. The ensuing kick hit the left upright.

Fast forward to this week. The Raiders raced out to a 16 to 0 lead. The Browns' rallied to take a brief 17 to 16 lead. With the game on the line and a few seconds on the clock, the Browns trailed 24 to 26. Browns kicker Dawson hits a 40 yard FG that didn't count since Kiffin had called a timeout a few seconds before the ball being snapped. On the ensuing FG attempt, DT Tom Kelly blocked Dawson's kick.

The Raiders took command in the 1st half largely on the backs of the defense, Lamont Jordan and 1 critical 3rd and inches call. LB's Morrison and Howard both had key interceptions that set up 2 FGs. In the 2nd quarter, the Raiders faced a 3rd and inches. This drive was set up by 7 consecutive runs. With the Raiders running the ball effectively, Kiffin caught the Browns off balance by calling for a play action pass, roll out where McCown hit a wide open Ronald Curry for a 41 yard TD pass. Later in the quarter McCown injured his left ankle on a scrambled run play. McCown gutted it out for the rest of the half but to the delight of the Raider fans in attendance, Culpepper finally took over for good starting in the 2nd half.

The key series in the 2nd half happened with Culpepper under center and the Raiders down 17 to 16. Culpepper led the Raiders to a 15 play, 80 yard TD drive that took 9:04. Culpepper (8 of 14 for 118 yards, 0 TDs, 0 INTs) did just enough (1 TD drive, 1 FG drive) in the 2nd half to give the Raiders a comfortable 26 to 17 lead.

A bone to pick ...
For inexplicable reasons, the Raiders defense went into a soft, prevent, protect the lead mode with a 9 point lead. The front 4 was ineffective the entire day putting any adequate pressure on QB Anderson who was sacked only once (Gerrard Warren). The Raiders defense has all 11 returning starters from last year but seems to be falling into the trap of becoming too predictable. Rob Ryan needs to realize that it is perfectly acceptable to take more chances on defense by employing an occasional blitz. If the front 4 isn't getting to the QB, start blitzing. Get the QB to start hearing footsteps. Start dictating the action and tempo of the play on the field. Take a page from your pop's mentality and cut the dogs of war loose. Here are 5 guys that should be used in a blitz package:

SS Michael Huff: He spends enough time in the box, on the line of scrimmage. He has the speed to get around the corner and get to the QB or hurry his pass.

LCB Nnamdi Asomugha: In man to man, press coverage, Nnanmdi is near the line of scimmage. With Nnamdi's speed and wing span, he is a excellent candidate to blitz.

RCB Fabian Washington: Shock the hell out of the QB and blitz Fabian. Fabian is the fastest player in the entire NFL ... the element of surprise + speed = winning formula for a successful blitz.

WLB Thomas Howard: Howard had the fastest 40 yard time in the combine for all the LBs. His 4.4 speed is remarkable. Start using this speed as an ocassional edge rusher.

MLB Kirk Morrision: Morrison is a savvy football player. A delayed blitz in the middle of the line where Morrison gets right in the face of the QB would create good opportunities for sacks and turnovers by forcing the interior lineman to quickly choose who they are going to pick up.

3 weeks & counting ...
This is the 3rd consecutive week that the Raiders have held the lead in the 4th quarter, scored 20 or more points, LB Kirk Morrison has had an interception, and RB Lamont Jordan has gained over 100 all purpose yards. Kirk Morrison leads the league in INTs (3) while Jordan is #2 in the league in rushing (350 yards). Behind an improved offensive line, Jordan has been the engine to the Raiders offense.
Through 3 games, here are Jordan's stats: 69 rushing attempts; 350 yards; 5.1 yards per carry; 2 TDs; 1 fumble; 11 receptions; 121 yards; 11.0 per reception. Total all purpose yards: 471 yards.

Congratulations to Lane Kiffin for his first victory in the NFL! Kiffin has done a remarkable job overhauling the personnel (40% turnover) and coaching staff (entirely new offensive coaching staff), changing the offensive shemes, and dialing up the plays. However, the most important aspect credited to Kiffin is how he has postively impacted the competitive spirit & attitude of his team. The 2007 Raiders' will to win has been evident in all 3 games under Kiffin. In all 3 games played this season, the Raiders have overcome 2nd half deficits to take the lead. Sure, the Raiders only have 1 win to show for their efforts. The point is that if a team continually puts itself in a position to win eventually it will learn what it takes to put their foot on the windpipe of their opponent. Load the cannons for the Fins. Let's ride.
AFC WestRecordNext Opponent
Denver(2-1)at Indy
Oakland(1-2)at Miami
San Diego(1-2)vs. KC
Kansas City


at SD

Monday, September 17, 2007

Wanted: The Closer

Game #2

1st quarter07
2nd quarter310
3rd quarter70
4th quarter103

This game caused the full range of emotions for the Raider Nation. There was some serious frustration with the 1st half offensive ineptitude. Bewilderment was brought on by the 2nd quarter suspension of the game due to lightning storms. Elation and sense of pride were felt for a stirring 2nd half 17 to 3 comeback. Ultimately the game ended with shear dejection for failing in overtime.

The offensive, defensive, and special teams units each did enough good things in parts of the game to put the Raiders in a position to win a divisional game on the road. However, each unit also failed when given the opportunity to accomplish the most important aspect of a winning team ... to close out a game.

Offense: The Raiders offense followed the formula of the Lions game; start slow, turn the ball over (2 INTs), make some half time adjustments, and get into gear in the 3rd quarter. Although the passing attack was futile throughout most of the game (53 net yards), a robust rushing attack (200 net yards) and a big TD pass play to Jerry Porter for 46 yards had the Raiders on the cusp of another victory.

Offense's Time To Close: With the game tied at 20 to 20 with 2:18 on the clock, the Raiders offensive unit had a golden opportunity to march down the field, score the go ahead points, and get on a plane victorious. With :32 left in the game from the Raiders 41 yard line, McCown overthrew a WIDE open Jerry Porter streaking down the sideline for a certain game winning play.

Defense: After allowing the Denver offense to score a touchdown in the 1st and 2nd quarters, the D played inspired football in the 2nd half. Not only did the D hold the Broncos to a mere 3 points the entire half, it also accounted for a safety (Gerrard Warren) and a touchdown (INT grab by LB Thomas Howard). Rob Ryan's D led the charge in getting the Raiders back into the game in the 3rd quarter.

Defense's Time To Close: Immediately following the Raiders taking a 20 to 17 lead midway through the 4th quarter, the defense allowed the Broncos to sustain a drive which led to a tying field goal. It was very important from a psychological standpoint after the Raiders took the lead for the D to shut down the Broncos offense.

Special Teams: The Raiders special teams played their best overall game in a long time. The Broncos had a total of 6 return yards for the entire game as SeaBass blasted kickoffs out of the end zone in the mile high air and Lechler pinned the Broncos inside the 20 on 3 of 4 punts. SeaBass also made a 38 yard FG in the 2nd quarter. In the 3rd quarter the Special Teams unit successfully executed a key onside kick recovery.

Special Teams' Time To Close: In overtime, the kicking unit had the chance to ice the victory with a 52 yard field goal attempt. Instead SeaBass was iced by Shanahan. The 1st attempt by SeaBass was pure money. Unfortunately, this attempt did not count since Head Coach Shananhan had called a timeout a few seconds before the snap. The on field officiating crew (unaware of the timeout) let the play continue since Shanahan called the timeout with one of the side judges. The 2nd attempt was a low snap, a botched hold by Lechler, and a kick by SeaBass that hit the upper left upright.

Although this loss definitely stings BIG TIME, there are some very positive traits to this Raiders team that will eventually pay off. The half time and in game adjustments made by Head Coach Lane Kiffin and executed by the players is very encouraging. This team’s ability to overcome adversity and fight their way back into the games shows the will to win. In game 1, the Raiders overcame a 17 to 0 3rd quarter deficit to take a short lived 21 to 20 lead late into the 4th quarter. In game 2, the Raiders overcame a 17 to 3 3rd quarter deficit to storm back to a 20 to 17 lead only to fall short in overtime.
“Success is not final, failure is not fatal: it is the courage to continue that counts.” – Winston Churchill

QB Controversy Brewing: Lane Kiffin has given the nod to McCown to start again in game #3. Although I have admired McCown's fighting spirit & effort to help lead the Raiders to 2 short lived comebacks, Culpepper deserves to start. McCown has been a poor game manager which was suppose to be his strong suit. In 2 games he has 5 INTs and 1 fumble. His mobility and passing style is best suited for short routes while on the move but not for longer patterns from within the pocket. This limits what the offense can do and the ability to use the entire field. Culpepper gives the Raiders the best chance to win. He has a far superior skill set in comparison with McCown. Culpepper's combination of experience, leadership skills, arm strength, passing prowess, accuracy, and mobility should make him the #1 signal caller.
Up Next: Cleveland Browns in Oakland

Wednesday, September 12, 2007

Russell Signs The Dotted Line

(Photo by Jed Jacobsohn/Getty Images)

The long and trying holdout of JaMarcus Russell is finally over. The splinter in the brain of the Raider Nation has been successfully removed. After waiting nearly 6 months for our #1 pick to put the pen to the paper, this is a major relief.

Russell's contract guarantees him a record $29 million in his six-year $61 million deal with additional $3 million if he reaches minimal playing time incentives.

"Once I signed the contract I did drop a few tears just to know that I'm a blessed person," he said. "Very blessed to be in the place I am today and worked hard for it and I can't wait to go out there and work even harder and just to get it."

Russell's impact on 2007 will be very severely limited since he missed training camp, 4 exhibition games, 1 regular season game, and most importantly, countless practice reps. At least by securing him now, Russell will get his feet wet with being a professional team member and minimize the learning curve for 2008.

"He's at a definite disadvantage," Kiffin said. "You're talking about hundreds and hundreds of reps in preseason and being in games. We can't simulate what he missed. That's put him in a tough situation."

I am hopeful that Russell will take the unique challenges facing him in 2007 head on. He has a wonderful opportunity to build a rapport & bond with Head Coach Lane Kiffin and the rest of his 52 teammates. More importantly, he has an awe inspiring opportunity to become the franchise QB and set the course for future Raider glory. In my humble opinion, Russell & Kiffin are joined at the hip in terms of the long term success of the franchise. In order for this franchise to have long term, sustained success, stability needs to be established by the 2 alpha dog leaders of any team ... the QB & Head Coach.

Russell's work ethic, talent, leadership, and performance on the field will determine whether or not he eventually earns the long lasting respect of the Raider Nation. #2 has a bright future ahead of him. Do the right things JaMarcus and you will be mentioned in the same breath as Lamonica, Stabler, Plunkett, and Gannon. Failure to seize the opportunity and you will be lumped into the trash barrel with Wilson, Marinovich, George, and Brooks.

Welcome to the House of Thrills, JaMarcus!

Monday, September 10, 2007

Week 1: The Glass is Still Half Full

Game #1

1st quarter00
2nd quarter100
3rd quarter714
4th quarter197

Ok, Raider Nation. Here's the deal. A home opening loss is very disappointing. However, before you start whining and getting gloomy, let me put some perspective on our 1st game under Lane Kiffin.

Going into the 2007 season, what was the one key area that we needed to improve and rebuild. Easy. Our offense which scored only 10.5 points per game and was one of the worst offenses in the history of the NFL. Major changes have been made in terms of scheme, personnel, and playcalling. At the same token, ask any Raider fan about their confidence level concerning the defense and it would be unanimous. The Raiders D was an up and coming elite unit. Lane Kiffin was brought on board to revamp & rebuild the offense. My conclusion (and the reason my glass is half full) is that in a short period of time, Kiffin has indeed done a remarkable job improving the offense.

In the final analysis, the Raiders D were outplayed by a high powered Lions offense that feasted on our nickel and dime corners. The Lions used many 3 and 4 WR sets. Fluerry (#2 WR) was the leading WR in receptions last year. Williams (#1 WR) was in the top 3 in reception yards. Johnson (#3 WR) destroyed our slot corners. McDonald (#4 WR) had a prolific day. The bottom line is that the Lions passing offense was too much for the Raiders D to handle. Is it panic time for the Raiders D? Of course not. This D has a ton of talent. Facing a more traditional offense, the Raiders D will match up very nicely and prove that last years' numbers were not a fluke.

As far as the performance of the offense, I focused on a few key barometers to gauge the progress of the offensive unit in relation to last year's unit. The 5 key areas to get a read on this progression are Time of Possession (TOP), 3rd down conversions; Total Yards, Red Zone Conversion; Total Points. The 1st summary shows the high water marks by the 2006 Raiders offensive unit in each category. What you will notice is that Sunday's performance in each and every category was better than or close to the top marks for the 16 games last year. Kiffin has been a miracle worker.

What progress was made by the 2007 offensive unit? The Raiders' offensive unit showed that it could sustain drives (TOP), convert 3rd downs at a high rate, gain a high number of yards, go perfect in the red zone, and score more points than it did in any game last year. Yes. That's right. Let me read back that last part of the sentence. The 2007 Raiders offensive unit scored more points vs. the Lions than it did at anytime during the entire 2006 season.

High Water Marks for 2006:
Time of Possession: vs Arizona >>> 37:01
3rd Down Conversion: vs. Arizona >>> 13 of 20 (65%)
Total Yards: vs. Arizona >>> 395 yards
Red Zone Efficiency: vs. SF >>> 2 of 5 (40%)
Points >>> vs. Arizona >>> 20 points (22 points minus 2 points for defensive safety)

Offensive Performance vs. Detroit:
Time of Possession >>> 33:06 (3rd highest TOP for 2006)
3rd Down Conversion >>> 7 of 13 (53.8%) (2nd highest 3rd Down conversion rate for 2006)
Total Yards >>> 375 yards (2nd highest total yards for 2006)
Red Zone Efficiency >>> 3 for 3 (100%) (Better than any 2006 mark)
Points >>> 21 points (more points scored by offense than any 2006 mark)

The Lions game was a tough pill to swallow. The defense let us down. The Special Teams unit laid an egg (field position; 0 for 3 FG by SeaBass), and the offensive unit had too many turnovers (3). One game does not make a season. Obviously no one likes to suffer a loss especially a home opener.

The chief reasons I'm excited about the Raiders long term future is that Lane Kiffin has proven in just 1 game that he is more than capable of establishing a modern, diversified, creative, and productive offense. If you were asked prior to the season starting whether or not you would be pleased with an offense that scored 21 points, racked up 375 yards, converted 7 of 13 3rd downs, was a perfect 3 for 3 in the red zone, and controlled the clock for 33:06 ... you would say "GREAT!".

Late Breaking News: Oh Yeah! JaMarcus Russell has just signed tonight! Our short term future (2007) looks much brighter with McCown/Culpepper at the helm and our long term future (2008 and beyond) just lit up like a Christmas tree with the signing of Russell. In the meantime Raider Nation, keep you chin up, gear up for the Donkeys next week, and know that any diehard is in it for the long haul. Our long term future looks very bright. Pull up the anchors, bust out the Red Stripe and set sail for a very exciting new Raider voyage.
Calico Jack

Sunday, September 02, 2007

Roll Out the New Offense

The regular season opener is less than a week away. The roster has been pared down to 53. JaMarcus Russell is still a holdout. With or without Russell in 2007, the Kiffin era officially begins on September 9th vs. the Detroit Lions. After the obligatory test drive of the 2007 Raiders in preseason, it is GO time. After last year's nightmare season & dismal offensive performance, the rebuilding phase started with the hiring of Lane Kiffin. The obvious emphasis in the rebuilding phase was to concentrate on improving the offensive unit. Fortunately, the defensive unit has been steadily improving over the last 3 years. Last year's defensive unit ranked #3 in YPG at 284.8 and had the #1 rated pass defense at 150.8. Defensive Coordinator Rob Ryan looks to shape this group into an elite unit. For the D to take its next step, it will need to play the run better and become even more opportunistic in creating turnovers & sacks.

The offensive numbers from last year were UGLY. Here's a quick summary. If you start getting queasy, scroll down.

Scoring: Ranked #32 >>> 10.5 pts. per game (5 rushing TDs, 7 passing TDs)
Rushing: Ranked #29 >>> 94.9 yards per game; 3.9 yards per carry
Passing: Ranked #31 >>> 151.2 yards per game; 5.9 yards per reception
Sacks Allowed: Ranked #32 >>> 72 sacks allowed; 4.5 sacks per game
Turnovers: 40 >>> 24 INTs + 16 fumbles

The Raiders are in the midst of a major overhaul and rebuilding phase when it comes to the offensive unit. To illustrate this point, below is the projected starters for 2007 in comparison to last year's unit. Out of 11 starters from last year, only 1 remains either as a starter or in his original position.


WR1Randy MossJerry Porter
LTRobert GalleryBarry Sims
LGMcQuistan/SimsRobert Gallery
CJake GroveJeremy Newberry
RGKevin BootheCooper Carlisle
RTLangston WalkerCornell Green
TECourtney AndersonZach Miller
FBZach CrockettJustin Griffith
QBAaron BrooksDaunte Culpepper
RBLamont JordanLamont Jordan
WR2Alvis WhittedRonald Curry

The overhaul in offensive personnel, an entirely new offensive coaching staff, the infusion of new talent, and the reconfiguration of the OLine were necessary 1st steps in the rebuilding process. However, to turn the roster over without a cohesive plan would lessen the impact and progress that this unit needs to make. All the pieces need to fit cohesively. The coaching philosophy, scheme, playcalling, and personnel must be singing from the same sheet of music.

Out: Shell's antiquated offense that relied on man on man power blocking, 5 & 7 step drops, vertical offense. The RBs & TE were not used as integral parts in the passing game. The playcalling by Tom Walsh was unimgainative, predicatable, and lacked common sense. In game adjustments made by the coaching staff were nonexistent.

In: Kiffin is well versed in modern offensive game planning and will rely on Tom Cable's zone blocking scheme, 3 & 5 step drops, a hybrid West Coast offense, and a diversified offensive philosophy where the RBs & TE are primary weapons in the passing game. Kiffin will be calling the plays. His use of roll outs, bootlegs, moving pockets, multiple formations, and creative use of personnel will give this offense a boost in production and new identity.

Questions of the Day:
#1: If Culpepper plays well for the Raiders in 2007 and bonds with his teammates and coaching staff, how likely do you think Al Davis will extend Culpepper's contract to a multi year deal?

#2: Will Russell sign before the season, during the season, draft rights be traded in March, or will he be back in the 2008 draft?