Week 1: The Glass is Still Half Full
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.