Monday, September 28, 2009

Raiders Offense - The Sad Clown

Denver 23 - Oakland 3

Futile, lifeless, inefficient, impotent, inept, rudderless ... these are the words to describe the current Raiders offense. 3-out/Punt, 2-Int, 3-Int, 12-56/FG, End Half, 8-20/Punt, 2-10/Fumble, 5-16/Punt, 3-0/Punt, 5-20/Downs.

1 stinkin' drive in an entire game where we moved the ball. Total net yards from scrimmage = 137. Total net yards passing = 42. The lack of execution and rhythm was atrocious

The players who are being counted on to provide dynamic offensive proficiency are failing miserably. 3 high draft choices in the past 3 years (#1 Russell, #4 McFadden, #7 DHB) who are struggling beyond belief.

Russell: 31-75, 378 yards, 41.3%, 1 TD, 4 Ints
McFadden: 41-148, 3.6 yards per carry, 2 lost fumbles
DHB: 1 reception; countless drops

Where to begin with cleaning up this mess on aisle 3? It starts with Cable and Russell. Both of these guys need to dig deep to come up with solutions. It might be stating the obvious but leadership and performance from Cable and Russell respectively is what really matters.

Cable, Tollner, and Hackett urgently need to burn the midnight oil to devise a customized game plan for your franchise QB who is performing so poorly. Cable needs to find the right motivational buttons to push Russell towards a sharper focus on the task at hand. It very well might mean sitting Russell down if he is unable to get on track vs. Houston in order to recalibrate the young QB's focus.

Bush needs to become the workhorse back over McFadden. Where is the commitment to the running attack? McFadden & Bush combined for 18 carries. DHB shouldn't see the field unless it is a 3 WR set. Perhaps the return of WR Shilens will provide a jump start to the passing attack. It was clear in training camp and exhibition season that the Russell/Shilens combination was pivotal for Russell's confidence and moving the chains.

Unfortunately (or fortunately depending on your perspective) the core group of offensive skill players are guys in their 1st, 2nd, or 3rd year of development. Russell, McFadden, Bush, Shilens, Murphy, DHB, Miller need to be relied upon to be the engine of this offensive unit. What does this mean? It means more growing pains, heartache, and hopefully much needed progress in the near future. However, let's not kid ourselves. Until Russell gets his act together, this team is staring down another double digit loss season.

Sunday, September 20, 2009

Closing Time

Raiders 13 - Chiefs 10

Last week the Raiders lost to the Chargers yet the game was a buoy line to the Raider faithful. In a loss, there was a feeling of hope and better days to come. The next step in climbing the competitive ladder was for the team and coaching staff to learn how to close out a game.

Today the Raiders earned an ugly win vs. the Chiefs yet the game was a beautiful sight for the Raider Nation. In a win, and in spite of a dismal showing by the offensive unit, the team learned how to close out a game.

This game demonstrated why professional football is the ultimate team sport. The Raiders special teams unit playing a near flawless game. Kicker SeaBass nailed both of his long field goals attempts (48 yards; 54 yards). His long kickoffs prevented the Chiefs from netting a single yard on their returns for the entire game. Punter Lechler had an exceptional day (7 punts; 56.9 average) which was pivotal in the field position battle.

The Raiders defense gave up 409 net yards to the Chiefs. This might seem like a big chunk of yardage to the naked eye. However, if you watched the game, you realize that the D made big plays at critical junctures (2 pivotal sacks + 2 game altering interceptions). The defense also showed resiliency by minimizing the Chiefs to only 10 points in spite of a time of possession deficit of 38:39 to 21:21.

It is also clear that FS Michael Huff has taken a BIG step in his career progression. Huff has 3 interceptions and 1 fumble recovery in the 1st 2 games. His tackling and field awareness is leaps and bounds ahead of his previous 2 years in the league.

With the Raiders down 10-6 and 2:30 left on the clock, it was time for Russell to put the previous 57:30 behind him and find a way to elevate his game. This game deciding series is where ugliness gets a much needed face lift. During the course of the game, the Raiders offense only got in rhythm on 1 series. Russell was in the midst of his worst game in his young career. Somehow, some way, Russell blocked out the ugliness of his performance and the unit's performance and focused on winning time.

Thanks to a superior job by the special teams and an admirable job by the defense, the Raiders had an opportunity to win this game. 2:30 on the clock and 2 timeouts, the Raiders needed to march 69 yards to paydirt. On a key 2nd and 15, Russell connected with WR Murphy for 19 yards. On the play of the day, facing 3rd and 15, Russell found WR Watkins for 28 yards. McFadden closed out the drive with a 5 yard scamper after a fake to the upback and a pitch from Russell.

After 2 games, I'm sure many Raider fans are worried or upset about the performance of QB Russell. He has struggled with his accuracy and getting into rhythm. I'm looking at the Russell struggles with a silver lining. In both games he showed his ability to raise his game when the team needed him most. In spite of these struggles, I am confident that Russell will overcome the upcoming 2009 challenges. In my mind, Russell has showed his true leadership by fighting through his adverse times and keeping his eye on the prize.

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

Murphy TD Video

2 feet down, butt on ground with clear, complete control and possession of the football = TD. Don't bother with the argument that "Murphy was going to ground while making the catch ... yada, yada, yada." He caught the ball in the air. He possessed the ball in the air. He possessed the ball with 1 foot down. He possessed the ball with 2 feet down. He possessed the ball with his butt on the ground.

The Raiders lost this game for 3 other primary reasons:

(1) The kick coverage unit getting gashed by Sproles which set up short fields and cheap points.

(2) Turnovers which took points off the board (Russell INT) or set SD up with a short field (McFadden fumble).

(3) The defense going soft with the game on the line. Going to zone coverage and playing your LBs too far off the line of scrimmage led to back breaking, game deciding points when it mattered most.

Hope Springs From Loss

Chargers 24 - Raiders 20

"We must accept finite disappointment, but never lose infinite hope."
-- Martin Luther King, Jr.

Last night's result was a rare 'daily double'. When the scoreboard hit 00:00, 2 feelings washed over me which are usually mutually exclusive. The combination was my heart sinking yet being filled with hope at the same time.

It is easy to figure out why it was a tough loss to swallow. In spite of the questionable call overturning Murphy's TD at the end of the 1st half, the Raiders put themselves in a position to close out the game. The Chargers were backed up on their 11 yard line, down by 3 with 2:11 to play.

For inexplicable reasons, DC Marshall had the LBs play a soft umbrella coverage 10 yards off the line of scrimmage. This was an error in tactics that needs to be corrected going forward. Play to win. Don't play to "prevent" a loss.

DC Marshall deserves praise for getting the Raiders to play "Lights Out" (Sorry Merriman) D for 57:49. What impressed me the most about the Raiders defense was the energy, aggression, and fundamentals throughout most of this hard fought contest.

Of course, the addition of Seymour paid off immediately. He made a HUGE contribution and impact. Seymour had 2 game altering sacks and showed his versatility by playing all 4 positions on the DLine.

This versatility will give opponents nightmares as they try to locate and adjust to Seymour. It was crystal clear that Seymour has the abilities to lead and inspire his teammates to new heights. I had VERY high expectations for Seymour making a noticeable, tangible difference in our run defense. The fact that he garners so much attention from the opponent's OLine by being constantly double teamed has allowed his teammates a better opportunity to make a play.

Holding the Chargers to 77 net yards rushing is 1 sign that Seymour is a game changer. The other aspect of the game last night that really stood out was the Raiders ability to collapse the pocket. Throughout the game, the Raiders base 4 was able to put pressure on QB Rivers. Adding a blitzer is the next step in the D being less predictable and more dynamic. By Rivers count, the Raiders only blitzed twice the entire game.

Another aspect to the game that gives me hope is how Russell responded late in the game. By all accounts, Russell had a rough night both physically and from an accuracy standpoint. He was simply missing wide open receivers. However, he showed his poise and focus when the stakes were the highest. Facing a 4th and 15 with the game on the line while overcoming a hyper-extended knee, Russell connected with Murphy for a 57 TD pass. I was proud of how Russell responded to adversity. I am confident that he will develop better timing with his 1st year receivers. Murphy is well on his way to establishing a chemistry with Russell.

CJ's Bottom Line:

Last night the Raiders displayed the type of competitive spirit, effort, and aggression that can't be quantified but fills my heart with pride. It is odd to say it but hope can spring from loss.

"Desire is the starting point of all achievement, not a hope, not a wish, but a keen pulsating desire which transcends everything."
-- Napoleon Hill

Sunday, September 13, 2009

Ice Cube - Raider Nation (song)

Saturday, September 12, 2009

Seymour - Suited & Booted

Richard Seymour arrived in Oakland today. As he said in the brief press conference "I'm ready to put on my hard hat and go to work." It just so happens that his "hard hat" will be a 1963 Raiders helmet for the opener vs. San Diego. Welcome to Oakland, #92. Now, if you can stonewall LT and put Rivers into the turf headfirst, all the better!

Sunday, September 06, 2009

I Seymour Run D

Exciting breaking news: The Raiders acquired defensive lineman Richard Seymour from the New England Patriots for a 2011 1st round pick. Seymour, 6'6", 310 lbs, has played 8 seasons in the NFL and has earned 5 pro bowl selections and 3 super bowl rings.

Here is a summary of Seymour's scouting report:

"Seymour is a very productive three-down defensive end with excellent size, strength and power. He has very good hands with a strong upper body to control blocks. He is explosive off the ball and can push the pocket from both inside and outside. He can dominate one-on-one blocks."

Bill Williamson, who blogs about the AFC West for ESPN, had an interesting take on the acquisition. His main point is that the Raiders needed to take this risk to bust out of their 6 year rut.

Here are my views on this acquisition:

#1 - Seymour is an excellent run defender, pass rusher and is a very durable, high character player with pro bowls and SBs to his resume. He has started in 105 of 111 games.

#2 - Seymour is capable of playing both DT and DE. This versatility is HUGE considering our current DL.

Think of some possible combinations depending on down, distance, game score, time in the game, etc ...

DE: Ellis, Scott, Shaunessey
DE/DT: Kelly, Seymour, Richardson
DT: Warren, Bryant

A base DLine that consists of Ellis, Warren, Kelly, and Seymour has the potential to be pretty damn good considering the possibilities of mixing and matching DL personnel. For example, Kelly and Seymour can be interchangeable. On certain plays, Seymour can move inside while Kelly goes outside to DE.

#3 - IMO, the biggest Achilles heel of the Raiders has been run defense and toughness. Seymour adds both elements.

I understand their is a cost and risk associated with acquiring a player of Seymour's caliber. There is without a doubt some potential downsides such as;

- Seymour being 1 and done
- The loss of a valuable 1st round pick

The biggest difference that I see with this veteran acquisition and the other big ticket ones from the past that ended badly is three fold. The other acquisitions such as DeAngelo Hall, Javon Walker, and Randy Moss were peripheral, skill players (DB, WR) with either questionable character issues, injury history, or both. Seymour is known for being a quiet leader and solid character. The most significant difference in my view is that Seymour has the ability as a DLineman to make a bigger impact on a struggling team like the Raiders. A skilled DB or WR playing outside the tackle box isn't going to impact the bare essence of the game. As the godfather of coaching put it,

"Football is blocking and tackling. Everything else is mythology." — Lombardi

Cuts from yesterday:

S Jerome Boyd, DB Darrick Brown, DE Greyson Gunheim, WR Jonathan Holland, OL James Marten, LB David Nixon, LB Slade Norris, LB Chris O'Neill, FB Marcel Reece, RB Gary Russell, P/K Ricky Schmitt, TE Darrell Strong, OL Mark Wilson, , DT Ryan Boschetti, QB Jeff Garcia, LB Morlon Greenwood, CB Justin Miller, DT Terdell Sands, T Seth Wand

Waived/Injured: DB Michael Hawkins, S Rashad Baker, C John Wade

With the acquisition of Richard Seymour, I would expect WR Todd Watkins to be cut.

Saturday, September 05, 2009

Russell Is Right On Track

I came across some very interesting statistics in the most recent EPSN magazine. Stat guru KC Joyner compared Russell with Joe Flaco and Matt Ryan. The comparison was for the last 7 games of the 2008 season.

I can't tell you how many times I've heard and read 'Russell is a bust' ... 'this is a do or die year for Russell' ... ' Yeah look at Ryan and Flacco' ... 'Russell isn't progressing fast enough' etc.

Russell was in his first full season at the helm last year. The last 7 games of the season showed his true development and overall progress as a QB.

If Flacco and Ryan are considered the "gold" standard for first year QBs, what does it mean if Russell had a higher QB rating than both of them for the final 7 games? What it means to me is that Russell is right on track (if not ahead of schedule) with his career development.

QB Category

QB Rating88.58184.8