Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Red Zone Amateur Hour

Cardinals 24 - Raiders 23

SeaBass was an obvious choice to wear the goat horns in this heartbreaking loss to the Red Birds. Missing a 32 yard chip shot with 00:04 on the clock was the ultimate choke job. However, if you view the game as a 60:00 contest, the offensive unit and OC/Playcaller Hue Jackson should shoulder the majority of blame. In 5 red zone possessions, the Raiders came away with a paltry 13 points. If you were to categorize the outcome of 5 red zone possessions, the grading scale should look something like this:

15 points - 5 easy FGs, 0 TDs; "running on empty" (1 star out of 5)
19 points - 4 easy FGs, 1 TD; "1st gear" (1.5 stars)
23 points - 3 easy FGs, 2 TDs; "efficient" (2.5 stars)
27 points - 2 easy FGs, 3 TDs; "well oiled machine" (3.5 stars)
31 points - 1 easy FG, 4 TDs; "robust" (4 stars)
35 points - 0 FGs, 5 TDs; "juggernaut" (5 stars)

When you look at the cliff notes version of the 5 red zone possessions and realize that if the Raiders were merely inept (15 points) instead of atrocious (13 points), this game should have been in the win column.

1st Red Zone Possession-> 1st and 10 from the AZ 7 yard line
- D.McFadden left tackle to ARZ 4 for 3 yards
- B.Gradkowski pass incomplete short right to D.McFadden
- B.Gradkowski pass incomplete short right to Z.Miller
- S.Janikowski 22 yard field goal is GOOD
Comment: Really Huey? On 2nd down from the 4 yard line, did you think about giving Ski a Pass/Run option or a delayed QB draw or emptying the backfield? The playcalling was uncreative and execution subpar.

2nd Red Zone Possession-> 1st and 3 from the AZ 3 yard line
- (No Huddle) B.Gradkowski up the middle to ARZ 2 for 1 yard
- D.McFadden left tackle for 2 yards, TOUCHDOWN
Comment: Good use of no huddle on 1st down and solid execution on 2nd down

3rd Red Zone Possession-> 1st and 10 from the AZ 13 yard line
- D.McFadden left tackle to ARZ 10 for 3 yards. PENALTY on M.Henderson, Offensive Holding, 10 yards, enforced at ARZ 13
- D.McFadden right end to ARZ 23 for no gain
- B.Gradkowski pass incomplete short right to DHB
- B.Gradkowski pass incomplete short right to Z.Miller
- S.Janikowski 41 yard field goal is No Good, Wide Right
Comment: The Raiders are at the 13 yard line and "Super Mario" holds on a running play backing the Raiders up 10 yards. It is one thing to hold when in pass protection to save your QB from a beatdown but to do so inside the 20 on a running play is a complete meltdown.

4th Red Zone Possession-> 1st and 1 from the AZ 1 yard line
- M.Bush left tackle to ARZ 1 for no gain
- PENALTY on OAK-B.Gradkowski, Delay of Game
- (Shotgun) B.Gradkowski pass incomplete short right to DHB
- (Shotgun) B.Gradkowski pass incomplete short right to DHB
- S.Janikowski 23 yard field goal is GOOD
Comment: This one is entirely on Ski. If you were to isolate 1 play that truly cost the Raiders the game, this is it. It was 2nd down on the 1 foot line and he had no clock awareness.

5th Red Zone Possession-> 1st and 10 from the AZ 13 yard line (:55)
- D.McFadden up the middle to ARZ 17 for -4 yards
- D.McFadden up the middle to ARZ 14 for 3 yards
- (:04) S.Janikowski 32 yard field goal is No Good, Wide Left

Summary: 5 offensive possessions with 1st down on the 13 yard line or better.
FG, TD, missed FG, FG, missed FG. Make the FGs and add 1 TD and that is a 13 point swing.

Until the Raiders solve their red zone ineptitude, the team will continue to flounder. The "Red Zone" should be called the "Green Zone" because it is an opportunity for a team to "Go" instead of "Stop" and a time for offensive personnel to earn their greenbacks.

Monday, September 20, 2010

Photo Of The Week

Silence of the Lambs: Rolando "Die Hard" McClain with the 1 arm, body slammin' pile driver.

Ski - The Game Changer

Raiders 16 - Rams 14

Cable made a bold move at half-time to make a game changing and perhaps season altering switch at QB.

The Raiders offense was completely listless in the 1st half of action with Campbell under center. Scoring a measly 3 points in spite of good overall field position was the impetus for Cable's decision. Down 7-3 at half-time and facing the possibility of being buried at 0-2, Cable decisively called Bruce Gradkowski's number.

Truth be told, Cable owes Ski a debt of gratitude for more than likely saving his job last season. If it wasn't for Ski's come from behind victories vs. Cincy and Pittsburgh, Cable would have been facing a 3-13 season and unemployed. Once again, Ski saved Cable's bacon by getting the Raiders offense back on track.

Ski instantly changed the outlook and vibe of the game by coming in, taking total command of the offensive unit, and leading the Raiders to a FG and TD in his first 2 drives.

The spill-over affect of Ski's insertion into the game and a Raider 13-7 lead pushed the energy level up a few extra notches. The crowd became alive, loud, and animated yelling "BRUUUUUUUUUUUUUCE!", the defense got their mojo back by gang tackling Stephen Jackson, and the Raiders offensive skill players played with more confidence. Darren McFadden demonstrated his ability to be a work-horse back by accounting for 30 carries, 145 yards, and a 4.8 average. WRs Louis Murphy (6 receptions, 91 yards, 1 TD, long of 27 yards) and DHB (6 receptions, 80 yards, long of 33 yards) were in rhythm and on the same page as Ski.

The difference between the energy and confidence level of the team with Campbell and Ski was quite noticeable. The intangibles that Ski brings to the table such as moxie and an iron will passes the simple "eye-ball" test every time. It is as clear as day that the players respond positively and rally around Ski.

Added Bonus Video:
This play by rookie LB Rolando McClain might have earned a 15 yard "unsportsmanlike conduct" penalty but it is the type of play of pure aggression that has The Assassin beaming from above.

Monday, September 13, 2010

Titans 38 - Raiders 13

This opener at Tennessee was a sad reminder that the pre-season is completely meaningless. The 2 biggest concerns going into the opener reared their ugly heads:

** OLine Pass Protection and WRs production **

The Raiders OLine looked inept and could not protect Campbell. In particular, "Super" Mario Henderson almost got Campbell killed ... again. During the preseason vs. SF, Henderson whiffed and allowed DE LaBoy a “kill-shot” on Campbell’s blind side. Both Walker and Henderson were turnstiles when facing speed rushers. If it wasn’t for Campbell’s mobility, there would have been even more carnage. On top of poor pass protection, the OLine was very undisciplined with countless penalties and miscues on center exchanges.

The WRs were non-existent, non-factors in the passing game. 8 total receptions for 58 total yards. When your QB is scrambling for his life, the WRs need to have more awareness to make themselves available by breaking off and improvising their routes. It becomes a school-yard fire drill where the WR needs to become a viable target.

Total WR Production vs. Tennessee:
-> Murphy 4 receptions - 28 yards
-> Figurs 2 receptions - 17 yards
-> DHB 1 reception - 11 yards
-> JLH 1 reception - 2 yards

When your #1, Top WR, accounts for 28 measly yards in the passing game, it is not a good sign.

Sure it is only 1 game but it was an epic failure and uncompetitive football on all counts. All 3 units (offense, defense, special teams) played poorly. Basic football fundamentals (blocking, tackling, stopping the run, getting open and catching the ball) were sorely missing.

I'm hopeful that we will correct and tighten up our pass blocking plus find a way for our WRs to be legit, productive pass catching threats.

Saturday, September 11, 2010

CJ's 5 Keys vs. Titans

1. Contain Chris Johnson by minimizing the big, back breaking 10+ yard run gashes.

Our front 7 will need to put a huge emphasis on staying disciplined with their run fits and gap assignments but most importantly, do a good job of wrapping Johnson up to allow other defenders to rally to the ball.

2. Keep Vince Young in the pocket.

The edge rushers (Trevor Scott, Matt Shaunnessey, and LaMar Houston need to be aware of VY’s ability to get outside of the pocket, pull the ball down and pick up big chunks of yardage. This will require the DEs to be able to disengage from their blocker and force VY inside towards other defenders. Rolondo McClain will need to keep a vigilant eye on VY as well.

3. Find some semblance of a rush offense through a committee approach.

With Michael Bush questionable to play in the game, McFadden, Bennett, and Cartright will need to step up their games with an increased work load. Keeping the down and distance manageable will be dictated by the committee getting positive yards of 2,3,4,5 yards instead of getting stonewalled at the line of scrimmage.

4. Offensive Game Management

OC Hue Jackson and QB Jason Campbell need to devise and execute the game plan effectively. Keep the Titans pass rushers at bay incorporating the RBs & FB into the passing game with a variety of screens and delayed outlet passes.

5. Turnover battle, winning the field position game, and red zone efficiency.

The 3 elements above often dictate the difference between a win and a loss.

Sunday, September 05, 2010

Final 53 Man Roster

Here's the final 53 man Raider Roster with added comments for each positional group:

QUARTERBACKS (3)_Jason Campbell, Bruce Gradkowski, Kyle Boller.

-> The Raiders traded for Campbell who has the most career starts in the group. His accuracy and steady leadership will be critical to manage the game. The key will be Campbell's proficiency in the red zone. Ski has proven that he is more than a capable back-up and is 1 play away from being the signal caller. Boller had an excellent pre-season and has a solid working relationship with OC Jackson. Overall this group is solid with good depth.

RUNNING BACKS (4)_Michael Bush, Darren McFadden, Rock Cartwright, Michael Bennett

-> It was imperative to carry both Cartwright and Bennett due to the recent injuries of Bush and McFadden. The running game never got in gear this off-season and is a concern going into the regular season. Best case scenario is for Bush to return in a few weeks and for McFadden to be utilized as a multi-purpose skilled player in space.

FULL BACKS (1)_Marcel Reece

-> Reece is an excellent pass catching threat out of the backfield but needs to improve dramatically as a lead blocker. Luke Lawton will more than likely return after his 2 game suspension. Lawton is a more traditional power blocker.

WIDE RECEIVERS (7)_Chaz Schilens, Darrius Heyward-Bey, Louis Murphy, Jacoby Ford, Johnnie Lee Higgins, Nick Miller, Yamon Figurs.

-> This is the most inexperienced, least productive WR group in the NFL, bar none. The Raiders desperately need to sign 1 veteran WR to provide Campbell a reliable, chain moving complement to the passing game.

TIGHT ENDS (2)_Zach Miller, Brandon Myers.

-> I would expect the Raiders offense to incorporate 2 TE sets more than usual due to the subpar WR corps. Miller is on the cusp of becoming a Pro Bowl candidate and Myers is a solid pass catcher. Both men are average at best run blockers. My biggest concern for Miller is that teams will naturally adjust their game plan to make it difficult for Miller to make a big impact.

OFFENSIVE LINEMEN (10)_Mario Henderson, Robert Gallery, Jared Veldheer, Cooper Carlisle, Langston Walker, Khalif Barnes, Samson Satele, Daniel Loper, Erik Pears, Bruce Campbell.

-> It will be very interesting to see if Veldheer can lock down the center position. A 6'7" rookie from a division 2 college starting at center day 1 is an unlikely and interesting story. This group is filled with some major question marks and uncertainty. The only rock solid starter is Gallery at guard. The key will be Henderson re-gaining his pass blocking form to protect Campbell's blind side.

DEFENSIVE LINEMEN (7)_Matt Shaughnessy, Richard Seymour, Tommy Kelly, Lamarr Houston, John Henderson, Desmond Bryant, Trevor Scott

-> I'm genuinely thrilled about our DLine's talent and depth. Shaughnessey, Houston, and Scott are very capable edge rushers. Moving Seymour inside strengthens our interior run D. If this group can get 20 solid snaps from Big John Henderson, it bodes well for a very productive rotation.

LINEBACKERS (7)_Kamerion Wimbley, Rolando McClain, Thomas Howard, Ricky Brown, Travis Goethel, Quentin Groves, Sam Williams.

-> Wimbley is the 1st SLB the Raiders have had since Romo who can neutralize the full back on power sweeps. McClain's football IQ is off the charts. Both Wimbley and Scott (listed as a DL but will play WLB) are excellent pass rushers. The biggest concern is the unit's ability to defend RBs and TEs on pass plays.

DEFENSIVE BACKS (9)_Nnamdi Asomugha, Chris Johnson, Tyvon Branch, Michael Huff, Mike Mitchell, Walter McFadden, Jeremy Ware, Stanford Routt, Hiram Eugene.

-> It is my hope that Asomugha will be given the liberty to change up his assignment and not be isolated in outside coverage on the same side of the field. It would be wise to get Asomugha more involved by matching him up with the other team's #1 WR, moving him into the slot on some 3rd downs, playing more zone coverage, and blitzing from the edge. CJ had a poor pre-season and Huff needs to improve in his open field tackling.

SPECIAL TEAMS (3)_Shane Lechler, Sebastian Janikowski, Jon Condo (LS)

-> Lechler & SeaBass are the best pair in the NFL. The special teams unit needs to improve dramatically on kick and punt coverage. Jacoby Ford should be given the opportunity to handle the return game.