Week 4: The _akland Raiders

The first quarter of the 2017 NFL season has come to a close and the Oakland Raiders sit at 2-2. Back to back anemic performances by the highly touted Raider offense has earned them 3rd place in their division. The news gets worse as Raider Nation has just learned their star quarterback will be out 2-6 weeks as a result of a spinal fracture incurred during Sunday’s game against the Denver Broncos.

The Bad: For the second week in a row, the akland Raiders traveled into an opponents’ house having left their “O” on the tarmac. The results were nearly devastating. Early attempts to establish the run were thwarted by an elite Denver defense which held Oakland to a pitiful 24 yards rushing on the day.

Stubborn rookie offensive coordinator Todd Downing seemingly refused to switch his offensive game plan regardless of the lessons he apparently didn’t learn against Washington, one week prior. The Denver secondary sat on Carr’s timing routes all afternoon and blitzed in long yardage situations which yielded another flummoxed and confused performance from quarterback Derek Carr. Derek finished the game on the sideline having completed 10 of 18 passes for a mere 143 yards and 1 touchdown. Oakland completed just 2 of 12 3rd downs on the day.

Carr’s afternoon came to an abrupt end in the third quarter when Denver defensive lineman Adam Gotsis landed a knee square in Carr’s back. Sacked just twice on the day, the offensive line seemingly did a better (not perfect) job of holding a potent Denver pass rush in check. But much like last season’s game against Indy, it only took one sack to set this team back. (Note: the first of the two sacks was the result of a missed defensive holding call wherein Marshall Newhouse was held by Derek Wolfe thus allowing Von Miller to get in the Raiders’ backfield).

Many are calling for Marshawn to be benched. The hometown hero is being criticized for his dip in performance the last two weeks. Lynch, however, has had his work cut out for him as he has faced the #1 and #2 ranked rushing defenses in the league in back-to-back weeks.

With Denver only allowing 59 rushing yards a game and Washington only giving up 62, it’s too early to critique this aging bruiser. The jury is still out on the Skittle-fueled punisher as he did have above average performances against Tennessee and NY to start the season. Look for Lynch to get back on track when he returns to Oakland this weekend to face off against Baltimore’s 20th ranked rush defense. Unless the offensive line is protesting him too???

The Good: For the second straight week the Oakland defense did all they could to keep their team in the thick of things until the final quarter. Denver’s touchdown in the first quarter would be the only time they saw the endzone all day. Although their offense is known to be less than stellar, this is a defense that has struggled to keep even lesser opponents in check. Can we start believing in this defense? Given the recent offensive struggles, we may have to.

Oakland held Denver to under 300 total yards but still fell susceptible to the big play when they allowed C.J. Anderson to sprint 40 yards for his biggest rushing play on the year.

The Oakland Offense was not all doom and gloom on Sunday. Johnny Holton’s 64-yard touchdown reception was a thing of beauty and an example of the type of creative playcalling we thought we’d see this season. A smash route run through the seam of the defense was cleared out by Walford leading with a quick out along the same seam. See Ted Nguyen’s breakdown below to see this well-designed home run in action.

Finally, the offense seemed to benefit from E.J. Manuel’s 3rd quarter entry. Though E.J. is a capable quarterback, we should reserve our optimism as it is not uncommon for a backup to provide a quick spark to their team. E.J., who boasts a different kind of skill set than Carr, received a different which bought him a temporary advantage over a defense that had not game planned for his play style.

When Manuel was picked off in the closing minutes of the game all of this came to a quick end. A play on which, had he checked down to his fullback, E.J. could have picked up an easy first down. Pay attention to the highlight below which shows Olawale running a Texas route into a wide open zone in the middle of the field.

So, where does this leave Raider Nation? A fan base that had high expectations for their team entering the 2017 season. Not all is entirely lost. The AFC West is quite possibly the most competitive conference in NFL. There is still quite the possibility that the Raiders and their rivals will continue to beat the holy hell out of each other all season. It could very well be that the Raiders are merely a wild card team until further notice (something I’ve mentioned before).

It was widely considered at the end of last year that the Raiders were actually ahead of schedule in terms of their development and success. While this may be true, we are now left with an offense replete with new personnel adjusting to a new scheme that could benefit from a few adjustments of it’s own (time to pivot Todd).

With Carr presumed to be out 2-6 weeks, many are already pushing the panic button while others are celebrating the emergence of the most popular guy on a struggling offense: the backup quarterback. While Carr may very well miss the tilt with the Ravens, his brother will have you know that he only missed one game with the same injury. In that same breath, Tony Romo will have you know that this is the same injury that plagued him for the entirety of the 2014 season.

Regardless of where this season takes the Raider Nation, it is important to remember one thing. In the history of the Silver and Black, there has been countless victories that emerged from what appeared to be disastrous circumstances.

From Plunkett coming off the bench to earn his team a wild card berth and an eventual Super Bowl title in the same year;,to the 2002 Raider team which got off to a sluggish start of their own. After starting the year with high hopes and a 4-0 record, the 2002 Raiders squad dropped four straight games before finishing the season with an 11-5 record and a playoff run that would place them in their first Super Bowl in nearly two decades.

Written by: Kenny Stapler

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