All the stats pointed to the Oakland Raiders beating the San Diego Chargers on Monday night. The Raiders gained more yards, had more first downs and ran more plays than the Chargers, yet San Diego won the game.
The issue lies in the weapons that surround quarterback Carson Palmer and nothing else. It was clear the Raiders were missing Jacoby Ford and Denarius Moore, two of their top-three receivers. The pair remain questionable for Sunday’s game with the Miami Dolphins, and that means Oakland needs help fast.
The leading receiver Monday was running back Darren McFadden who caught 13 passes and was targeted 18 times. Next on the list was tight end Brandon Myers with five receptions and he was followed by four catches from wide receiver Derek Hagan, who Oakland signed last week. Darrius Heyward-Bey, by far the Raiders’ top receiver, was only targeted five times and caught three passes. Palmer also targeted Rod Streater 10 times, but the rookie only made four grabs.
Palmer had to be frustrated with his receivers not getting separation and dropping perfectly thrown passes when they did get away. The television commentators were raving about Palmer’s placement of passes, but the receivers could not hang on. Granted, Palmer executed on a lot of tight throws, but if a quarterback can get it there, a receiver should be able to catch it.
A scarier stat is the three fumbles Oakland had, although they only lost one of them. The lone lost fumble belonged to Streater, who had a rough debut. If he didn’t know it Monday, he knows now how much different the regular season is from the preseason.
Hagan looked good in his Raiders’ debut, but he is not the answer at wide receiver. Marcel Reece caught two passes for 20 yards, but a fullback can’t carry the team in the passing game. Neither can McFadden, who is paid to run the ball, not be a team’s leading receiver. McFadden needs to get more than 15 carries, but he also needs to gain more than 32 yards with those 15 touches.
Heyward-Bey did not look like the top-flight receiver, everyone thought he can be. After making strides last season, he was covered like a glove for most of Monday. The Maryland-product needs to rise to the role he wants to play in the offense and catch the ball when it’s in the vicinity.
Palmer needs Moore and Ford to return as soon as possible and pick up the slack in the passing game. Getting Ford back will allow Moore and Heyward-Bey to extend the field vertically more, something that was lacking against the Chargers. The longest passing play was 26 yards on Monday night, something that must change in the weeks to come. Getting Moore back will allow Streater to move into a new role where he will be more comfortable and help Oakland more.
The common denominator to all of these struggles was the porous offensive line, especially the tackles. Palmer was sacked three times and was hurried numerous other times by pressure coming from the outside. Khalif Barnes and Jared Veldheer were beaten badly by the Chargers’ base 3-4 defense, especially in the second half. The lack of protection in the passing game forced Palmer to dump the ball to McFadden and Reece and the lack of holes in the running game did not give McFadden enough room to work his magic.
At the end of the day, Palmer needs more weapons or the current weapons need to raise their game; otherwise it will be a long season in Oakland.