Oakland Raiders look sluggish at quarter pole

By Josh Walfish

The Oakland Raiders have played four games so far this season and it has not turned out the way they wanted.

Sitting at 1-3, the Raiders are in trouble of quickly falling out of the playoff picture, but there is one solace. It’s a bye week this week for the men in Silver and Black, so they need to use this week to figure out what’s wrong and fix it before travelling to the Georgia Dome to play the Atlanta Falcons.

There are many things wrong with Oakland so far this season. It’s the worst running team in the NFL despite having one of the best backs in the league. It’s 28th in total defense although it is 26th against the pass and 22nd against the run. The Raiders are giving up 411 yards a game, but only gain 318 each game. They are being outscored on average by a score of 31-17. That’s two touchdowns less per game.

The offense has been a big concern for Oakland through four games. It isn’t producing points or yards and as stated above, the running game has been atypically bad. Darren McFadden is ranked 21st in rushing yards this season with just more than 200 yards. His 57 carries is too few for him to make an impact and his one run of more than 20 yards doesn’t help to make the case he is ready to take the next step.

With an ineffective running game the pressure has been heaped onto Carson Palmer. He ranks 11th in passing yards ahead of Green Bay’s Aaron Rodgers and Houston’s Matt Schaub.  He has more than 1,000 yards, but only has one game of more than 300 yards and two games with less than 210 yards. He has thrown five touchdowns this season, but three of those came in the Raiders’ sole win. He has done an excellent job at protecting the ball, only throwing two interceptions, but he hasn’t done enough to get the offense moving.

The big issue is the Raiders lack depth at the receiver position. Oakland only has one receiver inside the NFL’s top-50, tight end Brandon Myers, and the only receiver they have in the top-110 is Denarius Moore. The other two players Oakland has inside the top-110 receivers is McFadden and fullback Marcel Reese. If it isn’t obvious now, the injuries to Moore, Darrius Heyward-Bey and Jacoby Ford has taken its toll on this team and the passing game has suffered.

Now it’s time to start ripping into the defense and how it looks as porous as Swiss cheese. Before we start that, let’s give praise to three players who are playing at a high level on the defense. Tyvon Branch has 31 stops including 25 solo tackles and has been a lifesaver in the run defense game especially coming in from his spot at safety. Matt Shaughnessy has 14 tackles on the defensive line and he leads the team with 1.5 sacks. The MVP however for the Raiders has been Phillip Wheeler, who is tied for 14th in the league with 34 tackles and also has four passes defended.  He is one of the few players who is playing at a higher level.

The run defense difficulties starts with the defensive line getting pushed around too much which is surprising considering who is on the line.  Veterans like Tommy Kelly and Richard Seymour have not played up to their potential this season. The pair of defensive tackles have combined 20 tackles including two for losses. If they can’t play up to their potential than it is up to the linebackers to come to the rescue. Rolando McClain has played a lot better these last two weeks and he is third on the team in tackles. The issue from that unit is Miles Burris, who only has 14 tackles this season including five combined in the last three weeks.

The issues in the passing game? That is probably due to the injuries to Ron Bartell and Shawntae Spencer, both of whom started at cornerback in Week 1. Both of them have missed the last two weeks and Oakland gave up an average of 358.5 passing yards in those two games. Branch and safety Michael Huff have done an admirable job trying to keep the unit together, but the lack of cornerbacks have come back to hurt the Raiders.

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