Mid term grades are in and the Raider Nation is barley passing A.Y.P. (Average yearly Progress) We will go by position: Special teams, Offense as well as Defensive side of the ball. Will you be on the ineligible list or the honor roll?
Let’s start this adventure with special teams. Raider’s kicker Sebastian Janikowski has earned the AFC’s October Special Teams Player of the Month. Janikowski, who hit 10 of 11 field goals last month, has now won three of the AFC’s last six Special Teams Player of the Month honors
Shane Lechler is having a good year. He averages 47.3 yards per kick, his longest on the year is 68 yards ranking him 3rd in the NFL. 1st in touchbacks with 6 and 1st in return yardage 11.3 on the year. In college Shane never had a punt blocked. For his first 12 seasons, Lechler did not have a punt blocked. He has had two blocked this season. His special talent is flipping the field on offenses.
Special Teams Grade A+
The Raiders rank 10th in the NFL in passing offense. The Silver and Black average 264 yards per game. Palmer has tossed 9TD’s on the year. The things that are not statically recorded is how many times the signal caller for the Raiders has been hurried, chased out of the pocket or had his rhythm disrupted to numerous to count. He has tossed five interceptions and is not a bad number at all.
Carson Palmer Grade : B
The rushing game for the Raiders has been absent, non-existen, M.I.A. A.W.O.L.. Darren McFadden is one of the best RB in the league and he has been forced to run laterally in a zone scheme that does not fit him. His 438 yards allow him a respectable 3.3 yards per carry. With two rushing TD’s, McFadden has 190 yards receiving. You can see the power in every step McFadden runs, his ability and his determination assure you that he has more to give.
Darren McFadden: Grade C+
Receivers: this group has dwindled down as far as it could go, and now is on the rebound with young players trying to make a name. During the game, you can watch the Raiders shuffle in 11-12 different receivers. They each know they have a chance of a pass hurled their way. Palmer has been very generous in his distribution of passes. In the last three games he has completed passes to at least 9 different receivers per game. Denarius Moore and Brandon Meyers have stepped up to become the dynamic duo of the receivers. Between the two of them, they have caught 57 passes for over 800 yards. The productivity in yardage and catches is promising, but what lacks is point production: only Moore has 4 TD’s on the year. Darrius Heyward-Bey has 14 receptions on the year with 215 yards and adds 2 TD to the group total. If potential is what the Raiders could win games by, they would be undefeated. Unfortunately, performance is what you are graded on, and did you score more point than the other team?
Receivers Grade: C
Offensive line has had its share of struggles. Trying to adapt to a scheme that appears not to fit their talents is eliminating an expensive part of the offensive game plan. Questionable pass protection for Palmer. Fewer but costly holding penalties in the red zone eliminating scoring opportunities. For the past six years, the offense line has had coaches shuffled in and out of the Raider program. The entire blame cannot fall completely on the men in the pit, they have to answer to a higher power. Allowing only 12 sacks on the year is somewhat acceptable. The number of hurries, knock downs, the chaos in the backfield is not. For the passing game to be successful Palmer has to be able to step up in the pocket. Too many games he has had to throw off his back foot or on the run. Not his game. Not acceptable.
Offensive Line: Grade C-
Offensive Coordinator: Greg Knaap knows the zone works, what he has not figured out yet, is just not in Oakland. You have a bruising FB, a powerful TB, and a QB with a cannon. Running the ball North and South for some reason is not an option for you. Running laterally and softening the fit of your offensive lineman appeals to you. Taking away their physicality by moving lateral takes away their punch, and allows penetration. This game of football changes and you have to change with it or like the dinosaurs you become extinct. The no huddle offense has had some positive effect, rolling out Palmer on the bootleg had a positive effect. Running McFadden 29 times last week was an improvement, but the blocking scheme was foggy at best. For the Raiders to gain on the Broncos and to have a chance at the playoffs, things will have to change.
Offensive Coordinator Greg Knaap: Grade D
Defensive line: This has to be as a unit maybe the most consistent part of the Raider machine. Since game one a defensive surge from the front line has been evident. Richard Seymour, Tommy Kelly, Matt Shaughnessy, Lamar Houston. These are men with size and power. They average 6’4-300 pounds and can move. They are not the speed rusher you look for, but they collapse the pocket and squeeze the QB’s escape rout down like an anaconda. They create confusion in the backfield making teams get out of a game plan and go to plan B. They are also keeping offensive lineman off the Linebackers allowing them to run their lane and make the tackle.
Defensive Line Grade: B
Linebackers: WOW they have been playing above their pay-scale. What started out as an experiment in youth has proven to be a priceless success. Phillip Wheeler leads the trio with five years of experience on his resume. He is playing as a veteran of 10 years anticipating plays, reacting to offensive line schemes. He is becoming monster of the midway. Miles Burris has had to accelerate his learning curve to keep pace with Wheeler. The Rookie has had no time to be a rookie, and make costly mistakes. Burris is rapidly becoming a valuable part of the Raider defense. Rolondo McClain is a dynamic part of the group. His speed and agility add to the groups skill package. McClain is a proto type linebacker, one that can drop in pass coverage, or rush the passer. He certainly is a asset to the defense.
Linebackers Grade B
Secondary has be on an up and down roller coaster since training camp. Injuries as well as trading of players have helped, and hindered the play of the secondary of the Raiders. As a secondary they have allowed 1725 yards which gives the Raiders a ranking of 15th in the NFL. They have given up 12 Td’s in the air ranking them 21st. They average giving up 246 yards per game ranking them 21st. They rank a dismal 24th in interceptions with five. Tyvon Branch is has had a good year, not great but good he has excellent run support skills. Evident by his 46 tackles on the year. He has one interception. Michael Huff has bounced out to Corner, and doing all he can do running with opponents speed receivers. Huff has 26 tackles, which is great. You do not want your cover guy making tackles unless it’s on a receiver. Early in the season, there was confusion in the secondary trying to learn how to work with each other.
The secondary is the last line of defense, and everyone sees when they make a mistake. A mistake in the secondary usually means six points for the other team. This group has to increase the take-always on the year, five interceptions at this point of the season is unacceptable. You have a higher standard to achieve.
Secondary Grade: C
Defensive Coordinator: Jason Tarver is taking what the Raiders giving him, and turning into something valuable. Tarver graduated with a degree in chemistry, and a masters degree in biochemistry and molecular biology. He can read and equation and turn it into a solved problem. He is making headway with the defense in his first year. Incorporating a blitz package that lets the defense put more men on the attack than the offense can account for is different for the Raiders. The secondary is a part of the equation that currently eludes Tarver. Placing the right person in the right area to anticipate minimal yardage gained is right at his finger tips: Aggressive, assertive, down hill defense.
Defensive Coordinator Jason Tarver: B
Head Coach Allen: Welcome to the Oakland Raiders, we are glad your here. You bring a breath of hope to the Raiders that the coaching merry go round will stop. You bring a since of urgency to all aspects of Raider football. Players have bought in to your philosophy and demonstrated it by fewer penalties on the year. Your enthusiasm is appreciated. Those that watch the Raiders recognize your positive interaction with the players and community.
Anyone can X or O; it’s getting the Johhny and Joes to execute that plan. What is more important is having the Johhny and Joes that that have the talent, and can perform to the level that is expected from the Oakland Raiders. You have a Defense that is producing and improving a special team group that is elite. Parts of the offense are working on all cylinders. What direction you go in the next part of the season will determine the outcome and success or failure of the program.
Head Coach Dennis Allen Grade: B
The Raiders grade out at a C. Exactly what their record shows, 3-4 on the year. With improved play and positive performance their grade will improve as will their record and opportunity to reach the play-offs.
A great opportunity this weekend to show improvement over the feisty Tampa Bay Bucs. The Pirate bowl part two.
If only Captain Jack Sparrow would show up on the sideline!