There is no secret that the Oakland Raiders plans for 2014 and who will be in those plans has changed drastically from the start of November to the final stretch of the 2013 season as a lengthy and at times embarrassing losing streak has head coach Dennis Allen and his staff on the hot seat as after entering November with the chance of the layoffs facing a weak schedule the Raiders injury woes and lack of talent have seen the blame fall on Allen.
Poor execution and two straight disappointing performances against the New York Jets and the Kansas City Chiefs in which the Raiders defense game up a team record 56 points at the Arrowhead Coliseum against their AFC West rivals have led to reports that Allen might be let go halfway through his four year deal. These reports come despite the Raiders sinking nearly half of their 2013 cap space as an attempt to rebuild, making it clear that owner Mark Davis is not happy with the way the Raiders have finished their season and according to ESPN’s Adam Schefter refused to extend the contracts of the Raiders coaching staff earlier this month.
Missing players left and right and dealing with the handicap of having money that could have been spent on replacements and depth being used to get Oakland out of salary cap hell, Allen has had the support of many of his Raiders players including Raider legend Charles Woodson and defensive captain Nick Roach. Yet it has not seemed to matter as the vultures have swooped in and have tabbed Allen as one of the most likely to be fired when the NFL regular season ends next Sunday.
With a mandate to show better results and tough games against AFC West opponents to close the season, Allen and staff are facing judgement day this Sunday when they take on the San Diego Chargers in what is their best chance to end their season with a promising effort.
So too are several Oakland Raiders playing under expiring contracts over the next two games, hoping to either convince owner Mark Davis or general manager Reggie McKenzie that they are worth including in their 2014 plans or trying to showcase their talents for the 31 other teams in the NFL for free agency.
During the week defensive coordinator Jason Tarver, who like Allen is facing questions after an impressive start has led its way into a challenging second half after losing starting defensive backs D.J. Hayden and Tyvon Branch challenged the Raiders to channel their frustrations and to show either Raiders (or the rest of the NFL) how much they are worth over the final two weeks.
“This is a great opportunity for our players,” Tarver said. “Almost every player on our defense has set a career high in snaps or starts. And what’s great for them is they were brought in to this to see if they could do it. The facts are that a lot of them are on one-year contracts. I mean, that’s not my area, but that’s the facts. So what we want to see is who can push through this. The Oakland Raiders want to see who can push through this and make plays all these snaps. That’s the challenge to them.”
With an aforementioned banged up unit that has seen many role players thrown into the fire including safety Brandian Ross who has surprisingly played over 900 snaps due to various Raiders injuries Tarver is not making excuses. Instead he is challenging his team to push through the fatigue and use it as motivation.
“Yeah, it may be,” Tarver said. “But who’s going to push through because that’s how you earn the contract that they want, and that’s how we find out who’s going to fit in the future because we’re right on our process. We want to see which guys are going to push through. Who’s going to finish this thing? Who’s going to finish it the right way?”
On offense the biggest names looking to prove their worth to the Raiders will be rookie quarterback Matt McGloin and Darren McFadden as McGloin will be hoping to earn a chance in the starting quarterback competition in next year’s training camp with two strong starts to finish the season while the oft injured McFadden will be hoping to redraw interest after once again losing a season to injuries, this time in a contract year.
The Raiders will need that offense as they will likely need to engage in a shootout to stop a red hot Chargers team on Sunday, a team that could still have its Wild Card hopes alive come kick off if the Buffalo Bills upset the Miami Dolphins at Ralph Wilson Stadium during the early slate. San Diego kept their playoff hopes alive with a thrilling road upset over the Denver Broncos and Phillip Rivers has the Chargers possessing the league’s fourth best passing attack, but inconsistent play has doomed the Chargers this season.
That inconsistent play would include an upset in Oakland in which the Raiders abused Rivers and won the turnover battle thanks to the work of their secondary during the first half of the season in a night game that was rescheduled thanks to the Oakland A’s MLB Playoff dates. D.J. Hayden and Charles Woodson’s big plays helped seal an upset against the Chargers, but both teams are significantly different specifically Oakland, whose defensive depth that helped them earn bragging rights over the Chargers is no more.
If the Raiders are to turn around their recent run of form and put together a promising showcase of their one time encouraging play they will have to do so in the face of massive challenges as a banged up team dealing with serious personnel issues will have to aim to save their coaches job shorthanded. With so many players on one year deals most of the Raiders are in the same spot a game that might appear to be meaningless in terms of the standings should San Diego means so much more to many Raiders players on Sunday. A good (or bad) showing could drastically change their career path.