Up to this point in the season, the Oakland Raiders have been doubted, downplayed, and disregarded while their veteran additions are apparently “laughable.” This is something that can be discussed in more than just a blog, but it’s already been a constant distraction to the action on the playing field.
As I mentioned in a previous article, I left Oxnard earlier this week still concerned with our passing game. Dallas defensive backs did a lot of grabbing while drops, in my opinion, disallowed any type of contentment. As the season opener passes the 3 week countdown, there have been some raiders that have been quite offensive lately. The core of this Raiders team has a sturdy foundation, and an expectation is currently being built within the locker room. These next few players need to exuberate the shield in a better manner moving forward.
Since we’re discussing offensive behavior, I thought it would be a good idea to start with the offensive side of the ball as we’re searching for a playmaker to emerge. After catching 3 passes for 32 yards in 2013, Juron Criner is beginning to flush himself down the depth chart once again. A standout during his 2013 minicamp debut, he ended the season only playing 1 game. The chatter this summer was enticing once again, but it slowly disappeared as camp progressed.
Criner has playmaking ability, yet he lacks the consistency possessed by quality wideouts across the league. Since becoming a Raider, I haven’t seen him dominate at any point in a live game, but if you watch his Arizona tape, you’ll notice a different player. Then, he was known for his acrobatic catches and shifty acceleration. Now, he’s leaving The Only Nation scratching their heads.
As I watched him up close in southern California, Criner put together a few jaw dropping plays. Unfortunately it was due to the football coming in contact with the grass. On the morning of day 2, I saw Greg Little getting some work in on the jugs machine. I hope I was distracted by other on-field activity while Juron was getting his work in. Either way, number 84 hasn’t been on display during the first two preseason games and he’s slowly circling the black hole toilet bowl.
The next player may ruffle some feathers. Now, I analyzed the full game against Detroit the other night and came away with a legitimate concern at the receiver position. Although Denarius Moore hasn’t flashed yet, I don’t think we expect him to, and that’s why this next player has been offensive to me.
After leading the Oakland aerial attack in 2013, expectations are high for Rod Streater. He has good hands and deceptive speed, alongside a determination that few NFL players have. The concern I have with the 3rd year pro is his route running instincts. When he doesn’t present a pressed corner with an effective move off of the line he tends to get caught in a hand fight. During the game vs. Detroit, I noticed a handful of routes that seemed as though Streater was running to a spot on the field instead of reading the coverage. One play in particular, I thought he should have run a deeper route to get the defensive back to turn his hips before coming back to the ball. It ended in an incompletion and the blame on Matt Schaub.
Getting a tighter jersey may aid him in improving his releases, but only work will improve his route tree. I’m cognizant that he was very raw coming out of college, but if you can’t get open then it damages your passing game and allows your quarterback to get sacked. We, as well as Streater himself, expect more than that, but for now we need him to be the receiving we think he’s capable of being. Until then, we’ll be looking for a more physical wideout that took a page from a James Jones book.
As I turn the page, I have to point out a player who carries an expectation that many aren’t confident in.
Even though Mychal Rivera should be considered a bonus after being drafted in the 6th round, the 2nd year pro is dropping an opportunity to make a name for himself in the NFL; literally. After getting the nod to start at tight end for the preseason opener, Rivera went on to drop two nicely thrown passes by Schaub to keep drives alive.
During the first day of joint-practices with the Cowboys, Rivera was the victim of a feet sweeping tackle by Morris Claiborne on the sideline. We all know about the ensuing “brawl” that took place, but to see Rivera get tackled like that over and over on TV became offensive. I’m going to need for the young man to not let that happen again while proving he can be an effective blocker with playmaking ability. He’s shown flashes as well, but The Only Nation is expecting more than 38 catches and 4 touchdowns as David Ausberry sits out. We all know he can be an asset, but his consistency needs to improve before we crown him the solidified starter at the unproven tight end position.
I know it’s a lot to expect a rookie to play at a high level in the NFL, especially on the offensive line, but Gabe Jackson was visually offensive against the Lions.
After missing a fire gap blitz pickup, Jackson looked lost once Barnes took the sideline early. Although it was good to see the new offensive guard get some work against NFL starters, he seemed to be out of place.
Mental errors are common with young NFL players, but when you’re expected to help solidify an offensive line that has been depleted over the past few seasons then excuses are minimal.
He may be the power running guard we’re looking for, but we need to see more in the passing game to be convinced he’s worth starting week 1 in New York. Again, this is another player that isn’t being pointed out while Schaub takes the blame for not getting rid of the ball in 1.3 seconds.
Another offensive player that should be offending Schaub is Andre Holmes. Being touted as a tower savior from the redone-scoring gods, Holmes has dropped the ball so far this year as well.
I tend to get a little excessive with the puns, but when you have 4 pass catchers that struggle to catch the ball it’s straight up offensive. It seemed as though Holmes became complacent in Oxnard and I didn’t see him show any type of burst or explosion. I can assume this is why James Jones entered the starting line-up Friday as he has the most sure hands on the team.
Andre Holmes has had his fair share of struggles since entering the league in 2011. After going undrafted, he battled for a roster spot in Minnesota, Dallas, and New England before finding a opportunity in Oakland. He may possess good route running to go alongside his size, but gets re routed far too easy for being 76 inches tall. After seeing some of his drops against Dallas, I started to question his ability to even be close to a #1 receiver. When you watch superstar wide receivers, they don’t struggle or lose too often. Just like Streater, if Holmes can’t get off the line of scrimmage while struggling to catch the ball, how can we count on our passing game?
Matt Schaub is receiving a lot of heat for his preseason performances so far, but in my opinion, his receivers are letting him down. Against Detroit there wasn’t efficient blocking and his wide receivers were being blanketed by average defensive backs. I remember saying Thursday that we shouldn’t hang our hat on a good performance against a below average pass defense, and this wasn’t one.
Yes, Schaub has disappointed me so far this preseason, but Oakland ran a basic formation on a majority of their plays. Once the season begins, he needs to be more confident because he looks uncomfortable right now. If we wanted that type of QB then we could have resigned Jason “no emotion” Campbell.
Either way, I won’t place Schaub in this category (yet) as our receiving core has been THAT depressing so far. Our running game has been solid in its first few public performances and I’ll be expecting it to carry our offense in 2014. The offensive line seems to be doing their job for the most part, they just need to learn how to play together. A few additional series with Derek Carr gave them more work before facing the Green Bay Packers.
It’s a shame that most of Oakland’s let down is within the receiving room. After an offseason full of rumors regarding Desean Jackson and Andre Johnson, it seems as though the Raiders are still soul searching for their passing game. In the meantime, I’m sure Reggie McKenzie is communicating with Jermichael Finley while Brice Butler is waiting for his number to be called.
Be on the look out for the defensive side of the ball, follow me on Twitter, and be courteous in the comment section. -Jt