Five Things the Oakland Raiders Can Do to Turn Things Around

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Sep 21, 2014; Foxborough, MA, USA; New England Patriots cornerback Logan Ryan (26) and Oakland Raiders wide receiver Denarius Moore (17) battle for a pass which ended up falling incomplete during the second half at Gillette Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Winslow Townson-USA TODAY Sports

5. Catch the Ball

Through six games, Raider receivers have been credited with twelve dropped passes, although the eye test will tell you that they’ve dropped more than just twelve. It’s becoming all to common for Carr to throw a good pass on 3rd down to an open receiver, only to see the ball bounce off his hands or slide through his hands and hit the turf.  Too many times, these drops have been in key situations and ended key drives. The drops have come from everybody: Andre Holmes, Denarius Moore, Rod Streater, and even former Pro Bowl fullback Marcel Reece. There have been numerous instances of receivers botching a potential catch, as well, like Brice Butler’s failure to beat Chargers rookie cornerback Jason Verrett – against whom he has a five-inch height advantage – on a well-thrown deep ball, leading to the interception that sealed the loss to San Diego. These types of plays kill drives, kill momentum, kill stat lines, and kill wins.

Simply put, catching the ball should not be this much of a problem and cannot be this much of a problem for NFL players.  Drops are a reflection of poor preparation, both on the part of the individual player as well as on the coaching staff. While catching the ball is a fundamental skill, it is also a skill that can be lost if you don’t work at it constantly with repetition. Raider offensive players, especially wide receivers and backs, need to be catching dozens if not hundreds of passes every day in practice. This is really a part of the game that comes down to individual player preparation. Players need to focus on catching and securing passes until it is automatic, and bring that focus into each game with them. When players drop a pass, there needs to be consequences – from the quarterback, from the coaches, and from the rest of the team – to hold players accountable for doing their job. This is something that you see on every successful team in the NFL and it is part of a winning culture.

Ultimately, it will take more than some re-shuffling of personnel or firing and hiring of coaches to turn this team around.  The team has some nearly insurmountable challenges with injuries and lack of depth and experience, but so do other teams, and the Raiders have a lot more talent than teams who have managed to find ways to win at least one game. The entire organization – from Reggie McKenzie to Tony Sparano to Derek Carr to Miles Burris and Andre Holmes and Brice Butler, have to focus themselves on doing whatever it takes to win, on playing better, on doing the little things right, and on going out every week to punish their opponent. The “same old Raiders” mentality has to stop, because losing twelve games in a row is not commonplace for this franchise: the Raiders haven’t lost this many games in a row since John F. Kennedy was president.  Al Davis’ mantra of “Just Win, Baby,” may be more relevant now than it has ever been.