Oakland Raiders Film Room: Week 8 (CLE)

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Oct 26, 2014; Cleveland, OH, USA; Cleveland Browns tight end Jim Dray (81) makes a catch as Oakland Raiders outside linebacker Khalil Mack (52) and Oakland Raiders outside linebacker Sio Moore (55) defend during the fourth quarter at FirstEnergy Stadium. The Browns beat the Raiders 23-13. Mandatory Credit: Ken Blaze-USA TODAY Sports

Week 8’s game against Cleveland was sloppy to say the least. Neither Oakland nor Cleveland was particularly solid on either side of the ball. At the end of the game it came down to which team made fewer mistakes, turnovers, and missed tackles. With Oakland now 0-7 it’s time to shift focus from short term results to long term potential and concerns. Oakland’s schedule isn’t going to get any easier with Seattle, San Francisco, San Diego, and two Denver games coming up, so wins will not come easily. However, there’s a lot to discuss regarding the growth of Oakland’s star rookies, the aging players that will need to be replaced, and general schematic issues going forward.

Firstly, there’s a lot of positivity in the futures of Derek Carr and Khalil Mack. Carr isn’t playing perfectly but he’s the best rookie QB so far this season. He’s shown an amazing amount of poise, the heart of a champion, and a beautiful throwing arm. With some more offensive line protection and a true #1 receiver Carr can be a a top 10 quarterback in this league. Khalil Mack is the defensive rookie of the year so far this season, and it’s not even close. Mack’s shown ability to be competent in coverage and has been an absolute monster in the run game. The young linebacker routinely throws tight ends around when they attempt to block him and has bulldozed several NFL veteran linemen. Teams have already been sending double-teams at him for a few weeks. What a sign of respect for the rookie.

Still, too much of this team is still dependent on aging veterans as some of the other younger players struggle to gain traction. Most notably is the entire defense’s reliance on Charles Woodson. Woodson at 38 years old is the team leader in tackles with 41, including 15 stops (solo tackles that constitute and offensive failure) per Pro Football Focus (subscription required). PFF’s 3rd best safety in football through week 8, Woodson’s performance has been absolutely instrumental in helping this injury-plagued defense. He’s often moved up into the box to help with run support in a pseudo-linebacker role. In coverage he’s all over the place. Making tackles from sideline to sideline and keeping tight help coverage over the struggling cornerbacks. When he retires this defense is going to be in major trouble.

Looking at the game tape, we’ll focus mostly on these three players – all key indicators of Oakland’s future.