Oakland Raiders: What have we learned after seven weeks?
Oct 25, 2015; San Diego, CA, USA; Oakland Raiders wide receiver Michael Crabtree (15) congratulates wide receiver Amari Cooper (89) after Cooper made a second quarter against the San Diego Chargers at Qualcomm Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Jake Roth-USA TODAY Sports
Throughout the entire offseason, beginning with the hiring of Coach Del Rio and his coaching staff, through Free Agency, the draft, OTA’s, Mini Camps, Training Camps, Preseason, there was one mantra from anyone involved with the Raiders when it came to their offense; they were going to run the ball, early and often, to set up play action and take shots down the field.
Feed the ball to running backs, control the flow of the game, and wear down opposing defenses…with a dash of Chip Kelly up-tempo added in there.
They duped us all. This team has not been being built around a run game. This offense has been built around one singular player, Derek Carr. If they wanted to build a team based on a dominant ground game, they wouldn’t have picked Amari Cooper in the first round after they already bolstered the wide receiver position in Free Agency with Michael Crabtree.
Even with the doubts a lot of people had about Crab in the off season, he was still a huge upgrade to any receiver the Raiders had. He and Streater would have made a pretty solid wide receiver combination for a team focused primarily on running. But that wasn’t their plan, they wanted a variety of receiving options, they wanted a dominant receiving corp, they wanted to pass the ball…but they didn’t want us to know.
Here’s a list of the more talked about offensive players added during the off season:
- Michael Crabtree
- Amari Cooper
- Clive Walford
- Rodney Hudson
- Lee Smith
- Roy Helu
- Trent Richardson
The first three on that list are all weapons in the passing game. Crabtree was a player with a bad reputaiton coming off of a bad season and still recovering from an achilles injury. Now, it’s more obvious that he also had a terrible quarterback throwing him the ball. Amari Cooper was the most polished receiving option in the draft, considered by many to be a can’t miss player.
Cooper is not someone you draft if you are planning on running the ball, especially considering Todd Gurley, and Melvin Gordon were both available and would have been able to be picked up with a trade down. Clive Walford is expected to be an all around tight end, but given his collegiate career and his athleticism there is no way they drafted him to be a road grater for a running back. They drafted him to catch footballs first and foremost, the fact that he can block is certainly a perk as well.
Who is a QB’s best friend? His center. Who better to help the passing game than one of the best pass blocking centers in the NFL? Rodney Hudson was signed because he is one of the best all-around centers in the league, but he excels in pass protection.
Lee Smith is an honorary offensive lineman, and given the Raiders already had Rivera for their receiving tight end, he was a smart pick up in free agency. He was added to help the run. Run blocking is his forte.
That leaves Roy Helu and Trent Richardson as the remaining offseason additions going into the season. Helu has been known for most of his career as a receiver out of the back field, and Trent Richardson used to be one of the best pass-blocking running backs in the NFL. More passing game help.
Six games into the season the Raiders have tied their win total for the entire 2014 season. Last year, each victory the Raiders had 30 or more rushing attempts. This year, only one of their victories have come with 30 rushing attempts. Against the Ravens they had 19 rushing attempts, and 26 (many coming in garbage time) against the Chargers.
The only win that has come with 30 rushing attempts was against the Browns, who are dead last in run defense, surrendering over 150 yards per game to opposing teams running attacks. They would have been foolish to not take advantage of that weakness, otherwise this Raiders team has been reliant on the pass to win games.
Last year, the team needed to depend on controlling the clock because they didn’t have the explosive talent to put 30+ points on the board. This offense is evolving, and is only a few pieces away from becoming one of the most dangerous units in the league.
Whether the Raiders were doing a little misdirection with all that run first talk at the beginning of the year, or if they truly believed they had the players to fit that mold we may never know. But, we can see the coaches are evolving with the offense as well, shaping it around the playmakers, and putting them in position to score.
I mentioned this offense is just a few pieces from becoming all around dominant, so what are they? Right guard, and right tackle. The right side of the offensive line was a question going into the season, and with the injury to starting right tackle Menelik Watson it only got worse.
Howard isn’t doing terribly, but not excelling at the right tackle position, but J’Marcus Webb is toward the bottom of every metric designed to evaluate an offensive lineman. He has one of the lowest run blocking grades, pass block percentages, and has given up 3 of Carr’s 8 sacks, and 12 of Carr’s 54 pressures. Getting a truly dominant offensive line is the missing piece to this being one of the top offenses in the NFL.
Next: What Have We Learned: Defense