Actually, before I go into that though, I am going to touch on some recent history, and how that ties into what is currently happening right now. First, the roster for the Raiders has in recent years had some nice players added through the draft, but not many, and not nearly enough; too many missed gambles have contributed to a talent deficit that still exists, and is still waiting to be fully addressed. Unfortunately, it has been difficult to address it, regardless of need, due to the salary cap being a yearly mess. Yes, Al would be able to get from under it, but there has not been any flexibility for pretty much the last 15 years or so, and it has had a cumulative effect. Poor free agent signings only added to the issue without making much difference on the field. So, with that history being noted, on to the first quarter of the season.
OL - This is the biggest headscratcher for me, I expected much better than what I have seen so far; unfortunately, OL play pretty much determines how you will perform offensively, and with the performance of the OL so far, it isn't much of a surprise how the offense as a whole has struggled. Veldheer (I believe) came from a ZBS scheme in college, as did Wisniewski. Carlisle has a lot of experience in it, as does Brisiel. Barnes, as far as I know, hasn't had much experience, which if true would give him the only possible pass. Brisiel is the biggest problem: he was brought in from a similar offense, was successful there, and was paid well to come here, but has been a liability. It may be that the line hasn't played much together, and haven't jelled, it may be that they are not comfortable in this particular scheme, it may be... hell, I don't know. What I do know is that until this unit gets their heads out of their collective asses, the offense will sputter, and the QB will get banged up.
TE - It may be that with the greater focus on the TE in this offense that Myers has forgotten what got him into the league: blocking. He has shown that he can catch and run decent routes, but his blocking has definitely been substandard. This might be acceptable if he was a true receiving threat, a la Gronkowski, but that isn't the case. Gordon hasn't been bad, but hasn't done much either. Ausberry has actually looked pretty good, but he is still learning the position; he looks to be a keeper, and the future of the position on the team. Still, until and unless that happens...
WR - Not much to really get excited about. I have said for some time that while there is young talent on the unit, it has not translated into production, the production that is necessary to keep defenses honest. DHB hasn't looked bad, but hasn't looked like he is ready to break out either; Moore has had problems with his hands, and needs to work on maintaining concentration; Streater has been okay, showed some early jitters, looks like he can turn out to be a nice player, but he is an undrafted rookie; Hagan has looked best overall, nice routes and good hands; Ford is out for the season; Criner has hardly seen the field. I don't know that bringing in a name WR is the answer, not only for cap issues but will it set back growth of the young guys who are likely the foreseeable future for the team?
RB - I still think that McFadden doesn't look comfortable, he seems to be trying too hard for the big play, trying to stretch everything out enough to break it long. It may be that he doesn't recognize holes as they are opening, a rare enough occurence I know, but he looks a tad hesitant rather than making quick decisions and going with them. Still, he has looked a little better in each game, so we will have to wait and see what happens, I guess. Goodson has looked solid as the primary backup; so far Taiwan Jones looks more like a third- and special-teamer.
QB - Palmer has looked fairly good, overall. He has not forced the ball like he had done in the past, but is taking what is being given to him. He doesn't seem to have any issue with the rolling out, which has helped. Leinart is still something of an enigma, and Pryor still doesn't appear, to me anyway, ready to play much, if at all.
The issues with the OL have really had an impact on what the team is able to even try to do; without much pass protection, there isn't time for the deeper routes that would keep defenses from playing short. Even if a DB gets beaten by a double move, there isn't enough time for Palmer to get the ball down the field. The overall lack of a ground game, partly not very big holes, partly McFadden not taking what is there and being patient waiting for the big play, has forced the Raiders to the air, where they are capable enough, when the QB has time. You can call for all the deep plays you want, but calling for that is pretty much asking for trouble. Trying to run more puts the team in poor down and distance situations, putting the QB back into the crosshairs. That leaves short passing plays, the same plays that have an awful lot of people screaming about how the offense sucks.
So, what to expect? I honestly don't know, but I do expect that the OL will improve. I certainly hope so, because they have looked below average so far, and the offense (and therefore the season) rests upon that improvement. A little more success running the ball sets up the play-action, the occasional (successful) shot downfield keeps the short routes from getting jumped, and holding ground and not allowing so much penetration allows for misdirection plays. I'd love to see any/all of this happening, but it really is dependent on how the OL play improves...