Midseason review and waking up from Knapp time

Well Raider fans here we are at the midpoint of the season. We currently have a losing record (3-4), yet oddly enough we are only one game out of first place within the AFC West. We appear to have a resilient team this year, and the same could not necessarily be said about raider teams in recent years past. Here is my assessment of the 2012 Oakland Raiders at the midpoint.

Ok so Gregg Knapp is not fired. Darren McFadden is still healthy and Carson Palmer has more touchdowns than interceptions. WTH, I know right? Heading into week 9 lets have look at some stats compared to our first quarter review shall we?

Stats compiled from

Overall offensive ranking-18th--+4 from the first quarter

Passing-10th--+3 from the first quarter

Rushing-31st --+1 from the first quarter (we had nowhere to go but up here)

Receiving- 10th--+4 from the first quarter

Touchdowns- 28th—No change from the first quarter

Offensive line- 6th --+1 from the first quarter

Overall Defensive ranking- 17th--+11 from the first quarter

Total Yards- 17th--+11 from the first quarter

Passing- 20th --+6 from the first quarter

Rushing- 11th--+11 from the first quarter

Sacks- 30th--+1 from the first quarter

Scoring- 24th--+4 from the first quarter

Tackles- 19th-- -14 from the first quarter

Interceptions- 22nd--+9 from the first quarter (we had nowhere to go but up here)

Ok, so statistically speaking we have continued the glide path towards improvement. We have improved in every single statistical category with the exception of tackles. I don’t know about you but I will take that any day of the week. Still concerned about the run game, but I’ll get into that in a minute.

I mentioned the word "resilient" earlier and I’d like to touch on that a little more. We have seen this team’s resiliency in every game they have won, and also in the game at Atlanta which they lost. On the other hand it could be said that they simply gave up against the Denver Manning’s and also it could be said that they just succumb to the heat when they go to Miami for some reason.

What I like about this is the trend I’m seeing. Over the last three games (and the Pittsburg game) they didn’t give up. As much as I hate to say it, I believe Oakland Raider teams in years past would have quit. I attribute this primarily to coaching, and I think Carson Palmer deserves a little credit here too. Resiliency is something that every championship team needs to have and this can only help the Raiders get better.

On we go to McFadden and another look at the rushing game. We did finally see another 100 yard game for DMC last Sunday against the Kansas City Chiefs. Great news, or is it? Well KC is currently ranked 23rd in the league against the rush. Jacksonville is ranked 25th, Atlanta is ranked 26th Denver is ranked 15th, San Diego is ranked 2nd and Pittsburg is ranked 8th. So what does that say? Absolutely nothing! Before you get as confused as I am let me explain. The statistics tell me that there seems to be no rhyme or reason when the running game is going to hit. Strange that we can break 100+ yards rushing against the 8th ranked rushing defense (Pittsburg) yet, we only put up 69 against the Jaguars whom are ranked 25th. Go figure.

My tune on the rushing game has changed a little. I now not only place blame on the ineffectiveness of the Offensive Line, but I believe McFadden needs to shoulder some of that responsibility as well. All too often I am seeing lineman on the ground (mostly RT Willie Smith). When they are on the ground they are not blocking in the second level (which is what the ZBS needs to be successful). When they are not blocking there is no hole to run through. When there is no hole, there are no yards etc.

However even a blind squirrel finds a nut from time to time. Unfortunately, what I am seeing when the O line finally gets the blocking correct, DMC is slamming into their backs and seems to be completely oblivious to the open hole next to him. For some reason he does not seem to be reading the holes as effectively as Mike Goodson is. This is one of the reasons why I believe Goodson has a higher YPC average than DMC does. Don’t believe me? Here is an article written by Christopher Hansen of the Bleacher Report with illustrated breakdowns of what is going on in detail.

Second to misreading the holes, I see DMC frequently stutter stepping behind the line of scrimmage before he makes his break to the line. This is not how the ZBS runner is supposed to function. The term "one cut and go" is applicable here and needs to be applied in the ZBS for it to have optimal success. For these reasons (and for the fact that I still believe we do not have the right O line personnel to run the ZBS effectively), I’ll stand by my prediction that DMC won’t break 100 yards rushing in more than 3 more games for the rest of the season. Please let me be wrong about that.

Moving on to the passing game, let’s see the statistics compared to the first quarter. Juron Criner- AVG 14.5 YPC with 2 catches-Longest 16 Yards-No change in stats.

Derek Hagan- AVG 26.7 YPC with 14 catches-Longest 38 (up from 10 catches-Longest 17 Yards)

DHB - AVG 35.8 with 14 catches-Longest 59 Yards (up from 10.9 YPC with 9 catches-Longest 21 Yards)

Denarius Moore- AVG 16.1 YPC with 26 catches-Longest 69.8 Yards (up from AVG 15.3 YPC with 12 catches-Longest 37 Yards)

Rod Streater- AVG 10.1 YPC with 14 catches-Longest 23 Yards (up from AVG 8.5 YPC with 8 catches-Longest 17 Yards)

Nothing stellar here, but again we are seeing improvement across the board and that is a good thing. With the Rushing game failing as miserably as it is, one would think that we would see some more significant increases in our receiver’s numbers. Part of the lack of inflated numbers can be accounted for by dropped passes. Add to that some crappy O line play and you get a recipe for a QB under distress which contributes to lack of passing accuracy.

I think it’s safe to say that the days of the long bomb stretching the field style of play in Oakland are gone. I am seeing predominantly short underneath routs relying on the man to man skill sets to be a factor. Just because someone is faster does not mean they are going to get separation consistently. If your line can’t hold up for an extended period of time, your QB will not be able to accurately make the deep ball. I believe this is why we are not seeing as many of those spectacular Moore catches like we did his rookie year. I believe in the WCO and the ZBS, but I also don’t believe that it will be 100% effective this year with this O line.

Finally I need to address the QB position. In my quarterly assessment some of you were wondering why I didn’t address Carson Palmer and the quarterback play. Some attributed that to me being a Palmer lover, others just wondered why. Well here is my take and explanation as to why it was left out of the quarterly assessment.

Carson Palmer is playing a good game. It is not great, but it’s good enough. He is never going to be Tom Brady or Peyton Manning. He will always be Carson Palmer. Can he be a little more accurate? Yes. Could he be worse? Yes. I think he is managing the game and he definitely gives us the best chance to win. Unlike our new coaching staff, I operate under the philosophy of "if it isn’t broke then don’t fix it". That’s why I’m leaving the Palmer play alone at this juncture. As long as he is throwing more TD’s than picks and he is managing the game like he is, I’m very happy.

Moving to the other side of the ball, I’m starting to get excited. Let me start by saying this WE KIND OF FOUND A PASS RUSH. I know, not as emphatic as "this team has no pass rush" from the quarterly assessment, but meh. Again we are seeing improvement across the board in this category and in the end that is a good thing no matter h0ow you look at it. I’m not sure if bringing in Andre Carter was the ignition to the fire that seems to be lit under some of the other DE’s asses, but whatever it was I’m glad it happened. Without QB pressure we are truly without a paddle.

Again, I have deepened my man crush on Miles Burris and Phillip Wheeler. This team’s ability to stop the run over the past few weeks has been nothing short of phenomenal in my opinion. I’m going to give 80% of that credit to the linebacker corps. The MLB shift from McClain in the base package was brilliant. Using him in packages designed for his skill sets is truly paying dividends. Not to mention that he is actually making more of an impact when he gets playing time. Good coaches have goals that include making adjustments to situations that dictate change. That decision was GREAT coaching.

Speaking of coaching, lets have the final discussion.

Dennis Allen. Great job so far. He has not missed a challenge and I’m not seeing glairing time management/in-game coaching mistakes. He has shown the ability to be open-minded after week 5 by mixing in some power run schemes. Imagine how hard that conversation must have been with Gregg Knapp. We all know how pigheaded Knapp can be when it comes to sticking to the ZBS, but DA made the call and I know the players must have appreciated it. He has the locker room as we can see by the halftime rally that occurred against Jacksonville. He has started off in an adverse situation with a losing record and I’m sure it will only contribute to his character and make him a better coach.

Gregg Knapp. I still don’t believe in you but I believe in this team. He continuously calls plays that are by design short of a first down on third down and I will never understand why. What is astonishing to me is that I continue to bring it up in each assessment, thus proving that it continues to be an issue. As a result of the play calling, our 3rd down conversion % is one of the lowest in the NFL. I blame Knapp for this. Converting third downs is a huge part of this game. If I am seeing this as a recurring problem, I have to imagine that the guys who are getting paid millions of dollars to coach this team can surely see it. It just boggles the mind really. As I said before, my best hope is that he will use this rebuilding time to get better, and maybe some of the incoming talent next year will better hide his incompetency as an OC and a play caller.

Jason Tarver "the mad scientist". The jury is in for me and this guy is a keeper. He doesn’t give the best press conferences and he looks like the offspring of Lane Kiffen and John Gruden, but the guy has made prime rib out of a crap sandwich as far as I’m concerned. He has gotten the most out of the players he has to work with. They are all buying in to the scheme and as the season progresses we are seeing more of the promised "multiple look" defense. I still wish we had better Cornerbacks but that is not his fault. He has gotten more out of Huff at that spot than I ever expected and for sitting McClain he gets a big boost in my personal rating. Let’s hope this continues to progress in the direction its going.

So here we are half way through. A record of 3-4 with Peyton Manning in the lead. Phillip "cry me a" Rivers continues to fizzle under Norv turners leadership and the Chiefs are on the brink of implosion. We only face on team above .500 for the rest of the year. We have improved on EVERY major statistical category from game one and soon we will be able to get Willie Smith out of the lineup when some of our better linemen return from injury/rehab.

Overall I’d say the midseason assessment is far more promising than the quarterly was. I’m going to try and remain patient as this is technically my first "rebuilding". I say first because as long as Mr Davis was here it was never truly going to be rebuilding. As I said before it is still statistically possible to have a winning season and that’s all I expect from a realistic standpoint this year. As long as it is mathematically possible there is hope.

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