I'm as excited as any Raider fan about the new players we're bringing in this year. Fresh faces who, supposedly, love football and want to play the game with toughness and smarts will be welcome, for sure. Now that we've got the players we're gonna have for 2013, more or less, it's time to look at coaching.
Reggie McKenzie is trying to build a winning organization that does things a certain way and has a certain philosophy about every player, every position and every role. Oakland's coaching talent will be front and center in 2013 now that the team has a critical number of "their guys" on the field. Training camp and preseason really won't show us how the coaching staff has matured because all of that shows up in the regular season.
Second half adjustments were our biggest weakness in 2012. Teams that got off to fast starts against the Raiders, would run away with it in the third quarter. Teams that started slow would figure things out early in the second half (ATL comes to mind). Whatever changes we needed to make at halftime didn't manifest on the field. On defense, guys who were in position and not making plays would continue to not make plays in the second half. And sometimes they wouldn't be in position anymore either. Fatigue, lack of talent and a sour attitude will do that to you. With the new players we've got sour attitude should be gone. As for fatigue, hell, there's no excuse for that. These are pro athletes with full offseason conditioning programs. Figure out how to keep 300 pounders fresh and let's not dwell on it anymore.
On offense it seems chasing a team with big lead was the key to our passing offense getting on track. We needed a team settling into bend-don't-break mode to give us space to operate. The quality of our talent could still be a problem in 2013. We're still trying to collect impact players; those guys that dictate what an opponent will and won't attempt against us. McFadden is one on offense whenever he's on the field. On defense, it will likely have to be somebody that's new to the team because Houston, Branch, Burris and other leftover starters are solid guys, at best. But this doesn't undo my point: if we can isolate lack of talent as the biggest problem the Oakland Raiders have, then we will have made progress.
Games are won and lost in the 3rd quarter now. Down 3 or 7 or 11 at halftime has been a death sentence for us. Sulking, overcompensating and frustration were quick to set in last season. Those margins should be insignificant if our coaching has gotten stronger. Leadership, solidarity, faith in each other and high motors kick in here and keep games close, regardless of talent level. By the third quarter our offensive coaches need to see where the defenses are giving up position and space and then design plays to attack those areas. Just follow the plan and execute. On defense, we need to see the 3rd quarter as the time to establish dominance. Tarver and company dialing up two consecutive 3-and-outs would do wonders for the entire team in terms of confidence, fatigue, etc. That's six snaps. Aggression and sure tackling is crucial in the second half of a football game. All pressure is on the coaches to instill that as a team philosophy. They've got their high character talented football players, now it's time to coach them in ways that will make a difference in the second half.