There is no denying that the Raiders game yesterday against the Jacksonville Jaguars was an ugly contest. It was not pretty in any way, especially not when it came to Terrelle Pryor's performance. If the Raiders had been playing a better team they would have been in trouble with the way that they played, that is for certain.
The question is whether or not the quality of performance was an anomaly or a serious problem going forward. We don't know the answer to that yet until we play our next game, which just so happens to be against a true contender in the Denver Broncos. It is easy to say that if they couldn't score against the Jaguars then how on earth are they going to score against the Broncos, but every game is different. Just because they got away with a sub par effort against the Jaguars does not necessarily mean that they are going to try to get away with the same amount of intensity against the divisional rival Broncos.
With the Broncos coming up next there is a lot that the Raiders will need to learn from this past week against the Jaguars if they want to be able to compete. For one thing while having a run heavy game plan against the Jags helped Darren McFadden have a nice performance, it did not help out Terrelle Pryor. The pass heavy game plan against the Colts helped Pryor's running ability far better because he was not facing 8 or 9 man box sets nearly as often because the defense had to play the pass first. This seems like a better option for Pryor moving forward, though it will always depend on the opponent they play on which game plan they choose.
As for McFadden though, it sure was nice to see him running with authority again. There has to be some sort of happy medium where DMC can still be productive but not used often enough to force the 8 man box sets. The Raiders need to be able to rely on Darren to run effectively but if they use him too much it will only offset Pryor's own ability to make plays. The answer may be using more screen packages with McFadden to get him in space but to still use pass heavy sets.
The story of the game against the Jaguars though was all about the defense. The way that the Raiders D played was the very definition of swarming. Even if a player got away from the initial tacklers there were often several other players right there to make the play. Chad Henne isn't a world beater by any sense but still to get 5 sacks on him was a great accomplishment anyway. In fact, after just 2 weeks the Raiders already have 9 sacks on the season and that shows that their commitment to improving their pass rush has definitely been paying off.
Another thing that has been paying off big time is the addition of Charles Woodson. The amount that he has lifted this team can not be overstated. With Woodson added to the roster there is a swagger that had been missing for a long time that is finally back again. The whole defense is playing more confidently back there and it is a direct side effect of having a veteran leader like Charles on the team.
When a 36 year old is able to dive over blockers and sacrifice himself the way that Woodson did on Sunday it trickles down to the rest of the players. They look at a player at such an advanced age for the NFL putting it all out there like that and it makes them want to play like that too. They just simply do not want to have a player a decade older than them showing more energy and effort than what they themselves are putting on the field.
This game may not have been pretty, but they definitely played like they expected to win. The field goals instead of touchdowns are an issue that has plagued this team for a long time and needs to be sorted out, but still the team drove down into that field goal range time and time again. Now they need to keep the ball moving and get it into the endzone, but that will come with time hopefully. The talent is there and that is shown by them constantly being able to move the ball, now they just need to put it all together and start scoring touchdowns instead of using Sebastian Janikowski's immense talents so often.
The Jaguars are about as bad of a team as there will ever be in the NFL though and the Raiders did not cream them on the scoreboard. They dominated the day with their defense and they made enough plays to win, but that is not going to get them very far when they play against superior competition. What will help them against teams like the Broncos is their heart and their effort being at the absolute max though. They may not have been able to finish yesterday, but they did show heart in how they always got right back up and continued on.
Should Raiders fans be happy with the performance of their offense against the Jaguars? No. Should they be happy with the result? Absolutely. The difference between the two is simple, the performance was not good enough to beat a superior team but it was good enough to beat the inferior team. Now that they won despite not playing their best football it can actually help them with their confidence because they know how much better they can be.
Now next week they need to show exactly how much better they can be when they fly into Denver to take on the Broncos in front of a Nationally Televised audience. This will be the true test of how far this team has come and how far they need to go. We believe that the Colts are a good team but we don't know just yet. We know that the Broncos are a great team and they are going to need every ounce of production that they can muster. If they perform like they did against the Jaguars it will be a defeat the likes of which will be hard to overcome.