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Raiders midseason Ballers & Busters: Part two

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The second part of the detailing of the best and worst performances of the first half of the Raiders 2014 season.

Winslow Townson-USA TODAY Sports


Miles Burris

A two-week respite for Burris the past two weeks cannot wipe out his heinous play at middle linebacker over the first six weeks. He was named a Buster four times over that period, three times named Top Buster. He was a Buster right from the opener for an overall terrible defensive performance against the hapless Jets. He personally gave up a touchdown.

The following week he was Top Buster in a home opening rout at he hands of the Texans. He was blocked on the very first play of the game to give up a 9-yard run. Later in the drive, he was blown up and Arian Foster shot through the Raiders defense for 40 yards down to the 1-yard line. They would score a touchdown two plays later.

His inexperience at middle linebacker showed up on a play in the second quarter. On third and nine, Burris was confused as to what was coming and was late tryng to line up the defense. Ryan Fitzpatrick saw the confusion and quickly got the snap off. The result was a 16-yard run.

Week 6 saw Burris Top Buster once again. The Raiders offense came on in that game but their couldn't keep up with how quickly the defense was giving up points. And at some point in this game it became obvious Philip Rivers was searching for where Miles Burris was on the field and going at him. It worked like a charm. For Burris it was a constant barage of missed tackles and inability to shed blocks. And of course standing there watching a touchdown be caught right in front of him.

The Raiders actually had the lead at 28-21 late in this game. But Rivers knew where to go to get points. He went at Burris on the first pass for 16 yards. The Raiders were in zone on the next play, and he put it in the soft spot between Burris and Usama Young. A few plays later, Burris was out of position on a 20-yard screen pass to set up a field goal. They would win it on a late touchdown thanks to Burris giving up a 10-yard scramble, and a 10-yard run that put them in first and goal at the 7-yard line. They would score a couple plays later to put the game away.

Another week, another Top Buster for Burris. His first glaring mistake was on the Cardinals' second drive when he had terrible position on a running back catch in the flat which caused him to completely whiff on a tackle to allow a 37-yard gain.

The Cardinals third touchdown was almost exclusively due to miscues by Burris. H was blocked on a six-yard run, was called for pass interference, lost in traffic on a 13-yard run, out of position to give up a six-yard run to the 4-yard line and then he missed the tackle to give up the touchdown run.

Last week he had a great first half and a typical Burris second half. We'll see how his second half of the season goes. But over these first eight games, it hasn't been positive.

Austin Howard

A strong candidate for the Most Disappointing Addition of the Midseason, he has been a disaster pretty much across the board, and was named a Buster four times over the first half of the season. It started as soon as the season started and he faced his former Jets team.

Among his mistakes in the game was missing a block so badly that Maurice Jones-Drew was literally decleated in the backfield as soon as he was handed the ball. The ball came out and was inadvertently kicked in the air where Derek Carr recovered it. He also gave up a pressure resulting in a tackle for no gain and was bull rushed into the QB to cause a batted ball at their own 7-yard line.

Two weeks later in New England, he was a Buster again. He personally gave up three run stuffs in this game. One of them was a tackle for no gain on a third and one which forced a three and out. The Raiders ran to right guard seven times in this game for an average of 1.7 yards per carry.

His final Buster appearance came in week eight against the Browns. In that one he gave up a sack, a run stuff tackle for loss, was called for holding. He alsos wasn't credited with a single key block on a run play which is kinda his primary job.

Dennis Allen

Without detailing every mistake the Raiders made over the first four games of this season, let's just say this team was lost, rudderless, and uninspired. Every game, you could see the opposing coaches playing chess while Dennis Allen was playing Candyland. He was named a Buster three of the first four games. The first week it was a complete head coach and coordinator trio Top Buster situation after looking downright pathetic against the Jets -- one of the worst teams in the NFL.

The Raiders were then ripped a new one at home against the Texans. The Texans have proven to be a far better team this year than they were last year but there is no excuse for that display in the Raiders' home opener.

It was a similar story in London against Miami -- a complete anhilation. That global embarrassment overseas was Dennis Allen's swan song. At 0-4 with three ugly losses and the bye week coming up, it was time to say bye bye. Actually it was time to say toodle-ooh following last season when the Raiders finished 4-12 with a 6-game losing streak, but we won't get into that. Dennis Allen was 8-28 with ten-straight losses when he was shown the door. And the defensive minded coach presided over an historically bad defense last season that actually looked worst this season over the first four games.

Greg Olson

Greg Olson presides over the NFL's worst offense in both points and yards. And it only seems to get worse as the weeks pass. That's saying a lot considering he shared the Top Buster spot in the season opener. From the very start, the offense was predictable. The Jets always seemed to know when to blitz and when not to blitz. They blitzed quite a bit, but rarely on a run play or screen play.

The biggest transgression by the offensive gameplan was not testing the Jets weak secondary. There were a total of THREE completions past ten yards from the line of scrimmage out of 20 completions. And eight were thrown behind the line of scrimmage. The Raiders punted eight straight times in this game. Two of those were a direct result of calling a pass play too short to pick up the first down.

Firmly in the 'what have you done for me lately' category, Olson has been a Buster each of the past two weeks, including Top Buster in week 8 against the Browns. That game was just bizarre from the very start. Early in the game the Raiders were having early success against the Browns porous run defense. So, of course they went away from it. Then things started getting really weird. First it was a poorly concocted Wildcat play. Then it was a two-yard pass play on third and 14 following by a fake field goal that resulted in an interception.

As I said at the time, I don't fault the Raiders for trying the fake there (a decision Sparano would be making). But it seemed as if the two-yard pass the play before was with the idea that they were just gonna fake the field goal anyway. The first drive is a bit too early to be thinking four-down territory and resorting to gimmicks. As a result, it was a six-point swing.

This whole game was filled with questionable play calls. Pass plays into a stacked box on third and short, short passes on third and long, running it with the fullback who has never proven he is a short yardage back while Marcel Reece sits on the sideline.

The most baffling thing about that game was the Raiders passed twice as often as they ran it... against one of the worst run defenses in the NFL. Instead they opted to test Pro Bowl corner Joe Haden five times in the second have without a single completion. Talk about banging your head against a brick wall.

Speaking of banging your head against a brick wall, Olson was calling for almost literally that last week. He constantly called for runs right up the gut, despite the fact that is just wasn't working. Ten of their 15 designed runs were up the middle with just one of those runs gaining more than four yards with a combined total of ten yards. One of those runs was for ten yards which means they got ZERO yards on the other nine. There also wasn't a single run play called on third down despite the team converting just 5 first downs out of 15 third down opportunities.

Jason Tarver

Like Allen and Olson, Tarver was a Top Buster in the opener. The reason he gets the third spot below them is because the Raiders defense has actually stepped up a bit the past couple weeks. But the first six games were brutal. And it had Tarver named a Buster four times. Despite facing Geno Smith and the Jets near the end of last sesaon, Tarver and the Raiders defense seemed clueless as to how to stop him. We're talking about the now-benched-in-favor-of-Mike-Vick Geno Smith. After allowing Smith to put up his best numbers of last season, Tarver gave him and the Jets their only win of this season.

Yet again, in week two, Tarver was facing a quarterback who had beaten his defense last season - Ryan Fitzpatrick. Fitz needed a late game winning drive to beat the Raiders last season. This season, he torched them from the start. Charles Woodson was utterly deflated after that game, already disillusioned with the direction of the team.

Tarver made Top Buster again in week four against the Dolphins. The most specific example of his incompetence was the several times Dolphins would line up with three wide receivers on one side of the field and the Raiders would counter with two defensive backs. The first time we saw this alignment, it resulted in the Dolphins' first touchdown from 13 yards out. The next time it resulted in a 17-yard pick up and set up the Dolphins third touchdown. One more time we saw it, it resulted in a 6-yard gain. Must have been the metric transition in London that was messing with Tarver there.

I didn't name Tarver a Buster in week six when the Chargers put up 32 points on the Raiders, but it wasn't good. Regardless, he was back on the list the following week against the Cardinals. In that game, the Cardinals converted on 60% of their third downs. The first touchdown drive, they converted on two third downs. Late in the game the Cardinals needed to run clock and score. They did just that. That score was set up when third and 8, they called for a screen play and again, no one was there to cover it for a 10-yard gain for a new set of downs and it put them in position for a 41-yard field goal to put the game away.

Tarell Brown

He was a Buster three times this season, beginning in week 2. In that game he gave up a 7-yard catch on third and 2, a 10-yard catch on third and 6, and was called for defensive holding on third and 8 to set them up at the 14-yard line. He later gave up a 20-yard catch that set the Texans up for a field goal and a 27-0 lead.

He was a Buster agan the following week in Foxboro. The biggest play on the Patriots' touchdown scoring drive came by way of a pass interference penalty on Brown. It set them up at the 14-yard line and they scored a few plays later. He also gave up a 4-yard catch on that drive. On the next Patriots' scoring drive he gave up catches of 20 and 16 yards to help them add another field goal. All told he gave up 77 yards to the Patriots along with 5 catches and 4 first downs.

Week seven against the Carson Palmer and the Cardinals saw Brown a Buster once again. He gave up a 19-yard catch, a 15-yard catch, and a 17-yard catch in third and nine. His biggest catch given up was a 33-yard touchdown. Michael Floyd who streaked up the right sideline with Brown in coverage. Brown appeared to be right there to defend it but as the ball got there, it was like he seemed to just sink while Floyd easily plucked the ball over the top of him for the score.

Brown managed to have a decent game last week and was named a Baller for his work. We'll see if he can continue that level of play in the second half or revert to his previous form. Peyton Manning is coming up so it won't get any easier in the short term.

LaMarr Woodley

An absolute liability over the first six games of this season while he was healthy. He was only named a Buster twice but with his 5 total tackles, I can't help but second guess myself and maybe he was just so invisible, I forgot he was there. In the aforementioned Honorable Mention for Benson Mayowa I noted he equaled Woodley's season stats in six quarters of play. This lack of production from what was supposed to be one of the bigger free agent acquisitions by this team in the off-season. He and Tuck were supposed to solve the Raiders pass rush issues. Obviously that didn't happen.

Menelik Watson

Watson took over for Khalif Barnes at right tackle when Barnes left with a quad injury. In three starts, he has been named a Buster twice. Those Buster nods were the past two weeks. In week 8 against the Browns, he gave up a sack, a pressure on third down forcing Carr to throw the ball away, a false start, and an illegal hands to the face penalty.

Last week Watson gave up two pressures that resulted in tackles for loss on the opening drive alone. Later he gave up a run stuff for no gain, and two plays later gave up a sack to end the series on four plays. He would give up another run stuff for a short gain. He is supposed to be improving and he appears to actually be getting worse. And with Barnes having to step in at left guard now, Watson will remain the starter at right tackle for a bit longer.

Maurice Jones-Drew

Speaking of non-factors, there have been few players who have been less of a factor this season than MJD. He was out with an injured hand for two games this season and has not seen many carries since then. If you watch him run the ball, it's not hard to see why he isn't getting the carries. He is averaging 2.1 yards per carry on the season. Last week, he actually averaged negative one yard per carry. The week before he had 8 yards on 6 carries for a 1.33 yards per carry average. He isn't getting much help from his offensive line, but come on, that's dreadful. I just don't see the capability to pull out of it either.

Chimdi Chekwa

Chimdi was named the team's nickel corner this season, I guess out of seniority or something. I didn't really see how he had earned that job in training camp or preseason but he was given his shot. And he wasn't up to the task. He was the nickel corner for four games and named a Buster for two of them. First time was in week two against the Texans.

He was called for pass interference on the third play of the game. Then on the same drive, on third and 2, he gave up a 9-yard catch. On the Texans' first drive of the third quarter, in third and 8 from the 12, Chekwa gave up the catch to DeAndre Hopkins for the touchdown. Chekwa missed a tackle at the line to give up a six-yard first down run on the Texans' final scoring drive.

Week 4 against the Dolphins was the game he lost his job. Brian Hartline had his number. On the Dolphins first touchdown drive, Chekwa gave up a 35-yard catch and a 16-yard catch on third and five. On the Dolphins first drive of the third quarter, he gave up a 14-yard catch on third and 12 and was called for holding on third and goal to put the Dolphins in first and goal at the 2-yard line. We saw a lot more of TJ Carrie after that and Carrie took the nickel corner spot after the bye to much better results.

Pat Sims

Much like Woodley, Sims has not been seen much this season. He was a Buster twice in the early going, including last week against the Seahawks. In that game he was blocked to open holes on both of Marshawn Lynch's touchdown runs. Then on the Seahawks final drive of the game, he was blocked to allow a 17-yard run. He had two assists in the game. Over the season he has 15 combine tackles (10 solo) and has seen his snaps go down in favor of rookie Justin Ellis.

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