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Raiders 2015 season Ballers & Busters: Part two

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The second part of my Ballers & Busters season wrap-up which is home to those Raiders 2015 performances that weren't so great.


DJ Hayden

A good game by Hayden this season was one in which he wasn't mentioned at all. That was the most we could ask for from the former top pick. Every game he made the list, he was a Buster - Seven times in total and was a three-time Top Buster.

For some people, it probably seemed like he was more often topping the list, especially those who watched him float between ineffective and absolute liability.

He just missed being Top Buster in the opener, but that was when Ray Ray Armstrong was a starting linebacker (that didn't last long). Hayden was lit up by Andy Dalton and the Bengals in that game, giving up 7 catches on 9 targets and a touchdown.

He was a top Buster in weeks three and four which just so happen to be the first two games after the team claimed David Amerson off waivers. In week 3, Hayden's poor play very nearly allowed the Browns make a comeback victory. The following week, the Bears did have a comeback victory and Hayden was victimized time and time again.

In week 9, he was back atop the Busters as Ben Roethlisberger ripped him a new one and the Steelers came from behind to put 38 points on the Raiders in a win in Pittsburgh.

Being the target of opposing quarterbacks was a pretty common theme this season for Hayden. No regular starting defensive back on the team had fewer pass breakups (8) and interceptions (1) than Hayden did. And his high tackle numbers (70 combined) were due mostly to catches he gave up.

Curtis Lofton

Lofton made a strong case for Top Buster for the season. He was named a Buster four times this season and that figure would have been higher had he not been stripped of his starting job after week 4. Up to that point, he had been named a Buster three times in four games.

The Raiders signed him last offseason as an experienced veteran starting middle linebacker. That alone was to be a valuable addition to this young, inexperienced squad. All Lofton had to be was serviceable as a player and as the ‘brain' of the defense, the whole group would be better. None of that happened.

By midseason, the defense was the worst in the league and Lofton was a major reason why. He was a Buster in the season opener, Top Buster in the second week, and again in week 4.

That's when the team decided the linebacking corps was better with Malcolm Smith in the middle and brought in Neiron Ball to play outside linebacker.  But Ball went down with a knee injury in week 7, prompting the Raiders to put Lofton back in the starting lineup - where he was promptly named a Buster again. This soon had the team looking to rookie Ben Heeney to see if he could provide a spark. He proved a better option.

Over the final three games of the season, Lofton barely saw the field and the defense played its best football of the season.

J'Marcus Webb

Signing a tackle to play guard had already backfired on the Raiders with Austin Howard's addition last year. So, doing it again seemed ill advised. His transition was rough at the start, as you might expect. He was a Buster three times in the first five games.

But following the bye week, the offense was playing very good football and he was surprisingly serviceable during that time, though never good enough to earn Baller status. Not surprisingly was once he and other members of the offensive line began popping up as Busters was when the offense stagnated.

In week 14, when Austin Howard went down with a season ending injury, Webb was moved to right tackle and was a Buster each of the final three weeks of the season. It became apparent why he had been moved inside and it was because his pass blocking was atrocious.

In total, he tied for the team lead, landing seven times on the Buster list - four times at guard and three times at tackle.

Neiko Thorpe

Despite starting just two games at corner this season, he found himself on the Buster list six times and a Top Buster once. In many of the games in which he appeared, but didn't start, he still played extensive snaps as the nickel corner.

On a young secondary, Thorpe was among the top three coming into the season. After turning in a Buster performance in the opener, he made the game-sealing interception in the team's week two win over the Ravens. That was his only Baller appearance this season.

In week three, Thorpe was named a starter with TJ Carrie moving to safety. He gave up several big plays late to very nearly blow the game to the Browns. Peyton Manning didn't have a lot of success in his week 5 meeting with the Raiders, but he sure did when he threw Thorpe's way. He gave up 5 catches on 6 targets, one of which was a 41-yarder. Add a pass interference on third down late in the game and there you have it.

In week 12, Marcus Mariota wasn't have a lot of success against the Raiders either. The Raiders had benched Hayden in favor of Thorpe who became the only member of the defense who was named a Buster in the game. Mariota routinely went after Thorpe and got most of his passing success from that match-up. The Raiders ended up needing a late game-winning drive to pull out a win over the team which finished with the worst record in the NFL.

Donald Penn

He ‘led' the team with the most times being a Buster this season (8) along with being Top Buster three times. He may have been season Top Buster for that if it weren't for the fact that he was also named a Baller four times to offset things.

Early in the season, he was up and down and played well enough to keep Carr pretty clean and Latavius Murray running well. The latter part of the season, he was a Buster five times and once Top Buster. Carr's sack numbers skyrocketed and Murray's rush totals plummeted. Certainly not nearly all Penn's fault, but he did his part.

One issue with the offensive line issues was the injury to Rodney Hudson which had him out for three games and not play as well in a couple others while he recovered. Hudson returned initially from the ankle injury, but last less than a half before being back on the shelf for two games. The re-aggravation of the injury, was caused when Penn lost his block on a run play and in trying to catch his man, Penn rolled up on Hudson's ankle.

In just the eight games Penn was named a Buster, I counted 8 sacks given up, 5 quarterback hits, 7 run stuffs given up, and five penalties for 47 yards and a safety. The safety was on a holding penalty in the end zone in a loss to the Lions in week 11. There was also another holding penalty that was declined in favor of Penn's unnecessary roughness penalty - one of two he had in the team's week 7 win in San Diego.

Bill Musgrave

By midseason, Musgrave was all the rage in Oakland. The offense was clicking and the plays he was drawing up were working like a charm. Then it all came crashing down. Suddenly the defenses always seemed to know what was coming and his decisions became rather disconcerting.

Most notably the play calls that he consistently attempted and yet never seemed to work were attempting a wide receiver screen on third and long and lining up to pass with an empty backfield on third and short.

In a win in week seven, Musgrave drew up a bubble screen to Amari Cooper that Cooper took 52 yards for a touchdown. And ever since then, it seemed like Musgrave thought that play would work every time he called it. I can't recall another time after that when that play worked at all. And yet, so many times when the Raiders lined up in third and long, there was that inside wide receiver screen, and every time, there was the defense to stop it.

This season, Latavius Murray became the Raiders first 1000-yard back since 2010. They also have the big, athletic Pro Bowl fullback Marcel Reece and liked fullback Jamize Olawale so much they gave him an extension during the season. So, it seems logical to use one of them on third and short. Or at least have one or two of them in the backfield to give the impression they could use one of them. Far too often, that didn't happen. Instead, third and short meant Derek Carr alone in the backfield in the shotgun. And rarely did that plan ever pan out.

This seemed to get progressively worse, causing Musgrave to be a Buster twice in the final four games, including Top Buster in week 14 against the Broncos when the offense had -12 yards of offense in the first half. Two weeks later against the Chargers, the offense didn't convert a single first down in the second half against and the Raiders had just five passes to wide receivers despite the Chargers being without both of their top defensive backs.

See the Ballers