Four games into the season, the Oakland Raiders are 2-2 and not where they wanted to be.
Despite having new weapons like receiver Cordarrelle Patterson and tight end Jared Cook, the offense is sputtering. It all starts up front where the offensive line isn’t doing much for running back Marshawn Lynch or quarterback Derek Carr.
Lynch is still Beast Mode, as he is among the league’s leaders in breaking tackles and yards after contact. But the O-line isn’t creating running lanes for him. I don’t care how hard you are to bring down, there’s only so much a runner can do on his own. It would probably help him a great deal if the Raiders would put him in the ‘I’ formation more.
While Carr is getting rushed a lot more this year, he hasn’t been as good under it. He could have helped his own cause by escaping the pocket in the four games he’s played. But it’s too late now as a back injury will have him out 2-6 weeks.
One of the reasons why Carr isn’t as good under pressure is there are few open receiver to get rid of the ball to. And when Amari Cooper does manage to get open, he’s not catching the ball. This is Year 3, not one, so Cooper should be past the dropping stage.
No one wants to admit it right now but one problems with the offense is offensive coordinator Todd Downing. NFL Network’s Charley Casserly said of the Raiders offense, “This offense is not complicated. It is not a very complicated offense on paper to defend. It gets complicated because they’ve got great players.”
No one was saying that about the Raiders offense last year with Bill Musgrave as the OC. They led the league in pass plays over 20 and 40 yards last year. But no one could forgive him for passing late in the game against the Indianapolis Colts last year, leading to Carr’s injury. He was fired in favor of the young, up-and-coming Downing.
Never mind the fact that the Raiders didn’t have an RB that could run out the clock. Musgrave would have run Lynch at the end of games if he had him available. And he would have run him out of the I formation and played power football, something the Raiders are good at.
It’s all about 2016 Defensive Player of the Year Khalil Mack, who hasn’t missed a beat in 2017 so far. He has put constant pressure on opposing QB’s and has been solid as a rock against the run.
Part of the reason Mack is off to a good start with four sacks this year is the health of defensive end Mario Edwards Jr. He requires double-teams but teams are too concerned with Mack at times. Then when Edwards blows the offense up from the interior, Mack gets more opportunities to go one-on-one or see double-teams instead of triple-teams.
Eddie Vanderdoes has been disruptive in spots himself and Bruce Irvin finally showed up in the pass rush in Game 4 with his first sack.
The inside linebacker position has been quite an adventure for the Raiders so far this year. Cory James looks like a stud one week and the next week, not so much. Undrafted free agent Nicholas Morrow made his way onto the field more with his play only to turn it down a notch. And fifth-round pick Marquel Lee is also inconsistent.
Strong safety Karl Joseph has been the only consistent player despite his missed tackle leading to a big run Sunday. Free safety Reggie Nelson gets to the deep ball late as usual but so far this year, there haven’t been any tipped passes to intercept.
At the cornerback position, first-round pick Gareon Conley looks like he’ll be that guy. He flashed when he finally got on the field in Week 2, was gimpy in Week 3 and missed Week 4. Hopefully his shin issues subside while T.J. Carrie has slowly started to emerge. There’s no reason to talk about Sean Smith while there is concern for David Amerson, who already has two concussions this year.
State of the Raiders: Very much in question
No one really knows how long Carr will be out with the fractured transverse process (though Del Rio said 2-6 weeks). But one good thing is with EJ Manuel looking decent, the Raiders aren’t as bad without him as last year. No matter who’s at QB, the O-line has to protect him and open holes for Lynch.
Defensively, Mack has some help on the front-seven so he will be a terror that changes games. But the Raiders need LB’s that can consistently play the run and cover RB’s and TE’s.
In the secondary, the only guy we can be sure about is strong safety Karl Joseph. It’s hard to trust Carrie over time after seeing what he’s done over the years or Conley’s health this year. So we don’t know if the Raiders will be able to consistently hold the score down the way they did against the Broncos Sunday.
We were supposed to be sure about the offense as everyone thought it would be better with Downing at OC. But we aren’t because that hasn’t been the case through four games. Hopefully, Downing can figure it out before too long.
The Raiders play in a tough division too so everything has to come together quickly if they are to keep pace.