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Raiders 2017 midseason Ballers & Busters: Part two

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Those who faltered over the first half of the Raiders’ season, putting them in their 4-5 bind.

NFL: Oakland Raiders at Denver Broncos Isaiah J. Downing-USA TODAY Sports


Todd Downing

When an offense goes from top five to bottom five and the only change was the offensive coordinator, it’s not difficult to know where to look for answers. He moved the offensive line away from their strength as a power blocking unit first and foremost. And the former 6th ranked run offense is now among the worst in the league. Then there’s the almost complete lack of play action passing. And up until the Chiefs game in week seven, the offense wasn’t stretching the field with the deep ball either. It’s the reason Downing was a Buster four times and Top Buster once.

There were indications the offense had returned to its 2016 form in the big win over the Chiefs in week 7. But the following week, they once again couldn’t get out of their own way. Derek Carr isn’t free of blame for some of these issues, and after the loss to the Bills in week 8, the coaches weren’t actively attempting to shoulder all the blame anymore. The thing is, though, if there are issues occurring between QB and OC, it is Downing’s job to ensure those things get ironed out.

Donald Penn

The day training camp began, we learned Donald Penn was holding out for a new contract. He was a Pro Bowler in 2016 and wanted to be paid like a top ten left tackle. That seemed fair, but Reggie McKenzie wasn’t budging and therefore Penn sat out all of training camp before returning. A couple weeks later, he got the deal he was looking for. And he has had his worst season as a Raider.

Penn has been a Buster five times this season, including each of the past two weeks. Most of that has been his run blocking, but there have been some pass blocking issues as well. The 34-year-old hasn’t played like a top ten left tackle so far this season.

Jack Del Rio, Ken Norton Jr

How is this defense actually worse than it was last season? They were 26th in the league last season in yards allowed and 20th in points. This season they are once again 26th in yard allowed, but at 23rd in points.

Here’s a couple of interesting tidbits for you that might blow your mind. This team has three defensive coordinators on it. Del Rio, Norton, and John Pagano. And yet they look worse this year than they did last year. Each week even mediocre quarterbacks look elite against them, they are still adding to their record for games without an interception and there’s no indication they’ll get one anytime soon.

Another interesting tidbit is there are three former NFL middle linebackers in charge in Del Rio, Norton, and GM Reggie McKenzie. And yet they once again began the season without viable option at middle linebacker. It wasn’t until the 49ers showed mercy on NaVorro Bowman and released him which allowed them to sign him. And wouldn’t you know it, he has led the team in tackles every game and the Raiders have gone 2-1 in those games.

Sean Smith, Reggie Nelson

While we talk about how bad the secondary is and how they haven’t intercepted a pass, it starts with these two. Both were big free agent additions in the 2016 offseason. Smith was to be the team’s number one corner and Nelson ended up leading the team with five interceptions on his way to the Pro Bowl.

Now, through nine game, Smith has been benched and Nelson can’t even sniff a ball and is constantly too late to recognize where his help is needed. Often times when Smith was still starting, it was him who needed the help over the top. When Dexter McDonald is considered a better option at corner, and everyone is calling for you to put the 7th round rookie in at safety, you’ve got serious problems.

Amari Cooper

Over the past few weeks, Coop seems to be back to the level of receiver we had come accustomed to last season. But that doesn’t wipe away how horrendous he was over a five week span early this season in which he caught just 13 passes for 84 yards and no touchdowns. Not coincidentally the Raiders lost four of those five games.

Four games into the season, Coop already had a league-high 7 drops and he now sits at a still league high 10 drops on the season. Prior to his breakout game against the Kansas City Chiefs in week 7, he had caught just 18 passes for 146 yards and one touchown. In the three games since, he has 20 catches for 316 yards and 2 touchdowns, giving every indication that he should have a much better second half. If he does, he can wipe away his mistakes of the first half. It would also be the first time in his career he finished stronger than he started. In his first two seasons he faded down the stretch.

Eddie Vanderdoes

The third round rookie came out the gates in the first game looking like he could be a beast. Since then he has been the most irrelevant lineman in the NFL. He has started every game and yet has a grand total of 7 tackles (5 solo) with no sacks and two QB hits. Even fellow 7th round rookie Treyvon Hester, who has no starts, has better tackle numbers than that (8) with equal QB hit numbers. Thus far Vanderdoes has done nothing to show he is an upgrade over last year’s second rounder Jihad Ward, who spends each week inactive.

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