Jack Del Rio, Todd Downing, Ken Norton Jr
I have been hearing ‘coaching matters’ a lot lately. Mostly I hear it with regard to teams like the Rams and Jaguars. But it certainly applies to the Raiders as well. Del Rio’s biggest mistakes were his coordinator moves. Letting go of Bill Musgrave who was in charge of their 6th ranked offense and promoting Downing from QB coach while keeping Ken Norton Jr who was in charge of their 26th ranked defense. By midseason both of those decisions were proving to be a major factor in the Raiders’ undoing.
The biggest issue during the season for Del Rio was his mismanagement of injuries. His weird, annoying refusal to even discuss injuries or their severity aside, he didn’t actually seem to know how severe many of those injuries were. The secondary in particular suffered for it.
First it was the shin injury to top draft pick cornerback Gareon Conley. Del Rio wouldn’t speak a word of what the injury was that was keeping Conley out of training camp, leaving Reggie McKenzie to say it was shin splints. Then Conley mocked the diagnosis, apparently not knowing it was his own GM who said it and causing unnecessary drama.
Conley would appear in just two games before aggravating the injury and never returning. But it wasn’t until seven weeks later that Conley finally landed on injured reserve, taking up a valuable roster spot.
In week seven, David Amerson suffered a foot injury and never returned. But he would spend the final nine games still on the roster. He worked on the side a couple times and even returned to limited participation in practice late in the season, but didn’t play another game, again holding a valuable roster spot.
Rookie second round pick Obi Melifonwu was placed on injured reserve to start the season with designation to return. He was ready well ahead of when he actually returned. In his second game back, against Tom Brady and the Patriots, Melifonwu was named the starting cornerback, due mostly to the Raiders being without Conley and Amerson. But they didn’t need to do that. They had offseason rookie standout Breon Borders on the practice squad and the bye week to work with and didn’t call him up.
Three games later, Melifonwu would go down with injury too and they still didn’t call up Borders. They instead went with three corners on the roster, calling up Darius Latham only to make him inactive for the game. A week later, Borders was signed by the Buffalo Bills off the practice squad, thus losing a player who had shown a lot of potential.
When the Raiders were beaten badly in KC for the third straight time under Del Rio, he lost the team and they lost their way. They finishing the season with a 4-game losing streak and were back to double digit losses.
We keep hearing from prospective Raiders QB coaches what they would do to ‘fix’ Derek Carr. There was definitely something broken with him last season and I don’t just mean his fibula and his back.
What they have said is the same thing many of us have noticed; Carr’s mechanics are off, starting with his feet. He simply was not stepping into his throws. Too often he was either throwing off his back foot or in a full on backpedal. He was playing scared and it was causing his balls to fall short of their target or to sail.
He started out the season looking fine in the first two games. Then in week three in Washington, everything fell apart. Some would like to blame the anthem protests, but here’s the thing about that…
The protests were league-wide. The only difference with the Raiders was the confusion when their plan to stay in the locker room didn’t work out due to time constraints with the game being prime time. Yes, Carr stood while many of his teammates sat. That alone shouldn’t be a big deal. Then he went out and looked as bad as we’ve seen him look. My take is this; if a little pregame confusion and the difference between standing and sitting is enough to cause his confidence to crumble, that’s on him and it’s a very bad sign when considering his fortitude as a franchise quarterback.
That’s only if you believe that’s what happened. If not, then it was something else that was shaking his confidence. Either way he was just simply bad. Reeeaally bad. The following week, he was still looking rattled and lost, causing him to dive back-first into the knee of a Broncos defender, suffering a fracture in his back that knocked him out of that game and the following week.
The thing was, EJ Manuel came in and looked more effective in that game than Carr did before he was knocked out. Manuel was moving the ball down field where Carr had not and Manuel nearly led the Raiders to the win at the end.
Carr would miss one game and the Raiders would lose four straight while averaging 13 points per game, putting their season in serious jeopardy. He would have a couple great games against the Chiefs and Dolphins midseason, but those games were surrounded by ugly performances in Buffalo and Mexico City and the season ended with his annual Krash and burn in Kansas City and a clusterphuck in Philly. Then the season ended in Los Angeles with the offense scoring ten points to get swept by the Chargers. The Chargers.
In total, Carr was a Buster six times, including Top Buster three times. He had his worst season since his 3-13 rookie campaign, tying his career worst 13 interceptions, with his passer rating (86.4), passing yards (3496), and touchdowns (22) all just above his rookie numbers. His 86.4 passer rating and 20 passes that traveled over 20 yards past the line of scrimmage were both 20th in the NFL among 32 starting quarterbacks.
Sean Smith, Dexter McDonald
Smith got off to such a rough start, he was benched for half the season. There were signs it was headed that way in training camp when he lost first team reps and was brought in to cover tight ends. Even in his big two interception game against the Cowboys in week 15 he still gave up two huge, devastating pass plays that set up two scores. Two weeks later, he had a busted coverage to give up a 56-yard touchdown.
While Smith was benched and after David Amerson was lost for the season with a foot injury, McDonald was who the team called upon to pick up the slack. Early on, playing in place of Smith, he held up well. But at some point, opposing offenses figured him out. It started in Miami where Jay Cutler was feasting on McDonald to start the game with 16-straight completions. It continued in the team’s season-ending four-game losing streak with Alex Smith and Dak Prescott lovin’ McDonald’s fast food.
Marshall Newhouse, Vadal Alexander
Call it the switch in scheme if you like. But I’m not really about excuses. It didn’t seem to matter much which of these three were in the lineup. They all had their issues.
Newhouse was never a Baller last season. He was, however, a Buster six times. It was a little bit of everything with him. He gave up pressures, he gave up sacks, and he gave up run stuffs and was by the worst on the team in every one of those areas. He had the lowest Pro Football Focus run blocking grade on the team (43.2) which was 61st in the league in their tackle rankings. He gave up a whopping 8 sacks – twice that of Donald Penn (4) – and 38 pressures putting him 56th among tackles in pass blocking efficiency.
The only time it was worse was when Vadal Alexander stepped in for Newhouse. Alexander started four games and was a Buster four times. His two sacks and 20 pressures allowed are massive when considering how few snaps he played (256) compared to other tackles in the team. He played less than a third of the snaps Newhouse (842) did which would put Alexander at 65 pressures (!!!) had he played the same number of snaps. Yikes.
Jackson got a big new deal this offseason, making him the league’s third highest paid guard. He didn’t play like it last season though. Most of his poor blocking came early in the season, but he wasn’t able to balance it with any especially positive blocking over the second half either. He was always somewhere between passable and not, finishing as Pro Football Focus’s 41st ranked run blocking guard out of 80 eligible guards. He also gave up 22 pressures and a sack – easily the most of the Raiders’ interior linemen.
The 2016 undrafted phenom came crashing to earth in his second season. His numbers across the board were down, but that isn’t why he’s here. He is here for his fumbles. A league leading 8 fumbles; seven of which came in the return game. Taiwan Jones was rendered a lost cause for less ball security issues than that. Richard may not be the answer on special teams which means he needs to show up big again as a runner if he hopes to play the ‘lightning’ in Jon Gruden’s offense.
Jihad Ward, Eddie Vanderdoes
The Raiders last two high round picks along the defensive line. And the team’s resident invisible men. Despite all the hype coming from the Raiders this offseason about how Ward was ready to have a breakout season, he was active for just five games and totaled 2 tackles all season long.
Ward and Vanderdoes had a combined 3 QB hits and 1 sack between them. That sack was created by Khalil Mack being double teamed inside, leaving Ward with a free run at the QB on a stunt around the right edge. It was Ward’s first career sack and it only took 20 games to get it. Vanderdoes is still looking for his first sack despite starting 13 games this season, appearing in all 16. Much like he is so often looking for the running back that just went past him. Between these two and Mario Edwards Jr’s inability to stay healthy, the Raiders’ defensive tackle position is downright embarrassing.