â€œBig Boy Ball”
While Jack Del Rio didn’t outright call him out by name, that was the Oakland Raiders’ head coach’s sticking point when it came to then-offensive coordinator Bill Musgrave.
How long before we hear Del Rio spout the same about Todd Downing? Yes, Downing is a neophyte when it comes to the play-caller role. And yes, this is only Downing’s fourth regular season game orchestrating the Raiders’ offense.
But the euphoria of Downing’s wizardry after two games is gone. It’s replaced with a numbness more severe than what quarterback Derek Carr suffered when he took a knee shot to his kidney this past Sunday.
Oakland’s once-powerful offense is stagnant. It’s limp. Impotent. And I’m not the only one with this sentiment. The Raiders must return to power football. Namely, with a fullback serving as the lead blocker.
Jim Harbaugh ran the Power I Formation to perfection during his time in San Francisco. When the scheme combined with execution, the formation was both dominant and elegant, something that Oakland’s offense has not been since a Week 2 drubbing of the New York Jets.
The notion the Raiders offense got better without Carr under center is as ludicrous as the idea that the offensive line is purposely giving up on their quarterback.
Supreme confidence in his arm and vision downfield as he eyes a bomb results in Carr holding the rock for too long. Flip the coin and backup EJ Manuel knows the limitations of his pop gun and gets what the defense gives him.
Look at the dart he threw to Amari Cooper that was picked off. Manuel knows the ball should have been placed better.
â€œAny time Coop is given an opportunity to go up and try to catch a ball, we want to give him that chance,” Manuel said. â€œI think I could’ve kept the ball more outside for him to try to shield off the safety a little more.”
Who would have thunk it would be the Raiders defense holding down the fort while the offense stunk up the joint? If you did, you sir or madam are a liar.
Finally healthy, Mario Edwards Jr. is playing like a man possessed and set the tone with a sack in the first series. Reigning Defensive Player of the Year Khalil Mack abused the protection for a pair of QB takedowns. Even Bruce Irvin showed up to the party. Cory James is manning the weakside linebacker role with authority while rookie Marquel Lee is an homage to the old-school run-at-me thumper linebackers.
Still, the rising defense is susceptible to brain farts, i.e. Broncos tight end A.J. Derby leaving Lee in the dust for a one-handed touchdown catch.
â€œWe’re getting there. We’re getting better every week, trying to learn from our mistakes. But at the same time it could be a lot better,” Mack said. â€œYou want to be able to shut teams out and bring your defense on the road with you. It is what it is.”
Held to single-digit yardage totals in the past two games definitely deserves a “WTF”. The once dynamic and must-account-for wideout has been anything but since the season-opener at Tennessee.
On one hand, you have the drops (Cooper does lead the league in the dubious category) and on the other, you have usage (something seems amiss when Coop isn’t thrown the ball a number of times).
Then there’s a question of heart and desire for not disrupting eventual interceptions (one against Washington and another this past Sunday in Denver that killed Oakland’s comeback hopes).
â€œI should’ve knocked it out of his hand or something,” Cooper said. â€œThat’s what I’m supposed to do. It didn’t go that way.”
Blessed with route-running on par with the probably the greatest of all time, Jerry Rice, Cooper has run streaks, comebacks, outs, and sluggo’s to no avail. Get back to basics (quick slants and screens) to get Amari out of the Coop.