After back to back losses on the road, the Oakland Raiders now sit at 2-2, a far cry from where this team could be; or is it?
Once again Raider Nation watched as the offense sputtered for most of the game in Denver, only able to put up 10 points for a second straight week. So once again the defense was able to keep the Raiders in the game late, but once again the offense failed to capitalize on their efforts.
So why are we singing this tune again? This offense that was stacked across the entire board, an offense that featured one of the top offensive lines in the entire NFL. So what’s up? In this writers opinion, it is simple: we have overhyped them.
Perhaps the biggest disappointment this season has been the play of first-round draft pick Amari Cooper. Through four games Cooper has a dismal 12 receptions for 110 yards and one touchdown. However, that is not even the worst part; Cooper now leads the league in dropped passes with seven, one more than he had the entire 2016 season. In my opinion, Cooper does not do well in a lead role. Cooper thrives when Oakland’s ground attack is the primary focus of the defense, and there is a reliable receiver lined up across the field from him.
Speaking of which, Michael Crabtree was absent from the Broncos game. Cooper cannot be asked to shoulder the load as elite receivers do. At least not yet.
We all knew Lynch would be eased into the game plan for the Raiders but after Week 1 against the Titans, his production has gotten worse. From averaging 4.2 yards his first game to 1.3 yards vs. the Broncos, Lynch’s workload has decreased since Week 1. Lynch also only has one touchdown on the season. Now I believe this is partially due to Lynch’s handling in this offense.
Oakland has been handing off out of the shotgun, which I believe doesn’t play well to Lynch’s strength. I want to see Lynch in a Power I set, and with a lead blocker like Jamize Olawale, I think we would see Lynch do more damage on the ground for Oakland. However, we may never know if he could be better since Todd Downing seems to like Carr handing off out of the shotgun. So perhaps it isn’t fair to say Lynch has been overhyped, but it has been disappointing to see a potentially lethal weapon not being used to his full potential.
Conclusion: Victim of poor scheme
Last but not least is the offensive line for the Raiders. Having already allowed nine sacks through four games, in comparison they only allowed 18 through the entire 2016 season. So what is going on? Well, perhaps part of this problem could be the play calling of the Raiders. Downing needs to get back to basics with Carr and Co.
Oakland needs to let its big men attack downhill out of power run formations, which then would allow the play action for Carr and the receivers. Let the Raiders establish dominance in the trenches then open the playbook up. Once again the Raiders only ran the ball 15 times against the Broncos. Are the big men buying into their hype that was sold to them during the offseason? Perhaps. However, it may help the Raiders’ overall performance in the trenches if Lee Smith steps in more to help.
Conclusion: Partially overhyped, partially scheme
Final thoughts: It is still early in the season. Oakland has a first-year offensive coordinator that is still coming into his own, so there will be growing pains.
It is a tough loss considering how difficult the Raiders’ division is turning out to be and the Raiders cannot afford to fall behind too much. It is no secret the offense needs some tweaking but time will tell if Downing has the moxie to make the proper adjustments.
The Raiders are a good team and it was good to see E.J. Manuel step in and play a solid role in helping Oakland stay in the game. If Oakland has to rely on Manuel for a couple games while Carr recovers then the Raiders will be in capable hands for the immediate future, all things considered.
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