Speaking The Truth: Downing, Offense, and missing the “little” things?

Six weeks into the 2017 NFL season and the Oakland Raiders offense appears to have been sucked into the infamous Black Hole” residing in the south end of the Oakland-Alameda County Coliseum.

The Last time this offense was remotely recognizable to Raider Nation and the NFL landscape was the Week 2 dance party against the New York Jets. Losing has taken its toll and continues to chip away at the armor of even the steadiest of Raiders. Derek Carr continues to be the consummate professional and quintessential leader, but he’s experiencing troubles of his own.

Judging how Carr is playing is difficult because, while they aren’t winning games, believe it or not, only three quarterbacks with at least 100 pass attempts are more efficient than Carr. Alex Smith, Josh McCown, and Drew Brees surprisingly are the only quarterbacks to have completed better than 68.3% of 100+ passes.

In spite of Carr’s efficiency with the football, the Raiders continue to lose and look offensively anemic. What is the reason Carr suddenly seems to be unable to get it done? Carr is averaging 6.6 yards per completion, which is more than only Matthew Stafford and Blake Bortles (6.3), Brian Hoyer (6.1), Mike Glennon (6.0), Jay Cutler, Joe Flacco and Deshone Kizer (5.4).

That is a list of names which you do not want to have any part of. None of these quarterbacks with the exception of Stafford are considered to be upper echelon starters in the NFL. But the list of woes concerning a stat line continues, although Carr has stated numerous times he cares nothing about these. However, with numbers like these, perhaps he should just a tad. Missing a game due to his back injury has placed Carr slightly behind the eight ball in terms of league standings. His 139 pass attempts rank 31st and his 924 passing yards rank 28th in the NFL.

Ah yes, the running game: an aspect of the team that was supposed to bolstered by the best run after contact back there is in the league. Instead, the running game appears to be as equally mismanaged as the passing game, as Jerry McDonald pointed out via his Twitter. Granted, fullback Jamize Olawale has been unavailable with various injuries for the majority of the season, there are other ways to run power.

Featuring one of the largest and heaviest lines in the league, it would seem that a team which made its hay on running power would continue to do so. But here’s where another offensive coordinator’s belief in his own system appears to supersede the conventional wisdom and obvious statistical success of the former scheme. Former Raiders’ CEO Amy Trask had some very candid points to make about the recent struggles.

Another bout of the zone blocking scheme, no thank you. Every coach who has ever attempted to run the zone blocking scheme in Oakland has failed miserably and been run out-of-town. A bit of friendly advice: the Raiders have an identity, the problem is every coach they have brought in has tried to alter it and make it something else. The successful coaches have understood the Raider way and have won playing Raider football.

With a big, physically dominating and powerful offensive line, an equally dominating defensive front, speed and skill at all positions, they pride themselves on being better “mano-a-mano” than the man in front of them.

Last season for as much criticism as he took, Musgrave catered to that persona and the offense flourished. This year, “the scheme is fine” yet the offensive coordinator is different but the talent is the same and the offense is nearly the worst in the league. Musgrave started off the 2016 campaign with this group 4-2, with offensive numbers that far and away outclassed what we have seen thus far. But what also may be needed is an alteration at the deployment of running backs.

Statistically, Jalen Richard has been the more productive back, averaging 4.9 yards per carry to Lynch’s 3.7. I would venture to say it is because when he is in the backfield, the offense is at its least predictable. Owning the better one-cut burst, Richard seems to be shiftier and capable of getting thru the second level for larger run opportunities. As a pass catcher, his value is unparalleled in the running back group. Catching eight out of 11 targets for 108 yards, he forces defenses to respect his hands and “run after the catch” abilities. Lynch should not be asked to gun run, it is too predictable and allows defenses to cheat up and key on him. Instead, as rough as it sounds, Lynch should be used as a decoy and hit defenses with play action until they stop crowding the line of scrimmage.

Kansas City is the perfect team to deploy this strategy against. Without the safety net of Eric Berry and a defense that is susceptible to the run already, it seems to be a no-brainer. Downing has confidence in his scheme and I applaud that, but he has to realize that he’s going up against a defensive coach in Bob Sutton who has seen and defended it all. I hope Downing decides to work hand in hand with his quarterback in play-calling on the field because Carr is going to need to do what Carr is capable of doing if this team is going to have any chance of making the playoffs from here on out.

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