The question on all of Raider Nation’s minds, “Where did it go wrong?”
The Oakland Raiders received more bets than any team to win the Super Bowl this season per ESPN, but come the halfway point of the season, things are looking bleak. Several factors could be tied into what exactly has gone wrong for the Silver and Black, here’s a few that have certainly made an impact.
Donald Penn’s Holdout
The anchor of the Raiders offensive line is left tackle Donald Penn, and his training camp holdout may be catching up with him and the team. Training camp is crucial for the offensive line as they gain chemistry, despite the last season’s success, and also better timing to carry over into the regular season.
The holdout forced newcomer Marshall Newhouse, who signed as a right tackle, to move on the opposite side of the line to fill in for Penn. Upon Penn’s late arrival, Newhouse had to readjust to playing right tackle, thus possibly setting back the chemistry of the line. Despite having loads of talent, this has been a massive hurdle to overcome, and the struggles are anything but a surprise.
Sean Smith’s Assault Charge
Cornerback Sean Smith, as well as Raider Nation, expected him to bounce back this season after a subpar 2016 showing. On August 17, however, football took a backseat, as Smith was charged with felony assault. With the matter before the courts in Los Angeles County, Smith is pleading not guilty. Legal issues aside, Smith’s role on the field has diminished as well. Even with fellow cornerbacks David Amerson and Gareon Conley both dealing with injuries all season, Smith has still been used in a minimal role.
Blame it on declining speed that was on display last year resulting in Charles Woodson calling him out, or this serious off-field issue, or not being used properly, scheme-wise, the season has been a major disappointment for Smith.
“Beast Mode” and the Oakland Raiders were supposed to be a match made in heaven. Well, at least on paper it was.
Todd Downing’s use of Lynch has been questionable at best. Unlike Downing’s predecessor, Bill Musgrave, Downing tends to stick with a single running back for each drive. This is in clear contrast to 2016 when running backs were being rotated on a play by play basis. This has led to Lynch not being involved on multiple drives during games, which has been an issue, especially in short-yardage situations.
Lynch’s ejection and subsequent suspension following the Thursday Night game against the Kansas Chiefs left the Raiders’ run game without its polarizing figure. With shaky performances by Jalen Richard and Deandre Washington riddled with fumbles and other errors, Lynch’s usage in the offense will be interesting to follow going forward. And while no one’s blaming Lynch as the sole reason for the team’s struggles, it’s evident he has yet to deliver.
Todd Downing inherited the NFL’s sixth-ranked offensive attack from 2016. One of the most potent and versatile offenses in the league that even acquired more talent in the offseason. Yet, Downing has seemingly turned it into a predictable and conservative unit.
Don’t know what I hate more…that Amari Cooper is struggling with drops, or how simplistic/predictable their pass game/route concepts are.
— Louis Riddick (@LRiddickESPN) October 19, 2017
Austin Gayle of Pro Football Focus broke down Derek Carr’s numbers on third down, wherein Downing’s poor playcalling may be to blame.
Excluding throwaways and plays nullified by penalty, #Raiders' Carr has attempted 28 of 57 passes beyond the line of gain on 3rd down (49%).
— Austin Gayle (@PFF_AustinGayle) October 31, 2017
Carr’s average depth of target has dropped from 7.73 yards in 2016 to 4.45 this year. For an offense that was meant to be more aggressive, this is a horrendous indictment on Downing’s scheme. The conservative nature of the offense may be in part due to the defense’s inability to generate turnovers. After being +16 in the turnover differential last year, the Raiders are -6 through eight games and still have not recorded an interception this season. It means that the offense needs to be near perfect to give this team a fighting chance to win. In sports and in life in general, when needing perfection, it’s often common to be conservative to avoid making mistakes. Ironically, this often results in more mistakes and turnovers, as we have seen with the offense this year.
Over 100 years ago, the Titanic showed that a bunch of small holes can bring down an ‘unsinkable’ ship. The Raiders are right now in the same boat, with a bunch of isolated events contributing to a cumulative effect where their boat is filling up with water fast. Unlike the Titanic, the Raiders have enough chances left to grab a lifeboat and save their year. But if they don’t do it starting on Sunday Night Football in Miami, the 2017 season will be a waste of a team who was primed to make waves in the playoffs.