Monday, September 29, 2008

Thoughts on the 2008 Oakland Raiders, after the First Quarter

The NFL season is a long 16 week journey, so one needs to break it down into four quarters to put the season into perspective.

The Raiders have reached the bye week with one win and three losses on the season. This isn’t the worse record in the league but it is far from the best. This best thing is the season isn’t over and the team has time to get it together.

What have we learned so far?

We’ve learned a few things so far, one thing is that this is a young team that is still learning how to win games. We’ve learned that this team is better than several people thought they were but that they’ve yet to prove it.

We’ve also learned that this team has yet to put together a complete game, as evidenced by losses in weeks three and four. We’ve also learned that this team is capable of doing so much better.

Had the Raiders been able to put together a complete game and execute on offense and play solid defense in the second half of games as oppose to wearing down the Raiders would be looking at a record showing three wins and one loss which would have them tied for first place in the AFC West and spoken of as a team on the rise.

The above was a possibility but the reality is that this hasn’t happened.

The Raiders are a team in the process of rebuilding with an owner that appears to be dead set against the need to do so. There is a huge need for some Raider fans to get beyond blaming the officials for the outcome of games, unless that is the case and when it is trust me it will be obvious.

Several factors have gotten the team to this point; injuries, conservative play calling, the WR’s not stepping up and making plays, not executing on offense, failure to hold leads on defense, not doing enough to win games, doing a better job in acquiring the right personnel, doing a better job scouting college talent, drafting better and an owner and front office with a commitment to fire the head coach as oppose to winning games.

The next quarter includes road games against the Saints and Ravens, home games against the Jets and Falcons. The Raiders need to put the first quarter behind them and focus on playing a complete game each week.

There needs to be two game plans both offensively and defensively each week. Meaning that the team needs to have a game plan and be able to make second half adjustments and finish games.

The Raiders have shown signs of improvement in all areas and moving in the right direction but still have a long way to go in several areas.

The Raiders offensively have shown that they’re a running team with a stable of solid running backs and a system that allows them to do what they do best.

Lane Kiffin and Gregg Knapp need to establish the run, use mis-direction plays and use a lot of play action passes, work on several pressure release options and screens while not forgetting to take a few shots deep to keep the opposing defenses honest.

The team needs to make opposing defenses cover the entire field. Force teams to decide against stacking the box and placing eight defenders there to stop the run.

There needs to be a tremendous amount of work on third down offense to be able to sustain drives and give the defense more time to rest, especially being thin as they are at the Defensive Tackle position.

The team needs to activate WR Todd Watkins and go with a liberal use of a WR corps of Ashley Lelie, Johnnie Lee Higgins, Chaz Schilens and Todd Watkins. I would also like to suggest sitting Javon Walker and Ronald Curry. Neither one has met expectations.

The offensive line has played better than expected at times but needs to do a better job of giving JaMarcus Russell time to find an open receiver.

The defense needs to be much more aggressive and attack throughout the game. The defense needs to dictate what is to come to the offense as oppose to reacting. The defense has had trouble holding leads in the last two games and not being aggressive and that can be attributed to not getting off of the field on third down.

The way Al Davis is treating Lane Kiffin is a travesty. Al Davis has handled this situation horribly. I see both sides of the argument but I applaud Lane Kiffin for the way he is handling the situation and to the players for publically supporting the Head Coach.

In the competitive NFL he has shown that he is a competitor and has not quit. Doing so would follow you throughout your career. No one wins in this type of scenario and the fans are the ones who ultimately suffer as all Raider fans have for far too long.

One of two things should’ve happened, either fire him or endorse him as the head coach for the remainder of the year so all involved can move on.

This has been yet another year where ‘top down’ distractions have contributed to the team’s slow start. Contrary to popular belief, the season is not over and the goal for the team continues to be getting better and winning games.

The Raiders have a lot of work to do and need to continue to work hard toward improvement with the support of the Owner and Front Office.

The team can be best described as a work in progress although all of the above are things that the Raider Nation would like to see.

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