The Raiders are 2-2, having lost two in a row to teams they arguably expected to beat. The conspiracy theorists and hot-takers are out in force. So, let’s ask some serious questions – should the Oakland Raiders panic?
Should The Oakland Raiders Panic
In a word: no.
There are numerous perceived problems, some of which do have some merit, some of which are just nonsense. Let’s break them down one-by-one.
The Offensive Line Didn’t Play Hard for Derek Carr
You’ve heard this one by now – the offensive line, offended that Derek Carr didn’t kneel with the team during the national anthem in Washington, didn’t play hard for him.
Rubbish. Pro Football Focus has the Raiders as the league’s best pass blocking offensive line. The fewest pressures given up in the league through four games. Carr is playing the majority of snaps from a clean pocket.
The Raiders Need a New Back Up Quarterback
Many fans are saying that E.J. Manuel isn’t good enough. Some are clamoring for the Raiders to sign Colin Kaepernick. Whilst personally I think Kaepernick would look great in Silver and Black, this is a foolish idea. No new back up quarterback would have time to learn the playbook. Todd Downing would have to significantly reduce the plays that they ran, making the offense vanilla.
Say what you like about E.J. Manuel, but the guy was a first round pick who’s started games in the NFL. He looked good against Denver before the interception. With Jamize Olawale in at full back chipping Von Miller every down, Manuel had time to find his targets. Yes, it didn’t end well, but that’s not just on Manuel.
Fire Todd Downing and Bring Back Bill Musgrave
Bill Musgrave’s inherent conservatism is one of the main reasons the Raiders were in so many close games last year. Once they had a lead of any time, Musgrave almost stopped playing. The three-and-outs when the Raiders had a seven point lead were innumerable and costly. Short run, short run, screen pass, punt seemed to be Musgrave’s mantra whenever the Raiders were ahead.
Downing is different. Yes, he’s a first-time offensive coordinator, and yes there is a lot he still has to learn. But the Raiders beat the Tennessee Titans and the New York Jets easily because Downing, not Musgrave, was the offensive coordinator. He went for the throat, and both times it worked. It was encouraging to see how Downing tweaked the offense slightly once Manuel came into the game last week. There’s more left to be desired from Downing, including more power running, but there’s really no need to replace him.
The Season Is Over
The Raiders are 2-2. That’s okay. It’s not great, but it’s not bad. The game against Washington was poor, but outside of that, things have been okay. The defense has arguably played above expectations. Karl Joseph in particular has shown a big step up, and Gareon Conley has looked fantastic when he’s been fit enough to play. The pass rush against the Denver Broncos looked positively dangerous.
And the offense? Do not forget, the Raiders were a dropped catch away from a touchdown towards the end of the Denver game. If Jared Cook makes either catch in the endzone the Raiders are just two points behind. That would have changed the fundamental nature of the final drive. Without the need to push for a touchdown, shorter passes would have allowed the Raiders to move into field goal range for a game-winning kick.
Yes, the running game has been poor the last two weeks. Yes, Marshawn Lynch has not looked like the Beast Mode of old. But there’s no reason to believe that this can’t change. For the last two games, the offense hasn’t quite clicked. But there’s no reason to believe it won’t click again.
Amari Cooper is a Bust
Amari Cooper drops too many catchable balls. That’s true. Does that make him a bust? Not at all. Cooper runs crisp routes with power, can highpoint balls beautifully and can run after the catch with agility and dexterity.
Yes, the drops are an issue right now. And yes, he’s not in the same category as Julio Jones. But who is? The very worst you can say about Cooper is that he’s a very very good wide receiver two across from Michael Crabtree. That might not get him the huge contract when his rookie deal expires, but it’s good enough to be a productive part of this team. And if he can cure the dropsies and deal with being double-teamed a little better, there’s still a very good chance he’ll be one of the elites.
The Raiders Believed Their Own Hype
If there was one take that might have some merit, it would be this. Perhaps those opening two wins came too easy. Lynch dancing like no-one was watching created a party vibe that’s been sadly missing for too long in Oakland. Maybe the team bought into that a little too much.
The wide outs, full of playmakers, couldn’t be stopped. The quarterback, briefly the highest paid player in the NFL, was a superstar. The running back, playing for his home town team. Maybe they all bought into the narrative a little too much.
Well, not any more. This group has been humbled against a divisional opponent. Jack Del Rio said in his press conference this week, “We’ve got a good group, we’re gonna get it right, and it needs to get right now”.
He was clear and determined. I wouldn’t want to be the Baltimore Ravens come Sunday evening.