Latest Loss Exposes Oakland Raiders’ Lack of Overall Talent

The Oakland Raiders‘ late push fell short Sunday in a 16-9 loss to the New England Patriots in Foxborough. It wasn’t a moral victory for the Raiders, but it was a good reminder that coaching isn’t the only reason the team is 0-3.

Head coach Dennis Allen’s team fought hard for four quarters, but it wasn’t enough to get a road win against a Bill Belichick-coached squad that hasn’t lost more than six games since 2002. While a coaching change is still possible if the Raiders can’t beat the Miami Dolphins in London next week, Sunday’s result suggests that it might not make much of a difference.

An overall lack of talent was to blame for the loss to the Patriots, and it should share some of the blame for the Raiders’ atrocious start. General manager Reggie McKenzie added a lot of talent in the offseason, but it’s clear his team still has a long way to go.

No place was the lack of talent more clear than at inside linebacker and wide receiver.

Starting inside linebackers Sio Moore and Nick Roach were out with injuries, so the Raiders started backups Miles Burris and Kaluka Maiava. Both Burris and Maiava are nothing more than special teams players on most teams, but the Raiders had to lean on them heavily against the Patriots.

Burris and Maiava were largely responsible for covering tight end Rob Gronkowski, running back Shane Vereen and helping a team that had allowed 400 rushing yards in two games stop the run. Maiava was a liability in coverage while Burris in all areas.

On a key 3rd-and-5 in the fourth quarter, Burris couldn’t stick with Vereen in coverage. Vereen easily evaded Burris’ tackle attempt to pick up 12 yards and the first down at Oakland’s 32-yard line. A few plays later Patriots kicker Stephen Gostkowski made a 36-yard field goal to put New England up 16-9.

Maiava lost Gronkowski on a crossing round in the second quarter that turned out to be the only touchdown of the game. Maiava simply doesn’t have the foot speed to cover a talented player like Gronkowski, but the Raiders couldn’t hide him on every play.  

The Patriots ran the ball 29 times for just 83 yards if you exclude runs by quarterback Tom Brady, but Maiava and Burris combined for five tackles. By comparison, strong safety Tyvon Branch had seven tackles in less than three quarters of play.

Burris failed to get off blocks to make tackles, or the Patriots otherwise took him out of plays. On the rare occasion Burris was unblocked and in the correct gap, he’s able to make the play, but it was not often enough.

The Raiders were better against the run than they were in previous weeks, but Burris and Maiava had little to do with the improvement. The Raiders allowed just 2.4 yards per rush and 76 net yards, which is something they can try to build off going forward.

Wide receiver Rod Streater went down with a foot injury early in the second quarter that forced Denarius Moore into full-time action and elevated Andre Holmes a spot on the depth chart. Streater had three receptions for 32 yards in a little more than a quarter of play, and the offense to that point was moving the ball consistently.

Moore finished with three receptions for 23 yards and a key drop on the Raiders’ final drive that resulted in an interception for the Patriots and sealed the game. Moore allowed Carr’s short pass to bounce off his shoulder pads, and cornerback Logan Ryan tipped it into the arms of defensive tackle Vince Wilfork.

Holmes had one catch for 29 yards and drew a pass interference call that netted 24 yards to get the Raiders in position to tie the game, but he also had multiple miscommunications with quarterback Derek Carr that kept the offense from getting into a rhythm. Holmes has big-play potential, but talent needs to extend beyond simply running and catching.

Carr finished with 21 completions on 34 attempts but for just 174 yards. The wide receivers aren’t creating yards after the catch, they can’t get open deep or Carr simply doesn’t have the confidence in his receivers to haul in passes down the field.

Of course, inside linebacker and wide receiver aren’t the only positions where the Raiders lack talent. The Raiders haven’t been able to run the ball effectively this season despite rebuilding their offensive line.

Adding Maurice Jones-Drew to a stable of backs that included Darren McFadden, Latavius Murray and Marcel Reece has proved fruitless for all parties. Jones-Drew was ineffective in Week 1 and missed the last two weeks with a hand injury, and McFadden hasn’t done much better in his place.

The offensive line, the running backs and the play-calling all share some of the blame, but it’s not solely a coaching issue.

Things may get worse before they get better for the Raiders. Streater and Branch each broke a foot in Sunday’s loss, as Allen said after the game via Fallon Smith of CSN Bay Area.

That means Moore and Holmes will continue to see action until the Raiders can acclimate the recently signed Vincent Brown. Safeties Usama Young and rookie Jonathan Dowling will have to fill in for Branch, who leads the team with 23 tackles.

“That cost us a little bit later in the game, took us out of some things we wanted to be able to do later in the game that we weren’t able to get to because of the injury situation,” Allen said of the injuries to Streater and Branch after the game, via Raiders.com. “It’s something we’ll have to look as we move forward and see where we’re at.”

Roach has been out with a concussion for over a month, so when or if he can return is in doubt. Sio Moore didn’t practice all week with an ankle injury, so his status in the immediate future is also unclear. That means the Raiders will have to continue to trot out Burris and Maiava, which is obviously not ideal.

Football can be a brutal game, but the Raiders can’t afford to lose anyone else. It’s not as if the Raiders have a ton of injuries or that injuries are an excuse; they simply lack the talent to compete without all of their starters.

Up until Week 3, Allen hadn’t made the most of the talent he has, but he came a lot closer to it against the Patriots. McKenzie should at least share part of the blame for a team that lacks depth.

If the Raiders don’t win in Week 4 and owner Mark Davis decides to fire Allen, don’t expect things to get much better than they were vs. the Patriots. All the assistant coaches and coordinators will still be in place, and one will be pulling double duty. As long as Allen can inspire his team to put in the effort, the team’s overall lack of talent may be the bigger issue.

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Raiders’ upset bid bounces away, 16-9

FOXBOROUGH — No such thing as a moral victory in the NFL? Nonsense. The Raiders, who were 0-2 and expected to be blown out by the Patriots, slowed down Tom Brady and the New England defense, and were down one score late in the fourth quarter. But Oakland couldn’t do enough offensively and lost 16-9 at Gillette Stadium. Still, for a team that has been hearing reports of coach Dennis Allen being on the hot seat all week, there were enough positives to take on the flight to London. The Raiders drove down to the 6-yard line, where Darren McFadden bulled in for a touchdown. But a holding call on [...]

Schaub returns home, Jones-Drew inactive

Backup quarterback Matt Schaub left the team Saturday to be with his wife, and Matt McGloin will handle No. 2 duties behind Derek Carr today against the Patriots. Schaub’s wife, Laurie, had an emergency C-section to deliver the couple’s fourth child, who is several months premature. Schaub’s wife and the baby are doing well. Meanwhile, the Raiders decided to err on the side of caution with running back Maurice Jones-Drew and hold him out. Jones-Drew had made progress with his hand injury and wanted to play. Also inactive for Oakland are starting linebackers Sio Moore (ankle) and Nick Roach (head), cornerback Chimdi Chekwa (knee), guard Tony Bergstom and tackle Matt [...]

Oakland Raiders vs. New England Patriots: Live Scores and Analysis for Oakland

The Oakland Raiders will be looking for their first win of the season Sunday when they take on the New England Patriots and Gillette Stadium. Kickoff is at 1 p.m. ET on CBS.

After going through a roster rebuild this past offseason, the Raiders had high hopes heading into 2014. Instead, the team is off to an 0-2 start following two consecutive disappointing performances.

The biggest issue has been on the defensive side of the ball. Oakland has struggled against the pass, which isn’t an entirely unexpected development. What is surprising is just how bad the team has been against the run.

No unit on the roster went through as much of a makeover as the defensive line. Justin Tuck, Antonio Smith and LaMarr Woodley were supposed to be solid against the pass while generating a consistent pass rush, but none of that has happened. The defensive line has been pushed around so far this season, and the defense as a whole will continue to be dominated until this changes.

The offense has been inconsistent, but it has at least shown signs of life. Under the leadership of rookie quarterback Derek Carr, there have been times when the Raiders have been able to move the ball effectively.

Unfortunately, there have also been times when it’s seemed like the offense is its own worst enemy. What the offense can’t do against New England is be as careless with the ball as it was last week when it committed four turnovers. It’s going to be difficult enough to stay in the game against the Patriots without giving Tom Brady extra opportunities.

The Raiders might not be a playoff contender, but they’re certainly a better team than what they’ve shown through the first two weeks of the season. They’ll have a chance to prove that against New England.

Stayed tuned here for live updates, scores and more throughout the game.

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Dennis Allen Rumors: Latest Buzz and Speculation on Coach’s Future with Raiders

Dennis Allen‘s days as the Oakland Raiders head coach could be numbered. 

Amidst the team’s 0-2 start and an 8-26 record since he took over the gig in 2012, speculation has begun to run rampant that Allen’s job security has diminished considerably. Kimberley A. Martin of Newsday passed along the following report from Adam Schefter of ESPN on Twitter:

“We need change,” Allen told Marcus Thompson II of the San Jose Mercury News after the team’s most recent loss, perhaps not sensing yet that he might be the change coming. “We’re a better football team than we put out on the field today.”   

Still, the Raiders might yet be patient with Allen, per Ian Rapoport of NFL.com:

It wouldn’t be shocking if Allen was indeed on his last life but was allowed a bit more time to turn things around. He is starting a rookie quarterback in Derek Carr, after all, and while the team was extremely busy in free agency this year the majority of the additions were either veterans on the wrong side of their primes or solid but unspectacular additions.

Already, he’s seen arguably the highest profile addition, running back Maurice Jones-Drew, miss time due to an injury. So while Allen’s 8-26 record is hardly excusable, it should at least be considered that he’s been expected to paint a winning team with quite a few colors missing from his palette. 

The problem for Allen and the Raiders is that things are likely to get worse before they get better. They still have to face the New England Patriots, Miami Dolphins, San Diego Chargers (twice), Arizona Cardinals, Seattle Seahawks, Denver Broncos (twice), San Francisco 49ers and Buffalo Bills. In at least 10 of their final 14 games, the Raiders figure to be pretty big underdogs.

Can Allen turn things around? 

It’s certainly possible. Perhaps the team will rally around its beleaguered coach. Perhaps things will simply click for the Raiders and they start winning games. Perhaps Carr will ascend to the level of a franchise quarterback faster than expected.

It all seems unlikely, of course, and Allen might not be given a very long leash—if any leash at all—to reverse course. After two seasons and change to make his mark, Allen now finds himself in dire straits. 


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Oakland Raiders vs. New England Patriots: Complete Week 3 Preview for Oakland

Three weeks into the season, the Oakland Raiders are still looking for their first victory. Their next opportunity to do so will be Sunday when they visit Gillette Stadium to take on the New England Patriots. Kickoff is at 1 p.m. ET.

No matter where you look, the team has struggled. There have been flashes of production here and there, but nothing positive has happened often enough. This inconsistency will be under a microscope this week as the Raiders will have to play a nearly flawless game to have chance at a win.

The offense showed it could move the ball last week, but it fell victim to its own carelessness. Oakland’s four turnovers proved to be the biggest factor in the game. They stopped promising Raiders’ drives and consistently gave the Houston Texans good field position.

Even with the mistakes, the offense has at least shown potential. The same can’t said for the defense, particularly the defensive line. Oakland’s success against the Patriots will depend largely on the defensive line’s ability to create pressure on Tom Brady.

The defensive linemen have to make Brady uncomfortable all game for the Raiders to have a chance. If they don’t, this game could be over early.

The Raiders are a long shot to win on Sunday, but the team can—and needs to—take this as an opportunity to play much better than it has so far. This can be the first game of a different Oakland team, one that’s going to be more competitive going forward.

This can be a defining game for Oakland. Even in a loss, a solid performance can change the team’s path for the rest of the season.

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Despite Team Struggles, Oakland Raiders Rookies off to Great Start

This was supposed to be the year that the Oakland Raiders escaped from the cellar of the NFL. The Raiders operated with a skeleton crew the last couple of years and without much success, but they brought in a few veteran swashbucklers in the hopes of stealing more victories in 2014.

Head coach Dennis Allen was supposed to captain the turnaround, but the Raiders started taking on water in Week 1 against the New York Jets. After doing battle with the Houston Texans in Week 2, they are now listing to one side so badly that it’s unlikely they will recover in time to have a successful season.

Despite the obvious disability, Oakland’s rookies are off to a great start. Everyone knows about rookie quarterback Derek Carr, who commandeered the starting job from Matt Schaub and is trying to navigate his own growing pains. Not everyone is aware that linebacker Khalil Mack and left guard Gabe Jackson are playing superb football just two weeks into their young careers.

Fans expected this from Mack because he was the team’s first-round pick, but because the defense hasn’t performed and he doesn’t have any sacks, it may seem like he has been a non-factor. In fact, Mack is one of the few Raiders defenders playing well.


Khalil Mack Attack

The Raiders have allowed 400 rushing yards in the first two games, which is by far the worst in the league. That reflects poorly on Mack, but it shouldn’t. The Raiders have multiple players in the front seven playing poorly against the run, but Mack is not one of them.

Per Pro Football Focus (subscription required), Mack has the highest run grade on the team and is fifth in the entire league at 3-4 outside linebacker. Mack also has eight true tackles, according to PFF, which is second among all the players at his position. Overall, Mack is currently the fourth-best 3-4 outside linebacker, per PFF, just ahead of Dwight Freeney and behind Terrell Suggs.  

On this 2nd-and-8 play in the second quarter against Houston, Mack fired through the gap at the snap and beat the tight end badly in the process. The refs called the tight end for holding Mack, which is part of the reason he wasn’t able to make the tackle.

Mack was the only player in Oakland’s front seven that Houston didn’t push off the line of scrimmage. Mack is too strong to be blocked by a tight end and often too quick for offensive tackles, which means teams may have to start giving their blockers help to slow him down.

Rushing the passer was not only supposed to be one of Mack’s strengths, but also where the Raiders could most use a playmaker. In Week 1, Mack wasn’t able to display his skills quite as he was in Week 2. Mack hasn’t gotten many opportunities to produce because the Raiders have been playing from behind.

On several occasions on Sunday, Mack made left tackle Duane Brown look silly. Brown was a first-team All-Pro as recently as 2012 and hasn’t been a pushover since, so making him look bad is saying something.

On this play, Mack’s outside move leaves Brown grabbing the air. Quarterback Ryan Fitzpatrick was able to slide up in the pocket away from Mack and make the accurate throw to Andre Johnson, but the quick pressure from Mack made it the only play the Texans could have made.

Later in the game, Mack used a quick inside move to put a hit on Fitzpatrick and force an incomplete pass. Again, Brown wasn’t equipped to handle Mack’s combination of speed and power. In this case, had Mack not put the heat on Fitzpatrick, he likely would have found one of his two open receivers on the play instead of forcing it to the back of the end zone.

Mack is also very aware of his surroundings and was able to bat down a Fitzpatrick pass last Sunday on a stunt. If Mack can build upon this performance, the Raiders and their fans should be very happy with the results.


Action Gabe Jackson

It can be hard to get excited about the play of a left guard. Fans are quick to blame the offensive line for protection issues and when the running game isn’t working, but they never get much of the credit when those things are going well.

When one is individually performing well, they get even less credit. This is despite the fact that some—like Jackson—are genuinely fun to watch play the game.

Jackson had the unfortunate duty of blocking 2012 Defensive Player the Year J.J. Watt on occasion last Sunday, which is a good challenge for any player. Jackson battled Watt like a seasoned veteran, which is a huge win for a rookie.

Offensive coordinator Greg Olson gushed about Jackson when asked to review him after two games on Thursday, via Raiders.com:

I think he’s doing fantastic. I really do. I commented yesterday after practice, I thought he had an extremely good practice yesterday. He’s got great practice habits, really works his craft and works his technique. He’s another guy, to me, like Derek (Carr) that’s one of those young players that I think will continue to get better each week with the more experience he gets.

All of Jackson’s experience thus far has been high-value experience. Jackson has had to block Muhammad Wilkerson, Sheldon Richardson and Watt in back-to-back weeks.

On a six-yard run by Darren McFadden, Jackson drives the defender at least five yards past the line of scrimmage. Jackson is a big guy at 6’3” and 336 pounds and he showed it here trying to clear a path for McFadden. Even though McFadden could have gained more yards by going left, great blocking by Jackson made it possible to get a solid gain.

In pass protection, Jackson has improved quite a bit in just the last few weeks. On a defensive line stunt, Jackson seamlessly switched from one blocking assignment to the next. Left tackle Donald Penn failed to do the same on this play and the linebacker ended up hitting Carr, which just highlights how subtly good Jackson is playing already.

Jackson is also versatile. The Raiders like to have him pull on power runs and have had good success doing so. For a man his size, he moves very well.

A loss in Week 3 to the New England Patriots may exhaust what little firepower the Raiders have left, and a trip across the high seas to play the Miami Dolphins Week 4 in London could sink the Raiders for good. The Raiders are gasping for air right now, but their rookies are just now starting to swim.

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Oakland Raiders vs. New England Patriots: Breaking Down Oakland’s Game Plan

After only two weeks, the Oakland Raiders are already scrambling to keep the 2014 season from getting away from them. They have begun 0-2, and there’s been little evidence to indicate that things are going to get better anytime soon.

But while Oakland has looked uninspired in both losses, there have been glimmers of potential.

Derek Carr’s play has been encouraging. The running game has been non-existent so far, and this has forced the rookie quarterback to take on an increased workload on offense. He’s thrown a combined 74 passes through two games, more than he was expected to as a rookie. But despite the increased responsibility, he’s completed 63 percent of his passes.

The performance of the linebackers has also been a positive. Sio Moore continues to be extremely active and productive, and Khalil Mack has slowly but surely begun to have more of an impact on games. This has happened without defensive leader Nick Roach on the field. When he returns from his concussion, both young linebackers will see a jump in production.

While these have been two good developments, the team overall has looked severely overmatched in both games. The running attack has yet to make any kind of impact, and the pass rush has been completely absent. Both of these need to be addressed in a major way against the New England Patriots.

Here’s a breakdown of what Oakland’s game plan should look like when the Raiders visit Gillette Stadium this Sunday.


Focus on ball security and eliminate momentum-killing mistakes

The most frustrating part of Oakland’s Week 1 loss to the New York Jets was the overly conservative play-calling on offense. Even with the game within reach, the offense didn’t take enough chances downfield. Derek Carr threw 32 passes but averaged only 4.7 yards per attempt.

This changed in Week 2, and Carr showed he was up to the task. Despite Carr seeing an increase in attempts, his average yards per attempt actually rose. On 42 passes against the Houston Texans, he averaged 6.3 yards per pass.

Carr has already established himself as a quarterback who doesn’t need to be protected as much as was expected. But while the increase in passes was an encouraging sign that the coaches are willing to trust him with more responsibility, 42 attempts are more than you want to see from a rookie. This increases the opportunities for turnovers, which we saw against Houston, as Carr threw the first two interceptions of his career.

The responsibility is also on the receivers and tight ends, who combined for three fumbles and two turnovers in Week 2. Carr had success getting them the ball, but the turnovers made the Raiders their own worst enemy, as the giveaways stopped more promising drives than the Houston defense did.

The four turnovers were especially big because the Raiders were actually finding success in moving the ball. In fact, they actually outgained the Texans 364 to 327 in total yards. But the turnovers consistently gave Houston excellent field position while also stopping several dangerous offensive possessions for Oakland.

The Oakland offense can be effective, but the team isn’t good enough to overcome so many mistakes. Against New England, ball security has to be at a premium. It’s going to be hard enough for the underwhelming Oakland defense to stop Tom Brady. Giving him great field position will make it nearly impossible.


Commit to the running game

The Raiders found themselves down early against Houston, so it made sense that the offense went with more passes. But even in this situation, the running backs didn’t get nearly enough opportunities.

For the second week in a row, the Oakland running backs combined for exactly 13 rushing attempts. There’s no way that any running back can be successful with so few touches.

After missing the last game due to a hand injury, Maurice Jones-Drew is back in practice this week, per CSNBayArea.com’s Scott Bair. However, it’s still to be determined whether he’ll be able to play against New England. Bair notes the primary issue: “The team hopes to have Jones-Drew available on Sunday against New England, but the major concern is whether his hand can handle the rigors of his position, which includes blocking, receiving and ball security.”

Even if he’s unable to play, Darren McFadden showed that he’s still capable of carrying the load for Oakland. While his stats for the last game don’t look impressive, they fail to indicate how effective he actually was. He ran hard and violent, and he began to have more success as the game progressed. Unfortunately, he only rushed the ball 12 times.

Defenses haven’t had anything to fear from Oakland on the ground so far this season. This has allowed them to sit back and protect even more against the pass. Establishing a running attack will open up the secondary for Carr while making the offense as a whole much more balanced and dangerous.

Oakland has the running backs to be effective. It’s now on the coaches to get them more touches—at least 20-25 rushes per game—and give them an opportunity to impose their will on the defense. Through the first two weeks, the Raiders have allowed the opposing defenses to dictate their offensive play-calling. Against New England, they have to commit to their own strengths, including the running game.


Linebackers and slot corners need to be effective

When trying to stop the Patriots offense, it all starts and ends with Tom Brady. Given Brady’s production so far this season, stopping him begins and ends with Julian Edelman and Rob Gronkowski.

Through two games, Edelman and Gronkowski have provided the bulk of New England’s production through the air. They’ve combined for 20 catches, 248 yards and two touchdowns. Since they are the slot corner and the tight end, respectively, the primary responsibility for stopping them will fall on the slot corners and the linebackers.

When it comes to Edelman, it remains to be seen who will be his primary matchup. T.J. Carrie was the primary slot corner in Week 1, but Chimdi Chekwa’s return in Week 2 led to a reshuffling of the cornerback depth chart. Carrie will also likely get a shot at Edelman. But although he’s shown potential, it’s unlikely that the Oakland coaches will be eager to send out a rookie against Brady’s top target.

Chekwa played outside corner against Houston, which makes it likely that Carlos Rogers will stay inside at slot corner, the spot he was actually brought in to play. This means it will fall on him to try to stop, or at the very least limit, Edelman.

Gronkowski will see several defenders, but it will frequently be Khalil Mack or Sio Moore. Both outside linebackers have the size and speed to be physical and keep up with Gronkowski, one of the NFL‘s top receiving tight ends.

The task could be more challenging depending on the availability of Moore, who’s yet to practice after exiting the game against the Texans early with an ankle injury. ESPN.com’s Bill Williamson tweeted on Thursday that it’s starting to look like Moore won’t be available Sunday.

If he’s unable to go, his replacement—most likely Miles Burris—will have to rise to the challenge.

As with Rogers, the linebackers don’t necessarily have to stop Gronkowski. But limiting his production will limit the success of Brady and the Patriots offense overall.


Sell out on the pass rush

As bad as the Raiders have looked through the first two weeks of the season, there’s no question that the single most disappointing unit on the team has been the defensive line. Starters Justin Tuck, LaMarr Woodley, Antonio Smith and Pat Sims have only 20 tackles combined through two games, and they’ve yet to get a single sack.

To put that into perspective, safety Tyvon Branch has 19 tackles through two games, including 12 this past Sunday alone, and he already has one sack on the season. In other words, Branch has single-handedly outperformed the entire Raiders starting defensive line.

While the defensive line has underperformed in general, the biggest issue has been the unit’s complete inability to get to the quarterback. Geno Smith and Ryan Fitzpatrick, both average quarterbacks, looked like Pro Bowlers against Oakland, mainly because they frequently had all day to throw. If the same happens against Brady, he will embarrass the defense.

After two games, the defensive line has shown that it can’t generate quarterback pressure on its own. The linemen have been unable to beat their blockers, something defensive coordinator Jason Tarver is aware of. He summarized his concerns in an interview posted on the official Raiders website by simply stating, “We need to win our one-on-one matchups.” 

That’s true, but hoping it happens won’t make it so. For now, Tarver is going to have to commit more players to the pass rush. Whether it’s linebackers, cornerbacks or safeties, extra players need to be regularly included in blitz packages throughout the game.

This isn’t an ideal situation as it means that the defense will have to sacrifice some coverage. But after two games, it’s become painfully obvious that the current approach isn’t working. Even with extra men in coverage, the quarterbacks have had so much time to throw that they’ve been able to find open receivers anyway.

Until the defensive line shows some signs of life, the unit can’t be depended on. Committing extra pass-rushers will cost the defense in coverage, but it provides the opportunity to stop the problem at the source. It’s also a proactive approach.

If the New England offense has success, so be it. But the Oakland defense should at least go down fighting, not simply sitting back and waiting to get picked apart.


Unless otherwise noted, stats provided by ESPN.com.

Thoughts? Opinions? Share them on Twitter @BrianJ_Flores.

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Oakland Raiders Must Clean House, Rebuild Completely to Return to AFC Elite

“We suck.”

Over the course of their long (and mostly storied) history, the Oakland Raiders have proudly trumpeted several catchphrases: Pride and poise. Commitment to excellence. Just win, baby.

And now, thanks to their hideous effort to begin the 2014 season, a new expression has vaulted into the Raiders lexicon.

“We suck.”

Forget about pride. Don’t you dare mention poise. Commitment to excellence? That’s good for a laugh. Just win, baby? How about, “Just be competitive, baby?”

Those initial three slogans, brainchilds of the late, great Al Davis, are no longer applicable. These Raiders—the outfit that has disgraced Oakland and fans across the country since their ill-fated appearance in Super Bowl XXXVII—are now embodied by two simple words.

“We suck.”

That quote comes courtesy of the verbal stylings of veteran safety Charles Woodson, per Scott Bair of CSNBayArea.com, who issued the proclamation in the wake of the team’s 30-14 drubbing at the hands of the Houston Texans this past Sunday. Given Woodson’s status as a future Hall of Famer, his words speak volumes.

Sunday’s loss dropped coach Dennis Allen’s record to 8-26 in two-plus years with the organization. General manager Reggie McKenzie, the man that hired Allen, has also presided over the slop.

Enough is enough. It’s time for a change.

For the Raiders to once again return to the AFC’s elite, owner Mark Davis—Al’s son—must clean house and rebuild completely.

That means closing time should be drawing near for Allen and McKenzie, the latest ringmasters of the Silver and Black circus.


Reggie McKenzie Hasn’t Done Enough To Earn the Benefit of the Doubt

When McKenzie was hired as general manager of the Raiders back in January, 2012, the move was hailed as an important one. It appeared that the Raiders were finally evolving into a stable organization, dragged kicking and screaming into the 21st century like a petulant child to the dentist’s office.

Fast forward nearly three calendar years later, and nothing has changed. The franchise is still a joke and appears well on its way toward “earning” the No. 1 overall pick in next May’s draft.

And that has to ultimately fall at the feet of McKenzie.

You can bring up the mess inherited by McKenzie, and you wouldn’t be wrong. It’s true that McKenzie had to navigate the Raiders out of the throes of salary-cap hell, which was essentially the perfect storm of economic incompetence. For his first two years on the job, McKenzie was asked to play Texas Hold ‘em with the rest of the league—only he only possessed three cards while everyone else had five.

But with that said, McKenzie has still failed at his two most important jobs: Hiring the right coach and acquiring talented young players.

McKenzie whiffed badly in his first two drafts, especially in 2013, when he selected cornerback D.J. Hayden with the 12th overall pick (after trading down from third overall). Hayden came into the draft process with major medical red flags, yet McKenzie still drafted him with the 12th overall pick. 

Hayden has only played eight games as a Raider and is currently on the physically unable to perform (PUP) list, meaning he won’t be eligible to return to the lineup until the club’s seventh game.

Other McKenzie draft “gems” include 2013 second-round tackle Menelik Watson (firmly tethered to the bench) and 2013 fourth-round quarterback Tyler Wilson, who didn’t even make the team last season.

To be fair to McKenzie, his haul from this year’s draft—headlined by linebacker Khalil Mack, quarterback Derek Carr and guard Gabe Jackson—has a chance to be special. But it’s too little, too late to save his job.

This past offseason, after two years of spendthrift ways that would have made Ebenezer Scrooge jealous, McKenzie finally had a sizable financial war chest at his disposal. 

But instead of bringing back the team’s two finest young players—left tackle Jared Veldheer and defensive end Lamarr Houston—McKenzie let both men walk and filled their spots with inferior talent.

He then spent wildly in an effort to upgrade the 53-man roster, and while there’s no question that this year’s team—on paper, at least—is better, the results haven’t translated onto the field.

McKenzie’s worst personnel moment might have been his ill-fated attempted signing of current St. Louis Rams guard Rodger Saffold. Saffold was a significant injury risk, yet McKenzie all but fell over himself in a haste to lavish him with greenbacks, all before the Raiders failed Saffold on his physical, allowing him to re-sign with the Rams.

There is a Grand Canyon-sized dearth of talent on Oakland’s roster, and it’s no longer en vogue (or accurate) to blame Al Davis or former coach Hue Jackson.

But despite all the personnel failings, the biggest strike against McKenzie is the coach he hired to resurrect the franchise: Allen.

There’s simply no way that McKenzie should be allowed to preside over another offseason or hire a new coach. He must be jettisoned at the conclusion of the season, along with the coach he brought in.


Dennis Allen Must Go

In his first two seasons as Raiders coach, Allen accrued back-to-back 4-12 records.

In the first two games of the 2014 season, the Raiders have been outscored 49-28, and turned in a dismal performance in the home opener in front of a jaded fanbase.

Allen’s tenure as Raiders coach is rapidly drawing to an end, and with good reason: His employment is no longer tenable.

He must go.

Earlier this week, ESPN’s Chris Mortensen reported (h/t Evan Silva of Rotoworld.com) that there is already talk around the league that Allen’s job is in jeopardy. 

It comes not a moment too soon.

Allen, a supposed “defensive guru,” is currently presiding over the NFL‘s worst run defense, as the Raiders have allowed a preposterous 400 rushing yards through two games. And this is with what is by far Allen’s best roster in his two-plus years on the job.

The team appears lifeless, matching the sideline demeanor of their downtrodden and near-comatose general. Allen is so devoid of emotion that he makes former Raiders coach Art Shell seem like Jon Gruden by comparison.

Once again, consider Woodson’s words in the wake of the team’s loss this past Sunday: “We suck.” Has there ever been a stronger indictment against a head coach?

It’s clear that Allen doesn’t have the chops to get the job done. His players aren’t confident. His defenses haven’t been good enough.

And most importantly: Woodson is right.


The End Draws Nigh 

Consider this quote from Raiders owner Mark Davis, delivered last February to Vic Tafur of the San Francisco Chronicle, speaking about his expectations for the 2014 season:

It’s not put-up-or-shut-up, but there are no excuses. All right? When I said there was a deconstruction and a reconstruction period, that was to give an idea of what’s actually been happening, but it’s no excuse… Losing those last games last year was not good. And the way we lost them was terrible. But … looking at the whole thing, this is where we are, and these guys have an opportunity to show what they can do. There are no built-in excuses anymore.

If there are no more excuses, then McKenzie and Allen aren’t long for the Bay Area. 

Unfortunately, firing McKenzie and Allen isn’t going to solve the team’s problems. The Raiders play in the ultra-tough AFC West, which sent three teams to the playoffs last year. The roster is old, and the talent isn’t great.

McKenzie can no longer be trusted to sign the right players or hire the right coach. Allen can’t be trusted to lead the team out of the decade-long malaise its been mired in.

It’s time for Davis to do what his daddy would have probably done at the conclusion of last year: Fire everyone and rebuild completely.

If that decisive action isn’t taken, commitment to excellence will be a thing of the past, and will be replaced by the new Raiders mantra.

“We suck.”

Read more Oakland Raiders news on BleacherReport.com

Houston Texans vs. Oakland Raiders: Full Report Card Grades for Oakland

For the second week in a row, the Oakland Raiders failed to meet their own expectations. A disappointing performance to start the season raised some concerns. But now that the team has played so poorly in consecutive games, fears are starting to arise that perhaps this really is the type of performance that should be expected from this team in 2014.

The matchup against the Houston Texans was supposed to be a winnable game, but the Raiders were never really in it. The final score of 30-14 is misleading as the Raiders didn’t score until the fourth quarter, at which time they were already down 27-0. The late touchdowns provided little more than moral victories.

The most frustrating part of the loss is that it’s difficult to pinpoint exactly what went wrong against Houston. Despite being outplayed for four quarters, it would help if the team could point at something and say, “That’s what needs to be fixed.”

It becomes a lot more difficult when the thing you’re pointing at is the entire team.

No matter what area you look at on offense and on defense, Oakland was outplayed. But as bad as the Raiders played, they still have to get ready for next week. This might not be a .500 team this season, but it certainly has the talent to be better than what it’s shown through the first two weeks.

Here’s a position-by-position assessment of the team’s performance in Week 2.

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