Raiders plagued by same old problems
ALAMEDA – All that offseason optimism in Oakland was erased by a season-opening blowout that brought up the same problems that have plagued the Raiders the past seven seasons.
There was an offensive line that gave quarterback Jason Campbell little time to throw the ball, receivers who struggled to get open down the field, a run defense that once again got gashed by the big play and 10 penalties that hurt the team on both sides of the ball.
It added up to a 38-13 loss to Tennessee on Sunday that showed the Raiders have plenty of work to do if they want to end a streak of seven straight seasons with at least 11 losses.
“It’s a wake-up call for our guys,” tight end Zach Miller said Monday. “We had a lot of confidence, maybe we were overconfident going into the season. Maybe because of the things we did we thought we could just show up.”
As hard as it is to imagine a team being overconfident after going 29-83 over the past seven seasons, the Raiders had so much excitement after their offseason that it apparently was a factor.
The biggest change was the trade that brought Campbell in from Washington and led to the eventual release of former No. 1 overall pick JaMarcus Russell. With the hiring of Hue Jackson as offensive coordinator, the Raiders expected bigger things from an offense that scored the second-fewest points and gained the second-fewest yards in the league a year ago.
Instead, the Raiders gained just 106 yards in the first half and failed to convert a single third down as the Titans defenders seemed to be quicker off the ball than the Raiders offensive line.
This marked the 10th time in Tom Cable’s 29 games as coach that the Raiders lost by at least 20 points.
“We had a bad day,” coach Tom Cable said. “We’re not going to sit around and overanalyze it or overcook it. We’re going to look at what the issues are and fix it. We feel great about our team. We just really did not play very well yesterday, but the cool thing is you can put your hand on what it is. It’s unfortunate at the same time.”
Rookie center Jared Veldheer, who was a starting tackle at Division II Hillsdale College a year ago, had problems with the loud noise and the stiffer competition in his NFL debut.
That was part of a bad day of pass protection from the entire offensive line. The line committed four false starts, one holding call, and allowed four sacks. Cable said getting better play from tackles Mario Henderson and Langston Walker will be a big focus this week.
“It’s like anything in life, little things here, little things there, and the outcome is totally different,” Walker said. “So, I think it’s very fixable. The world isn’t caving in on us.”
The Raiders also made big changes on defense in hopes of shoring up a unit that has been the worst in the NFL the past seven seasons.
They brought in a whole new starting linebacking unit, led by first round pick Rolando McClain, and also put second-round pick Lamarr Houston in as a starting defensive end.
While the Raiders did a good job at times controlling last year’s NFL rushing champion Chris Johnson, they allowed him to get loose for a 76-yard touchdown run late in the first half to break the game open, gave up a 20-yard run to Vince Young on an option play and gave up a 15-yard touchdown run right up the middle by backup Javon Ringer.
In all, Oakland allowed 205 yards rushing and three touchdowns on the ground.
“We were, I’d say, somewhat nervous,” linebacker Quentin Groves said. “Nervous for the simple fact that with a young team, you never know how we’re going to handle expectations, and there’s been a lot of expectations placed upon this team. We handled it with nervousness, and that’s one thing we’ve got to get out of our system.”
This marked the third time in the past five seasons that the Raiders opened the year with a blowout loss. The biggest difference from the 27-0 loss in Art Shell’s first game as coach in 2006 and the 41-14 loss to Denver in Lane Kiffin’s final season as coach in 2008, is that this game wasn’t in prime time in front of a home sellout.
Those losses ended up defining those seasons. The Raiders never solved the blocking and scheme problems that plagued the offense during the 2-14 campaign in 2006. And in ’08, the conflict between Kiffin and owner Al Davis that were evident leading up to the opener grew until Kiffin was fired four games into the season.
The Raiders are confident these problems can be fixed in time for the home opener against St. Louis on Sunday.
“About as easy as it is when you got to go get an oil change from the body shop, that’s all it is,” cornerback Stanford Routt said. “It’s that easy. It’s not hard. Like I said, the Titans didn’t beat us, we beat ourselves, which is probably the most frustrating loss, but it’s probably the one with the most silver lining because it’s the easiest to fix.