Going into week 2 of the regular season, Oakland Raiders fans were hoping for a better and more complete performance. A showing where the defense would continue their apparent improvement, and where the offense would get the running game to where it was supposed to be. On Sunday in Miami, where the Raiders have struggled mightily as of late, they managed quite the opposite once again. It was another ugly loss, and does not bode well for the team moving toward a tough part of the season’s schedule.
For a team that was supposed to be run heavy, and quite possibly run dominant, the running game was non-existent against San Diego, and struggled even more in Miami. Many will blame the scheme, the play calling, or even question Darren McFadden’s fit for the zone blocking scheme. The reality of it is that a running back of his talent and abilities is a fit for any scheme. Right now, the necessary blocks are not being made, and when nearly every running play gets blown up in the backfield, McFadden has no chance to make a play. We can expect the blocking to get better as the season goes on, but in a season with only 16 games, the time to perfect the system’s blocking was 3 weeks ago.
Not only was the run blocking an issue, but so too was the pass protection. QB Carson Palmer seemed to be forced to his back foot, or flushed out of the pocket throughout the game. When he gets the time, the passes are often completed to the right spot, evidenced by his 373 yards passing despite the constant pressure. If the Raiders are going to turn around the ugly start to the season and compete in the AFC West, it starts with the offensive line. The group has an improved talent level over that of last year, but it will just be a matter of getting in sync, and getting the zone blocking scheme running on all cylinders.
Also a glaring issue in this game was the depth in the defensive backfield. With starting CB Ron Bartell missing from this game and several more to come, others needed to step into the role. Unfortunately, it did not prove to be a seamless transition, even against a rookie quarterback in Ryan Tannehill. While stopping the run may have proven to be the main issue on this day, almost any time that the Dolphins needed a first down, they were able to convert on a 12 yard hook or out route to the sidelines. If the Raiders are going to slow some of the passing attacks that are much more productive and seasoned than that of the Dolphins, addressing the depth in the defensive backfield may need to be done right away.
Raiders fans should hope that this was just another seemingly yearly debacle in Miami, and that it is not indicative of the teams prospects for the remainder of the season. Remember, the 2011 Raiders team considered to be offensively explosive went down at the hands of the Dolphins by a similar score: 34-14. Should these performances indicate what we are going to see in the remaining 14 games, the Raiders could very well be looking at a top 10 selection in the 2013 draft. In the next two weeks, both the offensive line’s and the defense’s issues will be put to the test with matchups against Pittsburgh and Denver. While competing for a playoff spot this season is in no way out of the question, improvements need to be made immediately. While an 0-2 start to the season can be overcome, an 0-4 start is near insurmountable. In the next two weeks, we will learn just what Raiders team we can expect to see for the rest of the season.
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