When the Raiders acquired Marshawn Lynch in April 2017, they bullishly declared that they wouldn’t be throwing the ball on the goal line.
Fast forward a little over 12 months, and with a new regime in place, such declarations are out the window.
Down by 17 points late in the third quarter yesterday, the Raiders looked slow, sluggish, and without any sense of urgency. They were just a single yard out with the best goal-line back in the league at their disposal. A single yard makes it a 10 point game, and, after last week’s fourth-quarter comeback and overtime heroics, everyone watching would’ve considered the Raiders firmly back in the game.
It was arguably Carr’s worst throw in his entire career. Throw it into the stands. Throw it out of bounds. Just don’t put it right on the numbers of the defensive player.
It made perfect sense. Until that is, head coach Jon Gruden got cute and dialed up a play action pass. Derek Carr didn’t see defensive end Melvin Ingram drop back into coverage, so he tried to fit a ball into a tight window in the back of the end zone, which hit Ingram right in the breadbasket for the interception.
Game. Set. Match.
It was arguably Carr’s worst throw in his entire career. Throw it into the stands. Throw it out of bounds. Just don’t put it right on the numbers of the defensive player. It’s flat-out inexcusable for a veteran quarterback with his skill set making such boneheaded decisions. The problem, however, is that this isn’t an isolated incident and that there have been similar errant throws made this year.
Chalk it up to learning a new offense, being in a fourth offensive system in five years, or whatever label you decide to stick on it. There’s no sugar-coating it: Carr’s performance isn’t good enough.
It’s easy to criticize Carr after yesterday’s horror show, but the entire team looked lackluster and without energy. The CBS commentators frequently mentioned that Gruden had told them the Raiders only ran two walk-through all week because the team was flat after going deep into overtime last week against the Browns. It wouldn’t surprise me if this was more a cumulative effect given the difficult weather conditions in week 2 and 3 leading to the Browns game, but even so, a professional football team can’t be tired going into a game in early October.
Or is there something more sinister at hand, by which Gruden is already losing the locker room? This last one might sound farfetched, but Lynch and the offensive coaches got into a shouting match after Carr’s interception and Beast Mode did not play a single snap after that altercation.
So why was this team so lifeless yesterday? Was it because the damn has burst and the slew of old veteran guys have suddenly hit the wall at the same time? Can it just be chalked up to “a bad day at the office,” which can happen to any team on any given Sunday? Or is there something more sinister at hand, by which Gruden is already losing the locker room? This last one might sound farfetched, but Lynch and the offensive coaches got into a shouting match after Carr’s interception and Beast Mode did not play a single snap after that altercation.
The fact is that these issues are not going to suddenly disappear overnight. They are firmly entrenched deep in the fabric of the organization and, at this point, it’s going to take a lot of stitching to remedy the situation.
A Quote to Remember
“You can’t write the football story without Marshawn Lynch.”
QB Derek Carr on RB Marshawn Lynch’s credentials for the Pro Football Hall Of Fame.
A Tweet of Amusement
I’m 4-0 and I go to the Super Bowl every year https://t.co/08RileGN8R
— Michael Silver (@MikeSilver) October 1, 2018
1. The Raiders don’t stand a chance against Seattle in London, and I don’t even rate Seattle that favorably. I just don’t see how the Raiders stop the best scrambling quarterback in the league, Russell Wilson, from extending plays. This one has all the makings of a blowout.
2. Bruce Irvin will get the hairdryer treatment from the coaching staff. The so-called defensive ‘captain’ was called for a roughing the passer penalty on Philip Rivers late in the first half which set up a field goal opportunity. Despite the Chargers missing the kick, such ends do not justify Irvin’s actions.
3. Should the Raiders have the ball on the goal line against the Seahawks this week, there’s no way they don’t hand the ball off to Lynch. Lynch would love nothing more than to truck a few of his former teammates for a touchdown in London.
7 Things I Think:
1. Former Raiders offensive coordinator Bill Musgrave cheekily described defensive lineman Frostee Rucker as a ‘problem’ earlier in the year. What was a comment clearly in jest has somewhat proved to be true. Rucker has had a very solid year on the Raiders D-Line, and has stepped up to provide a solid veteran presence and influence in the locker room. Rucker missed the Chargers game due to a neck injury and was sorely missed.
2. Continuing on the defensive line, rookies Arden Key and Maurice Hurst have really stepped up their game the past few weeks. Although Key has yet to record a sack, and its worth noting that even superstar edge rusher Khalil Mack took 10 games to record his first sack, and only had four during his rookie year. Key has steadily shown improvement in both the pass and run game and production will no doubt ensue in the coming weeks. Hurst has also been a bright spot on a poor defense, playing every bit like a first-round talent. The other defensive line rookie, PJ Hall, is still finding his groove after getting injured in week 1 of the season. Great teams build on the lines and if this trio of guys is able to fast track their development, Gruden’s rebuild of the team will move faster along than initially anticipated.
3. Gruden has expressed a desire to incorporate more two half back sets on offense as the season progresses, much like he did in his last stint with the Raiders. It will be interesting to see how he goes about this and how defenses adjust to it. In split back sets, the RBs often line up closer to the line of scrimmage, so they’re able to hit the hole earlier in the running game. It’s also effective for play action and multiple pre-snap movements. This type of formation is rarely seen in the league so it’s a point of emphasis Gruden can use to exploit various defenses.
4. Donald Penn’s injury gives the Raiders a good transition point to move on to rookie Brandon Parker at right tackle. Penn was not playing well this season, though benching the outspoken veteran could have caused some issues within the locker room. Instead, by sending Penn to IR, it allows the team to get Parker involved without any off-field distractions. At this point, it would take something drastic for Penn to get his job back, and, at this stage, it appears his time as a Raider won’t extend to 2019.
5. Many were surprised when word came out that the Los Angeles Chargers pumped crowd noise into their practices this week to prepare for a hostile environment despite playing the game at home. What I don’t understand is why this isn’t done on a regular basis with every team even when the team is playing at home in front of their fans. The crowd is always loud when the home defense in on the field, and there are plenty of times when players (at least early on in the season) say that their communication on defense went askew because they couldn’t hear one another.
6. I love the concept of a game in London to increase the NFL’s exposure abroad. That being said, it’s a sensitive subject for Raider Nation given that it’s yet another home game being taken away from the local Bay Area fans. What isn’t being said, however, is that the Raiders have consistently given up a home game for the past few years as this was in part, an unwritten rule seen as a goodwill gesture from owner Mark Davis to receive votes of approval to relocate the team out of Oakland. Fans can blame Davis all they want, but this is far more about the big picture, and, knowing how well Raider Nation travels, there will be more than enough fans at Wembley this Sunday cheering on the silver and black.
7. Brent Musberger is an iconic commentator, but it’s clearly evident so far to date that he is best suited to television as opposed to radio. Hopefully, he improves as the season goes on, but I’m sure there are many who are yearning for the tones of Greg Papa on the air once more.