Raider Nation is restless as their team, again, failed to show up in a big division rivalry game with much on the line. The loss to the Chargers shed light on continuing issues plaguing Jon Gruden’s team.
The Raiders have so many issues through five weeks of the 2018 season, it’s a bit perplexing on where to start when looking at the problems. While many fans and pundits want to blame quarterback Derek Carr (and he does shoulder some of the responsibility) or coach Jon Gruden, there’s plenty to be shared by everyone who dons the silver and black this season. Using the latest Pro Football Focus numbers, we take a look at some glaring trends which exemplify why Oakland stands at 1-4 after their uninspired loss in Los Angeles yesterday.
The Curious Case of Derek Carr
For the most part, this writer has come to the defense of Derek Carr. Beset by injuries since the end of 2016, and having to learn his fourth playbook in five years, I felt much of the early season criticism was unfair. Yet, after his Week 5 performance, it’s getting harder to understand or evaluate just exactly where he is. Physically we’re told he’s fine which must mean his current malaise must be of the mental variety. While Carr has put up big numbers – at times – throughout this young season, he’s also made such poor decisions, you feel like you’re living in the movie Invasion of the Body Snatchers.
Carr has thrown six interceptions and zero touchdowns when pressured this season. That’s a horrific 37.3 passer rating. Carr currently ranks 32nd of 36 qualifying quarterbacks, according to PFF.
In PFF‘s stat package this week, this stat makes you wonder what’s going on in the talented young player’s mind. He’s been downright awful when pressured this season. Carr has completed just 6-of-10 passes for a measly 76 yards Sunday against the Chargers. In fact, Carr has thrown six interceptions and zero touchdowns when pressured this season. That’s a horrific 37.3 passer rating. Carr currently ranks 32nd of 36 qualifying quarterbacks, according to PFF. Beyond alarming if you’re the Raiders.
But what is the cause? We keep hearing from Carr himself that he just needs to keep trying and not get too excitable. Yet we’ve heard that now since last year. All signs point to some sort of lack of confidence or a tentativeness (which you can see watching him) which is impacting his performance. Whatever it is, for the Raiders to have any chance to win games, it has to be fixed.
Rookies Gonna Rookie
When it comes to the remade and injured offensive line of the Raiders, we’re seeing an up-and-down season thus far. While not something that surprises most observers, the Raiders picked two offensive tackles in the first three rounds of the 2018 draft showing you they did have the foresight to know it was a looming problem. Left tackle Kolton Miller has performed well until he recently sprained the MCL in his knee and struggled against the Chargers. Miller allowed three sacks and eight total pressures in 41 pass-block snaps, according to PFF. Not a great day but the grit and determination by a young player to play in the game shows the Raiders made a good choice.
Right tackle Brandon Parker, making his first start in the place of the injured veteran Donald Penn, had his down moments but played as well as he could given his lack of experience and the assignment. According to PFF, Parker allowed four total pressures in 41 pass-block snaps. He also had some big whiffs but, again, that’s not a surprise. The sample size is small so Parker is still a wait-and-see proposition.
The Raiders were negatively impacted by the absence of one of their anchors on the inside in Kelechi Osemele. Even though Jon Feliciano is a solid fill-in, he was exploited against LA and offensive line coach Tom Cable needs KO back in the lineup as soon as he’s healthy enough.
The Ghost of Khalil Mack
The trade happened. It’s not worth beating the proverbial dead horse. Yet, the Raiders inability to find any semblance of a pass rush means you have to talk about it. Rookie PJ Hall returned from an injury which helped the middle and Maurice Hurst will be fine. Edge rushers Bruce Irvin and Arden Key simply are not getting it done. That means quarterbacks like Philip Rivers have time to make plays – and big plays at that. Paul Guenther can’t make plays on the field but the supposed defensive genius better come up with something to get this defensive front going.
Backfield in Motion
Something is going on with Gareon Conley and no one seems to know what. With Daryl Worley being activated for Sunday’s game, Conley’s snaps continued to be reduced. That marks a two-week trend and Worley played 49 snaps and was the defacto started against Los Angeles. Worley played well, according to PFF, the veteran was targeted five times and allowed four catches for only 17 yards and made four total stops. Does this mean Conley is no longer the starter? It’s sure to be a question asked of Gruden today.
At the safety spot, Erik Harris had the best performance of the day in the ugly loss with PFF’s highest game grade of the day at 88.6. Harris played 26 snaps and allowed one reception for three yards in 14 coverage snaps. The safety also made one run stop on the 12 run snaps in which he was on the field.
The season is a long one and there are lots of ups-and-downs, changes, adjustments, and personnel shifts. The Raiders lack of success on both sides of the ball through five weeks could mean we’re about to see changes in many areas both offensively and defensively.
The question will be: will it make any difference?