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Any Given Monday: Raiders and Gruden Hit New Low

Any Given Monday: Raiders and Gruden Hit New Low

It was like watching a slave sent to the lion’s den of the Coliseum in Ancient Rome.

Sunday’s game was an absolute embarrassment for the Raiders in every sense of the world. It begs to wonder whether the NFL really wants to showcase such an abomination of a team into a market where they’re trying to get people further interested in American football. After yesterday’s game, fans across the Atlantic in London, could have been forgiven for being turned off by sport.

The Raiders played the game from the start as if they had no chance.  They were just going through the motions. Why after giving up a 12+ play opening touchdown drive do you run the ball on 3rd-and-6 to, as head coach Jon Gruden claimed, ‘make a statement’ I will never know. As expected, that third down run was stopped short of the line of gain, the Raiders punted, and the rout was on.

It didn’t help that wide receiver Amari Cooper was knocked out cold early in the game, or that backup guard Jon Feliciano, who was standing in for the injured Kelechi Osemele, hurt his ribs and was also out for the game. Not to mention rookie left tackle Kolton Miller is currently injured with a grade II MCL sprain to his right knee, which begs one to seriously question why he should even be on the field, to begin with. Gruden has stressed the importance of keeping Carr protected, but when your blindside protector is seriously injured and can’t plant his foot in the ground to get in his passing set, Carr is bound to get hurt eventually, and in all likelihood, he wouldn’t even see it coming.

Gruden saw the writing on the wall early in this game and it never seriously appeared as though the Raiders intended to challenge the Seahawks. It is not so much concerning in that regard, given that at the end of the day it was clear the team just needed to get out of London without any more serious injuries. There were 46 players dressed today and the vast majority should be embarrassed by their performance. Additionally, this new attitude from Gruden flies in the face of what he stood for as a head coach in his previous experience with the Raiders. He loves pulling out an Al Davis quote, but Davis never said, “The score doesn’t count today. Just finish the game and come home safely, baby!”

The Raiders were completely embarrassed in London.

The point of no return has well and truly passed for the Raiders. With the bye looming this week, it’s clear from all angles that major changes need to be made before the next game against the Indianapolis Colts. Gruden brought in a slew of veterans to show the rookies the ropes and to create a competitive environment. In theory, it was sound. It was supposed to buy them time to get some solid draft classes to replace a large number of the roster that wasn’t up to standard. It simply hasn’t worked out. In fact, it’s actually worse than what anyone could have possibly imagined.

So many fans in Oakland were in mourning the moment that the team were approved to relocate to Las Vegas in 2020. The final years in Oakland were meant to be a celebration, with both Gruden and owner Mark Davis proclaiming their desire to win and win big before making the move to Nevada. However, at this rate, the fans could be forgiven for thinking they’re better off without the team in Oakland. And, just like Walter White’s story in Breaking Bad, you just know that it’s only going to go further downhill from here.

A Quote to Remember

“Well I’m trying to figure out, is he trying to rub it in our face? He traded away our best player, our best pass rusher, then he gets on the podium and says ‘Hey, we gotta find a way to get pressure.’ Right? Then we’re on the 1-yard line, we got Beast Mode in the backfield. We call a pass play, we throw the ball? I’m trying to figure out, and then he says ‘Look, if I’m Marshawn (Lynch) I would’ve been mad too.’ Like is it a joke?”

A very frustrated Charles Woodson assessing Jon Gruden’s performance this season.

A Tweet of Amusement

3rd-and-7

3 Predictions:

1. Johnny Townsend will be cut. He might have a cool nickname (Captain America) but when the punter is shanking more than 50% of their kicks, it’s time to go.

2. The defense will go a lot younger. The defensive line has the right mix of youth and experience, but the linebackers and secondary are extremely veteran heavy and they simply are not producing. It’s time for a shakeup. Linebackers Derrick Johnson and Tahir Whitehead are completely out of their depth, so it won’t be surprising to see undrafted rookie Jason Cabinda (currently on the practice squad) and Nicholas Morrow get some meaningful playing time, in addition to Marquel Lee who has already begun to chip into Johnson’s snaps. In the secondary, Reggie Nelson is a mess at safety and it appears that Erik Harris has begun to see more playing time there. Meanwhile, it’s staggering that 2017 first-round pick Gareon Conley did not play a snap on defense yesterday. The time is now to figure out exactly what the young guys have. There is no point in playing some veterans who are in all likelihood not on this team in 2019. If the Raiders elect to not play Conley going forward, it only makes Conley and the cornerback position even more of a question mark going into next season. These last 10 games are an opportunity to figure out what the coaching staff has in terms of personnel. They can’t waste it away on these vets.

3. The offensive line either needs to get healthy fast, or the Raiders are going to have to bring in some new players to help out. Derek Carr will be sore today, but he, fortunately, will be available after the bye. Another diabolical performance by the O-Line later in the year and Carr might not be so lucky.

7 Things I Think:

1. Jon Gruden said last week that he was terrified for the long plane flight due to claustrophobia on planes along with a prior experience of vertigo after a long international flight to Europe. Gruden claims that he left the decision on when the team should travel from Oakland to London in the hands of the high-performance team, but given his earlier comments, it’s hard to think that he didn’t have some influence in the said decision. I doubt that an extra day or two would have made much of a difference on the final score, but I personally would have been inclined to get over to London as early as possible in the week and make the road trip a mini training camp as such. Additionally, unlike the difficult conditions they faced in terms of altitude and food preparation in Mexico City, such constraints would not have affected the team in London, allowing for a longer trip.

2. Derek Carr has a propensity to throw short over the middle in a cover 2 or “2-man” look. It’s been a problem ever since Kansas City used a lot of those coverages against No. 4 in 2015. He has never been able to adjust consistently since. It is a major problem because it allows the defense to make Carr, and thus the Raiders offense, extremely predictable.

3. There is a clear disconnect between Carr and Amari Cooper. Even though at times Cooper has looked like a bona fide No. 1 receiver in his career, I’ve never sensed that Carr trusts him as a go-to guy in crunch time. His career high for touchdowns in a season is just seven and given that he has just the one this year, I wouldn’t bet on him reaching a new high in 2018. The problem isn’t all on Cooper though. Cooper is getting open and creating plenty of separation, but Carr hasn’t been throwing him the football. Judging by Cooper’s comments this week, he’s clearly getting frustrated with the lack of trust Carr has in him to send the football his way. I am not one to make extreme calls, but I could see the rest of the year being somewhat of a referendum on whether the Raiders keep both Carr and Cooper going forward. If they can’t get on the same page, one of them needs to go. And, at this stage, I’m not quite sure who that “one” would necessarily be.

4. Cornerback Gareon Conley has all the tools from a coverage perspective to be a great player in the NFL. His game film in 2018, however, has shown multiple occasions the coverage breaking down due to his mental errors. In a scheme like Paul Guenther’s that requires all 11 players to stay on top of their man and prevent the big play, Conley’s mistakes have led to a somewhat justifiable limited role. Not only is Conley’s mental lapses an issue, but also he is such a poor tackler in the open field. For a player who the Raiders want to line up aplenty in the slot, this is one issue that he simply needs to fix ASAP.

5. Given that the Raiders are firmly out of the playoff race and looking to 2019, could there be somewhat of a fire sale at the trade deadline? I doubt there are many players on the roster who would be of much (if any) value, but it’s certainly something to keep an eye on over the coming weeks.

6. New York Giants wide receiver Odell Beckham Jr. is an elite talent but he needs to sort out his issues with the team. To act as he did prior to halftime on Thursday Night Football last week is inexcusable. The Giants and Beckham Jr. are tied to a long-term deal and there’s most definitely no desire for him to leave from either party. This is just another distraction that the big-market team simply cannot afford.

7. ESPN football insider Adam Schefter is universally regarded as the best NFL news-breaker in the business. I have always been amazed watching him work multiple phones when on the air during various ESPN broadcasts. It’s why his book The Man I Never Met is such a captivating read. The book may be about Schefter’s wife Sharri’s first husband Joe Maio, who died tragically in the North Tower on 9/11 (thus being the man Schefter never met), but it is just as insightful as to the man behind the famous Twitter account whose “sources” keep millions refreshing their Twitter feed constantly.

Hayden Nadolny is Silver and Black Today's NFL senior contributor. He resides in Australia.

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