Sure, we're only approaching week three in the NFL. It is not yet time to panic on a team that is 1-1 or one that has a quarterback completing just above 30 percent of his passes, but maybe time to be overly concerned if you are Tom Cable.
The issue at hand here is not the quarterbacks play or what he needs to do . It is the Raiders inability to run the football, something they have particularly done with ease the past two seasons in the NFL with Tom Cable in charge of the offensive line. Last season they were a top ten rushing offense.
The Raiders are currently ranked 17th in the league rushing the football, which may or may not seem bad at the moment. However, the "play-maker" of their offense hasn't exactly been beating defenders with his speed or breaking tackles. Second year tailback Darren McFadden has only had two games this season to showcase his ability. But it is disheartening to learn he only has 103 yards off of 29 attempts (3.6 yards per carry), since he is now fully recovered from turf toe. The expectations for him and the Oakland running attack are high. Expectations that have not been met.
Raiders lost arguably their best linemen in left guard Robert Gallery last Sunday in a win over the Chiefs. Erik Pears, who has never started a game at left guard in the pros, will be taking his spot over the 4-6 week time frame that Gallery is expected to be out. Pears has experience in the zone blocking scheme dating back to his time with Denver, but it still hurts the Raiders tremendously to lose Gallery.
Raiders were hoping for a better outcome with the Samson Satele trade, but came up short there. Obviously with Cable leaving starter Chris Morris at center and placing Pears at left guard shows just how little he trusts Satele. It is worth noting that Russell has been given much more time to locate his receivers than in years past due to better pass protection, but unfortunately the running game has not been able to get up to speed as well.
With the passing game a work in progress, rookies starting at receiver and Russell going through some growing pains, the Raiders have to be able to run the football. Not being able to run the football almost cost them the game to the Chiefs and hurt them badly in the second half against the Chargers.
It is either that the push up front is not there, or Oakland's starting runningback needs to elevate his game. Or maybe even give way to Michael Bush more often. Yes, McFadden is supposed to be the guy. However, is he really an every down back? If he remains healthy and is used as he has been the past two games we will find out soon enough.
Watching Michael Bush run, it may be worth reevaluating who the starting runningback is. After all, Mcfadden could be a more beneficial runner if he were used more on sweeps and toss's instead of running up the gut all the time. Just a thought.
The Denver Broncos currently rank 10th in the league in run defense, giving up low 2.9 yards a pop. Raiders will need to establish the run early, given that Champ Bailey and Brian Dawkins are likely drooling over the chance of reading two rookie receivers this Sunday. That's not to forget their pass rush, which last week had four sacks at the hands of outside linebacker Elvis Dumervil.
Raiders will have their hands full on offense. This game will likely be decided by defenses, and which quarterback makes the least mistakes. At least JaMarcus Russell has had his best games against the Broncos in the past. He has come through when it counted the most so far this season, so if he can continue to do that the Raiders should be able to pull of a win.
-- AJ DeMello, TFDS Guest Contributor