The early season Ballers and Busters have been tallied up and we have our midseason totals. Sure, technically it won't be midseason for the Raiders until after the Broncos game, but it is the bye week so it is just the easiest time to do it.
The Raiders were a pretty sound team overall which made it that much more difficult to pick the players who would make each of the two lists. Bad teams have distinct standouts both good and bad. But teams that play well as a unit make it more difficult to pinpoint. One week one player will stand out, and the next week someone else steps up.
For instance, there were 31 different Ballers this season. That means that all the starters, a few backups, and coaches got into the act. The flipside is there were also 22 different Busters. So it goes both ways.
Now let's check in with the Raider players at the (almost) halfway point of the season.
He led all Raiders in Baller nods with four. He was also named top Baller three times. Before he went out with an ankle injury, he led the NFL in rushing. He suffered the injury early in the week seven loss to the Chiefs which has put him a bit behind in the race for the NFL rushing lead, but that doesn't really matter much in the scheme of things. What matters is in every other game this season, he has been dominant, and he is a big reason the Raiders were able to win four games so far this season.
McFadden shot out the gates in week one to run for 150 yards. After just one game of the season, he led the league in rushing and he stayed in the lead for five weeks. In the Raiders' home opener in week three, he tore through the Jets defense to rack up 171 yards including a 70 yard run. He also scored two touchdowns in the game. He was the first running back in the Rex Ryan era to go over 100 yards in the first half and just the fourth to go over 100 yards for an entire game. The following week, he suffered a groin strain and didn't play nearly the entire second quarter. But he was able to gain 75 yards on the ground for 5.4 yards per carry and added 4 catches for 48 yards. In his last healthy outing he gained 91 yards on 20 carries to help the Raiders beat the Browns.
I have to say I didn't think the day would come when I would be putting Darrius Heyward-Bey on this list. Leading up to the season there was no indication he would break out, and even through three weeks of this season he looked as pedestrian as we have known him to be. But after week three he exploded. He was named a Baller in every game since week four. That is four Baller nods. In those four games he has gone from 5 catches for 49 yards to 25 catches for 434 yards. All the while he continues to be a great blocker as well. He broke out in week four when he had 115 yards receiving. The next week he caught seven passes for 99 yards and touchdown to help the Raiders beat the Texans. His last two games he has had 82 and 89 yards. He has averaged 96 yards a game the last four games which means that he is on pace for a 1300 yard season. It remains to be seen if he can continue his hot streak, but he is off to a great start.
One could make the case that Janikowski is the Raiders' MVP through the early part of this season. He was named a Baller twice but he has really been great throughout. Well, all except last week when he was injured and didn't play. He tied an NFL record with a 63 yard field goal in week one which helped him earn Special Teams player of the month. Then in the week five win in Houston he tied another NFL record with three field goals of 50 yards or more in a single game. He had four field goals total and with his two extra points he scored most of the Raiders' points that day. He has scored 52 points which makes him the Raiders' leading scorer this season by a large margin. McFadden is second with 30 points scored. Janikowski has missed just one field goal all season and it was from 56 yards out.
He has not given up a sack all season thus far. Not much more needs to be said about the Raiders' second year left tackle. This didn't come out of nowhere, either. He was outstanding for the latter half of last season as well. It could be premature to say this but it appears as if the Raiders have found their left tackle for the next decade.
He continues to be the leader of this Raider defensive front. They go as he goes. His best games were all Raider wins in weeks 1, 3, and 5. His one poor game was against his old Patriots teammates when he let his emotions get the best of him. But normally he plays sound, consistent football, as evidenced by his leading the team in sacks (5) which is also best in the NFL among defensive tackles.
Stefen Wisniewski, Samson Satele
These two have been road graders for the Raiders all season long. When Darren McFadden was running up the gut, he was usually running behind these guys. Wisniewski plays at left guard but when Satele has to leave the game, he slides over to center to cover his spot. It is a luxury few NFL teams have. Satele has been playing the best football of his career this season. He is also as tough as they come. Twice he has been injured this season and both times he didn't miss a game. With Wiz kid, Satele and Veldheer, the Raiders have three young players to anchor the left side of the Raiders offensive line for a good long while.
Demarcus Van Dyke
This rookie is really coming into his own. He was named a Baller in last week's game versus the Chiefs for the first time but has been improving all season. He took over as the starter in week five and has made the most of it. Opposing quarterbacks have tested him and he has stood tall giving up just 9 catches on 24 passes thrown at his receiver. That is good for a 38% completion percentage which is best on the team among those with at least 10 passes. Last week Matt Cassel tested him all day with little success. If he can put on some weight, and improve his tackling, he could be a real find for the Raiders.
The man dubbed "Death Ro" by Raider fans showed up for the second week of the season like death warmed over. The Bills put a hurting on the Raiders defense in that game and McClain did little to stop them. The Raiders went up in that game by a large margin but the Bills were able to come back to win after scoring on five straight drives to finish out the game. One of those drives featured a big 47 yard touchdown run in which McClain was trailing but then simply gave up and started jogging. That dogging it is unacceptable from the guy who is supposed to be the leader of this defense. Later McClain was blocked on a 29 yard run and had an illegal contact penalty that negated a sack. Next drive he had a missed tackle on a 25 yard run. Next drive, which was the final drive of the game, he missed a tackle on a nine yard run and gave up three catches including the game winning touchdown.
The next week he was the ONLY Buster for the Raiders, due in large part to yet another instance of him jogging after trailing on a run. This time it resulted in a 74 yard run after catch to the one yard line and the Jets would score two plays later. On the Jets last drive, he gave up a huge 32 yard catch to put the Jets at first and goal at the nine yard line.
Hue's game management has been horrendous thus far. The first criticism came down in the week five loss to the Patriots. The coach who touts "living on the edge" opted to punt with the Raiders in 4th and 2 at the Patriots 40 yard line. He had two options that were preferable to punting: using his strong legged kicker to try a 57 yard field goal or try to pick up the two yards for the first down. He opted to let the clock run down and a delay of game penalty to give Lechler more room to punt.
Two weeks later he was at it again with the head scratching calls. The first faulty play call was an end around to Denarius Moore that the entire Browns defense saw coming and Denarius was dropped for a three yard loss. Later Hue called for a reverse to David Ausberry--the tight end. Ausberry may be fast but he is only fast for a tight end. He isn't reverse kind of fast. Then came Hue's most questionable call of the day. With the Raiders in fourth and one at the five yard line, he opted to go for it instead of kick the field goal to put the team up by three scores and all but seal the victory. They missed the first down, and the Browns drove 96 yards for a touchdown, had a successful onside kick, drove the ball into scoring position, and nearly tied the game. One would hope he learned from that. He is lucky he learned it the easy way.
Last week, after Jason Campbell went down with a broken collarbone, he traded for Carson Palmer and ignited an instant quarterback controversy. He could have kept the press and the Chiefs wondering while secretly giving Kyle Boller all the snaps. But instead he gave them all shared snaps. As if it wasn't bad enough that even after training camp and the season thus far Boller was never properly prepared, now he has to share snaps during a time in which he needs to prepare to lead this team. Hue was so caught up in all the attention he was getting all week he forgot he needed to prepare his team to play. Then came the game.
Boller was atrocious as you would expect for a completely ill-prepared quarterback in a complicated offense. Much of that had to do with how Jackson handled the play calling while he was in the game. For instance, on the first series, with the Raiders in third and one, he just decided to throw in Terrelle Pryor to execute a quarterback sneak. But he was leaning before the snap of the ball and was called for an illegal shift. With the now third and long, Hue called for Boller to go to the air and he threw the interception returned for a touchdown. And that was only the first series.
The rest of the first half Hue called for Boller to throw a long ball that was intercepted as well as two botched fleaflicker attempts. He also called for a wildcat formation on third and goal at the one yard line with Michael Bush in the backfield. The Chiefs were caught off guard and called a timeout. But instead of changing the play call, he went right back to the same exact thing and the Chiefs stuffed Bush at the line to hold the Raiders out of the endzone.
With Boller's poor play putting the Raiders in a 21-0 deficit, Hue opted to try out his new toy--Carson Palmer. But he couldn't just tell Palmer before halftime. He gave Boller one more series in the second half. Palmer was in a ball cap on the sideline not warming up and with no idea he would be entering the game. With no notice, he was given a helmet and put in the game. The result was three interceptions including one returned for a touchdown. The final result was a 28-0 shutout loss.
He only started two games this season, but in those two games he gave up 14 catches on 17 passes to his receiver. That is an 82% completion rate which is by far the worst on the team. He also was giving up 13 yards per catch which is worst among Raider cornerbacks. In just those two games starting he gave up more yards (182) than any other active Raider defensive back. This despite being fifth in targets. Routt (42), Branch (30), Van Dyke (24), and Huff (22) all have more targets. In just the second game of the season, he gave up 7 catches for 86 yards to Bills receivers. He also had 3 penalties for 35 yards. In between catches given up and penalties, Johnson surrendered 9 first downs, including the 9 yard catch on fourth and 3 that would have given the Raiders the win. Late in that game he went out with an injury after week two that forced the two rookie corners into starting. He has yet to return and is taking up a much needed roster spot. With the play of Demarcus Van Dyke, he may not get his job back even when he does return.
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You're a dummy, you don't know anything about football. McClain has been the man. Those big runs you speak of? Tyvon Branch as the SS, comes down to fill when when Wimberly blitzes from the Sam spot. Branch went to the wrong gap which tangled up McClain. When big runs goes to the weakside, Quentin Groves seems to forget to read his keys and starts running and leaves his gap wide open. There is a reason why Groves got replaced by Curry in a hurry. I agreed with your list until your bust where you name McClain and for god's sakes Hue Jackson. You sir are a total idiot and you need to replace Jackson and McClain with Groves and Branch. I don't care if it's your opinion. Your opinion shouldn't be voiced when you offer no type of knowledge and obviously just blame the Mike backer when there is a big run.
I don't think you can call a coach with a winning record a bust. I think the Raiders made some big mistakes in choosing Boller over Grad or Edwards,& in paying Routt the $ they should have paid Nnamdi & paying Huff the $ they should have paid Routt, but those were Mr. Davis Mistakes, but over all I think Mr. Davis did a good job his last 2 1/2 years as GM. Coach Jackson get's too cute with the play calls @ times but on the other hand nobody know what play he'll call next. As far as the Chief's game, they kick our ass, & eventhough the loss is coach Jackson's responibilty, it wasn't all his fault. Plan-A run D-Mc AllDAY!!!, but D-Mac goes down on play 2. Plan-B a balanced attack with Bush and Boller! but Boller is unable to see those Chief's Safeties in those ugly bright RED helmits and is only good throwing 11 yard over the middle passes( can't throw short touch passes, can;t throw out routs, and can't throw passes over 12 yards very well, @least Purple DrankMan JRoc can throw a 40 yard post even if he can't stay awake long enought to see if the reciever catches it!) Plus our most underrated player FB Reece hasn't played in 4 weeks, half the secondary was beatup& Boss went down in the 1st half of the Chief game as well. So Plan-C, Boller sucks beyond anyone's wildest nightmare, we have nooooo chance of winning this game, let's get our new QB some live NFL speed practice with his teammates, and some film of himself over the bye which will alway him to improove faster.
As for the list, I would add Jason Campbell to the ballers or honorable mention. He started out executing flawlessly. Besides a few turnovers, he has been playing the best football of his career IMHO. I was truly saddened when he went down with injury. Unfortunately, it seems he may have thrown his last pass for the Raiders. I can only hope he gets his health back quickly incase we need him later on this season. On the other side, I would add Boller on the list of busters even if he only played less than two games. I despise losing to the cheifs, but to get shutout stings even more. As a backup QB, he has to be ready to step in and not be the reason we lose a game. I knew there was trouble ahead when he couldn't pull the trigger in the game where he replaced Campbell. Early against the chiefs, he could have hit D. Moore running towards the sideline with a LB trailing him. Instead, he pulls it down and runs. Regardless of getting a first down, it's not the best decision for QB to make. If that was his game plan, we might as well have seen T. Pryor in the game. Boller has been in this league way to long to have a guy come off the couch, be with team for less than a week and still be slightly outperformed. I feel for the guy, but he's a pro and has to know that was unacceptable. Darrius Heyward-Bey is only scratching the surface with a dull butter knife. I knew it was only a matter of time before his hard work would pay off . To think that we still haven't seen him run under and catch the deep ball for a touchdown has me as geeked as a fat kid in a candy store about what he can become for the Raiders. He's playing with an intensity and confidence that will make him one of the hardest guys to cover in the league. He already has CBs playing on their heels. When he was drafted they said he would be compared to Crabtree for the rest of their careers. Well, they aren't comparing them now that they see he has much more to offer. Few can manipulate coverage like he can due to his size and speed. If he continues to work hard, he will have the ability to take over games at any time. I'll be patiently waiting for that day. Coach Jackson shouldn't be a buster. He has made some questionable calls and also some great ones. At the bye, the team is 4-3 and for that reason I cannot see him on the list in either category. I'll reserve jugdement until after the season. First year head coaches have a lot of unknowns, especially with a team that is still developing it's potential. He's taking the reigns and made some bold moves I believe Al Davis would have liked. I also like the fact he doesn't place blame on the players and puts it on his shoulders. It's what a leader should do. Once he has a better feel for the team, those decisions will become easier to make. He's the right man for the job.
Good list, it's been a while since I last commented on how I thought the game against the bills would go. The first half was almost exactly how I saw it playing out, then...well we all know what happened. I sort of suspended myself from the blogs until the bye since I felt like I jinxed the team with my predictions. I've always been superstitious when it comes to playing sports. Even when watching the games, I feel like if I sit a certain way or don't change the channel to another game during commercials, it will help keep the team playing well or reverse a dry spell. Crazy I know, maybe even stupid, but I probably won't change it. I get too involved, mentally and physically, with my favorite teams. I'll jump and yell when a big play happens and become frustrated beyond belief during bad ones. Those ups and downs are what makes the game so great in my eyes. I wanted to wait until the bye to see where the team was before commenting again. Now that its here and gone, I think this team is definitely good. There is plenty of work to do before we can recover from costly mistakes and still beat the elite teams. The OL is the best we've had in years. They had a little rude awakening against the cheifs, but nothing bad with a little smelling salt to break the monotony. There were on a roll and should continue to get better with more gametime together. My only worries are reducing penalties and how quickly Carson Palmer can play good football.
It's not hard to realize how great this team can be, we have seen glimpses of it. If they can get the penalties down and still play smart, aggressive Raider football, we're in business. Playoff business that is. The game against the Patriots shows how bad it can get when you give a future Hall of Fame QB any type of advantage. I personally think the officials made some bad calls that tilted a level playing field. Tom Brady has no problem with stepping on the throats of a team that is down. This cannot happen again if the goals of a championship are to be reached. We have some good players and some great ones. The difference is the good players try to play great, the great ones try to be perfect. The dedication to perfecting their craft will be the driving force behind this team. The coaches have to make the best decisions for these guys to take advantage of their abilities and hard work. The great Al Davis has passed, but his legend will never die as long as the Silver and Black take the field. It has been past that time and their is nothing like the present because that is the only time it exists. The entire NFL and fans all around can see this is not a team to take lightly. GO GET EM RAIDERS!!!!!!!!!!!!
At the risk of coming off as a smart-ass, I questioned Hue's game management here after the Buffalo game. The "quick strikes" at the end of each half were idiotic--the Raiders were lucky that they got a block on that FG @ the end of the first half, but it was poor clock management that allowed them a full minute to drive. Then, in the second half, rather than trying to pick up a couple of first downs and turn the clock against the Bills, he called for big plays. I don't want to suggest that the Raiders get that last go-ahead TD if they play it a bit tighter, but the fact remains that it is awfully easy to go 20-20 hindsight and say leaving the Bills that much time in EACH half was a bad play.
DHB really has been the biggest surprise this season. As one of his biggest critics, I am truely glad he is proving me wrong and hope he continues to do so for the remainder of the season. DHB obviously is a guy who did not have the natural football instincts of a Michael Crabtree, but has relentlessly worked his way into being just as productive a receiver as Crabtree, which says a lot, considering that Crabtree was a prolific record holder in Division 1 collegiate football...
Veldheer had a terrible game against the Chiefs. Not as terrible as the Chargers' tackles had against the Chiefs though. He's done a good job but I wouldnt have included him on this list.
While I agree some of Jackson's rookie game management errors have been woefully bad, I think he's been a big upgrade at head coach. I believe the character and agressiveness has helped inspire the team which is good even though the decisions dont always pay dividends.
@LeviDamien Criticism of Hue Jackson was harsh (but true); He is a rookie, let's remember that. He should NOT, however, also be playing GM
@JB5 I will reserve overall judgment of Hue for my 2011 season Ballers & Busters. But since this is the midseason B&B, the whole point is to judge him based on our half season sample. I have always maintained that I don't take things like being a rookie or first year head coach into consideration when putting these together. B&B is a performance analysis. I even left out the play at the end of the Houston game in which there were ten men on the field on the final play. Everyone likes to say that Al was the 11th man but that doesn't fly in an NFL game. There was ten men on the field for the most critical play of the game and that is NOT good at all. Yes the head coach of a winning team CAN be a Buster because in the same way he can't be blamed solely for the losses, he can't be given sole credit for the wins. What we can criticize him for is playcalling and player readiness because those are his sole jobs.
Oh, and I know exactly what you mean about the superstitious stuff. We have all done it. And we all have thought we jynxed our team at one time or another. Good to see you have recovered from it JB.
@uglyorc Veldheer had three penalties in the Chiefs game and I made him a Buster for that. But not giving up a single sack through seven games is tremendous. I can't deny that fact because of a few penalties in one game.
@LDizzle I can see your point of view on the rookie or first head coach issue. Either way, your chosen for the job and need to perform it at a high level. No excuses. Another example is like a QB that turns the ball over numerous times, but the team still wins because of the defense or running game. He's still a buster for putting the team in that position. Point taken and duly noted. I hope I didn't jinx the team for the second time by commenting on the blog again, haha. Seriously though, that second half was a disgrace.