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A spirited effort by the Raider defense against Peyton Manning and the Broncos proved not to be enough as the Raiders fell again, bringing their record to 3-10. After a rough week for Dennis Allen dealing with the unexpected loss of his father Grady, the Raiders seemed to come into the Thursday night matchup with an emotional boost.
After giving up a touchdown on the first drive, the Raider defense bounced back nicely. They put more pressure on Manning than any other team this season, and held the Bronco offense to field goals on four out of their six redzone trips. Inconveniently-timed penalties coupled with a slow start by the offense killed whatever momentum they might have gained, however.
Poor pass protection and dropped passes hampered the offense, and Palmer’s increasingly poor decision-making ended up being the nail in the coffin for the Raiders. With several minutes left in the 3rd quarter, the Broncos were already milking the clock. Final score: 26-13.
McKenzie’s additions shine in an otherwise dismal effort.
Reggie McKenzie didn’t have much in the way of salary cap room, and his first draft pick was at #95. All of his additions were either unproven, unheralded, or vets looking to prove their worth. While the lack of top end talent on this Raider roster is showing, Raider fans may take solace in the fact that many of McKenzie’s additions have ended up being bright spots.
Philip Wheeler has been productive for the Raiders, especially in terms of putting pressure on the QB. Miles Burris bounced back from a couple rough weeks with a much stronger effort, particularly against the run where he quickly diagnosed plays. Rod Streater had a deep catch for the second week in a row, and ended the night with his first career 100-yard game. Christo Bilukidi continues to develop as a situational run-stopper. Phillip Adams had another impressive pick this week, and looks like the best pure corner on the team (admittedly, that isn’t saying much).
While Brisiel, Tollefson, and Bartell haven’t stepped up, one can’t help but be impressed with the returns on a very meager offseason haul. It’ll be interesting to see what McKenzie can do with more resources at his disposal.
Carson Palmer isn’t the Raiders’ biggest problem, but he’s also not helping.
Consider it an indication of how bad this season has been for the Raiders that Carson Palmer is simultaneously the least of the Raiders’ problems, and a problem that will need addressing sooner rather than later. Has the pass protection been good? No. Have his receivers helped him out by running crisp routes and hanging onto the ball? No. Has the running game taken pressure off of Palmer? No. Is Greg Knapp a world-class playcaller? No.
But Carson Palmer’s accuracy, decision-making, and awareness have gotten increasingly worse over the last few weeks. He’s been constantly throwing short of the sticks on 3rd down, drifting in the pocket and making off-balance, ill-timed throws even when it isn’t necessary, and has turned the ball over at an alarming rate.
This week, Palmer’s fumble inside the Raider five yard line was the result of him holding the ball too long in a situation where that simply can’t be done. His interception which killed a promising drive came on a throw that was behind tight end Brandon Myers as Myers was being covered by perennial All-Pro corner Champ Bailey. While Palmer’s teammates aren’t doing much to help him out, he needs to make sure that he isn’t overcompensating and putting his team in an even tougher situation with costly mistakes.
Khalif Barnes: Drive Killer.
With all the Raiders’ obvious needs on defense, their single greatest need might be an upgrade at right offensive tackle. After Willie Smith got abused in his absence, Khalif Barnes stepped back in and immediately returned to form.
Usually returning to form is a good thing, but not when you’re a serial drive killer like Barnes. For the third season in a row, Barnes is displaying his penchant for the drive-killing holding call or false start. His mental mistakes repeatedly put the offense in no-win situations, and Von Miller spent the second half running through Barnes like a turnstile.
With several promising offensive tackle prospects at the top of this year’s draft, don’t be surprised if Reggie McKenzie comes away with a bookend to pair with Jared Veldheer, and another building block in the trenches to protect his quarterback - of the present and the future, whoever that might be.
I have said previously I really hope Allen does not get dumped after year. What Allen and McKenzie are putting together will take time and as much as we all want the team to finally just start winning some games, it is going to take a couple of seasons to re-shape the roster as they want it. Burris has been a starter from day one and more than I could ever expected from a fourth rounder rookie. Criner and Streater have also shown good promise as a fifth round pick and undrafted rookie. Throw in the signing of Wheeler and I cannot fault McKenzie so far.
While I don't see Pryor as the answer necessarily at QB, neither is Palmer. He is not "bad" but he is also not going to win us much either. Palmer forces passes he shouldn't and makes decisions I would expect from Pryor not a seasoned vet like Palmer. I do think Pryor may bring a new energy to this Offense that Palmer has not shown. In my opinion the team does not follow their QB like they should which I think has been the case since Campbell went down last year. At that point the team sunk with him and I don't think the players have really "raised" back since.
Bergstorm needs to be given the rest of the season at RT. He cannot do any worse than Barnes and/or Smith. And with the college experience at RT he wouldn't be coming in completely blind.
Other changes I would now like to see from this team are:
1. GET REECE MORE INVOLVED!!! With McFadden gone, Reece carried this team on Offense. He is the heart and soul and needs to be given as many touches as possible. While at it keep Stewart active. He also looked good the last couple of seasons. I think it is pretty obvious McFadden doesn't suit this offense. We have all seen enough to know this!!
2. Keep McClain deactivated. I think we are stuck in a real tight place right now with McClain. If he is kept he accounts for what I believe is $6.675 million next year. And if he is cut the hit number is $7.26 million against the cap next year! He could be put on Waivers but if he is not picked up, we are screwed! So what happens from now with McClain will be a tough decision. Even if he is traded in the off-season next year I believe are still stuck with the $7.26 million cap hit. So keep him around and put him on the IR with a bogus injury maybe?
3. Put Seymour on IR and relegate Kelly to the bench. Both have performed far under my expectations from them, both are getting old and don't have much left in the tank. Start Bryant (he has looked pretty good at times) and Bilukidi and see what they can do.
4. Sign Kirk Morrison back to the team. He is now a FA and I don't think much of Gaither at all. He played with an intensity at MLB with all heart and passion. Bring him back to the Silver & Black where he belongs and start him at the inside for the remainder of the season and then let him compete next year. At very least he is better than any of the other reserve LB's on this team.
5. Give Criner and Streater even more looks. These two are the future at WR. I am not sure what is going on with Moore, and as much as I like DHB I can see him being fazed out for more of Criner and Streater.