It was an up and down season for the Raiders. Early it seemed like the ups would outnumber the downs but eventually the downs caught up to them, and the Raiders were kept out of the playoffs yet again. It can be difficult to round up every player and/or coach and simplify exactly what happened. But I'm gonna do it anyway.
He still isn't the type of receiver that can dominate a game or tell the quarterback to put the ball up and he will go get it. But he was the most dependable player on a team of inconsistencies. He started out the season looking like he had not taken the next step in his development. He had just five catches for 49 yards over the first three games. But then he broke out. By midseason, he had 25 catches for 434 yards and had been named a Baller four straight games. Then a wrench was thrown into his bid for a great season. Jason Campbell broke his collarbone and new quarterback Carson Palmer was not on the same page as DHB. He would have to start over and just like the beginning of the season, it would take him a while to get in synch with his new signal caller. In fact, it took the exact same amount of time—three games.
By week four, DHB was a Baller once again. In fact, he was Top Baller. He wasn't just catching the ball, he was catching it with his hands and showing abilities we had not even seen in his early season resurgence. He would be a Baller four times over the final five games, topping the list twice. He came into the last game of the season 155 yards from an improbable 1000 yard season. He would finish the game with 130 yards to just miss the millennium mark by 25 yards. For a receiver who spent his first two seasons as anything but dependable, this season came out of nowhere. There is still room for improvement and I would expect the chemistry between him and Carson Palmer to continue next season.
Bush saved the Raiders' bacon this season. With Darren McFadden going down with a season-ending injury in week seven, Bush picked up the torch and kept the Raiders' running game respectable. Shortly after he took the reins as the Raiders' feature back, Taiwan Jones also went down with a season-ending injury which put the workload squarely on Bush's shoulders. He would take the job and earn a Baller nod five times over the final ten games including being named Top Baller three times. He carried the rock time after time, churning out the tough yards.
The Raiders were 7-4 after week 12 and the first big win came week ten in San Diego in which Bush carried 30 times for 157 yards rushing and three catches for 85 yards. He, like Heyward-Bey, was nearing 1000 yards by the end of the season. He was 89 yards from the milestone and just missed the mark by 23 yards. Not many teams in the NFL have a back like Bush who can take over the starting job and have the success that Bush had. His ability to carry the ball as much as he did without going down with an injury was critical for the Raiders this season.
The Raiders' longtime kicker finally broke into the Pro Bowl. While in previous seasons he may have earned the right to play in the game, there was no denying he was deserving this season. He got started right away when he opened the season by tying the NFL record with a 63 yard field goal. Then in week five in Houston, he tied another NFL record by hitting three field goals of 50 or more yards.
Later in the season he would break a franchise record when he had six field goals in one game with four of them from outside 40 yards. He finished the season off with a four field goal game and should have been given a shot at a fifth. He was 10 of 11 on field goals outside of 40 yards. His only miss was blocked. He was also tied for the league lead in field goals made outside of 50 yards (7). He did all of this despite being hobbled by a hamstring injury midway through the season that forced him to miss a game.
He came to the Raiders midseason after Jason Campbell went out with a broken collarbone. Palmer took a couple games to settle in but once he did, he had one of the best games of his career. In week ten in San Diego, he had a perfect quarterback rating through three quarters, with two touchdowns and no interceptions. He would finish 14 of 20 for 299 yards, 2 TD's and 1 INT with a 125.0 QB rating. The one interception was a tipped ball. He had five passes of over 25 yards which is the most the Raiders have had in nearly 20 years (Hostetler had six in 1993). He would lead the Raiders to three straight wins and was named a Baller in all three games.
He finished out the season being named a Baller two straight times. He didn't throw perfect games but he gave the Raiders what they needed to beat the Chiefs in week 16 and threw for 417 yards and two touchdowns. It was the third most passing yards in a game in Raider history. There were a few times this season in which he took too many chances but a CHANCE is exactly what he gives the Raiders. He has the arm and the accuracy to pick apart a defense. He can use the Raiders' speed and turn it into long touchdowns. The Raiders gave up too much to get him but had they not acquired him, week 17 would have had no significance as they would have been out of playoff contention long before that.
He didn't finish the season on a great streak but I must recognize him for his games during the meat of the season. He had his best games during that time. It was also the time in which the Raiders pulled to the top of the AFC West with a 7-4 record. In week nine, he led the team in solo tackles (6). Week ten, he led the team in tackles again (7) and sacked Philip Rivers four times. In week eleven, he made plays in the run game to help the Raiders beat the Vikings. The next week, he had an interception that he took back 74 yards, and forced another interception. He was a Baller six times with four of those in the second half of the season. His sack total went down this season but a lot of that had to do with his being misused or double teamed due to poor defensive schemes.
We rarely see a rookie burst on the scene with the kind of talent Denarius Moore showed this season. He had 146 yards receiving in the second game of the season and was a Baller twice by midseason. After Carson Palmer came onboard, Denarius instantly became his favorite receiver. In Palmer's coming out party against the Chargers in week 10, Moore had five catches for 123 yards and two touchdowns. Unfortunately, he would injure himself in the next game and miss nearly four weeks. But when he returned to full strength, he returned to form with four catches for 94 yards in week 16. He would be named a Baller for the final two games of the seasons, the final game going for 101 yards on just three catches. One of those catches went for 78 yards in the most exciting play of the game. But excitement is something we have gotten used to from Denarius. We can expect a lot more of it next season.
One of the few bright spots on this Raider defense and certainly the brightest part of the secondary. He led the Raiders in tackles again this season (107) which comes as no surprise. He has led the Raiders in tackles the last two seasons and was second in tackles the year before—his rookie season. He is credited with the Raiders finishing out the game in Houston with just ten men on the field. He left his man to chase after Matt Schaub and force him to throw an interception to Michael Huff in the end zone.
Branch was a Top Baller in the week 11 win over the Vikings. He had a key tackle for loss on third down in the first half and came flying in so quickly on a field goal attempt that the kicker didn't even attempt to kick it. Those plays were key in helping the Raiders jump out to a 24-7 halftime lead and eventually win the game. He had a great game the next week as well in a win over the Bears and had another solid game in the week 16 win over the Chiefs.
What a find he has turned out to be. He began this season by not giving up a single sack over the first half of the season. He couldn't keep his perfect sackless streak going all season but in the win over the Vikings in week 11, he held the NFL sack leader, Jared Allen, without a sack. It was the first time all season that Allen didn't get a sack—breaking an 11 game streak dating back to last season. He had a difficult time with Julius Peppers the next week and struggled a little for a few weeks but he finished strong, not giving up a sack and not being called for a single penalty in the final game of the season.
Who didn't see this coming? This Raiders defense was the primary reason for nearly every loss of the season. The Raiders blew the lead late so many times I lost count. There were several other times in which the lead wasn't lost but the opposing offense still was able to cut through the Raiders' defense at the end of game. The Bills came back to beat the Raiders on a last minute drive in week two.
In week five the Raiders gave up a last minute drive to the Texans but Branch came off his man to chase down Matt Schaub or that would have been a loss as well. But as lost as the Raiders' defense was all season, it grew to epic failure proportions late in the season. With the Raiders in the lead in the AFC West at 7-4, the collapse began.
In week 13, the Dolphins completely destroyed the Raiders, hanging 34 points on them. The next week, the Packers put up 46 points on them. The next week, the Lions came back down by six points with a last minute drive to win the game by one point. The Raiders had lost three in a row and were now 7-7 and out of the division lead.
The next week they would beat the Chiefs but not until after the Chiefs had the obligatory last minute drive to tie it and another last second drive that would have won it for the Chiefs if Richard Seymour hadn't blocked the game-winning field goal. The Raiders won the toss and it is a good thing too, because the Chiefs wouldn't be given a chance to blow through the Raiders defense in OT.
In the last game of the season the Raiders were within five points and the Chargers had to go 99 yards to score. They did it on four plays to kill the Raiders' playoff hopes. The defense was confused and undisciplined all season, especially at the end of the season. Far too many times we saw linebackers on wide receivers, linemen on tight ends, and nickel packages in short yardage.
He has Raider fans wishing for the days of Kirk Morrison. You know, the days when the middle linebacker led the team in tackles and was a well-spoken leader on and off the field. He underperforms on the field and sets a bad example off the field. Early in the season he was already looking like he had made no strides since 2010. In addition, on several occasions he was seen dogging it. The first time this happened was in the loss to the Bills. One of the Bills' five straight touchdown drives featured a big 47 yard touchdown run in which McClain was trailing and then simply gave up and started jogging. That play, along with many lapses by McClain had him named a Buster. The following week he was the ONLY Buster, 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. It is one thing to lose when all the players are giving it their all. There is no excuse for lack of effort.
After the bye week, things got worse for McClain. He was a Buster again in week 11 and then following week 12, was given the week off of practice to attend a funeral for his grandfather. While there, he was arrested on several charges surrounding putting a gun to the head of a childhood friend and firing off a round right by his ear. He has not been convicted of anything but he is guilty of being irresponsible at very least. The picture of him grinning like a fool while he was cuffed and put in a squad car was as damning as anything. His being away from the team all week and the distraction surrounding the incident played a hand in the Raiders' getting beaten badly by the Dolphins which started the Raiders on a three game losing streak that would lead to their lost season. For this defense to fix its issues, McClain will have some accelerated growing up to do.
The biggest issue with Hue's rookie season was his game management. He made several detrimental decisions in games this season. He also has not grasped clock management. The first glaring example of this was in the loss to the Patriots. With the Raiders in fourth and two at the Patriots 40 yard line, he decided to punt, when going for it or attempting a field goal would both have been preferable.
The next week, with the Raiders in fourth and one at the five yard line, he opted to go for it instead of kick the field goal. The three points would have put the team up by three scores and all but seal the victory. Instead they missed the first down and the Browns drove 96 yards for a touchdown, had a successful onsides kick, drove the ball into scoring position, and nearly tied the game.
Then after Jason Campbell went down with a broken collarbone, Jackson traded for Carson Palmer and got so caught up in playing cat and mouse with the Chiefs that he didn't properly prepare Kyle Boller to play. The result was the Chiefs being the cat that ate the mousy Raiders with a 28-0 drubbing, thanks to six interceptions by Boller and Palmer combined. To make matters worse, Jackson got cute and put Terrelle Pryor in for one snap. He was called for a false start.
In the Raiders' stretch run, they completely crumbled. They looked baffled by everything the Dolphins and Packers threw at them. For both games, there was no indication that the Raiders had prepared for what they would face. They would face the Lions the following week and the in-game decision making problems would crop up again. Midway through the fourth quarter, the Raiders had scored to go up by 12 points. Hue didn't hesitate in calling for an extra point when a two point conversion would have put the Raiders up by two touchdowns. The Lions would score two touchdowns and instead of tying it, they won it by one point. The loss was the most painful of the season -- at least until the final game of the season, a game in which Hue's clock mismanagement and poor decision making cost the Raiders a chance to score before halftime. Hopefully it is just rookie mistakes, but we'll see.
At some point this season, opposing teams watched tape and realized the weakest link in the Raiders' defense is number 34. When he came on the field, somehow you knew the opposing quarterback was going to be targeting the receiver he was guarding, or running at the area in which he was assigned. If I had to pinpoint when the other teams figured this out I would have to say it was some time before week 13 in Miami. The Dolphins exposed Mitchell in that game en route to putting up 35 points. The Packers continued the onslaught the following week, and though Mitchell had a nice interception in the game, it in no way made up for the rest of his performance.
The final game of the season was also quite brutal. Antonio Gates made Mitchell look silly in the receiving game when he caught a 38 yard touchdown on him. Then Mitchell missed a tackle on the Chargers' 105 yard kickoff return. You can bet the Raiders will be doing a thorough examination of this roster in the offseason. I don't foresee Mitchell surviving that examination unless they can find an area or scheme in which he excels.
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Veteran QB's don't throw INTs in first and goal situations. A real failure to lead and compete. This cannot continue!
I can not see how Khalif Barnes is not on the Busters list, the Guy was born in the neutral zone! He cant block to save his life. Also Cooper Carlisle, was a good player, but definitely past it now. I think Bruce Campbell should be given a chance. He can bench press the EARTH! Also he can run 40 meters in just under 5 seconds, for a 6.6", 314 pounder, that is lightening fast. He should be given a chance at RG also we have better players then Khalif Barnes at RT. Also Samson Satele has to go, we need another C, he has a hit and miss ratio, most the time he is rubbish then occasionally he has a good game. Also with Hue Jackson being fired, he has wasted our 1st pick this year and 2nd next year and Carlson Palmer might decide that he don't wanna play with a knew head coach and he might go back in retirement.
Still can't call DHB a baller in my book. Almost there. But has to catch the ball better to make baller in my book. Give him most improved honorable mention.
Similarly Carson had too many picks to make the list. I just don't think the award based on numbers alone. Part of it is how good are you at what makes a player great at that position. For a receiver that includes catching, for a qb it includes throwing it to your own guys more than the other guys
I'm on board with the rest especially the coaches as busters. Might at Routt as relatively speaking he was a buster. Certainly more of a buster than DHB a baller
@RaiderDoc I thought DHB did superb in comparison to last year and he did have some clutch plays along with good stats. You're right though, he needs to work on his hand catching skills, I don't like him as a target near the end zone. Carson on the other hand I do like as a baller for the reasons Levi stated, it wasn't about the numbers for him it was about making the best out of a worse situation. I'm surprised the right side of the line were not busters.
I am not sure how I feel about this. I thought Hue should get one more year as HC, give him a decent DC, make sure he is only the HC and see what he can do. We have changed Head Coaches way to many times. I thought Jackson did some good things for us. He just needed to be able to focus on his job.
At the same time, maybe this is what we need, a fresh new start. Over the long term this might be good. I am just a little tired of starting over. I hope this is a sign of some stability going forward.
Wow, to wake up and see that McKenzie fired Hue; this shocks me a bit. Since Hue is our OC then I am quite worried because I never like full scale changes on offense. I do agree that Hue deserved to be a buster but he has run our offense for the last 2 yrs. I do not agree with every play he has called but I did like that he was an unafraid caller. I also liked that he maximized several players that have otherwise not been used to their strengths (i.e. DHB, DMC, Reece). The thing missing from his play calling was moderation. I really felt like next season he would probably have that moderation. This probably means no more of our patented reverses. I would hope this means we just promote Al Saunders so that this would mean there isnt radical offense changes. This move really might not bode well for DHB or DMC (when finally healthy). I was hoping we could just demote hue to OC. Oh well, I will let McKenzie work. I hope he's really a genius.
@antonioswancy I just read that too. I felt he should've been given one more year
@Raidah I agree 1 more year to prove himself made the most sense to me but you know this is a new regime. New regimes often want to make their own top hires. I can't stress it enough though that I am surprised
I would like to see Sanders kept as OC but honestly I don't think DHB for one would be too fazed by Jackson leaving. Those two never seemed to "click" so to speak.
Also from what I have heard / read in different places, a lot of the players and coaches went to Mark Davis to complain about the power going to Jackson's head and they played lost like they weren't behind him to end the season. In the short term this probably isn't so good, but in the long run this may be for the best.
@LeviDamien Wow! I can't wait to hear the why on this one. I liked hue but in mckenzie I trust.
There was more bright spots than people are giving credit. Chuck changed everything with about five games left, the kc game was against an inept offense, or his crazy play calling could have made that game worse.
Aaron Curry is finding his way, and as he starts believing in himself he will be a player. Wimbley played not that bad, he didn't rush the passer that well but was not too bad otherwise. McClain did play better after the arrest, but he still loafed a lot. Routt just seemed lost at times, DVD will be a player and chekwa will be a saftey.
Great list Levi....Agree 100% with making Carson Palmer a baller. The fact that he put up the kind of numbers he did this season wihout going through a training camp and pre-season, was amazing. Imagine how good he is going to play next year when he has a full camp under his belt....And by the way, Bret Farve took chances on his way to a Hall of Fame career and threw a few interceptions as well. Palmer is a superstar quarterback who definitely has a Farve like mentality and arm, and as I said on a prior blog, I am sure we all would have liked to have had Bret Farve on the Raiders for his entire career, interceptions and all...
@LeviDamien wow that brief recap on ChuckyB made my stomach turn a lil, every game with a lead, they blew or nearly blew even Cleveland!
Nice List. I would almost put Janikowski as top Baller though. Also what about Lechler? It was definitely a nice surprise to see DHB make such great strides. If only if had managed to break the 1K mark, it would have topped an amazing turnaround for him.
McClain is looking like another draft mistake and Houston is not performing either. Especially when we could have taken Jason Pierre-Paul in the first then Pat Angerer (who BTW I was hoping we would take) in the second instead to guide this team around from MLB! Branch is the most under appreciated player on this team and I hope he is quickly re-signed before another team swoops him up with a big contract. I do think he may be better suited to FS though with a new SS being signed or drafted this off-season.
I would add also Satele and Barnes to the buster list as well. These two are horrible! The OL looked at best when Satele was out injured and the Wiz moved over to Center. And Barnes, well Barnes is an average backup, who should not be relied on to start.
Oh and don't agree with Palmer being a baller...
@nilbymouth I agree with Satele and Barnes being Busters.
I think Palmer and Wimbley should be an honorable mention.
@JarrodRollins @nilbymouth Satele can't handle powerful NT's. He had good games against 4-3's but got destroyed against 3-4's. He was a huge reason the Dolphin's D shut Bush down, we need an up-grade from C to RT. I think considering what Palmer went through he deserves to be a Baller. He came in in the middle of the season and would have won the division if it wasn't for an anemic D. If we had stuck with Boller we would have to flip a coin between him a Bren for top buster. We would have been 4-12 otherwise. Great season for DHB- you have to be happy for a kid who works his tail off and has success. I'm expecting huge things for our offense next year. Our D can't possibly get worse.
@JarrodRollins @nilbymouth He has played well at C for us but I read an interview that he preferred playing LG. I personally would play him where he feels most comfortable though he would be a mass improvement either way. I wonder how Barksdale and Campbell are coming along. We don't hear much about either one of those guys, I figured Campbell would be a beast at either G spot.
nice summary of a frustrating season.
Difficult to argue with your selections, although I think Wimbley is lucky to be a Baller - that SD game he benefited hugely from their LT going down - take out that game, and I didnt hear his name enough. I think our OL coach did enough to get Baller status too - our OL was really pretty good this season.
On the Buster side, I think Sheppard did enough, even in limited time, to merit consideration. Terrible. And does Houston deserve consideration ? Just didnt hear his name enough - is he really a DE ?
But lets face it, there is Chuck Bresenhan, and then there is everybody else.
Aww you didnt put my favorite buster, Khalif Barnes. Whether it was penalties or inopportune sacks. He did not miss in displeasing. He is nothing more than "#69 reporting eligible" at best but yet found a way to be destructive at least once a game.