For the fourth straight week, Dennis Allen’s Oakland Raiders looked completely helpless as their opponent, this time the now 6-5 Cincinnati Bengals, thoroughly trounced them in every facet of the game.
The Raiders have now given up at least 34 points in four consecutive matches, stringing together defensive performances worse than any in the Al Davis era. The Raiders were dominated at the line of scrimmage due largely to poor gap discipline. Even worse tackling on the part of the back seven turned what could have been mere first downs into huge, backbreaking plays. The only moment of the game where the defense showed even the slightest bit of fire came after an absurd two-play sequence where the referees completely lost control of the game. It resulted in Tommy Kelly and Lamarr Houston getting ejected along with Bengals tackle Andrew Whitworth.
While it’s easy to blame a hopelessly inept defense, the offense was equally out of sorts on Sunday. Carson Palmer, who should have had plenty of motivation facing his former team, once again struggled to find any rhythm with his receivers. While the running game occasionally shined with converted fullback Marcel Reece and undrafted free agent Jeremy Stewart taking over for the injured Darren McFadden and Mike Goodson, the game was out of hand too quickly for the Raiders to take advantage of it. The offensive line put together their worst performance of the season, giving up four sacks, seven tackles for loss, and eight quarterback hits.
Can it get much worse for Mike Brisiel?
While it’s hard to single out the poor play any one member of the offensive line, the matchup that most clearly told the story of this particular game was between struggling right guard Mike Brisiel and emerging superstar Geno Atkins. Atkins dominated Brisiel all game long, blowing him into the backfield on a consistent basis. Brisiel didn’t help his cause by drawing a completely unnecessary clipping penalty and a false start. While third round pick Tony Bergstrom was slated to be the heir apparent for left guard Cooper Carlisle, one has to wonder whether the rookie could do better than Brisiel, who has looked lost in every game thus far. Bergstrom, however, gave up a sack of his own to defensive end Michael Johnson.
For the second straight week, Reece makes McFadden look bad.
Oakland’s secret weapon is not so secret anymore. Marcel Reece has long been a matchup nightmare in the passing game, but as it turns out he’s also the Raiders’ best option in the running game. Reece’s decisiveness and ability to finish on his runs make him look like he’s been playing running back his entire career. It begs the question: If a converted receiver playing fullback can produce at running back behind Oakland’s porous offensive line, what does that say about Darren McFadden?
The roster may be weak, but when should the coaches share the blame?
Dennis Allen came in promising a competitive, disciplined football team. With the Raiders now at 3-8, Allen and his staff have not delivered on this promise. Allen, a defensive-minded coach who in 2011 presided over a vastly improved defensive unit in Denver, has not made his influence felt. First-time defensive coordinator Jason Tarver, touted as a “mad scientist”, has also failed to inject life into a defensive squad lacking in both talent and depth. While individual players may shoulder the blame for missed assignments or poor tackling (both of which showed up in spades against the Bengals), the coaching staff is responsible for recognizing and fixing these problems. The defensive staff in particular has done a poor job adjusting to mask their weaknesses, especially in the passing game where the Raider safeties in particular continue to be victimized. The situation is no different on offense. How many times can Greg Knapp call third-down plays where the receivers are running routes short of the sticks? How many times can he call bootlegs when the offensive line is clearly incapable of blocking long enough for Palmer to make a play?
It’s hard to tell at this point how much of the blame the coaching staff deserves, but with every lopsided loss these questions become harder to ignore. Even after owner Mark Davis made his frustration known last week, it doesn’t seem like anyone’s job is in immediate jeopardy. Rightfully so - any staff put in a position this uniquely difficult deserves time to right the ship. But Dennis Allen needs to do some serious evaluation soon or his players may simply check out on him.
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I believe this largely rests on the shoulders of our new GM. Last year we had the 9th ranked offense in the league and one of the bottom five defenses. Coming into this year we had no draft picks and salary cap issues. With constraints like that, you would figure that they would concentrate on the problem area, the defense. But instead they decide to rework the entire team on both sides of ball. And now they are inept on both sides. The only real difference between the offense of last year and this, other than losing Michael Bush, is the scheme. Considering all of the crap they went through last year, I was really optimistic that there would be major improviement on the offensive side fo the ball this year, which shoulld have freed them up to concentrate on the defense. McKenzie approached this whole season in a totally wrong way, in my opinion.
Personally I do not see any positives from this coaching staff or our new GM. Both McKenzie and Allen seemed like reasonable picks in the offseason, but as far as I'm concerned - every move they've made has been questionable if not totally amateur hour. We're where we are for a reason and it's not Al Davis' fault or Carson Palmer's or even Darren McFadden's. The reason is the people in charge couldn't decide in the offseason if we were going to move ahead with the team we had - or rebuild from scratch. So rather than doing one or the other - they tried to straddle a fence that simply cannot be straddled. You can't put a stationary QB in a situation where he will constantly be under heavy assault from the defense. You can't change the blocking scheme to one that does not favor the guy you claim "is part of the team's future". You can't trade perfectly good WRs and then draft more WRs with the few picks you have in the draft. You can't dump all your DBs and try to replace them with players who have been cut from other teams. Some things in the NFL never change - and one of them is the people in charge have to know what they are doing and how to go about it. Imo - this season was wasted. We lost a year of Carson's career. We lost ALL the trade value for DMC. We drafted guys we didn't need. Say what you want about Al Davis - he always knew where the team stood and where we were headed. I don't believe McKenzie or Allen can say that with a straight face.
1. Mike Brisiel has been highly disapointing as a Free Agent signing. Add in the fact Carlisle has dropped off his play sufficiently this year and RT having either Smith or Barnes (who are both as bad as each other) and Veldheer and Wiz are going to struggle blocking everyone themselves! We have a solid cornerstone LT in Veldheer and a top young interior OL in Wiz. The rest of the OL needs to be pulled apart. Bring Parsons into LG (or C and move Wiz to LG) and have Bergstorm take over at RT (his College position). That still leaves us with Brisiel for now but would definitely be a start to trying to correct things. I can't see Bergstorm and Parsons doing any worse!
2. McFadden should have to earn the starting HB position of Reece when he gets back from injury, and if what has happened the last few weeks is anything to go off, McFadden won't be gettung the starting position back! I would even consider putting McFadden on IR as I really think he will (should) be traded in the off-season and if he comes back and stinks it up more it will only decrease his worth even more. Reece may not have the potential to take it to the house like McFadden but he is consistant at getting the 4 odd yards you want from a RB and those runs from McFadden are to far between. Plus Stewart has looked alright in his backing up Reece. Personally I would rather see us using Reece with Schimtt at FB right now.
3. I still am not a big fan of blaming the coaches right now - with maybe the exception of Knapp. The Offense didn't need to change from last season and by doing so we have ended up with a bunch of guys who's roles are different to what they are use too. This is a screw up on Knapp not Allen in my opinon. Tarver has come into a very hard situation with this defense and I just can't put much of the blame on him - this is on the players. The DL is playing way below any sort of decent quality level (with the exception of Houston and I would even say Bryant here too). Kelly and Seymour have both looked like a shell of themselves this year. McClain is a complete liability (even if he has the odd decent game now and again) to this team but unfortunately we don't have much else behind him right now! The secondary has been decimated with injuries and I think we can all say we knew going into the season the depth would be lacking here.
You cannot blame Allen (and McKenzie for that matter) for doind what they had to with the blown salary cap and lack of draft choices. I actually consider this draft so far a success with what the few picks they had. Burris looks to be on his way to being a very good LB, Criner is starting to really push the other guys at WR for playing time, and Streater has been more than could be asked for from a Undrafted FA Rookie.
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