Throughout training camp, through preseason games, coach Tom Cable made it no secret that the mission was to upgrade the passing attack.
Setting aside that through four games the passing game remains awful, an unwanted anicillary benefit is now the Raiders can’t run, either.
In the first half of the season opener, the Raiders rushed for 105 yards on 22 carries, averaging 4.8 yards per carry. In the ensuing three and a half games, Oakland has 250 yards on 80 attempts, averaging 3.1 yards per carry.
That the Raiders are 32nd in passing is no surprise. Being 28th in rushing, at 88.8 yards per game, is a bit of a shock.
“I do get a feeling, like during the preseason and stuff, we ran the ball a little bit, but it was more of a thing where we say, ‘Well, we know we can run it. Let’s work on the pass.’ And you can’t hang your hat on what you did before,” running back Justin Fargas said Monday. “It’s kind of like you have to still improve it. Like yesterday, teams stack the box against us. And if you’re not really detailed and if you don’t control the line of scrimmage — you’re not detailed in your assignments, you don’t control the line of scrimmage, you’re not going to be able to run the ball.”
Fargas gained 24 yards on 10 carries against Houston and was hit for the first safety of his career, with seemingly the entire Texans front seven meeting him four yards deep in the end zone. It was the first time the Raiders had given up a safety on a running play since Fargas joined the team in 2003.
In fact, the last time a safety was recorded against the Raiders on a run was in 1993, when Seattle’s Rob Stevens dropped Nick Bell in the end zone of the Los Angeles Coliseum.
As diplomatically as possible, Fargas allowed the play call might not have been ideal for the situation.
“I don’t want to be like T.O. (Terrell Owens) and say we can only go with the plays that are called, but it’s tough,” Fargas said. “I think it that situation you want to try and get downhill. We were running an outside play, we were using a hard cadence.
“Things were working against us. In that situation you want to do anything you can to get the ball out of the end zone and we didn’t do it. We didn’t execute the play. May have not been the best play at this time. And it just . . . it was all bad.”
It was suggested that the hard count afforded an opportunity to get the Texans to jump and give the Raiders another five yards to work with.
“You have the risk-reward factor, you understand that,” Fargas said. “But you’re on the road and you can’t really hear the snap count anyway. I felt like they got off the ball before we did and knocked us back a little bit.”
With JaMarcus Russell and the passing game faltering, opponents don’t feel as if they’ll pay by crowding the box.
“It seems like they’re challenging us a little bit to throw the ball,” Fargas said. “Sometimes you say, ‘Hey, you know what? We’re gonna stick to what we do, and we can run it anyway.’ But like I said, it’s tough. And if you’re not at your very best, it’s gonna be hard. And we weren’t at our best.”
The ability to complete a higher percentage of passes would make a world of difference, Fargas said.
“Oh, it changes everything. You don’t have to be all the way down the field, long passes,” Fargas said. “Just throw and catch, get the ball in the receivers’ hands, whether it’s quick gain, anything to move the chains and get conversions and build confidence, and you build your swagger and belief. When you win you’re able to do that.”
More to come following Cable’s press briefing . . .