By Jerry McDonald - NFL Writer
Tuesday, November 30th, 2010 at 8:26 pm in Oakland Raiders.
Sixty percent. Six out of 10.
It’s not that much to ask in today’s NFL. Check out the league stats and 20 teams are completing 60 percent of their passes, and 20 teams were at 60 percent or better last year. In 2008 it was 19 in 2007 it was 18.
It’s pretty much the minimum requirement for any team that has a legitimate passing offense. When you’re talking about the elite quarterbacks in the league _ Drew Brees, Peyton Manning, or Philip Rivers, who faces the Raiders Sunday, you’re getting closer to the 70 percent.
The Raiders haven’t completed 60 percent of their passes since 2002, when Rich Gannon checked in at 67.5 percent and was the league’s Most Valuable Player.
The best Oakland has done since then is 2007, Lane Kiffin’s first year, when Josh McCown, Daunte Culpepper, Andrew Walter and finally JaMarcus Russell combined for 57.6 percent.
A viable passing game was the big hope this season when Hue Jackson came aboard as offensive coordinator. Nnamdi Asomugha talked in training camp of seeing pass routes in practice he hadn’t seen in years. Simplicity was gone. The Raiders have joined the NFL.
With opponents loading up on the run against the Raiders, coach Tom Cable was asked Monday if the Raiders could survive through the air.
“I think we can. That’s the one thing where if you say to us, where are we different offensively, it’s throwing the football from the last couple of years anyway,” Cable said. “That’s really not what we want to do but if we have to, yeah, we’ve shown that we’re capable of throwing the ball.”
The Raiders have indeed improved their passing game. They’ve gone from pathetic to poor.
Ranked 29th last season with 159.8 yards per game through the air, the Raiders are all the way up to 27th this season at 196.1.
Their passer rating has gotten better (71.2 as opposed to 62.0) even if they’ve dropped two spots from 28th to 30th. Only Arizona and Carolina are worse.
Either the Raiders are going to suddenly reverse a trend which is into its eighth season or they’re again going to be on the outside looking in at the playoffs, and perhaps even saddled with another season of double-digit losses.
The Raiders have identified themselves through 11 games as a team that can control a game when it’s running well, mixing in the pass when it suits their purposes. All their opponents have watched the Pittsburgh and Miami film closely, although it’s fair to say they don’t necessarily have the same type of personnel.
The word is out at this point _ load up on the run, dare them to pass. It’s not as if this is any big mystery, but there’s knowing something and there’s knowing it beyond an absolute certainty.
Bruce Gradkowski is out with a third-degree separation of his throwing shoulder. It’s unlikely he’ll play again this season.
So the Raiders will go back to Jason Campbell, who is already a bit confused as to why he’s essentially been told to take a seat on three different occasions after being compared to Jim Plunkett by Al Davis during training camp.
Campbell was a 62 percent passer over his last three seasons in Washington. All it took was to join the team that forgot how to pass years ago to drop him to 54.7 percent.
There are not a lot of reasons to think the Raiders can suddenly get things going through the air. If Cable and Jackson had confidence in Campbell, he’d have been the quarterback all along. When looking for highlights in the passing game, thank goodness for rookie fourth-round pick Jacoby Ford, who has 16 catches for 320 yards and is the only bright light of late among receivers. The other positive development was completing seven passes to Darren McFadden out of the backfield against Miami.
But otherwise, the outlook is not good.
Consider the following:
– Tight end Zach Miller, the one truly reliable receiver since 2007, has five receptions for 23 yards over the last five games, one which he missed due to injury. Miller has been battling a torn plantar fascia and now has what Cable called a severe leg contusion.
– Wide receiver Darrius Heyward-Bey was 0-for-November. His last catch came on Oct. 31, when he had five catches for 105 yards and his first breakaway play, a 69-yard touchdown catch, against Seattle.
– Louis Murphy has not made the Year 1 to Year 2 leap the Raiders had hoped. He’s the most productive wideout with 28 catches for 435 yards, but has been prone to drops and mistakes. His only touchdown catch of the season came in Week 2.
– Johnnie Lee Higgins has 29 catches for 369 yards in his last 26 games and hasn’t caught at touchdown pass since 2008. Both he and Murphy were called out by Cable Monday for mistakes which helped stymie the passing game late against Miami.
– Nick Miller has apparently lost his job to Higgins as a punt return specialist, possibly or fielding a punt inside the 5 against Pittsburgh, and was inactive against Miami. He has three catches for 40 yards.
– Chaz Schilens is currently playing ping-pong between a knee on one leg and a foot on the other, hasn’t suited up on game day yet this season, and there’s no guarantee he will.
With this kind of passing game, getting on another streak and making a playoff run would seem unlikely.
The odds are probably less than 60 percent.