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Raiders making best out of less-than-ideal situation

By Steve Corkran
Thursday, December 12th, 2013 at 5:46 pm in Oakland Raiders.

It’s that unmistakable time of year again, when harsh reality sets in, playoff hopes dim and suddenly things suspected for weeks, if not months, are confirmed by players and coaches.
You see it in owner Mark Davis telling colleague Tim Kawamami that his team is nearing the end of a two-year deconstruction phase and about to embark upon a reconstruction phase. It comes in the form of safety Charles Woodson’s candid critiques of his team’s play. And so on.
The message is clear: There’s only so much the Raiders can do right now, given their lack of salary-cap room, which resulted in general manager Reggie McKenzie filling out his roster with a slew of players that commanded base salaries for $1 million or less in most cases.
Next season, McKenzie will be flush with cap room — some estimates place it in the $70 million range — and able to arm his coaches with a much-needed infusion of talent.
Perhaps on cue, coach Dennis Allen, offensive coordinator Greg Olson and defensive coordinator Jason Tarver, along with players, are sending out not-so-subtle messages that a lack of depth and talent played a huge role in the Raiders losing nine of their first 13 games and that more time and patience are needed.
“You have this collective group, and it was built here and it was built here through every means that we had to get here for this year, and we all understood that when we took this,” Tarver said in talking about the growing pains of his troops. “I knew when I walked in this building, I grew up sitting in the Black Hole, and that’s what I wanted to do. I wasn’t walking into any building, I was happy at the place I was.
“This was a challenge. This was a chance to try everything you’ve learned and see how you can get these guys, which you knew was going to be a different group because you knew what the situation of the organization was.”
Last week, Olson offered this about why the Raiders offense lacked continuity.
“When you look before the season started and what are the Raiders, where are the Raiders going to be? Certainly our goal is to score more points,” Olson said. “Has that happened? Have we scored more? No we have not done that. I believe that part of it is lack of continuity, part of it is lack of depth.
“When you look back at the beginning of the season, and where we’re at, everyone has injuries. Those teams that may not be as talented, when they have injuries during the season, it takes a bigger toll in my opinion. That’s been a big part of it is the constant turnover and the constant changes in the lineup.”
None of the coaches is making excuses. They’re simply pointing out things that manifested themselves as the season progressed, regardless how staunchly they refused to accept the possibility of such earlier.
On Thursday, Allen pointed out what the Raiders offense was reduced to for the Jets game, when opening-game starters Terrelle Pryor, Darren McFadden and Denarius Moore weren’t in the lineup, along with key backup Rashad Jennings.
“Every one of our skill players in the Jet game were undrafted free agents,” Allen said. “It speaks to what those coaches have been able to do with those players. It speaks to those players and their determination and their work ethic and how they go about doing their job.
“Also it’s one of those things where that’s something we have to continue to always develop our roster and try to add pieces here and there that we think can help us.”
Strong safety Tyvon Branch chimed in, saying that the Raiders, indeed are closer to being a team capable of competing for a Super Bowl title.
“I’m sure we’re going to do some things in the offseason, bring some new guys in,” Branch said. “That’s the way the NFL works. New guys come in all the time. So, with all the money we got freed up, they’re going to go out and chase some big-time names. Hopefully, we can bring some guys in and help us turn this thing around.”
How does Branch know that the Raiders are closer this season than they were last season? The proof comes in the Raiders being in all but three games this season.
“We’re making strides in the right direction,” Branch said. “It’s not like the Raiders of old, you know what I’m saying?”
When asked to clarify, Branch added:
“We’re actually in these games. Years past, it was like we just lost. We’re actually in these games and we have a chance to win in the fourth quarter. Once we learn to execute down the stretch, it’s going to turn everything around.”
In fairness, they are dead on in their responses as to why the Raiders defense is “worn down” at times, as Allen said after the past two games, or as to why a defense that looks top notch at times other times breaks down, or about the struggles of an offense that has not scored more than 28 points in any game.

– Olson said Matt McGloin audibled out of a bad play call, based on the way the Jets defense lined up, and changed to a run on the play in which Marcel Reece bolted up the middle for a 63-yard touchdown.
“The timing of getting the ball out, getting through his progressions, he’s shown improvement in that area and just the overall understanding the protections, getting us out of bad plays and into good plays,” Olson said. “Marcel’s touchdown run was a check on his part at the line of scrimmage, understanding what the front was that they were giving us and we needed to get out of the initial play that we had given him and he got us into the touchdown run. He’s just getting more comfortable overall with the scheme and how we want him to operate it.”

– By Allen’s estimation, the Raiders eight different lineups with their offensive line the first 13 games. In other words, things don’t quite look the way Allen, Olson and offensive line coach Tony Sparano envisioned back in April.
“Yyet, we’re still fourth in the league in rushing,” Allen said. “Tony Sparano has done a great job with that offensive line. Ole has done a nice job of doing some things that those guys can do well and putting them in a position to have success.”
The Raiders lost potential starter Tony Bergstrom to injury before the season started. Jared Veldheer suffered a torn triceps during training camp that required surgery, and he missed the first 11 games. Projected right offensive tackle Menelik Watson suffered a knee injury during an exhibition game and never regained full strength. Center Stefen Wisniewski, left guard Lucas Nix and right guard Mike Brisiel also missed time with injuries, as well as backup Andre Gurode.

– Allen said defensive tackle Vance Walker is “very questionable” for the Chiefs game as a result of the concussion Walker suffered against the Jets. Walker missed practice Wednesday and Thursday because he experienced concussion-related symptoms.

– The Raiders signed wide receiver Jared Green and linebacker Eric Harper on Wednesday to their practice squad. It’s worth noting that they also worked out running back Jonathan Grimes, cornerback Travis Howard and receiver Dwight Jones.
None of the three was signed. However, it points out that the Raiders are concerned about depth at those positions for the remainder of the season and shows that the team always is on the lookout for players that might provide an upgrade, even if it’s down the road.

– Bears coach Marc Trestman made good on his stated intent to give back the starting job to Jay Cutler once Cutler returned from a sprained ankle.
That seemed like a given when the injury happened. However, backup Josh McCown played so well during Cutler’s absence that some wondered whether going back to Cutler was such a wise move.
This is interesting to Raiders fans if only for how it ties in to the Raiders quarterback situation this season. Pryor started eight of the first nine games this season — Matt Flynn started one game while Pryor recovered from a concussion — before he was sidelined by a right knee injury.
Once Pryor recovered well enough to play again, McGloin remained the starter. The big difference here is that coach Allen never promised Pryor the job once he returned from injury.
Also, there’s the matter of Cutler being one of the league’s most experienced quarterbacks and getting paid far more than McCown.

– Here’s Olson’s explanation for inserting Pryor into the Jets game after McGloin guided the Raiders offense the first two drives, then resumed control once Pryor engineered one series.
“We thought we could come back to it,” Olson said. “Again, there were plans, we talked at halftime and talked with Terrelle, ‘Hey, just stay ready at all times,’ but we got into a pretty good flow and rhythm in the second half so at that time we didn’t feel the need to get back to it.
“That’s going to be a part of us, especially in a situation like that where you’re missing three tailbacks. For the outside people, they looked at it as we pulled Matt McGloin and were trying to provide a spark and that wasn’t the case whatsoever.
“From the very start, in the first team meeting that we had on Wednesday, ‘Here’s what we’re going to do.’ We could be up 14-0 after the first two series of the game, we could be two three-and-outs, but on the third series of the game, we’re going with the Terelle Pryor package, so here’s the plays we’re going to run in it. Obviously we practiced the plays in advance and that was the plan going in.”

– Branch, TE Nick Kasa, LB Sio Moore and WR Denarius Moore were limited in practice today. It’s likely that all will be available for the Chiefs game.

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  • DutchRaid

    Me? Not talking injuries I am talking lack of depth on defense, especially the D-Line…Jennings, true, but the concussion issue is a litte scary…

  • SnBG
  • Michael

    Haha this coach vs players debate is starting to seem a bit chicken or the egg is it not?

  • Goldie7

    If our coaches were anything like Belicheat and his staff then our O-line would be superior at protecting there king Brady or king Manning. lol

  • NYCRaider

    Actually thought Adams performed better than Hayden. Hayden has a long way to go

  • Charlie

    Hill
    I agree with most of what you say. I am thinking of TP as the backup since he is under contract one more year.
    We MUST draft very well with our top three picks and I agree that TWO pretty big FA contracts with younger FA’s is a need. A guy like a 33 year old Allen would not be on my list. We have to minimize our injury risk if we are looking at big money.

  • dplunk

    I’m NOT calling for DA’s head..just pointing out that Raiders getting better may not be good enough..maybe a better coach would’ve gotten twice as more out of the Raiders.
    After all Terrelle Pryor got better too, but it may not be good enough….

  • Bob

    I looked into my crystal ball and I predict IF the Raiders win the turnover battle by 2, they will win the game 28 to 17, We were very competitive when we played them last , ( until it unraveled on us) I think Matt McGloin is the difference maker this time around.

  • Breaking_Black

    Three people got stabbed after the game last night.
    People are crazy. (Breaking news)

  • J Hill

    ZERO!

  • J Hill

    Allen would be on my plan B list with a 2 year contract.

  • SnBG

    Not according to PFF and what I’ve seen.

  • NYCRaider

    but thats like saying the opponents offense never had a WR hurt or missing an OL. You should always be better if your starters play. But remember how 2 back up QBs stepped in and destroyed us at Home?

  • Theghostronin79

    coincidentally, people like to use these “Once in a Lifetime” type players and use them as the STANDARD to which they measure the success or failures of our organization.

  • RaidingTexas

    What were Raiders fans doing in Denver?

  • J Hill

    Right.

  • Bob

    That Titan game was the game we had to win, this is where I blame DA , Raiders were flat !

  • Theghostronin79

    They were there to sabotage the Chargers by turning out the lights ala Super Bowl style…..Then they realized they were in Denver and hated BOTH teams……Rage set in…

  • J Hill

    I’d love to see some playmaker on this team.

    Do we have 1?

  • RaidingTexas

    If the Raiders somehow win out, they will tie Denver for best division record at 4-2. Progress?

  • SnBG

    Wiz is the only highly rated O lineman on our Line.Pashos and Mcants are slightly rated above average and Barnes and Niz are so low I don’t even want to say.

  • RaidingTexas

    That pesky rage.

  • Goldie7

    Great Example: look at the stupid Jets, they are going to the playoffs with a backup rookie QB (who knew?). You must have good coaching, sometimes it is impossible to draft the best draft picks. Therefore, we need coaches to coach these players up and we need our GM to sign playmakers that love the game of football.

  • Theghostronin79

    MMmmmm…..Not quite. We have guys that make PLAYS from time to time….Nobody consistent. Damnit.

  • rifflicks

    is it only McGloin? Is it McGloin at all?
    there’s 10 others that have to be smart enough to be on the same page in a matter of seconds for the hurry up to work

  • Goldie7

    Sad to read this. Thanks for the breaking news.

  • disqus_yeZNegncsV

    Look at the dirth of what are considered “quality” qbs among the 32 pro teams. Most here and elsewhere speak of “franchise qbs” who can be counted on one hand and of back ups whose names are only sometimes heard. Third string qbs’ names are not even known.
    What I think is really missing in the NFL are the coaches whose expertise can turn a guy who has the basics down (ie Alex Smith, McGloin, just to name two who have Bay Area connections, and a guy like Josh McGown, who has had recent publicity with the Bears,) into reliable winners.
    It’s just hard to believe that the world of college coaching only produces one or two Jim Harbaughs at a time, guys who then ply their trade in the NFL and take unremarkable qbs and make them into something.

  • 1960AutumnWind

    Just Reconstruct Baby!

  • IAmAlwaysWrong

    Veldheer is back, no?

  • Al_is_theraiders

    lol…great coaching staff….”our players suck.” let the excuses roll on…these guys have to feel betrayed.

  • disqus_yeZNegncsV

    I wish I were more impressed with Wiz. He’s a B, not an A. With time, maybe what he learns will make him a Pro Bowl center.

  • 1960AutumnWind

    That has been my point you need both and we by any measure do not have the roster right now.

  • IAmAlwaysWrong

    Rex Ryan is a good coach? that’s crazy Goldie! does that mean you want to hire him when he’s fired this offseason?

  • disqus_yeZNegncsV

    Yeah, because we all know that it’s the coach who motivates guys with chants and magic elixirs behind the scenes.

  • R8erEduc8er

    It was more like “we need depth”.

  • rifflicks

    no team plays the same schedule 2 years in a row….comparing seasons doesn’t work unless you factor in the strength of schedule

  • 860 Todd Christensen

    Go Raiders!!!

  • 1960AutumnWind

    Charlie

    You do realize with a few adjustments this roster could have been significantly better. We have to evaluate RM decision by decision looking at the context which you and I have hammered on in the past and many call them excuses.

  • IAmAlwaysWrong

    Flacco & Kaep suck? since when?

  • disqus_yeZNegncsV

    who said those guys suck? I didn’t.

  • R8erEduc8er

    McG and TP in ’14!! Build the roster!

  • R8erEduc8er

    We need to stay the course.

  • SnBG

    I forgot, Brisiel is rated avg also.

  • SnBG

    Nix is a t the very bottom of the rating chart for LG.

  • ENGLANDRAIDER

    Good article Steve.

  • R8erEduc8er

    Are you saying we have several Pro Bowl caliber players?

  • ENGLANDRAIDER

    “I grew up sitting in the Black Hole, and that’s what I wanted to do. I wasn’t walking into any building, I was happy at the place I was.” —Tarver.

    A lot of coaches have come here and claimed that they’ve always been in the Nation but I don’t recall anyone putting it quite like that.

  • 1960AutumnWind

    kind of where Pryor is at on the QB chart. LOL

  • IAmAlwaysWrong

    Bridges is avg in looks. IQ = rock

  • Goldie7

    Yes Rex Ryan is a good HC, plus his team is making the playoffs this season; however, I don’t think he is a good coach like Belicheat.
    I don’t think Rex Ryan will be fired this offseason.