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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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  • marks hair

    I used go like disqus ok before they messed it up.. now if you want to say something to me you better leave it at the top of the page.. it doesn’t tell me about older posts anymore..

  • SR Raider

    Far too early to judge Reggie imo. Not happy about the K Allen whiff, or the Seymour contract, but there are some good players he brought in. Next year is the big test.

  • J Hill

    Completely agree with the experience point.

    We need to make a soprano type hire on defense.

  • dplunk

    I just try to talk facts and stay out of the Hypotheticals

  • Theghostronin79

    Well, they made no bones about it BEFORE the game. DA and Olsen were both on record as saying they needed to see TP MORE in game action to evaluate. They wanna win games, but needed to look further at TP. Whatuhya do?

  • ENGLANDRAIDER

    The idea that some ranked coach is going to drop everything and run to coach the Raiders is a ridiculous waste of time unless you’re talking about Gruden who likes being a Raider regardless of the circumstances.

    Great coaches don’t just walk on the field and do it. It takes time for a coach to develop into a good one.
    Bellicheat didn’t do too well in Cleveland and got run out of town but they’d really like him back at this point.

    Allen looks like he might have that capacity to become a good coach. The jury’s out on that one.
    We’ll see how Allen does in 2014. That’s the first year where he should be judged.

  • aig-raiders

    Then you can’t deny the facts and trends that he has 197, 260. 245 and 255….Nothing hypothetical about it. It’s obvious you never took stats in college….

  • 1960AutumnWind

    From a statistics standpoint that would be too much extrapolation and a to limited sample size. However 4 games to 16 games is not that bad but we need more data that is why I said it looks promising.

  • disqus_yeZNegncsV

    It doesn’t do it for me either. It’s been stuck on one number for over a week.

  • J Hill

    It’s been the “plan” all along.

    They’ve talked about using Pryor in packages since training camp.

  • ENGLANDRAIDER

    Funny, I’ve used Disqus on other blogs and don’t mind it but our old blog on here was one hell of a lot better. You could scroll down and up far more easily.

  • Sir Raider Duck, OMS

    Also, he looks likes he’s been hitting the gym. The McCown who played for us was a skinny guy who threw marshmallows. This guy’s buffed and throws ropes.

  • dplunk

    yes..He is.,,.keep in mind he’s playing for a “QB friendly” head coach

  • ENGLANDRAIDER

    LoL.
    Oh, he’s exactly the same guy.
    It’s only your opinion that has changed.

  • Charlie

    Wrong
    The Raiders history is one of building a strong supporting cast then getting a CAPABLE QB to win. Stabler in round two and Plunkett (round one) off the waiver wire. Hostetler (round 3) and Gannon (round 4) as a FA.
    Many different ways to get a capable QB.
    Kaep, Wilson, Foles, Brady are a few that prove that you do not have to get a winning QB in round one with a top five pick.
    No QB is bigger than the team.

  • disqus_yeZNegncsV

    And, I’ve often thought about just how mediocre Stabler would have been with a mediocre team around him. He was accurate, but how hard is that when he literally could stand in the pocket for 4-5 seconds, surveying every thing? I saw almost every Raider game with Stabler at qb, at the stadium and on tv and he’d have been nothing with a mediocre team.

  • SR Raider

    Roll right and hope someone gets open was the big pass play. Again. Seems like it’s all he’s got. Frustrating

  • 1960AutumnWind

    Look if RM really saw that level of talent he would have taken him instead of Bass or the WR we took in the 7th in a heartbeat. We were not even his first destination. He was not even a priority signing we needed to try him out as a camp arm. I mean I try to be objective and give RM credit where it is due but please do not over do it.

  • ENGLANDRAIDER

    On top of that we haven’t lost any of the people that we thought would be gone while some really good posters are missing.

  • aig-raiders

    Pulling MM was one of the dumbest things they have done this year. I gave up on the coaching staff after that latest stunt. There have been many wtf moments the last 2 yrs but that one just killed it for me.

  • IAmAlwaysWrong

    we did – the offense gained Sparano and the defense gained Bob Sanders – look him up!

  • 1960AutumnWind

    Extremely accurate though. One game he threw like 25 completions in a row. Remember back then guys could climb all over receivers and the stats are suppressed as well.

  • 1960AutumnWind

    Man you should be able to go back to Rockstar for that one.

  • dplunk

    A great coach can help mold a young QB..I understand that is not DA’s strength, so of course he doesn’t wan’t a QB that needs nuturing from him…someone like Jay Cutler would be great for Dennis Allen.

  • IAmAlwaysWrong

    “The Raiders history is one of building a strong supporting cast then getting a CAPABLE QB to win. Stabler in round two and Plunkett (round one) off the waiver wire. Hostetler (round 3) and Gannon (round 4) as a FA.” – Charlie
    ***
    You’re actually praising Al Davis? did h3ll freeze over?

  • IAmAlwaysWrong

    Reggie too, since he is TERRIBLE at QB evals. go with a proven commodity since we can’t scout for squat

  • 1960AutumnWind

    If you look at how harmed this team has been from the lack of a pass rush on a 4 man line it is apparent this is a huge limiting factor for this team. Trying to fix it with a 7th rounder, UDFA and a castaway FA that no one else wants is not the answer.

  • willy91137

    McGLOIN is the best quarterback we’ve had in a while for being a rookie he plays pretty darn good he can throw wide receivers open he gets rid of the ball he seemed to know the game plan and by next year he will be able to do no huddle he can check out of a few plays now

  • IAmAlwaysWrong

    dplunk: Dennis Allen is a defense guy. Why on earth would you bash his ability to develop or groom QB’s since he’s probably never attempted it in his life? are you blogging drunk again, like Purv? QBDEV goes to Olson, Flip, Sparano & Saunders. not exactly a recipe for success (i know)

  • Jim Jesus

    Hey Willy good post.

  • ENGLANDRAIDER

    Cutler is a really talented quarterback.
    He’s also going to be 31, gets injured a lot, and turns the ball over.
    We might as well have kept Palmer as bring in Cutler.

  • Jim Jesus

    I say pass too.

  • willy91137

    And remember Stabler sat on the bench for five years

  • ENGLANDRAIDER

    He does seem to have potential. Got to say I’m suprised at how well he’s done.

  • willy91137

    Stabler was the most accurate quarterback in the NFL he called His Own Pl., Madden told him what he wanted to do on first down pass or run

  • Al_is_theraiders

    excuses are like….as$holes everyone has them…

  • 1960AutumnWind

    So guys can’t change and improve? There is no doubt he is in a better situation with them than with us back in 07 I give you that. I mean he was a fill in until our savior JR finally signed and came on to lead us in his hall of fame career.

  • Jim Jesus

    We lost a few. Namely ODB.

  • RaiderDebo

    Hilarious! Had to do a quick Wikipedia refresh on the whole Shanahan/Shell/Davis situation. I miss Al.

    @@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@

    Tensions increased towards the end of the season when wide receivers coach and Shanahan loyalist Nick Nicolau got into a heated argument with assistant coach Art Shell (a Davis loyalist) in which Nicolau reportedly accused Shell of only having a job by virtue of his friendship with Davis. When Shell went to Davis later to ask if this was true, Davis’ response was to immediately fire Nicolau. Shanahan responded by firing running backs coach Joe Scannella and offensive coordinator Tom Walsh (both Davis hires), but Davis ordered them both back to work. At the end of the season, Shanahan fired defensive assistants Willie Brown and Charlie Sumner. An enraged Davis re-hired Brown to a different position in the organization. When the Raiders began 1-3 in 1989, Shanahan himself was fired and replaced by Shell.[4] Shanahan’s final Raiders record was 8–12 in less than two seasons, going 2-7 after a 6-5 start.

  • Jim Jesus

    We only ran 20 plays in the second half didn’t we?

  • Jim Jesus

    I s he available this offseason? Would he be a get for us if he was?

  • ENGLANDRAIDER

    I didn’t say that.
    I said that the guy playing in Chicago is exactly the same guy-with no change in skill level-who played here.
    Only your opinion of him has changed.

  • willy91137

    and she’ll put a sign up in the locker room back to the old way every day at lunchtime I would go to a newsstand and by the Los Angeles paper so I could keep up on the scandal I don’t think he got the rest of his money either

  • willy91137

    Charlie Summers was one hotheaded guy he was always chewing out somebody and he finally become a head coach with the Oakland invaders that was a good team

  • SR Raider

    Sadly, this illustrates how the Raiders fell from the ranks of the elite and have not won the SB since. Love Al, but this style of management died in the 80s

  • ENGLANDRAIDER

    Yes sir, Madden gave him the playbook and Snake picked the plays.

  • willy91137

    Or is the good Dr. or what ever

  • RaiderDebo

    The Los Angeles Raiders! My favorite days as a Raider fan.

  • Goldie7

    Nope, rat face did not receive the rest of his money.

  • dplunk

    By saying something is not someones strength equate to bashing?..I think you are the one that may be a bit tipsy