Originally published on Silver & Black Report on Oct 19, 2013
With the Oakland Raiders off for their bye week, it's a good time to take a look at some of the team's statistical numbers and check on their progression six weeks into the season.
The Raiders are averaging just 191.7 yards per game through the air so far, the third-worst in the league thus far. Wide receiver Denarius Moore looks as if he has made the best of the wide receiver battle and become the Raiders number-one wideout. Moore is leading receivers with 25 receptions for 399 yards and four touchdowns. The Raiders will need to try and find a way to improve their passing game as defenses increase their focus on stopping the rushing game.
While the passing game has struggled, the Raiders have found running room by gaining 129.2 yards per game on the ground, ninth-best in the NFL. Though running back Darren McFadden has struggled to really get going (267 yards, 3.9 YPC), quarterback Terrelle Pryor's athleticism has proven beneficial in the rushing attack. Pryor's ability to run the read-option as well as scramble for yards has produced an additional 285 yards on the season, with a 6.5 yard-per-carry average. While being ranked 9th in the NFL is nice, offensive coordinator Greg Olson needs to find a way to get McFadden going as it will help open up the passing game, as well as force defenses to take some focus off of Pryor. The Raiders rushing attack will only continue as the team continues to get healthier at the offensive line position. Heading into the bye week, for their week-six matchup, the Raiders had five players on their offensive line playing a different position than where they began the season.
With defense that has only two starters that returned from last year (Lamarr Houston and Tyvon Branch, who is injured), defensive coordinator Jason Tarver has been able to build a defense that has turned into the 13th best defense in the NFL so far. Tarver and head coach Dennis Allen have preached a "multiple" defense and it has shown this year as they have used a variety of formations and shown many different fronts to the opposing offenses. The Raiders are currently allowing 241.0 yards per game through the air, 15th in the NFL. They are also allowing just 99.0 yards per game on the ground, 10th in the NFL. The Raiders have not had good rush defenses for a long time and if they continue their stout defense against their rush, it will give more opportunities to Charles Woodson, D.J. Hayden and company to make some plays in the secondary.
Many fans and observers were surprised that the Raiders did not address the need for a pass rusher in free agency or in the draft, but the Raiders have found a way to get to the pass rusher. That way is with their linebackers and secondary. The Raiders have nine sacks produced by linebackers and defensive backs, out of a total of 16.0 team sacks on the season. Tarver has done a tremendous job using exotic blitz packages to get to the opposing quarterback with a variety of players. The Raiders' 16 sacks is ranked 15th best in the NFL currently, but the team is on pace to record 44 sacks after having just 25 last season.
The Raiders are currently even with their turnover ratio, meaning they've turned the ball over just as many times as they've produced turnovers. Tarver and Allen have preached they need their defense to be able to produce turnovers, and the Raiders defense has responded with three interceptions and seven forced fumbles (6 recovered). Unfortunately though, the Raiders' offense has struggled to protect the ball with three fumbles and six interceptions. Pryor's five interceptions have occurred in week one and week 6, throwing two and three picks each game, respectfully. The offense needs to find a way to protect the ball better while the defense needs to continue to find ways to come away with turnovers if the Raiders want to improve their win record.
With the Raiders playing solid on defense, the Raiders offense is struggling to get points on the board as they are averaging just 17.5 points per game (28th in the NFL). Oakland's highest-scoring game of the season game against the Chargers in week five when they scored 27 points, though one of the three touchdowns came on a fumble recovery from Woodson. Pryor and the offense need to support their defense by putting more points on the board if the Raiders expect to win more games coming out of their bye week.
Though new special teams coach Bobby April has done a tremendous job with the Raiders special teams, it is clear that kicker Sebastian Janikowski is not comfortable with his new holder just yet. Janikowski is having rookie punter Marquette King as his holder after his longtime holder Shane Lechler left for the Houston Texans via free agency. Janikowski has already missed four field goals on the season after only missing three all last season (31/34). Janikowski needs to improve as the season progresses as it is crucial for the Raiders to get points on the board anytime they can. One thing that will prove beneficial to Janikowski and the Raiders is that the Oakland Athletic's baseball infield dirt will be gone now that the team is knocked out of the postseason.