Offense, not defense, exposed in Raiders loss

Chip Kelly’s offensive scheme — new to the NFL and labeled a gimmick at the outset of the season — simply overwhelmed the Oakland Raiders defense Sunday.

Sure, Nick Foles may have a very bright future ahead in the NFL. And yes, rookie cornerback D.J. Hayden has a long and tough road ahead of him.

Yet for all the defensive woes, the Raiders offense racked up 560 yards in total offense — and managed only one touchdown.

That many yards — with a touchdown for every 80 yards in offense — would have given the Raiders 49 points. And a tie ball game.

In any game, there are going to be blown plays. It’s a fact of the game. No team ever goes out and executes perfectly. The low-budget 2013 Raiders are certainly no exception.

While the offense is a compilation of brilliance and over-performing backups, it’s still also the product of minimal financial investment.

The low cost, though, is more an investment into the club’s future rather than just some owner being cheap. In fact, the team parted ways with Rolando McClain ($7.26 million), Richard Seymour ($13.71 million), Carson Palmer ($9.34 million), Tommy Kelly ($6.32 million), Darrius Heyward-Bey ($5.26 million) and more.

The total cap hit of terminated contracts comes to just over $55 million, with every penny counting against the cap. This severely hinders the Raiders’ postseason chances.

But general manager Reggie McKenzie was able to throw together a team with a better record than nine other teams. Not only that, but also has rights to certain contracts that might aid the franchise’s future.

McKenzie has done what not many of earth’s seven billion people could do: He’s put a Raiders team together that can reasonably finish 8-8.

For that, McKenzie should be applauded. And not just by fans, but also by other general managers, scouts and mathematicians.

If this is just the tip of the iceberg and McKenzie is able to duplicate the success of 2013 and translate it into a roster with more than twice the assets, the sky is the limit.

It’s hard to express the two terms, “the sky is the limit,” and “Oakland Raiders,” in the same sentence and from a sane man. However, it looks extremely plausible.

Addressing the offensive woes wont be easy. There aren’t many big-time receivers on the free agent market and because of the reduced availability, the price could be steep.

For the lesser knowns — the Doug Baldwins (Seahawks) and Joshua Morgans (Redskins) — a Raiders contract might serve the team well.

After all, neither start currently but could both play as a secondary targets in the passing game.

There’s also Jeremy Maclin, who has been injured for the better part of two seasons but has amazing talent when healthy.

Maclin shouldn’t be expensive because of his injury history, but it’d be a gamble. An unreliable player being expected to make it through a full season while producing at a very high level? Sounds familiar. Oh, that’s right. Jed Lowrie.

It may not be the most probable of scenarios, but it’s still possible.

The offensive line woes aren’t terrible. Jared Veldheer will probably be given a nice contract and there will be some free agent additions. The largest need is at the interior, and upgrades are possible.

The same is true on defense. A top-flight interior pass rusher is something that could pay some big dividends. As a former Raiders linebacker during the 1980’s, McKenzie knows this. Pat Sims and Vance Walker could remain in the rotation, but a Jared Allen- or Henry Melton-type presence is needed.

Those additions — receiver, linemen on both sides of the ball and maybe an explosive return man — could take Oakland from an 8-8 type to an 11-5 playoff team.

The newcomers would also need to rely on Terrelle Pryor. That in itself is risky. Drafting a quarterback in the first three rounds of the 2014 draft would be necessary to ensure a safety net for McKenzie and the Raiders.

For both McKenzie and the organization, the leap from inflated contracts and losing seasons to fielding a real contender is something else.

McKenzie surely doesn’t want to put all his eggs in one basket, and there are too many quarterbacks in this years draft class to not take one. The best will probably be gone in the first round, though plenty of others could pan out. A small number of serviceable backups could be signed as undrafted free agents.

So while the Raiders continue their struggle, an inevitable fact remains: Teams come from last place to first every year, a phenomena that has occurred every year since 2007.


Follow @SFBay and @JLeskiwNFL on Twitter and at SFBay.ca for full coverage of the Oakland Raiders.