ALAMEDA — The offensive unit for the Oakland Raiders hasn’t been very good this season.
It’s a unit which has actually digressed from 2013, and that’s not easy to do. The passing attack has been up and down, and the running game has been downright awful.
Offensive coordinator Greg Olson seemed to take the blame Tuesday:
“I understand I’ve got to do a better job and that the job has not been up to par at this point. I think you always that going in and know that it’s, again, part of the profession. There is a responsibility to the fans and to the players and to the team and to myself to do better. Right now, that hasn’t happened.”
Olson has been an NFL coach going on 14 seasons and understands the game. In a production based league, you either produce, or take a walk.
When speaking to the media, Olson essentially admitted that the talent on the Raiders roster wasn’t up to snuff. It’s something that contradicts his feelings during training camp, where he praised the power of Maurice Jones-Drew and the ability of would-be starting quarterback Matt Schaub.
Schaub lost his starting job before the season began, after Derek Carr torched the Seattle Seahawks in the fourth week of preseason. Now, the Raiders are set for franchise lows should they keep with their current pace.
The Raiders are averaging 15.2 points per game, a number that no NFL defense is quite equipped to match. They’ve scored more than 17 points only twice this season, though the team has faced better defenses than most.
Through the first four games, under then-head coach Dennis Allen, Carr threw for 834 yards, 204 yards per game. Carr, through the next six games under interim head coach Tony Sparano, has thrown for 1,300 yards, 216 yards per game.
Most teams led by a rookie quarterback aren’t going to set records, at least not any a team would want. But with the current offense, it makes it even tougher.
The Raiders are without a clear second option to receiver James Jones, and Jones isn’t the best first option to begin with. It’s something that has made several of Oakland’s players difficult to evaluate.
Even interim head coach Tony Sparano, who was asked about Carr, took some time to thing before responding:
“When you look at the total body of work right now, you can’t look at it one week at a time. In our league, there are 16 quarterbacks that don’t play so good on a Sunday. Then, there are 16 other ones that play a little bit better. I think that you can’t really assess one game or any of those types of things. I think you have to look and say, what is the total body of work right now? Where is he at this point in time? At this point in time, he’s much further ahead than I would have anticipated back in Napa.”
Of course there are other variables at play. Whether it’s supposed to be the quarterback taking sole responsibility for losses or not, the offense is without an electric talent. There are no saviors on the way, either.
Brice Butler is arguably Oakland’s most dynamic skill player. He ran a 4.37 40-yard-dash at his San Diego State pro day and has been consistent with his hands, but has yet to log much meaningful time.
Rookie quarterbacks rarely put up large numbers in the face of the heavenly expectations bestowed by fans and pundits.
Russell Wilson threw for 3,118 yards in his rookie season, one year before winning a Super Bowl.
San Francisco’s Colin Kaepernick threw for 3,197 yards in his first full season as a starter. Aaron Rodgers, in his fourth NFL season and first as a starter, set the bar with a 4,018-yard season. That seems to be the expectation of any rookie quarterback.
Carr is on pace to slot between Rodgers and Wilson with 3,414 passing yards, against the toughest schedule of them all and without as much support from offense or defense.
He is one of only a few bright spots for the Raiders offense, and one that the Raiders feel comfortable with moving forward. Carr is unlike JaMarcus Russell in his morality and candor, and certainly unlike Rolando McClain in his personal relationships and handling of firearms.
Perhaps most important, according to Sparano, is that Carr sees the field well:
“He doesn’t come to the sideline with no answers. I’ve been around guys that come to the sidelines with no answers. That’s a scary thing. When you get around some of those guys, that’s a problem. This guy has good answers. He knows exactly what he sees. He knows if he misses something, he’s going to come to the sideline and tell you that he missed it. Those things there, I think he improved at.”
The Raiders run game hasn’t clicked this season and is on pace for less than 300 carries. Oakland’s first four games netted 246 yards with the next six including 384 and three of them with under 60 yards.
Murray is yet another player that coaches are looking to after arguably the most disastrous season in franchise history. Olson gave fans a reason to continue their fanship:
“A lot of times, I look at the young players. When you’re building, who are the core players to me that you can count on going forward? I think, again, especially this past year’s class was a very good class when you look at the players that are contributing and have contributed. I think offensively, Menelik Watson, from the previous year, has been a good player. Mychal Rivera has now been a very productive player. So I think there are some pieces there that you can build on and certainly a lot of it falls on the quarterback, and I think now that there is a quarterback in place here.”
The draft classes that general manager Reggie McKenzie have brought in seem to have borne fruit despite the 0-10 record. Eight starters have come from the Raiders’ previous two draft classes, nine if Murray becomes one.
But draft success means little without contending for the postseason. With the upcoming schedule making it difficult to predict a single win, the Raiders appear destined for the first overall pick.