These aren’t your Raiders of three years ago. They aren’t your Raiders of three weeks ago, either.
Oakland (4-6) has capped three very impressive outings with three losses that can be described both as ugly and heartbreaking, the most recent an 18-13 loss at Detroit Sunday.
Now, the playoffs seem miles off.
On third and long, the Raiders went short. They did that a lot over the last few seasons as well, and never offered an explanation. One theory, though, was a lack of deep speed on the roster.
Oakland’s weapons are different this year, but the defeatist attitude might not have changed as much.
I can’t remember a time where, on 3rd-and-15 or any similar 3rd and long situation came about, and a dump off pass worked for the Raiders. The play’s last notable success was a 29-yard scamper from Ray Rice during the Ravens’ 2012 championship season.
And that was an anomaly, not anything to ever expect.
In the Raiders last home game, a brutal loss to Minnesota, I asked Cooper how he felt about being open deep and not seeing the ball. Cooper responded that he didn’t feel he was open.
I don’t blame Cooper if he didn’t want to answer. I would blame him, though, if he actually didn’t feel open. He was very open at times, twice downfield with no defenders anywhere close to striking distance.
The Raiders ran the same seemingly defeatist game plan today. They looked scared. They shied from the deep pass, inexplicably, and might have lost because of it.
Is there something wrong with Carr’s shoulder, a lingering issue from a hit he took a few weeks ago? Do teams expect Cooper to drop passes, something he has done since playing in Oakland, but with more regularity?
Or worse, is Carr beginning to expect Cooper to drop passes?
Expecting the Raiders to discuss any of that publicly is like expecting Donald Trump to change his stances on basic reason.
But the Raiders are showing it on the field, something is very wrong.
The defense isn’t one that can stand tough with a struggling offense. There is some talent on the unit, no doubt, but not the kind you need when an offensive unit can’t throw deep.
Three weeks ago, I expected the Raiders to beat the banged up Pittsburgh Steelers and take firm hold of the top wild card seed.
Now, I don’t know that they can recover from their transgressions since that game started.
What’s worse, Oakland just lost to one of the worst teams in the NFL, on paper and reality. Did the Raiders get lucky because of the newer roster with little data for opposing coordinators to analyze?
Is Carr hurt? Is Cooper’s confidence dwindling with every drop?
I’d believe all three.
Most players are hurt at this point in the season to varying degrees. The Carr-to-Cooper connection suffers with the drops. There’s no way it couldn’t.
And it shows up that the Raiders just can’t run the ball, which allows teams to play the pass with more press coverage and not worry about getting beat as much.
The end result is what Oakland showed while they were in Detroit. A stagnant offense that couldn’t beat a bad defense.
I got ahead of myself, it seems, when I called the Raiders a playoff team. They’re not that, not the team there in Detroit. Certainly not the team that was stomped out by Minnesota at home.
They’re not losing to elite teams, either, they’re losing to teams who just drafted in the top half, and haven’t changed that much, certainly not as much as the Raiders.
Oakland is better than they were, even with the bad showings. They are looking like a middling team, who will draft outside the Top 10, but definitely not after pick 23.
This team is still on their way to being truly good, truly consistent. Another good offseason and bam. They’re legitimate.
But their playoff hopes are fruitless at this point. Even if they do turn their act around, they might be too far back after losing three straight.
Jason Leskiw is SFBay’s Oakland Raiders beat writer and member of the Professional Football Writers of America. Follow @SFBay and @LeskiwSFBay on Twitter and at SFBay.ca for full coverage of the Oakland Raiders.