2015 Raiders: What went wrong?

A lot of things went right for the Raiders this year, but they’re out of the playoffs for the 13th straight season.

What went wrong? What kept Oakland out of the postseason? And just how close were they really?

Mental lapses

Dropped passes, in the grand scheme, may be the biggest thing that kept the Raiders out of the playoffs. A bobbled reception by Latavius Murray was taken back for six points versus the Bears in Week 4. Oakland lost by two points.

Amari Cooper, known for his playmaking abilities, leads qualified receivers in drops. 14 percent of his targets were dropped. Imagine if that were cut in half, 16 drops on the year becoming only eight, which adds 120 yards to his season at 15 yards per, his average.

More importantly, it would have kept at least two crucial drives alive. And that would likely add a win, depending on which drops were selected.

Blame can be shared with Derek Carr, the best young quarterback in football. Errant passes and stupid mistakes. That comes with the territory, and generally fades with experience.

Carr is often compared to Aaron Rodgers, and I believe that to be fair.

Rodgers, in his second year, was watching Brett Favre and running the Packers scout team. He didn’t start until his fourth season. The numbers of Rodgers’ first year are remarkably similar to Carr, though Rodgers’ second starting season is among the best in league history.

That was Rodgers’ sixth in the league, though, it’s unfair to pick on Carr too much. Carr will grow, but for most of the things he’s done poorly, he’s done others remarkably well.

Turnovers to touchdowns

Eight of Carr’s home interceptions became touchdowns, and the other two become field goals. That’s not good, and Carr had several returned for major yardage. Carr said after the loss versus Green Bay that he’s never had so many picks bought back so far.

Cutting down the return yards, maybe just in half, which is still a lot, would be big change.

That might mean only four touchdowns. Maybe one field goal. That’s a 31-point swing.

The Raiders allowed 84 points off turnovers this year, resulting in a negative-38 figure that matters a lot, especially in a mere 16 games.

Over the 14 games played at that time, that’s an average of 2.71 points per, and Oakland lost four games this season by a touchdown or less. Factor in the time of possession, field position, and other things, and rounding it to three points each is a fair adjustment.

Secondary takes a beating

The Raiders secondary needs to get better. David Amerson‘s involvement has helped, and moving Khalil Mack to linebacker again has made it tougher on opposing tight ends.

But their corners haven’t done nearly enough. T.J. Carrie has been in a hard place, moving from safety to corner to safety again, but the Raiders knew they were gambling by not adding a cornerback this last offseason.

Charles Woodson is retiring, and so the carousel continues to turn — Oakland could benefit from some continuity back there, but has not been afforded that luxury.

Josh Norman is a free agent this offseason, and it might be tough for Carolina to hold onto him. Throw him with Amerson, and give Carrie the look at starting safety, and Oakland has a ball-hawking defensive unit that could become very special.

Conclusion

If the above-mentioned issues had been remedied, if things had swayed in the right direction, Oakland could be in a much different position. They could be looking at 11-5 as a best case, not 8-8.

They should be looking at 11-5. That’s the difference of only three games, after all, and three games in particular: at Chicago, at Pittsburgh, and at Detroit.

There’s reason to be optimistic about the Raiders. They’re in a place that’s incredibly promising, and the youthful roster is another big plus — there’s room for longstanding optimism.

On the flip side, though, this is the Oakland Raiders. And optimism has resulted in nothing more than a dagger through the heart for the last decade.


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.