Raiders offense earns high midseason marks

The Raiders can thank their 5-2 record to their high-powered offense, starting with quarterback Derek Carr.

Here’s a full evaluation of the Raiders offense, broken up by position group, and what it all means going forward.

Quarterback

One of the major reasons the Raiders sit tied atop the AFC West is because of  Carr. The third-year signal caller has the 12th best passer rating in the league at 97.2, and he’s thrown for 1,808 yards, 13 touchdowns and only three interceptions.

Carr’s greatest asset this season has been his ability to lead the Raiders during the fourth quarter in tight games. The Raiders had big-time comeback wins against the Saints, Ravens and Chargers.

In their season opener against the Saints, Carr hooked up with Michael Crabtree on a two-point conversion at the tail end of the game to lock up a 35-34 win.

Against the Ravens, Carr once again connected with Crabtree, this time on a 23-yard route down the seam with a little over two minutes remaining in the game. The score put the Raiders up 28-27 and the defense held to give the Silver and Black a road win against a quality opponent.

While the offense tends to sputter at times, especially in the second half of games, Carr gives the Raiders a security blanket. As long as the game is reasonably close in the fourth quarter, he has the ability to win the game.

Every game, Carr has a few incredible throws — ones that are hard to believe, and that finding another quarterback that could duplicate them is an almost impossible task. The game winner to Crabtree in Baltimore was one of his best this season.

It was placed perfectly for Crabtree in the back of the end zone. The throw had to have just enough touch to arc over the head of the defensive back, and Carr dropped a dime right into Crabtree’s hands.

Last week against the Jacksonville Jaguars, Carr threw a 56-yard bomb to Crabtree on third-and-five towards the end of the first half. He had an opportunity to run for the first down, but instead he opted to go deep to Crabtree.

What was most impressive about the throw was that it was on the move and his feet weren’t even set. Carr’s arm strength might be the best in the league, he can throw the ball off his back foot 50-yards downfield consistently.

Although Carr can throw off his back foot, he would be better served to try to set his feet on more throws. He can get away with it at times, but it can end up being costly as well. Against the Kansas City Chiefs in a 26-10 loss, Carr tried to throw off his back foot in the rain.

The throw was about 15-yards short of the intended receiver, Michael Crabtree, and cornerback Marcus Peters had an easy interception.

The interception was one of only three on the season for Carr, so it was a mistake he doesn’t make often. His ball security is great, and he has one of the best offensive lines in football to throw behind.

Offensive line

The Raiders offensive line is arguably one of the best in football. They’ve allowed a league low seven sacks this season, giving Carr plenty of time to make throws cleanly from the pocket.

Offensive guard Kelechi Osemele was worth every penny the Raiders paid him. The guy is a mauling run blocker, and he’s a stout pass defender as well.

When the Raiders were trailing the Saints 27-19 in the fourth quarter of week one, running back Jalen Richard ripped off a 75-yard touchdown run that turned the tide of the game.

He ran right behind Osemele, who blew linebacker Craig Robertson back six yards off the line of scrimmage and pancaked him straight into the ground.

The entire Raiders offensive line plays physically, and while the pass blocking is great, the run blocking could be improved.

Oakland ranks 13th in the league in rushing yards a game, with about 115. The left side of Osemele and Donald Penn is usually pretty stout run blocking, but the right side tends to give up too many run stuffs.

Right guard Gabe Jackson, who played left guard the first two years of his career and all through college, seems to still be adjusting to playing on the right side.

The Raiders also haven’t been able to stay healthy one the right side. Offensive linemen Menelik Watson, Austin Howard, Matt McCants and rookie Vadal Alexander have all  seen playing time at right tackle.

Once the right side of the line manages to stay healthy, the Raiders run game has a chance to improve even more, but that’s reliant on the running backs as well.

Running backs

The Raiders running game is certainly more balanced than it was a season ago, but it still leaves a lot to be desired.

It’s a combination of personnel and play calling. The Raiders have a tendency to completely forgo the running game in the second half. A more balanced attack in the second half of games would benefit the offense as a whole.

The Raiders have three solid running backs, but they rely on Latavius Murray to get things going.

Murray was hurt in weeks 5 and 6 with turf toe, and the Raiders need him to remain healthy. He’s tied for sixth in the NFL with 5 rushing touchdowns.

He’s running more physically this season which is a good sign, but the yardage isn’t there.

Rookie DeAndre Washington leads the Raiders in rushing yards with 235. Murray is second with 231 and Richard is third with 183.

All three have played decently, but not great.

The inconsistency in the Raiders running games has been their biggest Achilles Heel on offense this season, so if they can get one of their three backs to run for 4-or-5 yard gains consistently, the offense will more balanced.

Tight ends

Tight end has been the Raiders weakest positional group on offense so far this season. Starter Lee Smith went down for the season with an ankle injury against the Ravens, and Clive Walford and Mychal Rivera have not been able to fill the void.

Smith was more of a blocking tight end to begin with, and the Raiders offense lacks a big target down the middle.

It is only Walford’s second year in the league, but he hasn’t been healthy so far in his young career. He missed one game this season, and he’s only had more than 30 yards receiving in one game.

What’s frustrating about Walford is he has the size, speed and athleticism to be a successful tight end, he just can’t seem to figure it out. His route running is sub—par and he’s had issues with drops.

Against the Jaguars, the Raiders had to settle for a field goal in the red zone because Walford dropped a pass in the end zone.

Carr threaded the ball right past the outstretched arms of a linebacker, and it hit Walford square in the hands but he dropped the ball.

The Raiders don’t really have a reliable receiving threat down the middle of the field, but what they do have is two elite wide receivers on the edges.

Wide Receivers

Michael Crabtree and Amari Cooper have been sensational for the Raiders so far this season. Crabtree might just be the offensive MVP of the team, with all the clutch catches he’s making.

He caught the game winning two-point conversion against the Saints. He caught the game winning touchdown against the Ravens, and he caught a key touchdown on a fourth down conversion against the Chargers.

He’s tied for the league lead in touchdown receptions with six, and he also has 461 receiving yards.

Crabtree’s playing the best football of his career, but he is also getting a lot of single coverage thanks to teammate Amari Cooper.

Cooper ranks sixth in the league with 614 yards receiving, and also has a receiving touchdown.

His route running is even better this year than it was last year. Against the Chargers, Cooper caught six passes for a season high 138 yards.

He put on a route-running clinic against San Diego. His lone touchdown catch of the season came in that game.

He gave safety Adrian Phillips the slightest of hesitations, and then ran down the sideline, wide open. Carr hit him in stride and it was an easy 64-yard touchdown catch.

One thing Cooper needs to work on is dragging his toes on the sidelines, but he’s been getting better at doing so over the past couple of weeks.

Bottom Line

The Raiders offense is the reason this team is 5-2. Derek Carr consistently carries them in the fourth quarter, and Michael Crabtree and Amari Cooper are the best receiving duo in the league.

Since the Raiders are so reliant on their offense to be successful, it is important that they get a more consistent rushing attack going.

If the Silver and Black can run the ball better and alleviate some pressure on Carr, they’re a good bet to score 28 points a game.