By Ryan Leong
Not much has gone right for the Oakland Raiders in 2012. The team is struggling on offense, defense, and special teams.
After years of poor defense and a lack of discipline in setting an NFL record in penalties, new head coach Dennis Allen, who is a defensive-minded coach, was supposed to change the mindset of the renegade Raiders.
While the team is undergoing a culture change, the losing culture that has been apparent since 2003 is still hovering over the team like a black cloud.
This season, their problems on defense can be attributed to a lack of talent and depth.
On offense, they can’t run the ball under offensive coordinator Greg Knapp’s zone blocking scheme, and quarterback Carson Palmer is inconsistent passing the ball to receivers.
The Raiders rank in the bottom five in the running game despite having a Pro Bowl running back in Darren McFadden. McFadden has 201 yards rushing in four games, averaging 50.3 yards per game, but his stats are misleading. In the game vs. the Steelers, DMac rushed for 113 yards. Take that game away and he’s only averaging 29.3 yards per game in the other three contests.
Much of the team’s offensive woes began before the regular season started. The Raiders lost Jacoby Ford for the season. The diminutive but very fast wide out and special teams returner had surgery on his left foot. The team has yet to find a suitable replacement for him.
Last season, Palmer’s favorite target was receiver Denarius Moore. Moore did have a few nice catches against Denver in the game prior to the bye week but so far has scored only one touchdown.
The other threat is tight end Brandon Myers who has caught 16-of-17 passes thrown to him this season. Myers is on his way to his best season ever in only his fourth year since he was drafted out of Iowa in 2009. Myers is a unique talent who can block and catch passes as well.
Defensively, the Raiders have a lot of holes because both starting cornerbacks are injured. Ron Bartell broke his shoulder blade in the season opener against San Diego, and Shawntae Spencer sprained his right foot the following game in a loss at Miami. Bartell will be out until at least November 11 while Spencer remains in a walking boot and has yet to be cleared to practice.
The Raiders have used Pat Lee at corner and moved Michael Huff from safety to the outside, but Huff is slow to adjust which is understandable given it’s a different position. So far, Huff has allowed nine catches on 15 passes for 145 yards and two touchdowns in his two starts.
The run defense has been less than adequate as well, ranking 24th.
The one bright spot has been the penalties and penalty yards. The Raiders have the second fewest in the league and it’s good to know that at least they aren’t beating themselves in that category.
Guard Stefen Wisniewski missed a lot of time during training camp and the preseason, and his absence could have a lasting impact on the progress of the new blocking scheme. Once Wisniewski returned, the Raiders lost starting right tackle Khalif Barnes with a groin injury. Barnes continues to be week to week along with tight end Richard Gordon who has a hamstring injury.
Linebacker Aaron Curry was placed on the physically unable to perform list prior to the season with injured knees and is eligible to start practicing with the team next week after sitting out the mandatory six weeks. Once he does return to practice, the Raiders have 21 days to activate him, waive him, or place him on season-ending injured reserve. In his absence, Miles Burris has started every game with mixed results.
Receiver Darrius Heyward-Bey, who suffered that concussion from Steelers’ safety Ryan Mundy, did not play in the game at Denver. He practiced with the team on Monday and is likely to play at Atlanta.
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Ryan Leong has reported on over 2,800 games in the Bay Area since 1998, covering the Sharks, Giants, A’s, Warriors, 49ers, Raiders and the local college teams for radio networks and wire services. Having the best seat in the house to watch sports has been a thrill and Ryan still enjoys going to the games giving fans some insight and perspective on the players and coaches. His work can be found on Examiner.com.