By Ryan Leong
The same problems plaguing the Raiders continue: not scoring enough points and giving up too many on defense.
The Raiders were exploited on Sunday by Tampa Bay running back and Oakland native Doug Martin. He ran for a franchise record 251 yards and four touchdowns. What was more glaring was that 197 of those yards were before first contact by the Raiders defense.
Head coach Dennis Allen simply has not been able to get his defense to play the way it’s capable of at least given Allen’s credentials as a defensive minded coach. Oakland is ranked 28th in team defense allowing 28.6 points per game. The Raiders are ranked 31st in rushing and only the Arizona Cardinals are worse when it comes to the ground game.
Adding injury to insult is that Oakland running backs Darren McFadden and Mike Goodson both left the game with high ankle sprains. Taiwan Jones is the only healthy running back for the moment but he’s carried the ball only once all season. One running back they’d certainly like to have back, Michael Bush, signed with the Chicago Bears as a free agent. Bush was great at powering through on third and short or other situations where short yardage was needed. Last year, Bush rushed for a career-high 977 yards in 16 games with seven touchdowns.
This season has been a real test for Allen because of the situation both he and general manager Reggie McKenzie inherited. The team had traded away their first and second round draft picks in 2012 and 2013 in exchange for Carson Palmer. So both Allen and McKenzie have had to do their best with the existing roster but they have made several trades. Goodson was acquired in exchange for tackle Bruce Campbell. MacKenzie aggressively made other moves to change the roster to his liking. He released high paid cornerback Stanford Routt and also lineman Kamerion Wembley.
But the challenge is certainly there for Allen and how can he begin to correct these lingering problems? The Raiders just don’t play as a team, and they don’t have either the depth or the talent to beat the teams with winning records. Oakland has been getting annihilated in the third quarter, getting outscored 88-24 in that period. The rushing game is averaging only 77.3 yards per game.
McFadden has missed 19 games the past four seasons with a various injuries and has only 455 yards, averaging 3.3 yards per carry. Goodson has 111 yards on 17 carries and 14 catches for 173 yards, but he was injured early in the fourth quarter of Sunday’s game. Now McKenzie has to wait and see what the status of both running backs are before he tries to pursue a free agent.
The team is getting a few players back from the injured list. Linebacker Aaron Curry was activated off the physically unable to perform list to the 53-man roster. Curry had been practicing since October 17 but been out of action since May with sore knees. To make room for Curry, linebacker Vic So’oto was waived.
Right tackle Khalif Barnes will make his return to the practice field this week. He’s been out since Week Two with a groin injury, Cornerback Shawntae Spencer ran around on Tuesday. He’s also been out since Week Two with a foot injury.
Ron Bartell, the other starting cornerback has been out since Week One when he fractured his shoulder blade. He could make his return this coming Sunday against Baltimore.
The solution is pretty simple. The Raiders need to score more points than they allow and that needs to start this Sunday.
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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.