By Ryan Leong
Dennis Allen is quickly learning that he has inherited a very tough situation being the head coach of the Oakland Raiders. The Raiders as a team are lacking in many areas but his coaching staff has not helped in developing plays and schemes that should bring some success.
Running back Darren McFadden was an explosive force last season under previous head coach Hue Jackson the last two seasons. His best season was 2010, when Jackson was the offensive coordinator. McFadden played a career-high 13 games, had 1157 yards rushing and seven touchdowns. He averaged 5.2 and 5.4 yards per carry in 2010 and 2011 respectively.
This season has been a disaster. Under the new offensive coordinator Greg Knapp, the Raiders running game is practically non-existent. McFadden’s only averaging 3.3 yards per carry and has 455 yards rushing. But DMac is now on the shelf with a high ankle sprain and his durability has been in question. He’s never been able to play more than 13 games in a season.
Knapp has instituted a new zone blocking scheme as opposed to the conventional power blocking scheme by the offensive line to create holes for the running back to run through. Although in recent weeks just before McFadden’s injury, the Raiders were starting to tinker with more of a power blocking scheme. But still, the Raiders have the second worst rush offense in the league. Passing wise, though, Carson Palmer is having a record season and is on pace to surpass the all-time single season mark of 4689 set by Rich Gannon in 2002.
Allen himself was touted as a defensive minded coach when given the job. Along with Jason Tarver, also in his first season as defensive coordinator, the Raiders have one of the worst defenses in the AFC. Only six other teams in the conference are worse than Oakland.
After getting destroyed by Baltimore and the week previous to that allowing 42 points to Tampa Bay, the Raiders have allowed 97 points in two weeks, their second most in a two-game span in team history.
“Hey, listen, we’re at that point in the season and we’ve got to win football games,” Allen said in his Monday press conference. “It’s our job to find out what our players do well and put them in those positions and give them a chance to be successful. Our issues have been, at least defensively, have been the inconsistency issues. We play good in spurts and then in other spurts we don’t play so well. We did a better job of stopping the run this past week; it was the passing game that hurt us. So we’ve got to find a way to be more consistent.”
No offense to the head coach, but he’s been saying the same thing after every loss. The bottom line is their only consistency has been losing and then making the same comments to the media.
The good news is that the New Orleans Saints are similar statistically and they’re playing on the road where they struggle on grass. The forecast also calls for rain which will make it more difficult. The rain won’t help the Raiders either.
Offensively, the Saints rank 4th overall in the league, 2nd in passing but 28th in running. The Raiders passing game is 5th best. But again, the problem is the defense and the health of the players. Allen says he’ll evaluate the offense and defense and make changes as needed.
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.