Thursday, December 27, 2007

D gets an F

My comments last week: "...this is going to be a great test of Raider progress. It won't be nearly as cold in Jacksonville as it was in Green Bay, so I hope to see the offense hit its stride even with Dominic Rhodes, the defense step up to the challenges of gap assignment and tackling, and JaMarcus to play for an extended period."

Not difficult to label that test failed. Sure, JaMarcus played for an extended period, but the offense did not hit its stride (no, 100+ garbage yards by Rhodes does not count), and the defense most certainly did not step up to any challenge presented. Not gap assignments, not tackling, not scheme matchups, and not even smart-assed refs. But what does it mean?

In terms of things that are different from some of the really good games they've played recently, they seem to fall completely apart against good teams on the road, the defense appears incapable of stopping the power running game, JaMarcus is not ready for prime time, and maybe a couple of these annoying injuries - the top RB, the top special teams guy - actually have made an impact.

Is it a microcosm of the season? No. A microcosm of the past 5 years, maybe, but this season has been far better than past years and not only because I've forgotten what a good season actually is. Is it a harbinger of what is to come in 2008? I don't think so. I prefer to think of the last two AFC West games as a preview of what is in store for 2008, but that's just me.

On the offensive side of the ball it is a little tough to tell what this failed test means with Fargas out and JaMarcus acting like it's Brett Favre's first trip to Texas Stadium. Probably the offensive line needs some additional work despite recent improvement. We still need that deep threat at WR. Kiffin was right to put Fargas at the front of the line.

But on defense...this was a huge disappointment. Something is broken in that the team only matches up well with a few offenses. But is it scheme or personnel? And does it mean the Raiders will turn over as many as 6 defensive positions during the offseason or will they can Rob Ryan? Or both?

In terms of personnel, "QB Killa" is not built to stop the run - especially this slimmed-down year. Sands has been a major disaster. Tommy Kelly got hurt. Burgess is not a run-stopper. There's your front four. That is making Morrison look bad in run support because no one keeps linemen off of him. Add to that the fact that our free safety hasn't tackled well, which turns 8-yard runs into 62-yard runs.

Remember Ryan tried to install a 3-4 when he arrived and he didn't have the personnel, having inherited Sapp and almost no linebackers. On Sunday, Greg Papa noted several times that the Raiders were playing 4 linebackers in addition to the 4 down linemen. It actually led to a classic exchange between Papa and Tom Flores (I'll paraphrase):

Papa - "The Raiders are coming out in the same defense they used to start the game. Four down linemen, four linebackers, and three defensive backs."

Flores - "I hate to correct you, Greg, but they actually started the game with four down linemen, four linebackers, and four defensive backs. They had 12 men on the field!"

At any rate, Sunday's game was a harbinger of great change to come for the defense, no matter what Ryan says in public. The good news is there is a terrific nucleus - if Asomugha is re-signed.

Picks later...


Sllaacs said...

I like the comparison of Russell to a young Favre rather the more obvious and probable comparisons, of which I will name a few: Andre Ware, Akili Smith, Ryan Leaf, and of course Alex Smith. Personally, I think he's going to me more like a young (read; "mobile")Culpepper than anyone else. And then of course I have to ask; exactly when did Russell on his best throw even slightly resemble Favre on his worst throw? It's okay Raider Fan, shoot for the moon - Hope Springs, Eternal.

Dan Hauenstein said...

Ha - thanks, I was proud of the comparison myself. Favre used to (?) show up at Texas Stadium and throw his first 5 passes about 20 feet over the heads of his receivers. The commentators would always say it's because Dallas' field crests higher than any other in the league - i.e., the middle is several feet higher than the sidelines so water will run off better. Strangely, only Favre seemed to be so finely tuned to that dimension.

Sllaacs said...

Makes sense that the Great Favre would have some Kryptonite equivalent. But your explanation begs another query; Do you blame the field in Jacksonville for Russell's inauspicious performance? I am just trying to corner ya, Dan. I feel personally that until a QB throws about 300 game passes, you can't be sure of what you got.

Dan Hauenstein said...

Actually, I'm in no way sure of what we've got with JaMarcus. But as a Raider fan, I would rather compare him to Favre than to Akili Smith.