Raiders midseason report: Offense


Raiders midseason report: Offense

First-half storyline: The goal coming out of training camp was easy to see -- build a bully on offense with a dominant running game in Darren McFadden and Michael Bush and take shots downfield with Jason Campbell and the speedy, young wideouts. For much of the first half of the season, the Raiders led the NFL in rushing, and with Campbell barely being touched thanks to an improved offensive line, he was managing the game with aplomb. Then came Scott Fujita to snap Campbell's collarbone. And the injury bug to take a bite out of McFadden's right foot. The trade to acquire Carson Palmer and the signing of T.J. Houshmandzadeh may actually be necessary moves that have upgraded the roster, but they also might have upset the delicate locker room chemistry. Midway through the season, the Raiders are a team in transition, especially on offense. If it seems like the offense is going through camp again, that's because it is.

MVP: McFadden. Entering Week 7, McFadden was the NFL's leading rusher, with 610 yards. But after badly spraining his right foot on the Raiders' first series against Kansas City, sitting out the bye week and not playing against Denver, he ranks 11th. The Raiders have also dropped those two games in his absence. No disrespect to Bush, but Palmer not having the hybrid threat that is McFadden in his backfield limits his options and stalls his development in Oakland. Especially since McFadden has nine runs of 20 yards or longer -- he had 14 such bursts in 2010 -- and is averaging 5.4 yards per carry.Biggest surprise: Darrius Heyward-Bey was having a breakthrough year, leading the team in receiving with 27 catches for 434 yards and a touchdown. Both figures are already season highs for DHB. Still, he saw limited time against Denver and was targeted only once.Biggest disappointment: With McFadden and Bush already in the backfield, touches were going to be rare for Taiwan Jones so this might be unfair for the rookie. But he has not taken advantage of his limited opportunities to showcase his world-class speed to keep defenses honest.Best play: No disrespect to Campbell, but Palmer's 40-yard TD pass to Marcel Reece down the middle of the field late in the second quarter against Denver was a throw the former Raiders QB would not have made. Few NFL quarterbacks could have accomplished it, actually. Palmer threaded the needle with the throw, putting it where only Reece, with a linebacker draped all over him, could have caught it.Worst play: Having already given Kansas City a look at Michael Bush setting up in the Wildcat with an empty backfield on 4th-and-goal at the Chiefs' 1-yard line early in the second quarter, coach Hue Jackson stayed with the same play after calling a timeout. Bush was stuffed for no gain. So rather than pulling within 14-7 to potentially alter the rest of the game, Oakland endured a 28-0 shutout loss.Key to the second half: Palmer getting more comfortable with his receivers' tendencies, and the offensive line reclaiming the continuity that carried it through the first six games.

Injury report: Murray rebounds well after return to Raiders practice

Injury report: Murray rebounds well after return to Raiders practice

ALAMEDA – Latavius Murray will spend this practice week testing himself to see if he can play after a debilitating bout of turf toe sidelined him the last two games.

He returned to action on a limited basis for Wednesday’s practice, and needed to respond and rebound well to continue his quest back to the playing field.

Early returns have been positive.

"I think he got a handful of plays out there (on Wednesday)," offensive coordinator Bill Musgrave said before Thursday’s practice. "I think he’s looking to get better each and every day and hopefully it’s good enough by the time the next game arrives."

Murray practiced a second straight day on Thursday, strengthening his case to play against the Jaguars. That’s extremely likely, barring a setback.

That would certainly strengthen a Raiders running game that has slumped the past few weeks.

“Latavius has his own skill set,” Musgrave said. “Had some explosive runs for us last year. We’ll look forward to getting him back at some point. Hopefully it’s this week.”

Right tackle Menelik Watson practiced for a second straight day and seems in line to re-claim his starting spot against Jacksonville.

Special teams player Brynden Trawick and offensive lineman Vadal Alexander remain out.

It’s possible that Perry Riley will start at middle linebacker over rookie Cory James on Sunday.

Check back for complete participation reports for the Raiders and Jaguars.

Norton: Raiders 'have the right people,' scheme; execution lacking

Norton: Raiders 'have the right people,' scheme; execution lacking

ALAMEDA – Ken Norton Jr.’s defense hasn’t been good all season. It’s only been a hindrance twice in six weeks, allowing the Raiders to brush it under the rug while compiling a 4-2 record.

The Raiders were exposed in Sunday’s 26-10 loss to the Kansas City Chiefs, leaving many to wonder whether this defense has fatal flaws.

The team’s defensive coordinator believes these problems can be fixed without a radical reconstruction.

Norton trusts his scheme. He believes in his personnel. He has faith there are better times ahead.

“It depends on what you believe in,” Norton said before Thursday’s practice. “If you believe in the players, you believe in the coaches and believe in yourself…

“Obviously you’d like the stats to be better. But we are 4-2, in a good place record-wise. The stats need to be better. We need to continue to understand who we are, what we are and get better at what we’re doing.”

“We have the right people. It’s just a matter of getting it done on game day.”

Coaches have cited eye violations (a.k.a misreads) as communication issues reasons why the Raiders give up chunk yards. Their 6.9 yards per play allowed is the league’s worst.

Edge rusher and team captain Khalil Mack said opponents are challenged the Raiders defensive discipline. Misdirection, bootlegs, wacky formations and the like have given the Raiders fits, and will continue to do so until they repair what’s broken.

“It’s all about discipline,” Norton said. “It’s all about angles. It’s all about leverage and tackling and the fundamentals of the game and getting down to the nitty gritty of playing smart and sharp. It’s the ultimate team game. …Everybody’s connected to a successful play. That play has to be successful consistently over a period of 70 plays. Everybody’s watching every single play, so you need consistency and have guys playing together. It will pick up.”

Communication is the latest buzz word attached to defensive miscues. Norton said it’s been corrected, just not consistently enough.

“It’s been fixed, but it will come up some times, at the worst times,” Norton said. “We are continually practicing. There are 16 games, and you need to be obsessed with improvement, and we are. Guys care a lot. They show up early and stay late. The communication, the playmaking, the coaching, all of it will continue to improve.

“Everybody wants to talk about communication but it’s guys consistently playing well over a duration of a game. You have to be sharp.”

The Raiders have used different coverage schemes at times this season and made two lineup changes – it’s also possible Perry Riley starts at middle linebacker this week – to no avail.

“You see things going wrong with missed tackles or balls going over our head, the little things and details need to get taken care of,” Norton said. “There aren’t a lot of differences between us and the good defenses, but they make a lot of plays they’re supposed to make.

“We have the right people. It’s just a matter of getting it done on game day.”