The Raiders return to work today from their bye week and accompanying mandatory four consecutive off days with not only a 12 noon PT practice at their Alameda facility, but also with several storylines permeating Silver and Blackdom.That they meekly entered the bye in the wake of a 28-0 embarrassment courtesy of Kansas City only sets the tone. A look, then, at five issues the Raiders have to address this week before the Denver Broncos arrive for Sunday's game at the O.co Coliseum, with a certain Halloween holiday spin to illustrate vastly different scenarios
1) So, about that whole Camp Carson thing, how'd it go?
The Trick: The young receivers were just foolin' about when they said last week they were all sticking around to work with new quarterback Carson Palmer to get their timing down with him after his baptism by fire against the Chiefs. Sure, they stuck around, but very little could get accomplished because coaches could not be present and, let's be honest, the youngsters were not all that focused what with the allure of four off-days beckoning.OrThe Treat: The pass catchers kept to their word and Palmer absorbed their tendencies, and the playbook, like a sponge as they all got on the same page and proved to each other just how serious they are in taking this season to the next level. At the height of his powers, Palmer was a Top 5 QB in the league, and his ability to absorb information remains one of his strengths. They may not be clicking on all cylinders yet, but it will be fun to watch some of the misfires at the very least.2) How's Darren McFadden's sprained right foot?
The Trick: Run DMC being spotted at the facility last week on crutches and with his right foot in a walking boot was only a harbinger of things to come for a running back who has missed at least three games due to injury in each of his first three seasons. Sure, rest, relaxation and rehab could not have hurt the "mid-foot" sprain, suffered in the Raiders' first offensive series against the Chiefs, but it might not have helped, either.Or
The Treat: Rest, relaxation and rehab offered over the bye were just what the doctor ordered for Limp, er, Run DMC. Yeah, he misses a few games every year, but the bye was timed perfectly this season so that he would not have to miss a game. Besides, he was willing to come back into the Kansas City game, even if his right foot was taped to ridiculous levels, and he was walking around the postgame locker room barefoot and with barely a limp. The crutches and walking boot? Merely precautions.3) How did rookie coach Hue Jackson deal with his bout of "Hue-bris" over the break?
The Trick: The line between cocky and confident is a blurry one for Jackson, and for good reason. Live by the trick play, die by the trick play. So what if he misread and mismanaged the whole QB situation heading into the Chiefs game. Jackson is Alexander Haig in silver and black and he's going to do what he believes is best for the Raiders, come Hell or high water. Winning means never having to explain yourself, or somesuch.OrThe Treat: Jackson had been running on fumes since the death of Al Davis, essentially running the football player personnel department as a rookie head coach. So the bye allowed him to take a deep breath as well as get his feet under him. The Chiefs served him a huge slice of humble pie and while it may have tasted a tad bitter -- as it should -- Jackson is the wiser for it and shouldn't be so quick to get cute. Then again, he does love him some trick plays. Especially when they work.4) Speaking of Hue-bris, could he have another deal in the works?
The Trick: To his credit, Jackson has said he will do anything to improve the Raiders. But at the risk of upsetting the already fragile chemistry? Rumors abound that Jackson is again reaching to his Cincinnati past by working out former Bengals receiver T.J. Houshmandzadeh, who is nowhere near the head case of either Terrell Owens or Chad Ochocinco. But Houshmandzadeh's output has declined steadily and there's a reason he's been out of work thus far this season, right? Plus, the Raiders already have six receivers; Jackson wouldn't add a seventh, would he? So then, who's expendable -- Chaz Schilens? Derek Hagan? Louis Murphy?OrThe Treat: From 2004 through 2009, Houshmandzadeh averaged 87 catches, 996 receiving yards and seven TD's and went for 112 catches for 1,143 yards and 12 scores in 2007 with Palmer throwing him the ball. Reuniting with Jackson, who was his position coach from '04-06, not only gives Houshmandzadeh a fresh start but also affords Palmer a familiar target and safety blanket to help ease his transition. Plus, with placekicker Dave Rayner cut and Sebastian Janikowski healthy, the Raiders have an open spot on the 53-man roster so no wideouts have to be cut. Yet.5) Is Marcel Reece finally healthy?
The Trick: In a word, almost. But almost isn't good enough for what the hybrid talent brings to the fullback position. He has not played since spraining his right ankle in the New York Jets game in Week 3 and, curiously enough, McFadden has not had a 100-yard rushing game since. Reece, a converted college receiver, is a matchup nightmare as a hybrid lead blocker and while converted rookie tight end Richard Gordon and practice squad alum Manase Tonga have done admirable jobs in Reece's absence, the offense has been limited. A not-quite-healthy Reece doesn't help matters.OrThe Treat: Reece has been champing at the bit to get back in the game for at least three weeks. Or did you not notice he was getting in extensive pregame work with Palmer prior to the Chiefs contest? Barring a setback over the bye, Reece should be good to go this weekend against the Broncos and the Raiders offense should be humming right along again. So long as the chemistry is not upset with the addition of another former Bengal. And Jackson is not digging himself too much and too busy playing mind games with the media and Denver. And McFadden's foot is just fine, thank you very much. And Palmer and the receivers are on point. Yes, the Raiders' issues are all intertwined.