MIAMI GARDENS, Fla. -- The Raiders' run defense was a bright spot in Oakland's season-opening loss to San Diego last week, limiting the Chargers to 32 yards on the ground on 20 carries.Surely, that would carry over against a relatively impotent offense like Miami's, right?WellDolphins running back Reggie Bush glided for 172 yards, on a career-high 26 carries, and had touchdown runs of 23 yards. Four different Raiders had a shot at him and missed, and 65 yards."They made it real easy for me to go out and be a play-maker," Bush said of his offensive line.And of the Raiders starting to wilt?"We felt like, slowly but surely, we wanted to break their spirit a little bit," Bush added.Done deal.The way the Dolphins successfully attacked the heart of the Raiders defense was shocking, especially with the way Oakland had limited Miami to six straight three-and-outs over the second and third quarters."We left our game in the locker room, it's as simple as that," said defensive tackle Tommy Kelly, who earlier this week deemed the game a must win."It's just embarrassing. I didn't see this coming, the way we practiced all week, I didn't see this coming. The way we started in the first half, I didn't foresee 35 (points) at the end of the game."The Raiders ended up surrendering 452 total yards to the Dolphins, 263 yards on the ground, and Miami averaged 6.1 yards per carry."We didn't tackle as well as we needed to tackle," said Raiders coach Dennis Allen. "So we're going to go back and look at it and see where we need to make our corrections. We're going to work to get better next week."I'm not going to say 'shocking,' or 'worst nightmare.' I'm going to say we've got to execute better. We've got to coach better. We've got to coach better. We've got to play better. We've got to learn how to finish in all phases of the game."Dolphins rookie quarterback Ryan Tannehill kept the Raiders off balance often with a no-huddle offense that seemed to tire it out."When you're able to have an explosive player like Reggie, who can make tough yards, and take it the distance," Tannehill said, "it adds a whole other element."One that has many naysayers wondering where the Raiders are headed after wilting so dramatically.Kelly, the longest-tenured position player on Oakland's roster, has been here before."This is different," Kelly said, "because we're a whole lot better than we were when we went 2-14 and 4-12. I think we have a way better team. We're more talented, we have better, younger talented players. But you have to be able to produce on Sunday, and we aren't."At least, not on this Sunday.
The Raiders were pretty darn good last season. A 12-4 record proved that point. There was plenty of talent on a team with a penchant for high-wire acts in victory that masked the fact there were holes on the roster.
They need to be filled for the Raiders to improve in 2017, and new players will be imported through free agency and the draft.
Left tackle Donald Penn is excited to see who gets added, but said there’s no doubt talent is coming to Oakland. He speaks for Raiders players, who have faith that general manager Reggie McKenzie will make the right moves.
“Things that Reggie has done in past drafts have been great, and we’re looking forward to seeing what he brings back towards us,” Penn said recently during an in-studio appearance on NFL Network. “We can’t wait to get back out there healthy. We’re ready to hit the football world with a storm.”
While new guys are coming, a few might head out. The Raiders have several unrestricted free agents. Penn wants to keep his guys around – he mentioned running back Latavius Murray by name -- though he has some ideas for McKenzie’s checklist.
The Raiders don’t need much with most key players under contract – the Raiders should be less active in free agency over past offseasons – but a few key components could put this team over the top.
“If we stick to Reggie’s plan, we’ll be great,” Penn said. “I know he’s going to have a great draft, add a couple little pieces here and there – maybe somebody in the secondary to help out a little bit.
"On offense, you could always use a weapon. Maybe we get another receiver to take (pressure off Michael Crabtree and Amari Cooper), but we have a good nucleus right now.”
Derek Carr is on the mend. The Raiders franchise quarterback had surgery to repair his fibula shortly after he broke it in a Week 16 victory over Indianapolis, and is recovering well during the offseason.
Carr insisted on intense rehab this winter in an attempt – however unlikely it may have been – to return should the Raiders have played in the Super Bowl. It slowed to a normal pace after the Raiders' loss at Houston in the postseason’s opening round, but those in contact with him say he’s making strides.
Left tackle Donald Penn was recently in contact with Carr, and provided an update on Monday during an in-studio appearance on NFL Network.
“I texted Derek (a few) days ago checking in,” Penn said, “and he said he’s almost 100 percent.”
Surgically-repaired broken filbulas take significant time to heal, and the Raiders plan to be conservative with their MVP candidate during the offseason. Derek Carr’s brother and NFL Network analyst David Carr, who was on set with Penn on Monday, said Derek could be back for offseason work.
“He’s doing good,” David Carr said. “He’s walking around already, stretching it out. You can’t do a lot for the bone, right? But he’s going to be back. He’s going to get a whole full offseason in. That’s going to be the best part.”