DENVER -- This could go down as one of the first, if not more pointed, second-guesses of Dennis Allen's nascent coaching career.Why in the world was Carson Palmer still in the game late in the Raiders' embarrassing 37-6 defeat to the Denver Broncos on Sunday?RELATED Paul G's Instant Replay: Broncos 37, Raiders 6"We wanted to compete all the way to the end," Allen said, "and that's what we're going to do."Fine, for sending a message as a new regime. But the fact is, the competitive part of this game had ended long ago. Like somewhere in the middle of the Broncos' avalanche of points in the third quarter.And by leaving Palmer in the game, it simply exposed the quarterback to unnecessary hits.Like the roughing-the passer-penalty Palmer absorbed from defensive end Robert Ayers. With the Raiders trailing by 31 points. With less than 90 seconds remaining in the game.Like five seconds later, the jarring sack Palmer took from defensive end Elvis Dumervil and fumbled, though right tackle Willie Smith recovered the ball.It simply made no sense to have Palmer in the game at that point.And as former Raiders coach Tom Flores wondered aloud on the radio broadcast, why, when it's obvious Oakland is going to pass, did the play calling have any play-action involved, since it would simply expose Palmer's back to a rabid Broncos pass rush? Why not have Palmer simply sit back in the shotgun so he could see the defense coming at him and have a better shot at avoiding a hit?The official stats show Denver with only eight hits on the quarterback, but it seemed more than that, with each hit getting progressively more violent and thus, more dangerous."It was nothing more than a good, old-fashioned butt-whooping," Palmer said, referring to the game in general.But the hits he took at the end were just as needless.
Raiders defensive lineman Jihad Ward injured his foot during the team's offseason program and hasn't seen the field since. Last year's second-round pick had it surgically repaired, and missed training camp rehabiltating.
He's finally ready to go. He passed a physical on Monday and was removed from the physically unable to perform list. The team had a walk-through on Monday. Ward should be active for Tuesday afternoon's practice, the first back at their Alameda practice facility.
The Illinois product had 30 tackles in 13 starts last season, playing significant snaps with Mario Edwards Jr. out due to a hip injury. He'll have to compete for a spot in the rotation, even after working with the first unit during the offseason program. Rookie third-round pick Eddie Vanderdoes has played well in his absence and could be a three-down player inside.
Ward was a raw, yet athletic talent capable of playing several techniques across the line. The teams sees great potential, though Ward must continue to develop as a player.
In addition, the Raiders activated tight end Cooper Helfet off the non-football injury list.
OAKLAND – The Los Angeles Rams assigned two blockers to Khalil Mack, a common practice against the reigning defensive player of the year. Sometimes it works. This time it didn’t.
The Raiders edge rusher split the double team, found his target and pounced. Jared Goff stood zero chance. There was no evading this one. Mack brought last year’s No. 1 overall pick down with authority, claiming a sack that ultimately won’t count in his 2017 total.
The sacks highlighted a dominant performance that also included three quarterback pressures, four total tackles and two for a loss. All that in three series.
Mack’s clearly ready for the regular season. As a whole, the Raiders defense is not.
Saturday’s 24-21 loss to the Rams at Oakland Coliseum proved that point. A below average offense had no trouble scoring on a starting unit that looks a bit lost.
“I thought our defense was poor, in particular early when we started the game,” head coach Jack Del Rio said in a postgame press conference. “We’re going to have to get a whole lot better there.”
It has to happen quickly, with the regular season bearing down and the Raiders still trying to correct the same old thing. Making proper reads and improved communication has been an emphasis this offseason as coaches work to get this defense playing better together. It’s still preseason and there’s time to teach and coach and fix problems, but the defense isn't quite right.
“I think we’ll go a long way when we clean some of those things up,” Del Rio said. “The things that we’ve talked about for too long in terms of communication errors, eye violations and things like that that just keep you from ever being really good on defense. Those just have to get cleaned up.”
Issues are present in the front seven but more obvious in the back, where explosive pass plays continue to plague the starting unit. The Raiders allowed two plays over 20 yards on the first series and six plays of 10 or more yards in three series on Saturday, when the full starting unit was active. The Rams scored 14 points – Mack’s sack squashed the lone non-scoring drive – in three series.
Del Rio was bothered by misreads and “eye violations,” in coverage, which make things easier for an opposing offense.
“When you see them, it’s not a good thing,” Del Rio said. “Yeah, I mean it’s really simple. You don’t have your eyes where they belong and you’re playing man? You’re playing man or even in zone. If you’re not seeing what you need to see, it makes it hard.”
Fixing these problems could improve execution and make life harder on opponents. It needs to happen this summer or the Raiders will have to win a lot of shootouts.
“Obviously, I identify what the problem is,” Del Rio said. “Getting it fixed is the challenge.”