Fade 3- Streater and Moore
This piece is starting to run long, but the things I go over are really complicated subjects to break down and would definitely merit a full, 1,000-word piece on their own. I’ll try to keep the rest of the fades brief.
Denarius Moore and Rod Streater are two classic Oakland Raiders deep threats, and Terrelle Pryor’s arm strength certainly takes good advantage of their abilities to stretch the field. Consider that Moore is posting an average of 15.2 yards per reception, and Streater is averaging 14 yards per catch on the dot. Deep passing is easily the most efficient way to move the ball through the air on a per play basis, so it’s always important to take advantage of the deep ball when you have the personnel that the Raiders do. For the Raiders, airing it out is clearly the best policy on passing plays, and the interception trade-off is usually worth it. We’ll see if it is worth it for Pryor and the Raiders as the year goes on, but it has been paying dividends thus far despite a 1:1 TD:INT ratio. Then again, a TD:INT ratio isn’t the best way to break down the numbers.
So how does throwing it deep increase passing efficiency? Well, Rod Streater averages a hefty 9.6 yards per target, which is one of the top 20 totals in the NFL. Denarius Moore? Despite only hauling in 55% of his passes compared to an excellent 68.8% from Streater (that catch rate at 14 yards per catch is not easy to accomplish), Moore averages 8.4 yards per target. Mychal River and Bryce Butler are the safety valves in this offense, and they also have productive yards per target averages due to high catch rates and respectable yards per reception totals.
Terrelle Pryor is tied for 11th in yards per attempt so far this season, and that’s definitely a good place to be. Even when you adjust those numbers to factor in sacks and interceptions, the Oakland Raiders are still the 11th most efficient passing offense in the NFL. That’s pretty good right there, and Rod Streater deserves plenty of credit for that too.
Fade 4- Pass Defense of concern
The Oakland Raiders have ten sacks this season on defense, and they are one of the top five teams at bringing down the quarterback if you look at sacks on a per play basis. However, they have struggled to put consistent pressure on the quarterback, and only Lamarr Houston has been a consistent pass rushing source. Sacks are nice, but they are overrated since they don’t give the whole picture. This is especially true in cases of small sample size, because sacks deal with variables like opponent’s offensive line quality, how long the QB held onto the ball, and other factors. The Raiders have only played three games this season, so the fact that their star pass rusher Lamarr Houston has been the only reliable pass rusher has to say something. He’s looked really good, as usual, so far this year and is one of the best and most underrated all-around DEs in the game, but I worry that the Raiders just don’t have anyone else who can consistently rush the passer. Fellow DE Jason Hunter also has two sacks on the season and has stepped up big time, but he only has one QB hit on top of those two sacks. Hunter has looked decent, so the Raiders need him to at least continue to play at this level.
A good pass rush is only part of having a good pass defense, and the Oakland Raiders have major issues in that facet of the game. Tyvon Branch was a huge key to this defense, so we can only hope that the solid starting safety is back soon. He’s a real difference-maker and a very good all-around safety, so his playmaking ability, solid coverage, run defense, and physicality are missed when he’s absent. I absolutely love what Charles Woodson is doing in his reunion, and I hope he keeps it up as the season wears on. Woodson looks better than he did last year, and it’s always great to see a future Hall of Famer still succeeding at this age.
The Raiders secondary overall has me unconvinced, and it would take a serious breakout rookie season from D.J. Hayden for me to believe in this group. Tracy Porter is capable of making big plays and has great ball skills, but I’ve never been a fan of his coverage. While this Raiders pass defense isn’t nearly as bad as the secondaries that some teams are fielding, the Raiders are 25th in the league in yards per attempt allowed. Then again, they did face Peyton Manning this past week and did hold down Andrew Luck in Week 1, but they also benefited from facing the Jacksonville Jaguars in Week 2.
Fade 5- Expectations
It is extremely difficult to get an accurate read on a team through three weeks of the regular season, but I actually like some of what I am seeing from the Oakland Raiders thus far. I thought coming into the season that they would be just as bad as the Jacksonville Jaguars, but it’s quite clear that the Raiders still have some things going for them. The offensive line is outperforming lowly expectations, Terrelle Pryor looks pretty good back there, and this team isn’t nearly as bad as I thought they would be.
Make no mistake, I think the Raiders are a bad football team, but they have a positive Pro Football Reference SRS score that affirms that, well, they’ve looked decent this season and are better than expected. They will only muster a few wins this year, but this team has already surprised me by moving forward in the right direction, finding a quarterback who can legitimately lead this team, and they have some pieces elsewhere. Another WR, a new G, and a significant influx of pieces on defense would certainly do them good, but it’s important to look at the Oakland Raiders from the right perspective. Nobody really expected this team to be good, and most people expected them to be terrible. I did, too, but I’ve come away pleasantly surprised by the way a few players have stepped up, and I think those guys deserve some praise. When it comes to writing about teams with low expectations, it’s pretty nauseating to just focus on the bad. Instead, let’s just take a look at some of the good and merely note and acknowledge the issues as opposed to simply harping on them. This Raiders team could end up being better than five teams if they can keep this up, and it truly is a joy to watch Terrelle Pryor play. It’s certainly possible that he never sustains success and defenses figure him out, but let’s 1. enjoy the ride while we can and 2. not write off the chances of him becoming a legit QB and not getting stymied in the future by defensive coordinators.