Raiders-Dolphins: Game Grades

The Raiders suffered a setback in their return to prominence with a 33-17 loss to Miami on Sunday. The Dolphins defense stymied the Raiders offensive attack and a manageable deficit became a large one thanks to Ronnie Brown and Ricky Williams.

Quarterback Play: C-

Obviously, the lack of a running game did not help Bruce Gradkowski. That only put more pressure on Gradkowski to step up and have a big game, but unfortunately, he failed to deliver.

Gradkowski was off the entire game. For all his grit and determination, this game showed exactly the physical limitations he suffers from. On both of his interceptions, Gradkowski's lack of elite arm strength was glaringly evident: His pass to Marcel Reece along the right sideline was severely under thrown and picked off by Yeremiah Bell. Later, Gradkowski was late in identifying a wide open Jacoby Ford and another weak pass led to his second interception, this time to Chris Clemons.

Naturally, some will question Tom Cable's choice in changing quarterbacks. It's hard to argue that Jason Campbell would have faired any better, but for a young and rising team, having a definite quarterback is an absolute necessity.

Running Game: D+

In Darren McFadden's defense, Miami's run defense was especially stout. That being said, this is McFadden's second consecutive letdown performance after starting the season playing at an All Pro level.

McFadden managed two paltry rushing yards on only eight carries. Michael Bush only carried once (for one yard) and Marcel Reece fumbled on his lone carry.

The few times Oakland ran the ball, it was almost always to the outside. In other words, they all but abandoned their power, between-the-tackles running game. When McFadden would bounce to the outside, the Dolphins displayed excellent containment and were often there to meet him.

The disappearance of the running game will automatically call into question offensive coordinator Hue Jackson's play calling. It's understandable to rely on a heavy passing attack if the running game isn't gaining any yards, but 10 total carries for the backfield barely qualifies as an attempt to establish a running game.

Receiving Game: B-

Jacoby Ford is probably the lone bright spot after Sunday's loss. Ford caught four passes for 108 yards and a touchdown. On his touchdown catch, Ford nearly sprawled out to get to Gradkowski's pass, and once he did, he danced his way down the sideline and into the endzone. Ford's 52-yard reception in the fourth quarter looked a lot like the amazing grab he had late in the Chiefs game. Once more, Ford leaped over his defender (Clemons) and stole the ball midair from his grasp. What could have been an interception instead became a huge, highlight catch.

Louis Murphy had a nice bounce back performance with four catches for 73 yards. But besides Ford and Murphy, this unit has been an utter disappointment this season.

In the past three games he has played, Zach Miller hasn't been a part of the offense. On Sunday, he caught only one pass for six yards. For a guy who has been Oakland's best offensive weapon the past few years, he certainly has not been treated as such.

Barring any miraculous late season turnaround, it's official that Darrius Heyward-Bey is well in the midst of a downward spiral. Granted, the quarterback play hasn't been the best but Heyward-Bey has now been outplayed by two different fourth round wide receivers. His failure to become part of this offense, combined with Chaz Schilens' fragility, makes getting a sure-handed wide receiver a top priority this offseason.

Offensive Line: D

The failure of the offensive line was the first domino to fall in Oakland's row of offensive letdowns. Gradkowski was only sacked once but he rarely ever had a very good pocket to throw from. In the running game, McFadden and company never had any help when running to the outside and linebacker penetration in the middle made it impossible to get any of those tough, inside yards.

Langston Walker went down for a bit with what looked like an injured left arm, but he was back after a few plays. Jared Veldheer had a solid game and if anything, he and the Raiders really cut down on the penalties—four for the entire game.

Cooper Carlisle was consistently beat all day long and you have to wonder if now is good as time as any to give Bruce Campbell a shot at right guard. Campbell has played briefly in nine games this season and yet to log in any significant time. Carlisle no longer has the speed or strength to hold up at this level but that is exactly what Campbell has to offer. While he is still a far way from being a developed NFL lineman, it's time to let Campbell loose.

Samson Satele also struggled and it is a real detriment because he constantly needs help through double teams to hold any ground. Unfortunately, with Veldheer entrenched as the left tackle for the foreseeable future, there isn't a better option.

Defensive Line: B

Miami had possession of the ball for 41 minutes and 38 seconds. The Raiders? For a mere 18 minutes and 22 seconds.

With that, it's understandable why the defensive line broke down in the late going. With a somewhat comfortable lead, Miami put the ball in the collective hands of their backfield, Ronnie Brown and Ricky Williams, and grinded out the victory.

Prior to that, the line played well enough to keep Oakland within striking distance. Brown and Williams were kept mostly in check and containment was solid. However, the pass rush was lacking as Matt Shaughnessy, Lamarr Houston and company failed to create much of an impact without the help of an all-out blitz.

Linebackers: B+

Rolando McClain had arguably the best game of his short career. He tallied a career-high eight tackles and had an important interception that he returned for 10 yards. In addition, he put a few good hits on Chad Henne thought you like to see from defenders. That is, when they finish plays and our physical with quarterbacks.

Kamerion Wimbley was kept out of the backfield and surprisingly, he was in coverage far more often than usual. Despite that, Wimbley was not targeted all too often and even when he was, he did an admirable job in coverage.

Overall, the linebackers moved well as a unit. Against the run, they plugged running lanes and flowed well in lateral pursuit. Against the pass, they held their own in coverage, be it zone or man.

Secondary: D

For a team going through quarterback issues, the Dolphins sure did look good on Sunday and that was thanks to poor showing by the secondary.

Tyvon Branch had eight tackles and a sack, but it's the tackles he didn't make that are the story. Oakland's traditional and aggressive man coverage allows for their safeties to help against the run. Usually, Branch does a good job playing close to the line, but because of Miami's sporadic play calling, Branch was tentative at the point of attack.

Michael Huff was beaten badly on Miami's first touchdown, a 29-yard pass from Henne to fullback Patrick Cobbs. On the play, Henne did an excellent job of selling the play action pass and found Cobbs wide open behind the trailing Huff.

Nnamdi Asomugha had an uncharacteristically poor performance as he was flagged a few times and was also beaten by Davone Bess in the first half. Despite playing without leading receiver Brandon Marshall, Bess and Brian Hartline had a field day, accounting for a combined 10 catches for 186 yards.

Without Chris Johnson, Walter McFadden played the nickel corner position and was picked apart by Henne. The Dolphins recognized the rookie corner and through to him without regard. As a result, McFadden was beat a few times and called for a holding as well.

Special Teams: B+

Jacoby Ford got the game going in the best way possible with his 101-yard touchdown return. He finished with 208 yards on seven returns.

Sebastian Janikowski hit both of his field goals but Shane Lechler had an uncharacteristically poor day with four punts for an average of 41.8 yards, well off his season average of 49. The Raiders did not do a good job of punt coverage as Davone Bess made a nice return of 47 yards off one of Lechler's punts.

Johnnie Lee Higgins handled punt return duties. He got some yards (19 off two returns) but his weakness is evident by how easy it was for Miami defenders to take him down.


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