If not statistically, Oakland's defense is visibly improved. Offensively, there is statistical evidence of explosiveness. But during the bye week, the Raiders were intent on getting better at consistency.
"The two things we wanted to get done... was emphasize third downs
and the red zone on both sides of the ball," coach Norv Turner said.
Actually, the Raiders did well in their last two outings on defense
in the red zone. They held the Cowboys to only one touchdown in their
last game, and held up defensively inside their 10 in the closing two
On the other hand, there is the offense, which has struck for pass
plays of 79, 73, 63 and 36 yards, but has struggled to get touchdowns
inside the red zone. Out of 50 Raider possessions, they have just seven
touchdowns; five in 12 trips inside the red zone.
Third down has been a challenge. Oakland has converted only 14-of-49
third downs into first downs, which ranked No. 31 in the league through
"We'd like to be in shorter yardage situations," quarterback Kerry Collins said. "Sometimes it's been third-and-8, 9 and 10. Those aren't
easy downs to convert. League wide, your chances... go way down. I need
to be more efficient on first and second down, getting those more
manageable third down situations, then I think you'll see our percentage
--On Sept. 25, Philadelphia beat the Raiders 23-20. A week later, the
Raiders beat Dallas 19-13. The week after that Dallas blasted
What does it mean when over a three-week period, the Raiders are
considered bad and Philadelphia good, then the Raiders are good and
Dallas bad and, finally, Dallas is good and Philadelphia bad?
"I don't think it means anything," quarterback Kerry Collins said.
"All it proves is that every week is a different week in the NFL. It
just goes to show that on paper, one team may think it is better than
the other... only it doesn't always happen that way.
"It all goes under the category of 'never get too high off the highs
or too low off the lows.' You have to be able to handle both."
But wasn't Dallas' 20-point win over the Eagles a surprise?
"You are a little surprised, but that's how this league is, it
doesn't matter who you are playing, it can be like that or be real
close," tackle Robert Gallery said. "Week in or week out, teams can be
up or down. So I don't put too much into it."
--Raider defensive back Renaldo Hill remembers San Diego tight end
Antonio Gates from high school... but not necessarily as a football
"He's been an athlete since his days in high school, and was the big
basketball star in the state of Michigan," Hill said. "It didn't work
out (at Michigan State) with the coaches with him playing basketball and
football, so we kind of lost the guy. But we knew he was talented."
Gates eventually transferred to Kent State, where he played
basketball and football.
"He was definitely a better basketball player (then)," Hill said. "He
was known all across the state for basketball. I think (then Michigan
State coach Nick) Saban was going to move Antonio to linebacker. That
might have been a mistake right there. Somebody finally got him in the
"He's a good friend of mine. I look forward to going out there and
challenging him. It will take me back to my high school days."
PLAYER PERSONNEL NOTES
--FB John Paul Foschi (knee) returned to practice Monday after three
days off during the bye week, and should be available to face San Diego.
--RB LaMont Jordan had his long gainer of the year in his last
outing, a 24-yard burst against Dallas. He had a 56-yard touchdown
called back earlier this year.
--WR Randy Moss has exceeded 100 yards receiving in three of his four
games as a Raider.
--Only one player other than WR Randy Moss has a 100-yard receiving
game this year and that is TE Courtney Anderson (100 yards on five
catches vs. Philadelphia).
--WR Doug Gabriel has only had three passes thrown to him this year
but two were complete, one for a 27-yard touchdown.
STRATEGY AND PERSONNEL
REPORT CARD AFTER 4 GAMES
PASSING OFFENSE: B -- Kerry Collins has not thrown an interception in
149 pass attempts dating back to last year, and has already completed
three passes of 60 yards or more to Randy Moss, but has no touchdown
passes to a wide receiver inside the red zone. His protection has been
slightly above average, but is not where it should be. There have only
been nine dropped balls to date; three each by Moss and RB LaMont
RUSHING OFFENSE: C -- The running game has been up (126 yards vs.
Dallas) and down (21 yards against Philadelphia) and thus far has yet to
show an ability to control the clock. Part of the problem has been
penalties, part of it has been playing catch-up, but the Raiders have
not yet held a time of possession advantage over any of their four
opponents. Jordan is on pace to rush for 1,096 yards, but the team ranks
No. 23 in rushing.
PASS DEFENSE: D plus -- There were signs of improvement against
Dallas, but the Raiders have been burned by long gainers almost as much
as they have burned others with their offense. There was minimal pass
rush until a breakthrough game against Dallas (4 sacks). Prior to that,
the team had two sacks in three games. Derrick Burgess has three of the
team's six sacks. The Raiders are No. 28 in yardage allowed, and a sign
of how little regard opponents have for the Raider pass defense is that
they continue to attack this area -- even though the team is now using
the nickel as their primary defense. The good news is that Raider
opponents have averaged fewer yards per pass attempt as each week has
passed -- starting with allowing 8.05 going to 7.90, to 6.89 and finally
RUN DEFENSE: B -- There have been no soft touches to date with the
Raiders facing Corey Dillon, Priest Holmes, Brian Westbrook and Julius Jones in successive weeks. Given that lineup, it is promising that
Oakland is allowing under four yards an attempt and 3.2 in the first,
second and fourth games. The true test is yet to come, with two games
coming against LaDainian Tomlinson and two against Denver, however, the
landscape also gets easier with games against non-AFC West opposition.
NT Ted Washington has played very well, as have LB Danny Clark and DT/DE
SPECIAL TEAMS: B minus -- Other than the first three games when K
Sebastian Janikowski missed four field goals, the Raiders have vastly
improved their special teams. P Shane Lechler's skills are a given, but
the return game (rookie Chris Carr) and kick coverage have risen
impressively behind the play of Jarrod Cooper and rookie Ryan Riddle.
COACHING: C -- Coach Norv Turner has been widely criticized for
conservative play calling up to now. The argument is that Randy Moss has
not been used enough. However, there is evidence he is being used
plenty, and that throwing to him 14 times a game, as was the case in the
opener, is self-defeating. The problem area has been penalties, which
the Raiders are committing at an NFL-record pace and which coaches must
take ultimate blame for. It has resulted in a total lack of consistency.
At least the defense has shown improvement ever since going to a 4-2-5
Inside Slant, Notes, Quotes, Report Cards
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