THE BREAKDOWN: O-Line Injuries (Not Derek Carr) Derail Raiders Offense

The Breakdown Chris Reed Silver and Black Today

As Raider Nation heads into the team’s bye week in full outrage mode, much of the criticism for the Raiders sputtering offense has been focused on Derek Carr. As our own Chris Reed writes, that might be misplaced.

The rain in London set the tone for the Raiders day as they were physically dominated by the Seattle Seahawks Sunday. Seattle marched unimpeded on their opening drive for 14 plays that covered 82 yards and resulted in a touchdown. Those seven points would prove more than Oakland could match.

The Raiders offense would only avoid being shut out by a 4th quarter field goal and would muster a mere 185 total yards. Fans were quick to point the finger at quarterback Derek Carr and his 142 passing yards as the main cause of the faltering offensive performance. The film, however, paints a far different story.

As the renowned Gipsy highlights, Carr had very little time in the pocket or room to maneuver in it. It is impossible for a passing game to be productive when routes have no time to develop and the quarterback has no opportunity to deliver a throw even if they did. This is of course in large part due to the fact that Oakland’s offensive line is currently a patchwork of injured starters and backup players. Getting healthy over the break is going to be paramount to the offenses ability to produce over the course of rest of the season.

Every player in the NFL has aspects of their game that they can improve on and Carr is no different. Putting the responsibility of the entire offense struggling on him isn’t an accurate representation of the facts though.

“I think a little bit,” Gruden said of left tackle Kolton Miller’s knee injury at Tuesday’s press conference. “I think it’s been a little bit of a factor. You know Brandon Parker missed all of the preseason, basically, with an ankle sprain, he’s just now getting healthy. So I don’t think either one of those guys was 100% in London. It’s a credit to them for going. Hopefully, the bye week is at the right time for them.”

What may have been most disheartening about the loss was the physical nature in which the line faltered. Even in a situation that the Raiders had the numerical advantage, they gave up instant pressure on Carr which resulted in a sack. It is one thing to be out schemed or surprised by a well-disguised blitz, it is another to have your tackle beat off the snap and the running back equally unable to pick up the rusher. There isn’t even a pass rush move to dissect as neither offensive player was able to put up enough resistance for one to be required.

Carr has certainly struggled with pressure as most quarterbacks do. It is ridiculous, however, to judge his play when he rarely had enough time to even finish his drop. Not many players would have any success in that environment. Only getting a total of 79 rushing yards didn’t help take pressure off the passing attack. This offense requires balance until they find areas they excel at. Defensive linemen cannot be allowed to simply focus on rushing the passer.

“We tried to run the ball ourselves,” Gruden continued. “Rainy night, it was in London. We were gonna run our best back with our three best runs. We made one yard in three carries, so the physical part of it has to improve, and it’s gonna improve. We’re gonna do everything we can on the practice field to improve. It helps when you have healthy bodies, it helps when you have healthy linemen. We’ll try to get them healthy so we can do that.”

Oakland attempted an outside zone run in a 3rd-and-6 situation. Besides being an interesting choice of play calls, the execution was poor. Back up left guard Jon Feliciano was beaten easily inside by a swipe. The offensive line is a group designed to work in unison and the constant changes in personnel are impacting the cohesiveness of the unit. Many of these plays were derailed by individual performances. As the run game struggles, the line has to find a way to give Carr time if they are going to have any shot to win games.

“He’s the strength of this football team,” Gruden said of Carr. “We’re gonna get him to play better. He’s on my watch. I said it when I got here if he doesn’t play better then I failed. This guy’s a good player that can be great. We’ve got to protect him better so we can really see what he can do.”

There are opportunities for this offense to hit on big plays but the quarterback has to have time and opportunity to survey the field. Receiver Seth Roberts angle route out of “11” personnel is a perfect example. His route crosses the middle field safety with open field to potentially place a pass.¬† Unfortunately, Carr has to unload the ball to the running back just milliseconds before being hit once more in the pocket.

Every player in the NFL has aspects of their game that they can improve on and Carr is no different. Putting the responsibility of the entire offense struggling on him isn’t an accurate representation of the facts though. If the Raiders are to have any chance to change their fortunes this season, they will need to find a way to give their quarterback more time in the pocket. If they are unable to consistently turn out rushing yards while only providing a couple of seconds of pass protection, their current 1-5 record is going to get much worse.

Perhaps, for the Raiders, the time off will allow the team to heal up and play more competitively when they take on the Indianapolis Colts after their bye week.