Week 16 edition of Buy or Sell following the Oakland Raiders 33-25 victory over the Indianapolis Colts.
The Oakland Raiders topped the Indianapolis Colts to maintain their lead in the AFC West for at least one more week on Christmas Eve, but their one-horse open sleigh will, of course, feature a new quarterback holding the reins.
In an effort to keep Raiders fans from drowning in their own tears, we take a closer look at the current state of the franchise.
A statement will be given, and the answer will be given in a Buy/Sell format.
Aug 14, 2015; Oakland, CA, USA; Oakland Raiders quarterback Matt McGloin (14) scrambles against the St. Louis Rams in a preseason NFL football game at O.co Coliseum. Mandatory Credit: Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports
Matt McGloin can help Raiders recover from Carr accident
With Raiders quarterback Derek Carr sidelined with a broken fibula for the next six to eight weeks, Oakland will turn to four-year veteran Matt McGloin to fill Carr’s shoes under center, a burden he is set to overcome.
“I’m ready to go,” McGloin said, per Raiders.com. “I feel great and it has been great working with Derek Carr the past few years and working together and seeing what he has done on the field trying to learn from that. I’m ready to go. I know this team, these guys around me, this staff, this organization will do a great job of helping me out and embracing me. Just making sure we continue to move in the right direction.”
What McGloin lacks in arm talent, he makes up for in optimism and intelligence. The former Penn State product is a well-developed NFL mind and capable of making all of throws with great accuracy, tools he will need to recover from a rocky start to his NFL career.
After going undrafted out of Penn State in 2013, McGloin has completed 155 of 266 passes for 1,847 yards, 11 touchdowns and 11 interceptions in 12 career games (six starts) in the NFL, picking up all six of his starts in the season before Carr came into the league.
Though McGloin amassed just one win in his six career starts in 2013, he performed admirably given the Raiders’ surrounding cast.
To remind those of the dumpster fire McGloin was working in, Oakland’s leading rusher was Rashad Jennings with 733 yards and their two leading receivers were Rod Streater and Denarius Moore with 888 and 695 receiving yards, respectively. In the trenches, Raiders right tackle Menelik Watson started at left tackle, and he is the only lineman from 2013 still on Oakland’s current roster.
It’s a different story in 2016, for McGloin now has two star-studded receivers on the outside, an offensive line featuring three Pro Bowlers, and a backfield loaded with talent. And he’s more than capable of writing in the happy ending.
Nov 6, 2016; Oakland, CA, USA; Oakland Raiders strong safety Karl Joseph (42) gestures toward the crowd during a timeout against the Denver Broncos in the third quarter at Oakland Coliseum. The Raiders defeated the Broncos 30-20. Mandatory Credit: Cary Edmondson-USA TODAY Sports
Defense is ailing without Karl Joseph
Raiders rookie safety Karl Joseph has yet to return to the filed after suffering a toe injury in Oakland’s Week 13 win over the Buffalo Bills. However, his absence from the field has gone relatively unnoticed due to the play of his replacement Nate Allen.
Allen, a seven-year veteran limited to special teams work prior to the injury, has thrived in recent weeks within his increased role at strong safety. He has registered 26 combined tackles and two interceptions since replacing Joseph in the second quarter in Week 13.
Though Allen doesn’t deliver the same physical, hard-hitting presence Joseph brought to the Raiders’ defense, he is still performing at a high level with great consistency, a feat unmatched by Oakland’s depth in previous years.
Dec 24, 2016; Oakland, CA, USA; Oakland Raiders running back Jalen Richard (30) is defended by Indianapolis Colts defensive end Henry Anderson (96) during a NFL football game at Oakland-Alameda County Coliseum. The Raiders defeated the Colts 33-25. Mandatory Credit: Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports
Raiders’ backfield, offensive line can pick up the slack
With McGloin calling the shots under center, the Raiders’ rushing attack must turn it up a notch to balance out Oakland’s offense, leaving their backfield and big men responsible for an increase in production.
Fortunately for the Silver and Black, both areas of their offense are trending up.
The Raiders’ offensive line has dominated in the trenches all season both in the run game and in pass protection, but they should perform even better moving forward with fourth-year veteran Menelik Watson reinserted in the starting lineup.
Watson replaced a struggling Austin Howard at right tackle, and he hit the ground running against the Colts. He boasted the team’s fifth-highest offensive grade on the day at 75.2, per PFF.
Behind Watson and the rest of the Raiders’ offensive line, lead back Latavius Murray and company rank fifth in the NFL in rushing yards per game (124.3), but they have their sights set on an even bigger number. Oakland’s rushing offense has averaged 163.3 yards on the ground in their last three games.
Most recently, Raiders rookie running backs DeAndre Washington and Jalen Richard ignited Oakland’s ground game, as the two combined for 165 yards and two touchdowns on just 18 carries.
Murray spoke to what it’s like to have Washington and Richard thrive on Saturday.
“It’s been great,” Murray said, per Raiders.com. “DeAndre, I’m extremely happy for him, finding the end zone not once but twice for the first time ever. Very happy for him. I know we’ve been running the ball well all year. I think it’s been a [testament] to everyone in the group. I’ve said that plenty of times. There’s no me without those two guys. They played big today.”
With all three backs firing on all cylinders behind a consistent offensive line, McGloin could come to the Raiders’ rescue just by handing off the ball.
Dec 24, 2016; Oakland, CA, USA; Indianapolis Colts tight end Jack Doyle (84) is stopped by Oakland Raiders outside linebacker Malcolm Smith (53) during the second quarter at the Oakland Coliseum. Mandatory Credit: Kelley L Cox-USA TODAY Sports
Interior defense is improving
Raiders inside linebackers Malcolm Smith and Perry Riley Jr. have come together in recent weeks to secure the center of Oakland’s defense.
Smith led the team against the Colts with eight solo tackles and a forced fumble that resulted in a Raiders turnover early in the second half. He has continued to refine his ability to shed tackles and make plays near the line of scrimmage, which, in turn, has had a dramatic effect on the Raiders’ ability to defend the run.
Remaining consistent on the inside, Riley accrued the fourth-best defensive grade on the team against Indianapolis at 73.0. With his performance, he is the 11th-ranked inside linebacker in the NFL, per PFF.
Due in large part to Smith and Riley’s play in the middle, Oakland has allowed just 80.3 rushing yards per game in the team’s last three contests.