Raiders' new era waiting to get off ground
The Oakland Raiders are still waiting to get their new era off the ground.
With star running back Darren McFadden still looking to find his groove in a new system, a run defense that has as many holes as ever and a rebuilt secondary that was unable to frustrate a rookie quarterback, the Raiders are off to their first 0-2 start since Lane Kiffin's debut season in 2007.
''There's a lot of things we got to do better,'' first-year coach Dennis Allen said Monday. ''We're obviously not where we want to be as a football team. We have to continue to work to get better, and that's exactly what we're going to do.''
The Raiders followed up a 22-14 season-opening loss at home to San Diego, when they were done in by three botched punts following an injury to long snapper Jon Condo, with a disheartening 35-13 loss at Miami.
Reggie Bush ran for 172 of Miami's 263 yards rushing and scored two of the Dolphins' four touchdowns on the ground. Rookie quarterback Ryan Tannehill went 18 for 30 for 200 yards and one touchdown in a turnover-free performance.
Oakland's offense wasn't much better, with the only touchdown coming on a 64-yard swing pass to backup running back Mike Goodson. Carson Palmer completed just 50 percent of his passes and McFadden was held to 22 yards on 11 carries. For the second straight week, the Raiders were held to negative yards rushing in the second half.
About the only positive to come out of the first two weeks is the Raiders have reduced their record-setting penalty rate of a year ago, committing just 11 so far this season after averaging more than 10 a game last year.
That led Allen to change plans on Monday and have the entire team get together to watch the film instead of breaking up into offense and defense.
''It's not a fun meeting,'' center Stefen Wisniewski said. ''You don't want to have too many meetings like that, with the whole team sitting, watching, watching an ugly film. But, you got to do that, in order to get better.''
Allen said he has seen that tactic done before and he believes it helps build cohesiveness with the team. The handful of players available in the locker room Monday said it was a new experience for them.
''Any player across the league would say it was a little awkward at first. Just because you're not used to doing that instead of just watching it with your defense,'' said cornerback Joselio Hanson, who has been in the league since 2004. ''It was actually good teaching because we were looking at the offensive guys and what the other team's defense was trying to do to them, and we heard our offensive coordinator telling our offense certain techniques that he wants to work against the defense, and how they want to beat us. It was good to hear that.''
The biggest immediate issues for the Raiders to address before playing Pittsburgh at home on Sunday are getting the running game going and figuring out who will play cornerback. Injuries will play a factor in both.
Starting cornerback Shawntae Spencer left Sunday's game in the fourth quarter with a sprained right foot and is expected to miss some time. With the other starter, Ron Bartell, already out with a broken shoulder blade, the Raiders could ill afford to sustain another injury at cornerback.
Pat Lee started in place of Bartell and was benched early after struggling to guard Brian Hartline. Hanson didn't fare much better and Lee was forced back into the game after Spencer left.
No other cornerbacks on the roster have played a defensive snap this season, although safety Michael Huff could move to cornerback this week.
''We're going to look at the personnel that we have,'' Allen said. ''We're going to look if there's anybody out there that we feel like can help us. So that's definitely a position that we got to look at and see where we're at and see if there's anything we need to do.''
Right tackle Khalif Barnes left in the second quarter with a groin injury and will also likely miss time. Willie Smith replaced him and is expected to get the start Sunday.
Oakland needs better offensive line play in order to get McFadden and the running game going. The Raiders are averaging a league-low 2.0 yards per carry and are ahead of only Tennessee in total yards rushing with 68 in two games. They have been unable to break anything with the running game, with the longest carry going for just 11 yards despite having a game-breaking back in McFadden.
''It's real close to popping wide open,'' left tackle Jared Veldheer said. ''I have a ton of confidence that we'll work at the things we need to get it on track this week.''
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