Paul Gutierrez, ESPN Staff Writer 357d

EJ Manuel's task: Fix the Raiders' third-down woes

ALAMEDA, Calif. -- Perhaps at the top of EJ Manuel’s to-do list upon taking over at quarterback for Derek Carr, who is out two to six weeks with a transverse process fracture in his back?

Get the Oakland Raiders' purported high-powered offense off to quicker starts, because they have gone two straight games now without generating a first down in the first quarter.

In fact, the Raiders have converted just two of their last 32 third-down attempts, dating to the victory over the New York Jets on Sept. 17.

Raiders coach Jack Del Rio said it’s a matter of establishing a rhythm, and Manuel did get into a rhythm relatively quickly at Denver last weekend.

“We’ve got to look at everything; we will,” Del Rio said. “I think for the fan right now, it’s probably more about, ‘Hey, who can I blame right now and get pissed at?’ I get that. That’s not how we’re going to operate.

“It starts with what we call, when we call it, how we execute the call. Coaches coach, players play. We’re going to coach and do better at coaching. The players are going to play and do better at playing and executing. We’re going to be better. We’re a better unit than we’ve shown offensively the last two weeks. No question. It hasn’t been good enough, and it’s led directly to losses, two losses.”

After two statement-making victories to begin the year, at Tennessee and at home against the Jets, the Raiders have been full of fits in defeats at Washington and Denver to fall to 2-2.

This is the offense Manuel inherits.

“I think it’s just a matter of, there’s a lot of multiples to it, actually. I can’t really say it’s one or two things,” Manuel said of Oakland’s third-down woes after replacing Carr in Denver. “I know moving forward we definitely need to clean that up.”

And while many point to the offensive line’s inability to dominate the line of scrimmage against Washington and Denver as a reason for Oakland’s inability to convert on third and fourth down, Del Rio said the most expensive O-line in league history is actually playing well.

“I know people want somebody to blame, (so) just blame me. That’s easy,” Del Rio said. “Blame the head coach. Seriously. Because, we’re going to get it right.

“I’m worried about why, but I’m not worried about explaining it and talking about it. I’m worried about getting it right. We’ve got a good group. We’ve got a good group. They’re physical. We’ve got good backs. We’ve got good coaches. We will get it right. It needs to get right, now.”

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