Raiders look to use bye week to fix problems
ALAMEDA, Calif. -- For the Oakland Raiders, the bye is coming at just the right time.
With the Raiders reeling following a 37-6 loss to Denver on Sunday that was their most lopsided in this series in a half-century, first-year coach Dennis Allen is looking to use this week off to fix the problems that have hurt Oakland (1-3) during the first quarter of the season.
There are many issues to deal with, starting with a running game that has been shut down in three of the first four games, problems on third down on both sides of the ball, a nonexistent pass rush and a banged-up secondary that has struggled to stay with receivers.
"We've got a lot of work to do," Allen said Monday. "We've got a lot of areas that we've got to improve on. I think this bye week comes at a good time for us, gives us a chance as coaches to look at and evaluate what we're doing, who we're doing it with and come up with solutions that can help us get better and help us win some games."
Allen struggled to find anything positive from the first four games, hemming and hawing before praising the players' competitiveness during a fourth-quarter comeback against Pittsburgh for the team's only win.
The negatives have been much more plentiful, leading the coaching staff to do a major evaluation of everything to determine whether any scheme changes are needed, included whether to use less of the zone blocking system that hasn't clicked in the running game.
"We're going to evaluate everything," Allen said. "We're not going to stick our head in the sand. We're going to evaluate everything and see what things we need to improve on and where we can get better, and there's a lot of things that go into that. And we're going to go from A to Z. We got a lot of getting better to do, and that's what we plan on doing."
Darren McFadden is averaging just 3.5 yards per carry and has totaled just 88 yards in the three losses, down significantly from the 5.3 yards per carry he averaged the past two years with Hue Jackson calling plays.
The lack of a consistent running game has contributed to the team converting just 27.5 percent of third downs, the lowest for the franchise since at least 1991.
But the bigger problems have been on defense, where the team is on pace for one of the worst years in franchise history after making an overhaul in scheme and personnel in the offseason.
The Raiders ditched the bump-and-run man coverage on the outside that had been a staple of Al Davis' to utilize more zone defenses in a move praised by players in the offseason.
But the results haven't been there as Oakland has been unable to overcome injuries to starting cornerbacks Ron Bartell and Shawntae Spencer. The Raiders have allowed 125 points through four games, the most since 1962, the year before Davis joined the franchise.
Oakland has allowed opponents to complete 71.5 percent of their passes -- higher than any team has done in NFL history for a full season -- and is allowing a franchise-worst 411.5 yards per game. The Raiders have just three sacks, no interceptions and have allowed the opposition to convert 53.3 percent of their third downs. No team has allowed more than half of third downs to be converted since at least 1991.
"I said all offseason, all camp, I believed in this scheme," defensive back Michael Huff said. "So, it doesn't really have nothing to do with the scheme of things. It's just us players aren't really executing when we need to. The playmakers aren't making plays when we have to. For us, the players have to step up and make more plays."
The Raiders were at their worst in the third quarter against Denver when Oakland went three-and-out on all four of its possessions and allowed the Broncos to drive for touchdowns all three times they had the ball.
That turned a 10-6 game into a 31-6 blowout and the Raiders went on to their most lopsided loss in the series since losing 44-7 in 1962. The third quarter has been an issue all season as the Raiders have been outscored 55-7 for the season, leaving the players to search for answers.
"If I knew all of it I would definitely pass the word along to my teammates and we would get it done," defensive tackle Richard Seymour said. "That's some of the things we're working through at this point. As a player, you have to look yourself in the mirror first and foremost and say, `I have to do a better job,' and everyone has to take that same approach."
NOTES: Spencer still has a boot on his sprained right foot and it is unknown when he will make it back on the field. ... Allen is hopeful WR Darrius Heyward-Bey will return after the bye from a concussion and sprained neck that sidelined him Sunday. ... RT Khalif Barnes had a "procedure" on his injured groin Sept. 21, and will be re-evaluated after the bye. ... The Raiders signed DB Akwasi Owusu-Ansah and OL Nick Mondek to the practice squad and released WR Tori Gurley and LB Carl Iheancho.
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Copyright 2012 by The Associated Press
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