The 2012 season was a microchasm of the nickname for their rowdy fan section at home. It was a black hole. Finding things that went well for first-year coach Dennis Allen is a difficult thing to do. No, really, I am still searching for more than I found.
The list of things that went wrong is long and depressing. First, after a solid season from Darren McFadden in 2011, the running game completely fell off the face of the earth. McFadden went back to battling injuries and missed four games this season. He rushed for only 3.3 yards per carry. Marcel Reese, a good-blocking back with soft hands, ended up second on the team in rushing with only 271 yards. As a whole, the Raiders were the 28th ranked rushing team in the NFL.
The passing offense was much better than the rushing offense, but was completely devoid of wide receiver production. Reese was second on the team in catches while the lone offensive break-out player, tight end Brandon Myers, led the team with 79 catches. Carson Palmer finished with over 4,000 yards passing with 22 touchdowns and 14 interceptions and still managed to average 7.1 yards per attempt despite the lack of production outside. The Darrius and Denarius Show at wideout combined for just 92 catches. While the former USC quarterback did an admirable job this season, he still seemed to lose some ability to throw the ball deep and is not getting any younger. Faced with an age issue at quarterback, the Raiders gave one start to Terrelle Pryor, the biggest name from the Ohio State tattoo and memorabilia scandal. Pryor looked every bit the guy that had questionable accuracy in college and like a guy who had not thrown a meaningful pass in over a year. The other name in the quarterback mix was Matt Leinart, a name now synonymous with injury. While sticking with names that were part of schools that recently had NCAA sanctions may be a way to continue to foster the reputation of the Raiders rough and tumble mantra, it is probably time to start looking elsewhere for the future. There are plenty of holes for an offense that managed more than 20 points just once during the final 8 games of the season.
Perhaps the best definition of a team with a lot of problems is one where the best weapon is their kicking game. Shane Lechler averaged nearly 48 yards a punt and Seabass Janikowski's three misses were all from 50+. Unfortunately, they also have a combined age of 70 and may see some regression soon.
The Raider defense was not a much better unit than the offense. In a league where success is determined by cornerback skill, pass rush and causing turnovers, the Oakland Raiders excelled at none of those things. The leader in sacks was linebacker Lamarr Houston with 4.5 and team "pass rush" mustered 25 sacks for the entire season. While former defensive back Stanford Routt was a bust for two other teams in 2012, the loss of him still had a negative effect in pass coverage for the Raiders. The pass defense pilfered 11 balls from opposing quarterbacks. With a schedule that included the Chiefs twice, the Jaguars and the Browns, that total just won't cut it. The team was 28th in points allowed which inflated Palmer's passing numbers above. All of those stats managed to mitigate a large amount of fumble luck on defense for the Raiders.
The bright spot of the entire team could have been an offensive line that managed to keep itself together better, but even they were the 24th ranked unit, according to Pro Football Focus.
The worst thing this 4-12 team might have done was manage three wins against teams drafting ahead of them in April. The lone win against a team that finished with more than two victories was against the Steelers in week 3. They beat the Chiefs twice and won in overtime against the Jaguars. The highlight of the 2012 season came on September 23rd for the Raiders.
WHAT CAN BE DONE:
Better drafting. Waiting. Hoping. The Raiders need the following: an impact pass rusher, better cap management, better drafting, another wide receiver, another solid running back, two corners, a guard or two, two linebackers and a defensive tackle. This article probably should have been titled: "Perhaps By 2015."