ALAMEDA – Johnny Holton has made dynamic plays this season. The second-year Raiders receiver has three touchdowns in nine catches, and averages 24.2 yards per reception. His straight-line speed’s tough to match, which is why he has three catches of 40-plus yards.
Holton’s still developing. Therefore, good comes with some bad. He has lost two fumbles in as many games, with four drops and two passes headed his way that were intercepted.
“I think it all kind of is a great example of how our season’s been as an offense,” offensive coordinator Todd Downing said after Thursday’s practice. “We have flashes of really good production and executing well and then flashes or spurts where we’re not exactly executing the way we want.
“Johnny’s kind of a microcosm of that and so, I would say to him and have said to him and to the team, the message that we preach is let’s look for consistency and let’s look for doing the little things right. And then the big things happen.”
Downing’s analogy works. Inconsistency has plagued a talented offense playing below potential, with just enough flashes to drive players, fans and coaches crazy. Productive victories over the Tennessee Titans, New York Jets, Kansas City Chiefs provide stark contrast to a new normal, where the Raiders struggle to score or produce.
The Raiders have scored 17 points or less seven times in 13 games. They’re 22nd in scoring and 19th in total offense heading into Sunday night’s home game against Dallas.
That’s a drastic drop after last year’s production, a fact that’s been dissected extensively during a disappointing season thus far. We won’t go over them all here. Everyone, from quarterback to coordinator to skill players to the line, shares some of the blame.
Ultimately, it comes down to the inconsistency Downing discussed earlier. The Raiders have three games left to get it right, and even that might be unworthy of a postseason birth.
“We know how to throw the ball. We know how to catch it. We know how to run the ball. We know how to block,” quarterback Derek Carr said. “Now we just have to do those things better and more consistent. It always comes down to fundamentals of footwork and all those kinds of timing kind of things.”
“…Sometimes we go out there and it’s great. Then sometimes we go out there and it’s crap. That’s on us as players. We have to execute better.”
Carr says little details cause big problems. Problem is, it isn’t something you can circle with a red pen. It isn’t one thing that takes one permanent fix. The mistakes are coming from everywhere, and they’re coming often. That’s why so many Raiders have said they’re close to solid execution so many times this season.
That must drive detail-oriented offensive captains Carr and Rodney Hudson nuts. The entire offensive depth chart, remains committed to the process, hoping a talented roster will realize potential before the season’s out.
“There are a lot of things in life that look good on paper,” tight end Lee Smith said on this week’s Raiders Insider Podcast. “If you don’t put it together in the right way and form itself, it doesn’t matter what the pieces are if the puzzle doesn’t come together.
“We have to keep working as a football family from the top all the way down. We have three more football games to win. We plan on winning all of them. There are three good teams left on the schedule, and it’s excited to see what we’re made of now that we’re back into a corner a little bit.”
The Raiders receivers are backed into a corner, with Amari Cooper likely out a week at least with an ankle sprain. That'll put Holton back in the heavy rotation, meaning he'll have to avoid mistakes to keep the offense going.
"Johnny is a hard worker and a guy that I know is excited to get back on that field Sunday and have an opportunity to make some plays for us and help us win this ball game," Downing said. "We’re looking forward to that.”