49ers-Raiders will test Bay Area's diminishing patience Thursday night


49ers-Raiders will test Bay Area's diminishing patience Thursday night

OAKLAND -- In four days, the worst post-Halloween prime-time matchup in NFL history, both aesthetically and statistically, will test your endurance when the 1-7 San Francisco 49ers entertain -- if that’s the word you are comfortable with -- the 1-6 Oakland Raiders. It will be a festival of SMHs and LOLs and self-delusion in which one team will come away only less demoralized than the other.
Unless, of course, it ends in a tie, which if there is justice in the universe, it should.
There aren’t a lot of ways to pretty up Thursday’s game based on Sunday’s two games. The 49ers blew a 12-point lead with 12 minutes left against an Arizona Cardinals team with no discernible offense and lost 18-15, while the Raiders allowed 42 points to an Indianapolis Colts team that hadn’t managed that since 2014. Both games felt like forlorn exercises, especially in Oakland, where the access in and out of the Coliseum was scandalously easy, where tickets could be had for as low as $16 on the secondary sites, and where there were conservatively 8,000 empty seats.
In other words, while those in the building did what they could to recreate the standard stadium atmosphere, the Raiders clearly are in no position to reciprocate.
Doug Martin’s late-game fumble will be much scrutinized, given its timing immediately after the Colts’ go-ahead score, and the Raiders' general demeanor as this season decomposes will be on constant display for judgment and analysis.
But the truth Sunday is that they had to defend for eight possessions and gave up five touchdowns and two field goals. They gave up 32 of those 42 points in the first and fourth quarters, when the Colts had possession for 26:17 of the available 30 minutes. They allowed scoring drives of 11, 13, 16 and 12 plays. They were as they have been all season -- extremely pliable to the needs and desires of the opponent.
And Jon Gruden’s postgame presser was a cavalcade of winces and exasperated smirks and referencing injuries while saying he would make no excuses as he fiercely battled not to break programming and shriek: “YOU ALL SAW THE GAME, DAMN IT! I HAVE NOTHING MORE TO TELL YOU!”
What the Raiders coach did say, though, wasn’t much more comforting.
“We don’t get many possessions, we don’t get the ball very often,” he said with an evident wince. “I don’t think we ran out of gas. I just think defensively we have to take a long look at who can be out there and help us right now. We’re struggling.
“It’s been that way pretty much the entire season. Three possessions in the second half against the Chargers, three possessions in the second half against the Seahawks, and I think we had three possessions in the first half today. It just goes to show you we have a long way to go, like I’ve been saying.”
And not enough time to get there to satisfy the dwindling number of paying customers.
But then he dropped the bomb.
“We got a short week, and we have to get ready for the 49ers.”
And the nation has a short week to get ready for both of them.
Thursday’s game will not show well as an optic. The traffic will keep many people home, the sun will keep those with east-side seats in shelter, and the teams will play for that all-important No. 2 draft pick (the New York Giants remain steadfastly first in that all-important category). It's hard to imagine a more difficult watch for all but the most devoted fans, fantasy players and bettors.
These teams have known hard times in tandem before, but this is unique for reasons we needn’t rehash here. This, though, will have to go way against the grain to not be one of the hardest visual slogs of the year. In a season that has tested both the 49ers and Raiders in unimaginable ways, Thursday’s game will test the rest of us in the one category in which we have a diminishing supply.
Our patience.

Raiders still haven't unleashed Josh Jacobs in passing game


Raiders still haven't unleashed Josh Jacobs in passing game

ALAMEDA – Raiders running back Josh Jacobs is off to a strong start. His snap counts suggest he’s the Silver and Black’s clear-cut feature back, taking most all of the carries through two games.

He’s worthy of them, churning out 184 yards and two touchdowns on 35 carries. A total of 11 carries have resulted in first downs, per analytics site Pro Football Focus, with four rushes of 10-plus yards. That includes a 51-yarder through the right side and down the boundary on Sunday against the Kansas City Chiefs.

Jacobs has done everything well thus far, though there’s one thing he hasn’t been asked to do much.

Jacobs has only been targeted once in the passing game despite 22 total snaps as a receiver, and he caught it and ran for a 28-yard pickup. The Alabama product isn’t simply out on obvious passing downs, either.

Secondary backs Jalen Richard and DeAndre Washington have only been targeted five times for 28 yards on four receptions.

Jacobs has played 68 snaps from the backfield while Washington and Richard have 43 combined, with a portion given while Jacobs was getting an IV versus Kansas City.

Jacobs light receiving load has raises some eyebrows, considering his prowess catching passes out of the backfield.

There’s some thought that the team might be saving that option for an important moments down the line. The Raiders, however, clearly want to unleash their first-round draft pick’s full potential.

“It’s still early in the season, early in the process,” Olson said. “We’re happy with Josh Jacobs and the way he’s running the football. When we have put the ball in his hands, he has produced. We’ll look to expand his role as well.”

Raiders getting creative with Darren Waller 'improved at all levels'


Raiders getting creative with Darren Waller 'improved at all levels'

ALAMEDA – Darren Waller is a tight end by trade. That’s his formal job title, but he does so much more than that.

Sure, he’s an in-line tight end who runs routes from that spot and occasionally blocks for the run. He’s also a slot receiver. At other times, he’s a traditional wideout.

Waller has speed and size frustrating to the opposition, especially when his offensive coaches find favorable matchups. He’s too big for cornerbacks, too fast for linebackers, and his combination of skills are hard on safeties, especially when pulled from their regular assignment.

That makes it fun for head coach Jon Gruden and offensive coordinator Darren Waller to design plays for a guy like that.

“I think Waller is growing into something here,” Gruden said. “He’s a guy that we detached (on Sunday against Kansas City). We lined him up in the slot, we lined him up conventionally as a tight end and he’s smart. He’s had some receiving production and obviously more and more we are going to use him.”

Waller has 13 catches for 133 yards on 15 targets through two games heading into Sunday’s game at Minnesota, proving a dynamic option for any spot. H

The converted receiver plays plenty of them.

Waller has played 114 snaps through two games, with 68 as an in-line tight end, 20 from the slot and 26 out wide.

Coaches are trying to create new and inventive ways to get the ball to someone they consider a top-level talent.

“You’re always trying to develop those players at every position,” offensive coordinator Greg Olson said. “We have what we believe will be an elite player at that position, and it helps. Now you’re looking for one at every skill position, who can show that type of productivity and that type of development.”

Block is an important part of keeping things unpredictable. While Waller doesn’t block much, he has improved significantly in that area and is a threat to stay home and help the run game on any given play. Defenses can’t assume Waller’s only a receiver, and have to respect all aspects of his game.

“He has improved at all levels, from receiving to route running to end blocking,” Olson said. “He’s a willing blocker, and that’s what his position coaches would tell you. That’s half the battle for a lot of these tight ends these days. He has shown that, and the strength to do so. That breeds confidence in the player. We feel like he can get better, but he’s a much better product now than when he came here.”