Raiders offense season review: Receivers, tight ends get lowest grades
Several steps in the right direction
The Raiders offense put on a show most of this season. Quarterback Derek Carr orchestrated a high-wire act responsible for seven fourth-quarter comebacks. A hulking offensive line allowed skill players to do special things. Heroics came to a halt after Carr broke his fibula in Week 16, but that doesn’t erase a whole season’s entertainment. Let’s grade the 2016 offense by position group following a largely productive season...
Derek Carr was a worthy MVP candidate, a quarterback who came into his own during a productive, efficient season. He led seven fourth-quarter comebacks, had a 96.7 passer rating and was the team’s heart and soul. That was clear before and after Carr broke a fibula against Indianapolis. Matt McGloin and Connor Cook couldn’t right the ship after Carr went down, but that proved a virtually impossible task given the timing and impact of Carr’s injury.
Latavius Murray took nearly every carry in 2015, but his workload was lightened by rookies DeAndre Washington and Jalen Richard. The Raiders were productive using that three-man rotation, with each player enjoying moments in the sun. The run game ranked sixth in the NFL, with 10 games over 120 yards rushing. Murray was generally effective, Washington was strong at times and Richard was a revelation and a solid accent piece.
The Raiders backed up the Brinks truck to build this offensive line, with Kelechi Osemele, Rodney Hudson, Austin Howard and Donald Penn drawing big paychecks. The front five weathered an injury plague at right tackle and held strong in pass protection. They allowed an NFL-low 18 sacks and opened up holes in the run game. The unit wore down at season’s end with injuries to most major players, but the talent, depth and coaching up front made this one of the NFL’s best offensive lines. They were the engine that made this unit run.
It’s hard to knock a receiver corps that had two 1,000-yard members in Amari Cooper and Michael Crabtree, especially a group with so many big moments early in the season. Let’s try. Crabtree was a reliable target in the clutch, with that dramatic 2-point conversion at New Orleans and the game-winning touchdown at Baltimore, but this unit faded down the stretch. Crabtree was injured and Cooper was ineffective, with one game above 60 yards in the second half. Seth Roberts wasn’t reliable. Raiders receivers also led the NFL in drops, including several losses to Kansas City, Denver and Houston down the stretch.
This position group was expected to flourish in 2016, with a breakout season expected from Clive Walford. That never bared out. He had some bright moments but wasn’t a steady target. Tight ends suffered a big blow when Lee Smith was lost for the season in Week 4 against Baltimore. He was an excellent blocker with receiving ability that had to be respected, a skill set the Raiders couldn’t replace with one guy. Mychal Rivera was a complimentary piece, but wasn’t targeted much.
The Raiders moved on from coordinator Bill Musgrave after the season, but he ran this offense well. His unit showed tremendous growth between one year and the next, with solid scheming. Musgrave was criticized for some mistakes, at times by head coach Jack Del Rio. Quarterbacks coach Todd Downing built a strong relationship with Derek Carr and should be solid taking over as offensive coordinator next year. Offensive line coach Mike Tice is invaluable, maybe one of the best assistants in the league.