With Raiders head coach Dennis Allen in Texas this week to be with his ailing father, offensive coordinator Greg Knapp and defensive coordinator Jason Tarver met with the media Monday.
For the team’s fans, it was a chance to see and hear two of their favorite targets talk about what went wrong in the loss to the Browns Sunday, and the challenges that face the 3-9 team as it prepares for a quick-turnaround game against the newly crowned AFC West-champion Broncos (9-3) Thursday night at O.co Coliseum.
Knapp, after all, has been criticized by fans and media since the start of the season for his play-calling and the ineffectiveness of the zone-blocking scheme that hasn’t consistently opened holes for Darren McFadden and other running backs. Tarver is the coordinator of one of the worst defensive units in the NFL.
As the Raiders have sunk in the standings this season, speculation has risen about whether they can survive for next season.
The Raiders are 28th in the league in yards allowed per game (387) and last in the league in scoring defense, giving up 31.3 points per game.
On Sunday, in a 20-17 loss to Cleveland, the previously struggling Browns offense put up 475 yards.
And, as Vic Tafur of the San Francisco Chronicle noted, the Raiders have allowed 59 plays of 20 yards or more, including eight by the Browns.
Wrote Tafur: “When they haven’t blown assignments or plugged the wrong gap, they have demonstrated some clumsy tackling attempts that look like an old black-and-white Keystone Kops movie.”
Speaking to reporters, Tarver said the Raiders “played with passion,” but “that doesn’t mean we were correct all the time.”
Now, the Raiders will have the task of slowing down the Broncos, who tore them apart earlier this season 37-6 in Denver.
“You’re never really ready for Peyton Manning,” Tarver said. “It’s a matter of getting on the same page and having enough coverage looks to, hopefully, slow down his progression and challenging guys in coverage. That’s what we need to do.”
Making the task even more difficult will be the concussions suffered by safeties Matt Giordano and Mike Mitchell and cornerback Phillip Adams against the Browns. None of the three may be able to be cleared in time for Thursday’s game.
On offense, it’s expected that both McFadden and backup Mike Goodson will be able to play against Denver after missing several games because of ankle sprains.
This season, because of the lack of a consistent running game, the Raiders have been mostly a one-dimensional offense, relying on the passing of quarterback Carson Palmer.
Palmer is seventh in the league in passing yards, with 3,532 (294.3 yards per game), and has 20 TD passes vs. 13 interceptions.
Knapp said on Monday that he expects the Raiders to play hard against Denver – just as they did on their last TD drive against the Browns on Sunday. Even though the Raiders won’t be going to the playoffs this season, Knapp expects maximum effort.
“The true competitor comes out and they want to perform at a high level at all times,” Knapp said.
Both coordinators said they will stay in contact with Allen this week, who is expected to return in time to coach Thursday night’s game.