Jacksonville quarterback Blaine Gabbert has struggled. (Photo by Michael Hickey/Getty Images)
Both the Raiders and Jaguars have struggled this season, each winning just one of five games.
But going into their matchup Sunday at the O.co Coliseum, it’s the Raiders who actually have the more positive vibe. The Jaguars are looking for answers – and any kind of positive momentum they can get their hands on.
“We’re just not playing well right now,” Jaguars running back Maurice Jones-Drew told reporters this week. “We have to figure something out.”
Jacksonville, coming off a bye week, lost its last game, 41-3 to the Chicago Bears on Oct. 7, and is having trouble on offense and defense. The Jags’ only win is a 22-17 decision over the Colts, with losses to the Bengals, Vikings and Texans before being run over by the Bears.
Jacksonville is last in the league in total offense (just 241.2 yards per game), passing (142.8 yards per game) and scoring (13 points per game). Second-year quarterback Blaine Gabbert has a QB rating of just 73.3 and has thrown three interceptions and fumbled twice against five touchdown passes. Jones-Drew leads the Jags in rushing with 408 yards on 84 carries (4.9 yards per attempt), but as a team Jacksonville is getting just 98.4 yards per game on the ground.
On defense, Jacksonville has a league-low three sacks and is 25th in the NFL in points allowed, giving up 27.6 points per game.
Jaguars head coach Mike Mularkey believes he has the talent on the team to turn the season around, but so far the results have been poor.
“I think the answers are in this building,” Mularkey said this week in Jacksonville. “I think they are in that locker room. They are in that staff room back there. They’re in the meeting rooms, on the practice fields, during our preparation. I think the answers are all here, and we’ve just got to find a way to get those to transfer over to games.”
NFL oddsmakers don’t think it will happen this week, however. They’ve made the Raiders a 4-point favorite.
The Raiders are feeling much better about themselves after coming close last week to knocking off the undefeated Falcons, 23-20. Oakland, too, had been in a funk before its bye week, reeling from a lopsided loss to the Broncos the week previous. But against the Falcons, the Raiders’ defense and running game, in particular, looked much more solid.
Now, with the addition of defensive end Andre Carter and the return of linebacker Aaron Curry, the Raiders have an influx of talent, too.
Against the Jaguars, expect the Raiders to emphasize the running game as they did against the Falcons. The 1-2 punch of Darren McFadden and Mike Goodson was effective, and it appears the Raiders’ zone-blocking scheme may be starting to come around and open holes more consistently.
Offensive coordinator Greg Knapp and head coach Dennis Allen are committed to the zone blocking scheme and believe it will pay dividends. With the game close last week, Oakland didn’t have to abandon its run game in favor of the passing game, and Knapp said the results were encouraging.
McFadden and Goodson could get plenty of carries against Jacksonville Sunday.
“What you saw on Sunday is we did a better job of having consistent runs with less negative runs,” Knapp told Vic Tafur of the San Francisco Chronicle this week. “It was good to see with both not only Darren, but Goody to share the wealth a little in the run game. I was pleased with (center Stefen) Wisniewski’s performance and certainly, with him and (tackle) Willie (Smith), getting more reps in our offense, you’re hoping to get that kind of continuity and that progression and success.”