If Raiders Want Any Chance to Making Playoffs, They Must Find Their Mojo Now

SARASOTA, Fla. – The Raiders will spend the next week hunkered down at a tony hotel and state-of-the-art training facility, trying to find themselves.

The season's first half didn't follow script, falling far below great internal expectations. These Raiders are too timid, too scared of doing something wrong.

That's how they've played on offense and defense, with rare exceptions for both units.

This is not the confident, fun-loving crew that walked into hostile environments and precarious positions with shoulders back and chests puffed.

"I know what a Raiders football team that I envisioned having," head coach Jack Del Rio said. "We're not playing like that – what my vision is. We're not playing like that right now. We need to be more physical up front offensively and defensively. We need to be playmakers aggressively going for the ball, competing. That's what I'm looking for. That's what we're looking to get this second half."

Del Rio says his Raiders have lost their mojo. They have to find swagger here in Sarasota, Fla., where they'll prepare for next week's game in Miami. The Raiders are 3-5 entering the second half, without margin for error. They aren't dead yet, but the heart rhythm's a little weak.

It'll take a 7-1 finish, maybe 6-2 with a little luck, to reach the postseason again. That's an especially daunting with five of eight remaining games against teams currently above .500. That'll take a Pulp Fiction-style adrenaline shot to the heart, and it has to happen now.

"We're just not that far away, but we have to get it going," Del Rio said. "It's past time, really. The second half is here and we've got some ground to cover. We've got some ground to make up. We have to get busy. The urgency, the attention to detail, is going to be heightened."

The Raiders have talent, unrealized potential. Extraction has proven tough, but the squad is still fighting to get it right.

Quarterback Derek Carr vowed to increase practice intensity, as Raiders leadership searches for ways to turn things around.

"I probably won't shut up all week about how hard we need to go in practice," Carr said. "We're obviously the way we've been doing it hasn't been good enough, so let's try to ramp it up a little bit."

This is it, a last ditch effort to find some explosiveness, to strike fear in opponents. The offense struggles making plays downfield. They run without a real identity. Del Rio believes defenders are wound too tight, playing too timid to take risks required to make game-changing plays.

"(We're) probably overly cautious," Del Rio said, "trying too hard not to do things as opposed to just playing and let it rip."

Del Rio says Carr is a smidge too quick to settle for a check down, and has time to let plays develop downfield.

Week 7's victory over Kansas City has been an outlier, yet an example of the Raiders playing relaxed and confident and willing to, as JDR says, let it rip.

That hasn't happened often. If these Raiders ultimately aren't good enough to reach the postseason, if they can't overcome a messy first half, then they should at least go down swinging.

They can't try that approach for a week. They'll focus more on football than family on the opposite coast in a midseason minicamp where players come closer together. The preparation process won't change much, but intensity and focus cranks up after losing five of six.

"Our process works. It has changed the culture here," Carr said. "We've got to get back to it a little bit with the details of things, and we will.

"Hopefully this is a slap in the face to a lot of guys in the locker room. We can finally say, ‘let's take this thing seriously,' if that's what is missing in the preparation.

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