ALAMEDA – An NFL team never met a bye week it didn’t like. They always seem to come at the right time, allowing the injured to rest and recoup before the home stretch.
The Raiders are in desperate need of respite following Sunday’s 24-7 loss to the Kansas City Chiefs.
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The offensive line is in shambles, with no healthy centers and inexperience throughout the front five. They have health issues at other spots, and plenty to work on with the extra practices afforded during the bye.
The Raiders will work Tuesday and Wednesday before giving players a long weekend off.
“We’ll use the bye to do two things,” Raiders coach Dennis Allen said. “We’ll work on some things we need to get corrected as well as get some rest for some guys — get them a chance to get recovered and get ready for the second half of the season starting with Pittsburgh.”
Here’s a checklist of things to do during a fortnight without game action.
Get healthy up front: The offensive line was banged up and beaten down by the Chiefs pass rush. They patched things together by moving Mike Brisiel to center, but the front was overwhelmed at all times. Terrelle Pryor was sacked 10 times and hit 14 others.
The Raiders hope center Stefen Wisniewski can return after missing two games with a knee sprain. He was the glue that held a patchwork line together in past games, and his absence was felt as much in execution as it was orchestrating the pass protection live. He’ll likely rest through the bye week in an attempt to come back and play the Steelers.
While Menelik Watson and Tony Pashos (hip flexor) could return and help at tackle, but they have greater depth issues at guard. Andre Gurode is the primary backup on the left and right, but a quadriceps injury of uncertain severity has him on the shelf. Rookie Lamar Mady is the reserve to Lucas Nix and Brisiel, which isn’t a positive.
The Raiders need to add healthy bodies to the mix or risk suffering another offensive shutdown. It’s still to early to tell if reinforcements are on the way.
“Well I hope the line is healthy,” Allen said. “To be honest with you I have no idea right now. I think this week is critical for that group to get rested and get recovered. We’ll probably know a lot more at the beginning of next week as to who’s going to be available for the Pittsburgh game.”
Get McFadden back on track: Running back Darren McFadden played Sunday at less than full strength. It hurt his output, and decreased the possibility of a big play. The Raiders need an effective, healthy McFadden to excel on offense.
“I don’t think he was 100 percent,” Allen said. “I thought there were a couple of plays that you would normally see him break free, but I thought he went out there and battled. I thought he fought through, and we didn’t have any setbacks during the game, so I’m hopeful that this week, with a little bit of rest he’ll be ready to go for Pittsburgh and hopefully be one hundred percent for that game.”
Get the play off: The Raiders were penalized three times for delay of game and timeouts to prevent two others. Pryor has struggled with getting plays off on time in the past, but he’s been much better in recent weeks. Allen said it was a breakdown at every level, from calling plays to relaying them to getting the snap off in time. It’s clear to all that pre-snap penalties are drive killers and simply unacceptable.
“The false starts, the communication, getting out of the huddle—those are all things that we’ve got to get cleaned up,” Allen said. “That starts with me, and I’ll do a better job at that — getting our guys prepared, understanding what the game plan’s going to be and how we’ve got to execute.”
Fixing Janikowski: Kicker Sebastian Janikowski missed his fourth field goal this season, leaving a 51-yard attempt short on Sunday. While misses outside 50 yards are typically excused, misses from any distance are off for Janikowski. First-year holder Marquette King was blamed for Janikowski’s troubles, but there’s another trend at play here.
“All of the misses have come off the left hash,” Allen said. “We’ve got to look and see what’s going on. Is it the operation? Is it something he’s doing in his kicking motion? What’s the reason for that? Obviously he mishit the ball. He kind of toed it a little bit, and that’s a kick that we would normally anticipate him making.”